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The Lost & Found Bicycle  

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By Savitri Narayanan

The new bicycle came home on a cool morning, a week before Deepavali. It was dark blue in colour with streaks of yellow on the rims of the front wheel. It glowed and glistened in the sun as they took it out of the car.

For a long time Ashika had been wanting a bicycle especially as her brothers Arnav and Abhinav had their own. Both spent their evenings riding around with their friends who too owned their own bicycles.

‘Wait till you grow up!’ was Papaji’s standard response whenever Ashika mentioned the bicycle.

“You’re a baby, still in primary school!” Arnav taunted her, “I got mine only when I joined high school!”

“Me too!” said Abhinav.

Surprisingly, Ashika could ride a bicycle. Back home in the village, during summer vacations, she had learnt to. Both her cousins and their friends too loved cycling. Either they would ride their own or get one from the nearby shop which rented bicycles.

Teresa, her neighbour had got one as a birthday gift a month ago. Susan too was gifted a bicycle for Christmas the year before which left Ashika and Neelam without bicycles. Neelam and Ashika got to ride their bicycles once in a while but owning one was different!

Neelam was an only child and was rather pampered and over-protected.

‘Why do you want a bicycle? We’ve a car and driver to take you wherever you want to go?’ her parents’ words often made Neelam an object of ridicule among her friends. But she never missed a chance to ride her those belonging to her friends. Without her parents’ knowledge, she often rented one too!

To everyone’s surprise, one evening Papaji said, “The sales are on, there’re bicycles available with 20% discount maybe Ashika too could have one!”

Ashika’s joy knew no bounds when she heard these words. Things moved very fast and soon the bicycle was home! Ashika could barely stay away from the bicycle. Once back from school, she was either eating, sleeping, studying or riding the bicycle! She washed or cleaned it daily and often would stand beside it, admiring the precious possession. She secretly stuck her favourite sticker of a golden star under the right handle.

‘God! Keep an eye on this bicycle, it’s not only mine but yours too!’ she smiled at the thought of God riding her bicycle invisibly, when the whole world was asleep!’

Soon it was Deepawali time and, as usual, they headed for the village. From near and far, the family and extended family members came down to spend a few days together.

Once back home, Ashika rushed out of the car for a glimpse of her dear bicycle. She was in for a shock; the bicycle wasn’t there! It was missing!

“Ours is a good neighbourhood, nobody steals things!” Maji sounded sure, “It’ll be somewhere!”

“You must’ve parked it somewhere else!” said Abhinav.

“No worries!” Abhinav too consoled her. “This evening we’ll go round the neighbourhood and take a look.”

So, they did. Both of them took their own bicycles and along with their friends, rode around the locality to spot Ashika’s bicycle.

Forlorn and dejected, Ashika stood there watching the children playing. All were happy to be back to play with their own friends.

-3-

“Ashika, where’s your bicycle? Come join us!” Teresa called out as they rode past.

“We’re racing,” called out Simi, “Never mind, you can join us even now!”

‘Neelam’s bicycle looks so much like mine!’ thought Ashika. ‘Did she too get a Deepawali gift?’

Ashika moved forward and waved out when they came back speeding on their bicycles.

“Neelam, stop for a moment!” Ashika said aloud but Neelam ignored her and cycled away faster.

The sun was almost setting when both met at last. Neelam lived in a nearby housing complex but always came over in the evenings to play. There she was at the gate, walking beside her bicycle, her hands firmly holding the handles.

“Your bicycle looks so much like mine!” said Ashika. “Is it new?”

“Yes, of course!” said Neelam, “Where’s yours?”

“It’s gone!” confided Ashika, tears ready to roll down. “I’d parked it there but it’s not there now!”

“Are you saying that I stole your bicycle?” Neelam raised her voice.

“Don’t shout at me, friend!” Ashika burst into tears, “I wish I could get it back…”

Ashika ran home sobbing while Neelam went home with the bicycle.

Next morning Ashika was in for a surprise.

It was a Sunday. Still, she was up early and went down to scout around for her lost bicycle. To her surprise, Neelam was there too, leaning on the boundary wall. She rarely came over in the mornings, that too on a Sunday!

“Ashika,” said Neelam, “The bicycle is not mine, it’s yours!”

Ashika couldn’t comprehend so just stood still.

“I not only took your bicycle but also lied to you!” continued Neelan, “Forgive me if you can!”

“You mean…,” Ashika got stuck for words.

“I not only used your bicycle without permission but also lied to you!” she said. “I’m really sorry, don’t know what came over me!”

Ashika bent down to look under the right handle. Yes, the golden star was there!

“Thank you friend for returning my bicycle!” Ashika hugged Neelam.

“Can you forgive me?” Neelam couldn’t meet Ashika’s eyes.

“What happened is past, forget it!” Ashika hugged her again. “I got my bicycle and we’re still friends! This calls for a celebration!”

(Savitri Narayanan is a retired educationist at present in Bangaluru. A mother and grandmother, loves readig, writing and
travelling.)