Do I belong here?

– Nikhil Jain

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I am kind, undemanding and silent (most of the time).

Every weekend I leave my temporary residence to experience the city and beyond. Generally, I am joined by my friends who take turns to lead, with me leading most of the time. A pounding begins inside me when I reach the highway, looking at the giant vehicles zipping by me. It doesn’t seem particularly calamitous, for I am used to this rush. Nevertheless, the indifference of these vehicles make me livid. But I have made peace with these gas ejecting bodies, rushing around me. I no longer claim the commons, although I wish to. The commons remind me of lakes. This city has many of them; some are well maintained, and others have been left to their sorry fate. I pass by one of the better maintained lakes every day. My rider calls it Sankey Tank.

Let me give you a snapshot of my society. The social stratification of this city is now an accepted principle. And it’s not just between different types of vehicles, there is a hierarchy within a certain type of vehicle too. For our convenience, let’s call them as varna and jati as termed by humans. Jati is recognised due to the social roles we play. For instance, the difference between road bikes, MTB and mountain bikes. Let’s not get further into this, for the world is complex and full of confusion.

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In this city of never ending complexity, I meet many fellow bikes. There are “modern” bikes that boast superior suspension and greater gear combinations. I feel the pride flowing, but I am content with what I have. I see many bikes belonging to different jatis. The riders chat among themselves, occasionally looking at us with appreciation and awe. What matters to us at the end, are empty roads and green fields all around. The smell of soil pervading, combined perfectly with the fragrance of leaves is what I enjoy. Some of my favourite journeys have been to Menchanabele dam, Nandi hills, Hesaraghatta lake and Turahalli forest.

There are few journeys where minor disasters have taken place, one such being a ride to the airport. Out of fourteen bikers, two were injured. One of them had to be taken to hospital as well. Part of the blame fell on us; but then we are silent, humbly accepting responsibility. With my rider injured, it was strange to be carried away by an auto, when I truly belong to the road with wind gushing past me.

A strange chord of subtle sympathy resonates when I see my fellow bikes not rolling down the road, dumped at a corner, forgotten or lost. How can I forget the powerful urge to roll downhill, cutting through the air?

Once out of the city, it’s all about the speed! My rider pushes the pedals hard, but with confidence. I roll, overtaking tractors and autos. Dew on the green grass shimmers in bright day light like pearls.

While they sit on the grass to rest, we rest on our stands, introspecting our belonging. I want to be there, amidst flowers and greenery. But I return to the city, every time.

City? Whose city?

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Happiness is just a phase, and it ends sooner than anticipated. I come back to the treacherous path where I feel lost, ignored and vulnerable. Sometimes I want to rebel against the boundaries society has prescribed for me. Is the city closing in on terrible doom? Since I go to IIHS every day, despite not having the privilege to attend classes I hear my rider talk about rapid urbanisation, and how the city’s rate of growth has exceeded its infrastructure capability. Big words! I dream to roll freely, not afraid of monstrous vehicles, not afraid of falling, or being hit or being ignored. I dream of being respected.

Someday.

Will I ever belong to this city?

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