Cycling as a sport never really took off in India. It probably never even landed. The last time someone from India participated in a Cycling event at the Olympics was in 1952. 40 years later, Aamir Khan played the estranged son who won the inter-college cycle race to prove that Jo Jeetha Wohi Sikander. That movie may have sparked some josh (pun unintended) amongst the Indian public. I, for one, used to bike to school pretending I was in a race. “Change the gear Sanju, Change the gear…” - I did not have a geared bike then, but you get the point.
In any case, having returned to Pune after a brief hiatus, it saddened me to see that the huge number of cycles that once used to infest the roads has now shrunk to a number that is very close to Kareena’s size zero. A lot of the cycle dealers themselves have given up the business and moved to other lucrative opportunities. This leaves the youth of today with very little opportunity to realize the benefits of this wonderful exercise. Being part of the Rapid Urban Boom By Incremental Steps of Harakiri that Pune has witnessed, I too ended up giving away my cycle a few years ago.
However, going by the current fuel hike, I foresee cycling becoming a national phenomenon. Hopefully, someone – in their zest to curb expenses – will discover their strong Armstrong-ish ability to pedal his or her way to glory. The Pune Pedal Power foundation is making a valiant effort to create awareness by organizing a cycle rally on the 3rd of June 2012. Instantly, I thought of participating. The only hurdle was to get hold of a cycle.
How difficult would that be? I searched online to see if anyone rented out cycles – not too many. The ones that did, were already booked for the day of the Rally. Think Watson, think. Maybe Koregaon Park would be a place where cycles may be found on rent given the fact that the Osho Resort is located there. I took out my motorcycle. (I am sure if Shanky learnt of this, he would not be happy. “All the way you went on your motorcycle? Why? To find a cycle “) Though If SRK had been Shanky’s student, he would probably have replied, “Kuch jeetne ke liye kuch haarna bhi padta hai…”
Having reached KP, I scouted the area but did not find anything close to a cycle shop. Intuitively, I veered onto Lane No 7. Apart from a few newly constructed buildings, there did not seem much to discover there. So I turned around and suddenly noticed a small tea stall on the side of the road. Maybe this guy will know some cycle shop out here, I thought. I went up to him and asked him if he knew anyone who rented out cycles. He asked me for how many days I needed one for. I told him that I needed it for only one day. He told me to go and meet Vinod who has a Paan shop with a Gold Flake banner on Lane 4.
I reached Lane 4 only to find a Paan shop with a Gold Flake banner. Maybe his cycle business is so lucrative that he plans to do away with his Paan shop, is what I thought as I got down from my bike. I walked up to the shop and asked for Vinod. There were two people sitting inside the shop. They looked at each other and shook their heads in negation. Maybe this Vinod was Agent Vinod, who kept traveling from one lane to another. Or maybe the Tea guy got confused between Lane 4 and Lane 3. I rode up to Lane 3 but failed to find any Paan shop. Maybe the Tea guy got confused between Lane 4 and Lane 5. I rode up to Lane 5 and there was the Gold Flake Paan shop I was looking for. I quickly went up to the shop and asked for Vinod. The guy sitting at the shop asked which Vinod I was looking for – Vinod the Paanwala or Vinod the cyclewala.
I felt like replying Vinod Khanna but I refrained. I said I was looking to rent a cycle for the day and the tea-guy on Lane 7 had sent me. I was then referred to Vinod the cyclewala.
After a lengthy discussion with Agent Vinod, I found that since it was off-season there was not much demand for cycles. So he had packed up all his cycles and would only bring them back to KP during the winter. This was getting frustrating.
“Ek cycle ki keemat tum kya jaano Ramesh” was a dialogue I made a mental note of while I rode back home. Maybe SRK could use it in a documentary called Cycle-a-Have Jayate. Who knows. After the IPL he might buy all the KKR players a cycle as a gift.
I hope the Cycle Rally turns out to be a huge success and it spurs more people to bike more regularly and increase the population of cycles in Pune. Even Kareena claims she is no longer size zero.