Shadows of my cycle.

அமாவாசையும் அவ‌ர் சைக்கிளும்

If someone asked me in 6th or 7th std about the goal in life, I would have said nothing but owning a BSA SLR. Nobody in our families owned a bicycle, those days. My uncle was the only person in the family who knows how to ride a cycle [ he rents ]. That too he uses that only based on business requirements [ buying lico coal for his machine shop furnace 🙂 ]. He was not patient enough to teach cycling to us. We mostly depended on the teenage seniors in this situation. Don’t imagine that our teenage seniors going to college or doing better things in life. They work in either workshops or a store at the maximum.

The presitigious jobs in my hometown were – a salesman in any textile shop [ javuli kadai alla kadal ] , conductor, high school teacher or an accountant sitting in the store with a listpad and a wooden ball point pen without cap [ வ‌ழ‌ வ‌ழ‌ன்னு எழுதும் ]. The workshops I told about, run through out the month except on new moon days. New moon days were special to me because that’s when the families used to have some special tiffin in the night [ except idli 🙂 ]. Due to traffic in Chennai, I was not allowed to try cycling till my 5th std. As a Chennai based kid, I felt very insulting to run a single tyre or a cycle wheel [ upper class 🙂 ]. So we used to wait for new moon days.

In new moon days, family outing happens and the workers union meeting happens. The workshop teenagers go out to Kanchipuram for watching the new films. And most importantly that’s when the seniors help us in teaching our cycle lessons. It all starts from saving money for a period of 15 days. We used to make friendship with “Jamaal” brother [ ஜ‌மாலுத்தீன் சைக்கிள் வாட‌கை நிலைய‌ம்] to just develop a rapport. And on the D day, we have to wait for the cycle. All the rival children group fight for the same cycle [ there were only 2 small cycles ]. After checking the time repeatedly, we finally used to get the cycle. After taking to our street by just moving the cycle, we start our cycle lessons.

A sub-plot story.. [ பெரிய‌ ஸ்க்ரிப்ட் ரைட்ட‌ர் இவ‌ரு..]. One of family friend used to visit us regularly. I somehow request and convince him to take his cycle away – it was a BSA SLR ladies cycle. We used to roam in that cycle for a longer period and come by the time our conductor uncle is about to leave. One day, for a change we took the cycle to a ground and ended up with 6 punctures in the back wheel. After that incident, he never gave the cycle to us. We too neither questioned him why nor asked for the key again.

Mahalingam annan [ working in my uncle’s workshop ] was my senior relative who taught me cycling. It was a bit tough learning cycling without dashing on the wall or running into the houses. I never liked monkey pedalling [ arai pedalling ] – the ugly way of cycling. So we tried our classes with the small cycles and bribe as much as possible to Mahalingam to get the trick of cycling. I wonder how Mahalingam could ride a cycle hands free. That was the highest trick I could imagine. Days passed by and I was on the same stage. Mahalingam scolded me heavily on one new moon day and i was very upset. He laughed at me stating that I never can learn cycling. With that disappointment, the same day I tried multiple times and finally rode it well. I managed to stop and get down too. But I noted that remarks of Mahalingam deeply.

Then I skipped visiting my tutor and started cycling on my own. Mahalingam didn’t worry about that. He continued his work and dreams with cutting metal sheets and joining them. I was a great fan of comics [ Muthu, Lion and Rani comics too ]. We the children gang, used to search for something always and I am fond of reading the bit pieces of paper. One fine day, I found a letter written by Mahalingam and about kidnapping my aunt’s daughter and settling with his own workshop in Kallakuruchi. We cannot expect much from a person whose life was just made up of metal sheets. My cousin [ அத்தை பொண்ணும் க‌ஸின் தானே [ பின்ன‌ என்ன‌ அஸின்னா இருக்கும் ]] started crying that somebody really would kidnap her and marry. To convince her and Keeping my vengeance in mind, I have handed over the letter to my uncle directly. I never knew the consequences.

It was as good as informing about Aiswarya [ Pechiyammal ] and Mechanic Murugan to the Dindugal wine shop owner Rajendiran [ காத‌ல் ப‌ட‌ம் பார்க்க‌லையா ??!! ]. My uncle smashed Mahalingam in pieces. He begged that he comitted a mistake. For a workshop owner with a single daughter, that letter looked like a life time crime. They hit him heavily and packed him back to Kallakuruchi. Everybody started calling me as a CID. By the time, I realised my mistake, much damages has happened to Mahalingam already. I never met him in life, again.

Few years later, in my 10th std my father bought me a BSA deluxe cycle with white washed tyres. The very first day we did some rituals to the cycle and decorated. I couldn’t even sleep that day out of joy. For me, it was a life time dream coming true and for other school mates it’s just a cycle. Madhan already owned a BSA Mach then [ அதை ஓட்ற‌துக்கு விர‌ல் தெரிய‌ற‌ க்ள‌வுஸ் வேற‌ 🙂 ]. The next morning, I went to my early morning maths tuition. One the way back, in a junction suddenly, I felt a interruption in the flow and fell down [ முனி அடிச்சிருக்குமோ ??!! ]. I checked riding the cycle repeatedly and fell down fewer times. As Sujatha said in “Arisi” short story my “thinai arivu” was different from cycle mechanism [ அவ‌ர் திணை ப‌த்தி பேச‌லாம்.. நீ ?! ]. I took the cycle to “Jamaal” and explained. He laughed at me saying that I was not eligible to own a cycle. He went out for a ride and while coming back he was strolling the cycle with a mark in his knee. I laughed back at him.

The technology with BSA deluxe cycle was that it had a special feature called forelock [ பெரிய‌ ABS break system ]. The forelock was open and in reacting to any jerk, the forelock automatically gets locked. That’s the reason for the sudden stoppage [ முனிக்கு வேற‌ வேலை இல்லை ?! ]. This is what explained by our cycle GDNaidu Jamaal. Due to his anger, he permanently broke the forelock.

I returned back home and said this to my mother. While I was washing the face, my mother asked me whether Mahalingam might have thought about me and my new cycle. After washing my face [ I cannot open eyes with froth in face – my cousin does 🙂 ], I said ‘Certainly not’. I know my cycle guru very much – he was a very good person.

Do u know Mahalingam’s address ?



  1. Came across as a short story/ almost.the end is a bit artificial.u wud have scored much higher if u had expressed the entire story /sequence in tamil . the story has comedy(Jamal GD Naidu,forelock,repeated 'muni ' attack),one side love(mahalingam's ambition?), sudden turnaround(handing over letter to uncle),tragedy(dharma adi to Maha)…and a happy ending for you(BSA with white paint on side tyres)!whether this is a true story or an attempt at story telling, u certainly have made a decent attempt.

  2. Thanks Rajan for the comments. A short story can be formed from these memories [ Form pannitaaalum.. 🙂 ]. I still like the way of writing in English and commenting the same in Tamil. Everything is true including the names.

  3. It was good to read this one. Since it is real and you have also narrated it well, it is good to read..



  4. Interesting 🙂 guys we got to chat up on comics and love of bsa. I like the shiny spokes in a moving bsa 🙂

    Btw, monkey pedal is different from arai pedal. I also take offense to your opinion on ugly way of cycling. For us who were experts in all ways of cycling, ugly way easy of those boys who learnt on oversized ladies cycles, by walking with cycle between their legs. Monkey pedaling was an art and adventure combined into one. Just think about it – balancing at angle, using all limbs, using only peripheral vision, exposing vital parts. That’s not for those with faint of heart. It’s not too late look back without any hard feelings and take a moment to admire 🙂

  5. Arai pedal is the way of pedaling only half of the rotation on one side I think. Another way is to pedal only when the pedal comes to the top, when the full circle is too tall.

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