We lived in a usual 90s middle-class colony. Colorful blocks arranged in a neat pattern around a park. It was like one of those monopoly boards. I was just learning to ride a bicycle then. My father used to help me mount and dismount the bicycle. The rest was taken care of by me.
I used to take rounds of the park. The difficult part was the turn. Four of them in a lap. I used to go completely mental on the bell at the turns. Because God forbid if I had to apply the brakes, I would have come crashing down. After 30 minutes of paddling and executing the plan perfectly to avoid the brakes, I was helped to get down. And there ended a session of me practicing to ride the bicycle.
I was too short then to do all of it on my own. But that was not the only reason I was not learning. I was too scared to give it a try. Even when I did try, it was only when I knew there was someone who would hold me if I fall.
It was the month of August. The sky was red after a day of incessant rains. I was riding very carefully, trying to avoid all the puddles on the way. I was completely focused on my primary task, to remain seated. There were only a few vehicles on the road as it was Sunday. The lights were fading very quickly and the street lights had taken over by then. It was time to head home.
I was approaching my house but couldn’t see anyone at the gate. I went for another round, followed by many more but no one came. I was getting desperate and started looking out in the neighborhood for someone I knew. I couldn’t find anyone. All the light had gone by then. And I was very tired. When I didn’t see any option, I did what I had been dreading for the last half an hour. I applied the rear brake very softly. I wanted it to come to rest with as little deacceleration as possible. And finally that moment came. My bicycle started tilting to our right. I stretched my right leg to neutralize the impact. And with a thud, both of us came down.
I went inside with minor bruises. My mother helped me in cleaning the scratches and then I went to my room for studying. It was a very inconsequential event in the scheme of things. But that event did teach me something. I was no more scared to get on and off the bicycle and started practicing it from then. It still took me a lot of time but I learned it. In case I still had that protective cushion around, it would have taken me a lot more of time to get around it.
May be my father didn’t forget me that evening. May be he knew that this is how I would learn the quickest. I never asked him and he never discussed. But that is one memory which is still hard-coded in my mind.