When I was growing up…and was still a student… traveling to school by bus had an advantage – you could say, “Mam, the bus was late.”
But there were two worry points – first it meant your pocket money was going into the conductor`s brown leather bag and second the girls didn`t look at you while you stood in the early morning assembly line, because you didn`t have a cycle. That`s to say, before the bike-walas started zooming away with the best of girls…the cycle walas used to do it. (You must have seen Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz on the same cycle?)
I think the year was 1990 and I was studying in class IX in Kendriya Vidhyalaya, Madurai. The good thing about this moment was that…my school was located right next to a college called Lady Doak College for Girls. The bus conductors & the elders shortened it to LDC. For us boys – yes, we start liking older girls early – LDC was the Love Developing Center.
The boys with their cycles all polished would go and stand at both the bus stops – one that went into the city and one that went away. You could have stood there without a cycle, but then you got mixed up with the crowd waiting for the bus and your true intentions weren`t conveyed.
Besides, you stood a better chance of a girl asking “Has bus number 23B left?” if you had a cycle. Perhaps because she knew the gent was there only to answer her such questions.
In the three years that I studied in Kendriya Vidhyalaya, Madurai…I know of four instances when the older girls spoke to one of us. Here is how the four boys took the fame:
Boy 1: He still swears that he saw love in the girl`s eyes when she asked him if the bus had left. Hasn`t left Madurai city at all and when depressed still stands at the same spot. Now, with his Pulsar bike.
Boy 2: He would make plans to elope everyday. He would say: “If I elope with her she would be all mine and I wouldn`t have to be shy to speak to her a second time.” I remember S Prakash…he wouldn`t forget her easily. I am sure he still hasn`t.
Boy 3: Almost married her and had kids. Fought with his parents for her and then with her rich father…who sent a lot of goons to sort the issue out. I think at this stage, he stopped dreaming. I am sure he would have found another girl when he left school and joined college. And I am sure, she would have asked him: “Which way for BA Economics, first year please?” before he started dreaming.
Boy 4: After the first contact in IX, the boy spent two years waiting for her daily at the bus stop…but she never asked for the bus again. And once when she did, she ignored him asked another boy. Understandable….the other boy`s cycle was new. The boy realized she wasn`t in love with him, when he failed the class XII board.
Growing up in these circumstances was tough. Everyday, I was looked down upon by the 800 odd pretty girls just because I didn`t have a cycle.
All that I ever wanted from God was a red colored BSA SLR. The color and the brand was decided after careful thought. Girls loved red (Hint: Red Roses?) and the low height of BSA SLR would hide my lack of height (which back then I learnt was a good measure).
A friend had once explained the importance of height. He said: ‘In a way, girls are like the ticket wala of a theatre which runs ‘A` movies like Jawani Ka Josh, My Tutor, Swimming Lessons, Parking Trouble, Adam in the Apple etc.”
The innocent me asked: “Why do you say so?”
“The ticket-wala at the theatre entrance relies on your height to decide if you qualify for ‘A` movies. The girls do the same.”
“What do girls have to do with ‘A` movies?” I was exasperated.
“OK…lets talk in two years after you are taller.” My friend said before walking away with a smirk on his face.
Anyway, coming back to the subject of red BSA SLRs…I asked my mother for the cycle six months before my birthday on April 26, 1991. She then took three months to prepare my father for what she was about to say. Three months before my birthday, she managed to break the news to my father that her son needed a cycle. Guess, that`s the time my father also started saving for my cycle – it cost Rs 900 approx then.
One day before my birthday…when I came back from school…my father wasn`t there. Mom managed to hide it as well. It started raining (mind you it wasn`t the Bollywood rains, that are made up…so people really got drenched!) and at 8 p.m. my father knocked on the door all drenched…but he had my cycle.
We stayed 7 kilometers outside the city…and he had to cycle the distance in heavy rain to bring my new cycle home.
The teenager that I was, my first statement was: “But I didn`t want an Atlas Goldline! I wanted a BSA SLR. I don`t want this cycle.”
My father didn`t say a word. He got my cycle inside the house for it was still raining and gave the keys to my mother. He then changed into dry clothes, poured himself a peg of Old Monk Rum…and sat in front of the TV.
Today, I shudder to think what would have gone through my father`s mind at that moment. For today, I know the amount of love with which one gets things (or cycles) for their kids.
Note: For the record, we bought a blue & yellow cycle for Rhea last Saturday. And unlike me she is a grateful child and is loving it!
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