Biking in Bangalore

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On 26 June 1978, my father and my cousin Pradan annan bought a cycle for me. It was a Hero ladies cycle. In those days, it was a very common kind of cycle, but one rarely sees it on the road these days.

It was a tall cycle and I could not reach the ground if I were sitting on the seat. To get on, I used the technique of giving the cycle a push, with my left foot on the left pedal and my right foot on the road behind me and then jumping on. The ample space in front between the seat and the handle bars allowed me to swing my right leg over to the pedal on the other side even when wearing a pavadai, which is a long skirt. The bike did not have gears, and this made negotiating long stretches of uphill roads rather difficult. For three years in school and two years in college, I took the bike wherever I went. It became so much like a part of me, that I found it awkward to walk on the road without it, as if I did not know what to do with my hands.

Most high school kids in my school had bikes. I remember one time when almost the whole school biked over to Lalbagh for the annual flower show. It was a long distance from Richards Town but was good fun. We had asked for a holiday saying, “How could we ever get to see the flower show if we kept having school?” Mr. Flack, knowing that we were actually fishing for a holiday, told us to cycle up to Lalbagh and return to school. We had hoped that we would have the day off, and now, the only way we could avoid school was by actually biking the distance. I think we had some teachers biking with us as well.

After five yeas of cycling, I stopped almost completely because two of my friends lost their mothers in road accidents, and I found that I could not cope with the traffic. Cycles of this type have all but disappeared from the roads these days, but not from the memories of many young women of bygone years.

I can see myself whizzing down hill from Clarence High School towards Tannery road on my way home . . . in the rain . . . against the wind . . . soaked to the bone . . . shivering . . . but free . . .

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5 responses »

  1. Dear Nahomi,
    The bicycle has many positive aspects-it is simple,easy to maintain,non-polluting and very very pocket friendly. It also provides good and often much needed exercise to the rider.
    Regarding riding in traffic,I always felt very safe on a bicycle as I made it a point to ride through the bylanes avoiding the main roads.When I came to the main road I would get down and push my bicycle through to the other side.I still can never ride on the main road and I have no regrets.
    The bicycle for me is a peaceful mode of transport.
    When I was in Melbourne, I was pleased that people rode bicycles to the mall, library and to pick up their child from school.My eldest sister there owns a bicycle.

    But here in India the bicycle is reserved for school children and the ‘poor’ who can’t afford motorbikes.Middle class adults riding bicycles are extremely rare here.I think this is because in a developing economy class consciousness among the people is very high.

    Everything said, the bicycle is one of my favourite modes of transport the others being the bullock cart,bus(uncrowded) and train!

  2. Ah! bullock carts. I remember traveling by bullock bandy in Tanjavur in the late 1960s. I was a very young child and delighted to see that we were slower than my dad who was walking alongside.

  3. Hi,
    this is madhavi from a magazine, Bengaluru Pages and we are doing a cover story about cycling in Bangalore. I wanted to ask you how you would feel about us publishing your article as a diary entry, since this entry gives us a slightly ‘olden-days’ angle to the story.
    Kindly respond as soon as you can because we will be going for printing in two days.
    thank you,
    Madhavi

  4. Hi Nahomi,

    I remember you cycling to and from your home on your green bicycle those days- and the drawing is pretty good! I had an “original Rayleigh” bicycle that was first used by my grandfather, and passed down to my father then to me. I used it through high school, college, and even took it to Pune for my Master’s – and never owned any other vehicle while in India…thank you for bringing back these memories.

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