There are some stories that cling to personalities for years, even decades. Most of them, while initially painful and embarrassing to endure, soon envelop you in its warm mockery. If only, we develop the mindset to laugh at ourselves a little; we can enjoy them. We can work really hard to purge them or add to them exotic flavors that make that little story about ourselves develop into a complex one. So, here I am, about to concoct another story from a childhood one, and see how it goes.
The brother (the one who almost masochistically went on a 100 km bike ride across London in the pouring rain to support a worthy cause) has always fancied wheels. He is a loving man and loves his family almost as much as he loves bicycles, bikes and cars; but if you were to plant some wheels on us and stick an engine to our rears, he would love us more. Just saying.
Wheels have not always given him warm, fuzzy experiences though. I once saved his life by shouting at him to move out of harm’s way when a scooter hurtled towards him. He becomes defensive when I say this and claims that since I was the one driving the scooter in the first place, I should not paint rosy pictures of myself (Po-ta-to, Po-taa-to). Anyway, the fact remains that I saved his life. Sister #2’s contribution. You can read one of my past posts and decide for yourself: Bajaj Chetak and how I saved my brother’s life.
We sisters are a competitive lot, and not to be outdone, Sister #1 saved his life too. See? We lived in the mountainside with narrow roads overlooking steep valleys and often parapet-less roads showed us what happens to careless rocks that slide down the mountainside, hurtling hundreds of feet into the valleys below. Every now and then, in this beautiful haven, there would surface rumors of panthers and assorted wildlife designed to test the brave. When this happened, our School had a No-going-out-after-6-pm rule in place. Fertile imaginations, stoked by ridiculous stories fanned the hype and no one dared test the rule. It was during one such time that Sister #1 had to get down at a bus stop called Valley-View and walk down to our house, a few kilometers away. Since she was to come well before 6, we had no fear of panthers getting her first, or at least were tactful enough to not say it to her face. No point scaring the girl and all that. But we were worried. The brother was always eager for anything that allowed him to take his bicycle out and he volunteered to cycle to the bus-stop and accompany her cycling slowly beside her while she walked back home.
The plan was perfect. She got down at the lonely bus-stop at Valley View and found the young fellow atop his bicycle with a huge beaming smile on his face. (He always seemed to smile while on the bicycle.) He put his plan to action as swiftly as he could and asked her to start walking while he cycled with her telling her about the Panther on the prowl. This Valley-View road had sweeping, beautiful views of the Valley on one side, and on the other still had tree cover. (Now, I hear luxury vacation villas have claimed the land). The birds were chirping their noisy way home and the setting sun had an annoying habit of throwing spooky shadows at you. One jumped at non-bird like noises on the best of days. On days where the Panther story made the rounds; it is prudent to take the brother’s cycle, have him cling to the cycle carrier while riding pillion and cycle your way home as fast as thine pedals would allow. That is precisely what the Sister did. All with me so far? Good. For this is where the point of her saving his life comes.
The Sister, whatever she may claim, is horrible when it comes to anything on two wheels. She asked the brother to get on and started off. Rocky starts are her best starts and she jerked the cycle into action. She pumped her heart into the thing and kept a ticking pace as she maneuvered steep turns on the road. As is her wont when worried, she jabbered on more than usual. When she got in this mode, we would ‘Aah’ and ‘Oh’ at regular intervals, and that was enough. Just when she’d got into the rhythm of the thing, a dog ran across her path and fear gripped her. She swerved right and left and right again. I don’t know exactly what happened after that, since details were not forthcoming at this point in the story, but she managed to de-seat the little brother. She threw him off the cycle on the winding road, and made off. The problem was really not throwing him off. It was the fact that she hadn’t realized what she had done. She pumped on for another mile or so, before she realized that the bike felt easier and lighter to ride. The nerves gripped her.
Setting the immediate problem of the cycle upsetting-dog aside, she had left her brother somewhere near a forest with a panther on the prowl. She cycled back as fast as she could shouting his name as loudly as possible. Her voice sending reverbrating echoes along the valley. She says this was to let prowling panthers know that they were to keep off her brother. See how she saved his life?
She found him jogging towards home, with a mildly irritated look on his face. She scooped him up on the cycle and came back home. Ever since, the brother has always hesitated about giving his cycle. He used to take us riding pillion, if need be, but would put up an extra-ordinary fuss about giving up his cycle.
It is this trait, that enabled him to finish cycling 100 km in the pouring rain and sleet. I am sure cab drivers could have taken him and his cycle along when the rains pounded down, but he held on. Cycling by himself to the last kilometer of the race, pouring rain or not.