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The Atticus Diaries
Bibliophile - atheist - reader of religious texts - B-School Grad - math-hater - part-time poet - wannabe bodybuilder - couch-potato - animal lover - non-vegetarian - software engineer - technophobe - day-dreamer - basketballer that never was - cruciverbalist - Indian - SriLankan - neither - marketing grad - financial analyst - another confused clueless speck living it up on good ol' earth!!

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005
My Father's Bicycle

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings...
-Rudyard Kipling

In the sprawling, tree-covered, pre-liberalization India township that I grew up in, the bicycle was an integral part of existence. Office-goers in their staid dark-green bar-cycles, teenagers with wire-braked sleek variants, the milkman and newspaper boy in their utility second-hands with broad rear-carriers, and school-kids in a variety of bikes at different levels of misuse - the whole community seemed to move on bicycles. The shiny spokes and rim of the bicycle wheel touched every aspect of life... Children grew through three stages of mobility - crawling on fours, walking and cycling! For battle-hardened wage earners, the bicycle was a trusted war-horse. For the last generation of school-boys unspoilt by television, the first bicycle widened horizons. And at a time when love was a much simpler affair devoid of fancy Valentine's Day glitz and media inspired glamour, a ride through a quiet road with your inamorata seated in the front-bar was the perfect romantic escapade (A good decade and a half later, I still can't think of a better one). Thus, there was a bicycle for everyone's whim and vocation and you could tell a regular township denizen by his bicycle.

But my father was no regular township man. He had grown up far away in the hills in a different country. In a part of the world where people walked great distances and the terrain didn't really befit cycling. He had built his life in a region devoid of such thin-wheeled traffic and had been quite successful at it. All was well with the world until, in his forties, circumstance plucked him and his family right out of familiar landscapes and dropped them right into bicycle territory!

For more than two years, my father walked nonchalant through the oppressive heat of sultry Indian summers, ignoring condescending offers from relatives to lend bicycles and oblivious to the fact that BHEL township wasn't quite his small town in the hills where everyone lived within a loud shout of each other. Until someday, out of the blue, he decided he had had enough! It had become one snide remark too many… One mile too many to walk in the midday sun! And so my father – after surviving half-a-century without need for a vehicle of his own - decided to tame the bicycle!!!

There is some thing inherently poignant about a middle-aged man trying to learn cycling. And when you are a little boy, it breaks you up to watch your father struggle to do what seemed to come naturally to everyone else. Everyday at dusk I would follow my father dutifully to the Community Centre grounds and watch him struggle through one shaky practice round after another. And every night, we would walk the long road back, father and son discussing everything else on earth to keep our thoughts away from critical mobility problems. To his credit, after weeks and weeks of struggle, my father finally triumphed. He would never ride the bicycle with the careless ease with which most of us in the neighborhood did. But he did get along - no longer embarrassed or encumbered by his inability to balance himself on two-wheeled contraptions.

Only many years later did I realize that my father's battle had not been against that red wire-braked Hero bicycle that we dragged to the grounds every evening! The bicycle was symbolic of everything that this new world arrayed against him. This mean new world where he had to forego the assured comforts of a familiar way of life and struggle to re-establish himself... (And trust me, when you are starting all over again in a new country, well past your prime, with a qualification that is not recognized and with a family to feed, you don't even want to look at the odds.) Taming the bicycle was my father's way of proving to himself he could belong - that he could start the long journey back to the lofty heights he had reached in his profession in a different place in a different time.

That's the story of my father's struggle - that of men who are forced to rebuild their lives virtually from scratch. Some succeed, some don't. But almost all of them try. With the bicycle and other symbolic opponents, my father stood strong and won many battles. But there were several other instances where he would turn a deaf year to ridicule or would uncomplainingly walk the extra mile by foot. The spirit of a much younger and fiercer man that had resurfaced in him to tame the bicycle wouldn't show up again. Over the years, my father and I have had our differences about the way he went about it all – differences that have pulled us far apart from those days when we used to push a bicycle between us to the grounds at dusk. But whenever I see the old bicycle still lying in a dark corner of the shed, I am reminded of times when my father tried real hard... Of times when brush off a bruise like kid, pick up the pieces and tell me with a smile – "One more round…!"

April 21, 2008   02:16 PM PDT
great one man.. touching man.... reminds u or ur oldern days... everyone who is brought up in township would understand what u mean... I miss the bicycle rides we used to go for..... Miss T Ship.. even now if i go i love to go round in my bicycle..
Jean Walter
May 29, 2006   07:59 PM PDT
S Mayur, the same Jean Walter....... glad dat u remember my exodus from Little Flower to RSK
Atticus Finch
May 19, 2006   10:05 PM PDT

Glad you liked it buddy...

Is this a Jean Walter who went to Little Flower School in Trichy and then to RSK?
jean walter
May 19, 2006   02:35 PM PDT

Its a goody goody one...........I luv it

I hav got my second Red Unicorn (after the first Blue one that I used to thrash at 120 KMPH for non stop rides between Bangalore and Trichy).....yet the cycle still is my favourite.

Remember getting red stripes on my leg through my dad who spotted me overtaking a TVS 50 with my green HERO bicycle.I dared not speed my bicycle (in front of him)

He however softly said............go at 100KMPH, thats enough, when I was directing the needle to 120+ in our car

Fathers get used to their sons' whims and fancies, I thought.......just like in your case

With tears I perch on the saddle of my dad's cycle and push the pedal slowly down the lanes....I wish my dad were alive to see his son obeying him after a long time.

Stirs me up man..............Lovely blog.
December 9, 2005   05:30 PM PST
Why havent you posted anything for so long ??

Me waiting...
July 22, 2005   07:52 PM PDT
strangely moving.feeling guilty.wish i hadnt read
Spider Man
February 16, 2005   10:28 PM PST
True. Very True. I could not think of a better romantic escapade than being on a bycycle in BHEL township with the beloved on the bar. More so, when it rains.

Dude, this takes me right back to my days at our precious alma mater in the T'ship. I was not a township kid. I had to travel by schoolbus all the way from Trichy town dreaming of my love. Meesai(the driver) used to play the best Illayaraja melodies of that time to create the right "mood" for the dusty-dreamy road trip on the Trichy-Thiruverumbur highway.

The Oscars was when cupid struck me for the first time. The festive gala. The magic moments. The rare rains. And the bicycle.

The best moments were spent on a bike my bestfriend let me borrow to further my romantic interests with her in the township.
February 4, 2005   01:03 AM PST

I am pretty old, Rhea Aunty :D
February 3, 2005   11:23 PM PST
Good, really good.
You have started sounding like an old man though( pre-liberalisation India and all tht...)
February 3, 2005   08:46 PM PST

He has a rather low opinion about anything that moves faster than 30kmph. Another reason why I never owned a Harley-Davidson :((
February 3, 2005   08:39 PM PST

Welcome to this space! :)

Hemingway - my wise friends say the rest of Hemingway is strikingly different from Old Man and The Sea. Must check out for myself...

BTW, how long is your hair? :p
February 3, 2005   07:40 PM PST
what does he think of hypersonic wave riders...??????????
February 3, 2005   07:40 PM PST
what does he think of hypersonic wave riders...??????????
February 3, 2005   06:08 PM PST
agree with all 'cept hemingway. maybe cos he was on my syllabus:p
February 3, 2005   06:08 PM PST
ha!read every one of those must reads. and to kill a mockingbird is *sigh* fantabulous. am rather in lous with atticus. so ye better beware;-) and hey thanks for droppin by all those days back.didnt notice your comment until now.
February 3, 2005   01:56 PM PST

a) Stop spreading mean rumours about Atticus! :)

b) Start your own blog kid! Don't hog precious airtime here :p
February 3, 2005   11:01 AM PST
Hey atticus,
How about removing the " non vegetarian" "lover of animals thingy"
heh heh heh. This is getting really entertaining :) Mayur the ulti cynic's transformation into Mayur the Saint - patron of vegetarianism and poster boy for we-shun-alcuhul- *cough*
Mayur I hope you wont turn over a new leaf and start being nice to Pucci. The world is really going bonkers. Mayur turns vegetarian and dumps booze. Nitid the fetid actually mentions a date on which he says he is taking us home (BTW nitid,Mayur and I eagerly await your next excuse ). Pucci looks serious all the time and Machao sez " dude, I dont like women. I prefer men" :))
BTW has school uniform really changed ?? Thats quite a pity cos the green striped tie used to go really well with the khaki trousers and white half shirt ;)

February 2, 2005   06:48 PM PST
@Divya: Thanx Buddy :)
February 2, 2005   05:47 PM PST
mm...Yummy ! That was a gud read... :)
February 2, 2005   05:42 PM PST
mm..Yummy ! That was a good read....
February 2, 2005   08:37 AM PST

Ok, I gotta take your word for it! :)
Still, think Pucci will stay away for some time ;)

February 2, 2005   08:30 AM PST
Atticus, Ostriches are not insectivorous!!! :) Ewwww!!! I think I ought to re-christen myelf..!! Ostrich has lost its relevance now! :)
February 2, 2005   07:53 AM PST


For starters, Pucci is a brand we build live assiduosly over the last two years, major contributions coming from a certain Prasannaa! Pucci (corruption of puchchi - insect in Tamil) is the name of a worthy who looks remarkably like a male praying-mantis that survived mating... :)
February 2, 2005   01:20 AM PST
No they aren't Atticus....Pucci's still around....:)

~nice post btw!
February 1, 2005   11:52 PM PST

That's brave...!! In the mean streets of Kolkata, I wouldn't ride even a bicycle :p
February 1, 2005   11:48 PM PST
Great post......I also conquered bicycles in a similar way.....they r the only 2 wheelers I
will ever ride !!
February 1, 2005   09:15 PM PST

Welcome Buddy! :)

On an unrelated note, are Ostriches insectivorous? ;)
Smug Bug
February 1, 2005   03:40 PM PST
Hey, I finally managed to find your blog... Thanks for coming by mine...

Very nice this one is... the analogy of the bicycle being symbolic of new-world-type adversaries is quite interesting :)
February 1, 2005   02:55 PM PST
@Osty: thanks :)
February 1, 2005   11:10 AM PST
Thanx Ashwin...

"If..." is just awesome! It fits every occasion. One of the best quotes of If I know is before the players' entrance to Wimbledon's Center Court:

"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat these two imposters just the same"
February 1, 2005   10:53 AM PST
February 1, 2005   09:59 AM PST
Thank you, for reminding of "If", wonderful poem that...and let me join the list of people congratulating you!

*touch wood*

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