Stories from the road | Last updated:
A Cyclist’s Perspective
By Pankaj Mangal •
Wake up at 6 a.m, brush your teeth, comb your hair. Endure a breakfast at 7.30 a.m, enjoy a chai(tea) at 10.30 a.m, look forward to lunch at 2 p.m and finally look ahead to sundown when you can be back home to loosen your tie and take off those biting shoes. The numbers give us some security in their predictability, cutting up the day into safely manageable chunks of time to measure productivity by; but what do they mean outside of roofed four corner walls?
When the weekends came, even though a part of me would have been content to stay indoors, whiling away the hours of the day in repose and matching those comforting numbers we assign them to television schedules, I would get on my bike and head out into the country. My initial outings taught me more don’ts than do’s – don’t underestimate traffic, don’t forget to bring water, and don’t expect the sun to voluntarily show mercy. But these restrictive lessons didn’t stop a few ‘do’s’ from making themselves apparent – do travel as far as you can, do not overlook the usefulness of google maps combined with a simple distance calculator and then, almost obviously, do be prepared for the occasional flat tire. Like any other exercise, or rather, more fittingly, like some mind altering substance, the more you cycled, the more you wanted to.
Eventually, the 2 days of my weekend was steadily reduced to a 30 hour window of opportunity. The town petered out into suburbs and paddy fields, then villages and further on, low hills and the hours of the day meant something different in all of these places. Where the fields would only acknowledge the advent of the sun in sleepy hesitation, the woods turned alive at the crack of dawn, with the songs of a hundred birds celebrating a new day. the chai shops would be filled at first light, it walls all supporting clumps of agricultural tools. This was the time when the day was made, its rhythm set – like the all important coin toss before a cricket match or that broad first stroke of color splayed across a white canvas. The saying, “You’ll have to get up earlier in the morning…”, now made perfect sense.
As the day went on and the sun trudged on to the western extreme of the sky, it’s light, shining through all the filters across its journey of a million miles, turned gold from white, and then red and pink and blue. I was there when that soft light, calmed of its midday heat, played upon the expansive fields of grass swaying under the gentle hand of the cool east wind. That was 6.04 p.m – the only 6.04 p.m there was in the day and I was lucky to have spent it there. Later on, I’d tuck in for the usual 8 hours of the dreamless with an aching back and tired legs. There’d be no medal to show for it, just a peaceful appreciation – a change of perspective.