By Savitri Narayanan
As he entered the Hill Road, as usual Anurag switched on the battery on the e-bicycle. Then he noticed how it was almost out of charge.
A couple of hours charging will get it fully charged!’ he told himself as he switched off the battery and pedalled harder. The place to recharge his e-cycle was retired Colonel Naik sir’s bungalow at the other end of the road. The old man was very accommodating and kind about it. He never made a fuss about lending the charger ever so often. When Anurag would pedal in his e-bicycle, the Colonel would offer a loud greeting like “Welcome to our cycling champion!” or something like that, go indoors and bring out the charger. After a few hours, Anurag would walk back to the bungalow, disconnect and return the charger and ride his fully charged bicycle home. Anurag would be polite with words of gratitude, whereas the Colonel would get into a friendly chatter and words of advice.
A Cycling event, ‘Cycle Your Way To Health’ was scheduled for the following morning. About two dozen fitness enthusiasts, who were also passionate about cycling, had got together and planned the event. The village Panchayat offered full support, especially as the panchayat president himself was a participant! The plan was to start off from the Panchayat office, cycle around the village, continue up the Hill Road to culminate at the Grant Road Maidan.
Anurag was excited about the event. Neither the electric cycle nor the charger belonged to him but he was part of the organising team! What Anurag owned was an ordinary old bicycle. His parents had bought it for him about three years ago, when he was in Class V. Every evening, he would ride it to the park to meet his friends. Together they cycled around, played games and generally enjoyed the companionship. One good thing about the village was the unity of the community. Everyone knew and kept an eye on the children so that as it turned dark someone or other, an aunty or uncle, would surely tell them, “It’s getting late children, go home now!”
It was a year ago that unexpectedly Anurag got the e-bicycle! His senior and neighbour Abhijit bhaiyya had got it in the vacations after his Class XII exams. The rechargeable e-bicycle was a novelty. Nobody else in the neighbourhood owned one. But, soon after getting his e-cycle, he got admission in some technical college in town and went away to stay in their hostel.
“Why don’t you use my e-cycle when I’m gone?” Abhijit bhaiyya asked one day. “If it’s not in regular use, the e-cycle might get rusted!”
Their parents too agreed that it was a good idea.
While Anurag was thrilled at this unexpected turn of events, his younger brother Aman seemed happier!
“So bhaiyya’s cycle is now mine, right?” he asked.
Being younger by a year, Aman literally grew up on Anurag’s hand-me-down’s. School uniforms, clothes, shoes, slippers, books, geometry box or an umbrella – Anurag was the one who got new things. When he outgrew them, new things were purchased for him while, being the younger brother, Aman inherited and grew up on used things. He rarely got to ride the bicycle mainly because Anurag was so possessive about it!
The thought of having a bicycle for himself was exciting!
Anurag was equally thrilled. The e-bicycle made cycling much easier and more fun. When the motor was switched on, pedalling became effortless, almost as if the bicycle was flowing on the road!
‘Cycling together, the event would be so much fun!’ thought Anurag as he headed for the Colonel’s bungalow.
The Colonel loved his garden and spent his mornings there puttering around. Trimming, weeding, watering or just reading in a chair under the plum tree – usually the Colonel was found outdoors.
“Colonel saab has gone to Delhi,” said the young man who watered the lawn. “Back in a week!”
“Saab loves Delhi,” the woman mowing the lawn joined in the conversation. “He’s got so many old friends there!”
The cook, Lakshman, walked out of the kitchen with glasses of tea on a tray. It was tea-time for the support staff.
“Saab won’t be in a hurry to come back,” he smiled. “He was posted in Delhi for so many years!”
“Will you too have some tea, bete?” he turned to Anurag who stood around, looking lost.
“How to charge my e-bicyle?” Anurag said aloud to no one in particular. “I have a cycling event tomorrow!”
“Sorry bete, we can’t help you with the charger!” said Lakshman kaka. “None of us touch Sir’s things, he’s so particular!”
Anurag walked away, rolling the bicycle, lost in thought, “The cycling event with a discharged ebicycle! While others switched on the motors and enjoyed the ride, he would sweat and struggle! What a shame!” Anurag’s eyes welled up with tears as he closed the gate behind him.
“Bhaiyya, all the best for tomorrow’s event”, someone called out. “I heard there are more than twenty of you participating!”
“Twenty-five as of now,” he paused and looked back as Chandan came along riding his bicycle. It was not an e-bicycle but an ordinary one.
Chandan was in Aman’s class and his mother was a part-time helper in two or three bungalows around.
“Arun saab is also participating, so is my cousin Raju bhaiyya! How exciting!” laughed Chandan. “But why are you looking so sad? As if there’s been a death in the family!”
Anurag told him about the mess he was stuck in.
“Anurag bhaiyya, this is time not for wailing but for action,” said Chandan. “We need to find someone with a charger, that’s all!”
As they walked around, they thought aloud.
“Arun saab will surely have one but he stays at Artists’ colony!”
“Also he won’t lend his charger as he’ll be charging his own e-bicycle for the event!”
“Maji works in two more bungalows; must be rich people with e-cycles and chargers!”
“Well my mother too works in a bungalow near the temple; we could check there too!”
“It’s just about getting a charger for two hours! Not a big issue!”
“Big or small, what’s the issue?”
It was the milkman’s son Vishnu bhaiyya who’d overheard them from his garden. He came to the gate to chat with them.
“Let me ask my classmate Vinod,” he said and was on his phone the next instant.
“How lucky we are!” said Vishnu with a big smile. “Hang around for an hour, Vinod’ll be here with the charger!”
“How come?” Anurag was puzzled.
“Vinod’s coming to meet his grandmother who stays down the road,” said Vishnu. “He’ll bring along his charger too!”
“So much fun, this cycling event!” said Anurag, “Let’s go to the Panchayat, in case there’s any more things left to do!”