Pedaling Around

A clunky metallic sound echoed in the abandoned shed…

My stay at home has been transient ever since I left for my intermediate studies, then for college and now work. I have been to tons of different places all over the country since then, so much so that I forgot what the comfort of my home felt like. Obviously, counting my stupid stupid decision of not visiting home for one and half years would be the top factor. Have I written about that before?

Oh man! It was tough, to say the least. After my winter break in the junior year when I was about to leave my home, I said to my mother that the next time I come back, I would have achieved something significant. I was filled with a sense of purpose – my junior year internship was coming up (which I had yet to find) and then the placement seasons would begin. There was also this startup idea I had been keeping aside for years – all the real deal.

Melancholy started to dawn on me during the summers when the hostel was once again filled with silence and I was one of the few who had stayed back. Once again, I was bitten by the only thing I have been running away all my life. Things did improve afterward and that period proved to be transformative in a big way.

Anyway, the time was never succinct to relive those old memories. Home became more of a halt for the onward journey. I was rushing, for one there were always those projects to complete and secondly, now that I had seen a different world, enjoyed the change of scenery and tasted different food (home food is the best), how could I be tied down to this old place? Amazing, how quickly you come to your senses in your 20s.

For 6 years, it has rested at this place.

I removed the sheet half-covering it and took a quick glance of its overall health.

My bicycle.

It is covered in dust, tied in cobwebs, eroding in rust. The tires have gone flat – probably because the air leaked over time. Brakes are working fine but the chain has come off, so I put it on. After washing and greasing, the ride of my choice is ready for a round around my hometown.

It’s Sunday afternoon – my favorite time for a stroll. The sun overhead is signaling somewhere around midday. The dogs are catching their breath, perspiring through their tongue on this autumnal weather. People sitting on the chairs, soaking, basking in this comforting noon, reading newspapers. There aren’t any dumper trucks on the road, so I’m not worried about the dust. It’s not a little thing I’m making a fuss about – my hometown is surrounded by coal mines, so dust is a serious problem here.

At home, maa is finishing her daily chores and papa is in the garden – his favorite pass time activity on Sundays. He has asked me to pick up some flowering plants from the market. Things are moving slowly here as if coming to a halt. There is no commotion, no traffic noise, no shouting people and no loudspeaker blasting gibberish in the air. In fact, this part of the world has never been in a rush anyway.

I take my bicycle out of the door and do a quick trial runs – you know, just going some distance, then taking a turn, coming back to where you started and then taking the turn again to go the same spot where you had turned. It’s circle but elongated. Umm…I would say more like a rounded rectangle if you really want to visualize it. One final turn and then I am off.

Disclaimer – Minor bumps are ubiquitous here especially on the streets so I would omit that throughout. Although, you should know that they are there nonetheless.

The whirling wheels, rubber tires rubbing against the concrete road and, chains hitting those gear teeth on the push of the paddles…

The houses on both sides don’t go beyond two floors. They rarely have a terrace. Some are more like huts but these old cottages feel so refreshing today. Ah! how I got accustomed to the buildings & skyscrapers so fast. There are a lot of turns, one lane merging into another until you come out of the main road. On the way, I pass through the home of my once ‘best friend‘ whom I haven’t seen in years. I have moved on from a lot of people I had held dearly in some phase of my life and people have done the same to me as well. It took me some time but I have made peace with this fact now.

All the shops are on the other side of the road. From what I remember, not much has changed. Yeah, one general store in front has converted into a xerox shop, although I still prefer the old one, few meters away on the left. Beside that, is the old saloon. The barber identified me at once when I went there last Sunday. In this tiny town, identity is not something you keep to your own. Everyone knows everyone else.

You can never miss the fleet of snacks vendors on the pushcarts – samosa, jalebi, pakode, panipuri, chaat, cutlets – all sorts of mouth-watering delicacies being made and sold on the street. There has been a significant increase in their numbers lately and that means more options & better quality for us. It’s still afternoon so they are preparing their materials in advance for the evening when the whole place would be swept off with people for Sunday market.

I move further towards the old temple – one of many like everywhere in this country. It has always been the same and occasional renovations haven’t brought much change. The same old priest, after the morning offerings, is now sitting on the doorstep reading his scriptures. The air here is more fragrant because of all the incense sticks and flowers. Housewives usually visit the temple after they have finished their domestic chores.

I see the florist casually sprinkling water on the plants to keep them fresh. He keeps a display of all kinds of seeds, saplings, some plants with flowers blossoming. I picked marigold and jasmine for my garden and he delicately put it in a wrapper. There is more to this stretch but it would be a mere repetition of the elements I have already told you about. Instead, let me take you further down the main road which I had crossed earlier.

It’s the one which brings me to home from the city’s railway station. That side of the road has been traversed countless times but the other side has equally been trodden in the past. If you keep driving on this road for 4km and not take a turn anywhere, you would ultimately reach my school. This part has seen my morning rush and the afternoon panting and I have seen it changing from calm to chaos. Over a thousand trips of those uneven terrains which somehow always felt like having more ups than downs. Gravity played with us within and outside classrooms.

Somehow, I was always late for school. Even in exams. Then I went to college and there I was late for my classes too – early morning, afternoon, evening or even night classes. I joined work and I started going late there as well and I will tell you why. I was never late on the first day or even the second or even a few days after, for that matter. It takes some time to gauge how much I could push the official mark for a troublefree inclusion. I have always felt guilty to slip into this habit and reprimanded myself, after all, punctuality is a good trait to have. But in all rationality, you are late for things not because you are always at fault but also because that thing doesn’t truly draw you towards it. You are not excited enough to actually want it ahead of time.

If there are vehicles on the road, it has to have service shops, right? For me, it was that tiny bicycle shop – basically a hut where a weary mechanic would sit in his dirty grey shirt mending bicycles the entire day. No companion, no distraction and no regard to the traffic on the road, it was only him playing with his tools. I sometimes used to halt there to fill in my bicycle tires. It was harsh and really not an enjoyable addition to my already short breath.

The bank is a little further down on the other side of the road while the post-office is on the lane beside the bicycle shop – two of my frequently visited destinations apart from school. I actually went to the post-office on Friday as well. It was in the same desolate state – same letterbox, same counter and the same people on the other side. Bank was a bit critical in a sense there isn’t any designated place to park my bicycle. It is literally on the side of the road, always filled with people, so I had to be in the line and also be on the lookout for my bicycle.

There is a shortcut to my home from the bank. Remember, I went the market way earlier and then took the road and visited the bicycle shop? Well, the journey goes full circle from here. This time, it runs through the park on one side and a big playground on the other (the only one we have got here). The park is just for the namesake because it’s tiny, one half of it is filled with trees and no one really visit there. There is a pool in the middle which doesn’t have water and is now filled with stones. Its circumference is grazed by plum trees whose branches overhang on the boulevard.

I used to play cricket here – a sport which I don’t follow at all now but is basically considered a religion in India. Every Sunday after 11AM, sneaking past angry glances of my father, I was there inebriated on the spirit of this awesome sport, intoxicated on the mere taught of winning the bet of a meager sum. It was enough for us. Playing with a different set of people every week whom I hardly knew – childhood didn’t know how to act like strangers. I had to be back by 12:30 so as to not arouse suspicion.

On the other side, the big ground is where the adults played. We couldn’t have played there if they were playing, so we played in the park. Corporate tournaments happen here sometimes. The only Annual Sports Meet I remember about my primary school happened here as well. Today, no one is playing there. It’s all empty. Well, things had started changing when I was in middle school. People started moving out for education and jobs like I did while new kids were hardly keen on physical sports. Maybe some are but they are not to be seen today. Anyway, I had all the time to ride around the perimeter once and then I was on my way home.

Ooh! one little geeky thing – you see, when you drive past the park with enough speed, the air that reaches to your ear through the fences (or the slots in the boundary wall) would make a strange sound due to differential stream. It’s like beat (interference pattern due to two sounds of different frequencies interacting with each other) which always fascinated me. I still haven’t found a proper explanation for that sound and this is the closest I could get from what I have studied.

Now that I live in different places, people often ask me where I am from. All I tell them is the name of the city and never this part of my homeland. How much I wish I could show them this.


Song Highlight –

Kid Francescoli is an electro-pop music project of French origin. I first came to know about it when Casey Neistat used one of its songs at the end of his vlog. I was instantly hooked to that tune and searched for it online. I have come across plenty of amazing music videos and this one stands out even among them. As a person who sometimes dabbles into graphic design, a similar aesthetic being used in a music video certainly gripped my attention.

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36 thoughts on “Pedaling Around

      • Oh nice! Did you find anything interesting? How did you like Spotify? I heard it’s restricting in the sense you can only play the song of your choice certain times. I’ll stick to SoundCloud. I’m watching ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and questioning every second of it πŸ˜›

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      • As far as spotify is concerned, I think it has wide variety of songs in different languages so yeah I am liking it. Means I was listening to some random K-indie songs and yeah I guess it’s a good experience for a person who was using jio saavan earlier. πŸ˜‹
        You know I am binging on K-dramas a lot these days. When everything seems out of control I switch to them. And also the reason I like them because sometimes I get bored of hindi and english. Sounds weird, but yeah it’s kind of guilty pleasure.
        Questioning means every scenes and details that you do? 😁

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      • Great! I highly encourage dabbling in different languages and experiencing different facets of art. There is nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, I also started listening to music in different languages. Not knowing what is being said but the beauty of it transcends the language barrier. Few months back, I came across a blog here on WordPress whose author is also crazy about K-pop and all the Korean TV series, movies, etc. So I got to know about few songs from there too, although I haven’t watched Korean movies or anything except few. I did find my unexplored love for anime recently.

        Questioning as in ‘why am I watching this?’ I mean the movie is great. The story, the settings, the characters and dialogues are all fascinating but something isn’t ringing right. I’m sure my 19 years self would have been in awe with it but not now. Heck! Did I just talked about feeling old? Also, please don’t pull my leg for the critical review of ‘In the mood for love’ πŸ˜›

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      • Yeah, exploring different languages is amazing. I am yet to explore anime more. I watched one movie in that, “Flavours of youth”, which kind of made me nostalgic. Oh, yes I would recommend you a Japanese movie which is I guess remake of anime only. The movie is “Our meal for tomorrow”, It is a love story but you know there is something about Japanese culture, it is very soothing and a highly quotable movie. I watched it in Jan.
        Yeah, I agree with you, sometimes what we love doing before, makes us question our choices later. It happens with me also, when I revisit some books, like why the hell I liked it at first. πŸ˜‚ No, I am not pulling your leg. It’s good to be observant. 😊

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      • Writing about things that interest you explicitly would be obvious and redundant given we all write about them from time to time. Either write about all the things you hate or go take the west road and bring out something radical centred around the same topic. Also, that’s two post commitments in this comment section. Am I putting you through some mischief here?

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  1. I am in awe of your writing! I cannot tell when it happened exactly, but somewhere along the way the black and white words melted away and I could feel the whole experience as you described it, and the pangs of nostalgia, the melancholy, the idea that you keep moving through life, changed even though part of the world around you remains the same. I loved it. Thank you for posting Chandan! Also glad to hear you’re doing okay 😁

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    • I cannot believe this! Ilah, you’re my favourite writer in this entire world. I know it might sound like exaggeration to you but this is what it is. I read each and every one of your posts – not just once, twice or thrice but multiple times. Whenever I feel at unease, there is this blog of yours for help.

      Whenever I struggle with my own writing, I would read your blog, again & again & again. I know, I don’t let you know this (through comments or otherwise) and I feel so guilty about it but somehow every time you posted, I felt so belittled by the unfathomable beauty of your words. I thought of writing email to you multiple times but I don’t know why I held myself back. Gradually, I started to feel so distant from you. You were/you are in your own little world, so full of life that I thought I could never afford to interrupt even at the tiniest level. And now that you read this post and said such sweet things, it almost felt like a dreamy reality. My words would never convey my tremendous appreciation for you. Thank you!

      How have you been? How’s life? How’s the work? Tell me all this and some more (if you want to), I’ll patiently listen to it all πŸ™‚

      P.S – Please don’t let these words influence you too much. You’re just perfect the way you are.

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      • Ah, I genuinely do not know what to write in reply to this (and mind you, I’ve been trying to find the words for a few days now) except that I’m grateful for all your kind words, all the time you spend reading what I put out there. If I can say something, I have the bad habit of comparing my writing to others’, but I am learning that it is more important to write the things that matter to me than to try to make my writing as ‘good’ as others’. Besides, there’s nothing for you to feel belittled about, your own writing is simply marvellous. It would be a shame to miss out on it! And never fear reaching out, it’s always very much welcome πŸ™‚ I do like my own little world, but I do also like to get out of it lol.

        I’ve been mostly good, thank you for asking! Continually growing in and out of things, never too settled, like an endless ripple of sorts, if that makes sense. And I’ve been writing so much as well, unfinished piece after unfinished piece, I can’t wait until it all comes together πŸ™‚ How have you been? It seems like you’ve been on a long journey πŸ™‚

        Thank you so much for saying all those things, they mean more to me than I can possibly express right now. Have a good week-end Chandan ! ^^

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      • “Continually growing in and out of things, never too settled, like an endless ripple of sorts” – it makes complete sense to me. That’s the challenging part of growing up, being a young adult and probably more so the things that we would look back to πŸ™‚ I could very well see your unfinished writing taking shape and coming together beautifully, one by one.

        And, yes indeed I’ve been on a long journey. Certainly an astute observation, Ilah! I still am though. Sailing well afar from any shore, across the horizon, in search of a distant land where it will all come together. You know like doing different things, not knowing why you are doing it in the first place but you do it anyway because to hell with settling. You are learning and you like what you are doing even though it carries massive risk. They empower you in hindsight nonetheless, strengthening your ship, for only then you can endure the turbulence and surpass all the obstructions of the journey. Yeah! I am there. Does it make sense? πŸ™‚

        Have a great week ahead, Ilah!

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      • Perfect sense, if I may say so πŸ™‚ You’re right, of course. We’re moving forward but also always taking a look back, it makes for some interesting twists and turns in life. I am glad to hear you are able to sail (if not smoothly) then safely to the places you want to be. I’m trying to do the same! I’m not saying this to be nice or anything, but I would be really happy to read updates on your journey, if it’s something you wanted to do. You have a great week ahead too! ^^

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  2. You never stop amazing me with your writing! I havent met a lot of people who can actually make even a descriptive piece intresting…. (the perfect amount of details to keep the readers hooked)
    I remembered how much I loved my bicycle too… sadly it was stolen one day and then I got too busy with college and studies that I never actually bought another one… I remember how I felt like a total badass being the only little girl participating in all sorts of races with the “big guys” (as the called themselvesπŸ˜‚) and doing tricks amd stuff.. Ahhh.. good days!
    Anyway.. what did you mean by your intermediate exams? What course were you pursuing?

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    • I certainly don’t deserve all the compliments you bestow but thank you so much! My writing is just sum of the influences of other people I look forward to plus a little bit of myself poured into those odd words.

      I’m so glad that this post reminded you of your own adventures but I’m also sorry that your bicycle got stolen. Even though I know how to ride a bike now, bicycle would always be my preferred ride (partly because of nostalgia and partly to reduce my carbon footprint πŸ˜›). Tell me about those tricks and stuff sometimes.

      By intermediate exams, I meant I moved to the city for study. I was a Science student (PCM) and then I went to one of the IITs. If you are from India, you would probably know what IIT is and if you are not, just know that IITs are among the most prestigious engineering institutions here like Ivy Leagues in US (see, I don’t even know where you are from or what even your name is). So basically 12th boards, JEE-Advanced and all sorts of other entrance exams. I’m a Mechanical Engineering graduate now πŸ™‚

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      • But you most certainly do… so before you’re ready with your next post you’re gonna work on your how to receive a compliment skillsπŸ˜‚
        I may have exaggerated the trucks part I guess… jst the same old wheelies and drifts and typically driving without the support of hands etc … but that was long ago… and although a bicycle ride will always be special to me.. I’ve taken a fancy to the most traditional form of transport , i.e. walking! Its oddly satisfying and refreshing (obviously not in the afternoons though… I get a severe headache if I do so)
        Anyway I’m a mumbaikar and I know the crazy struggle for getting into IITs and its importance in India. Congratulationsssss on having made it this far!!! I’m all the more proud of you now!
        To all those people with the opinions like engineers having no time for life and hobbies… I’d strongly recommend they read your blog!

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      • Alright, if you say so. But we gonna have to practice a little bit here, so keep reading πŸ™‚

        And you don’t count walking as a mode of transport. It’s like answering you favourite pastime activity as sleeping. It’s not legitimate πŸ˜› Although, I prefer walking myself whenever I can. You know what’s the best time for it – the golden hour and the evening thereafter. If you have taken those walks then you know what I am talking about.

        I have been to Mumbai a few times. The longest I have stayed there is around 3 weeks. Would love to go back again sometimes. Also, people highly undermine students from IITs mostly because of jealousy. I have met amazing peers there who were not just good at studies (some were absolute geniuses) but they were crazy good at creative arts as well. You would find people who can do all sorts of things besides engineering.

        I see you are currently in college. What course are you pursuing?

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      • Okay this is not fair! Walking.. though a primitive one.. is a legitimate mode of transport!!!! I mean the very definition of transport is to move from one place to another… doesnt walking satisfy it !! And yes I do love the golden hour… its relaxing and beautiful at that time
        I get the point about undermining the engineers….. being the little sister of oneπŸ˜‚ and so i appreciate when you guys still keep up with extra curriculurs … I meam manage the time and stuff.. (I hope you get what I’m trying to state hereπŸ˜…)
        Yupp… I’m still in college and pursuing chartered accountancy… I’ll have my CA intermediate ka first attempt in may this year..m wish me luck !!πŸ˜›

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      • Okay ok, maan gaya main. Sorry! πŸ˜…
        Give a high five βœ‹ to your brother from my side, would you? Also, I have a huge respect for CAs. They have to study so much and the patience – man! It just goes on and on for years. Good to know someone from that breed πŸ˜› Are you done with your IPCC? Anyway, best of luck for your exam. I think you’re gonna need more of this so ping me before all your exams πŸ™‚

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      • IPCC is what inter CA was called earlier… Idk if u’re aware abt this so I’ll jst give you a brief.. so there are three levels of exams to be cleared to finally be called a CA… the first being foundation .. second intermediate and then finals. Now I’ jst in fybcom and will appear for inter ki exams in june.. and if I manage to clear that.. in 2 and a half years I’ll be eligible to give final CA exams

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