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The Life Cycle of India

21/01/2015 8:11 AM IST | Updated 27/06/2016 9:53 PM IST
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An Indian man keeps himself from rain with an umbrella while riding a bicycle in Hyderabad, India, Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. Heavy rains triggered by northeast monsoon have lashed several parts of Andhra Pradesh state for the fourth consecutive day today prompting authorities to evacuate many of from low-lying areas, according to local reports. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

Most of us in India are familiar with that basic frame on two wheels fuelled by raw human power, the bicycle. We also know, cyclists in the country are above all the rules of traffic. After all the "Motor Vehicles Act of 1988" cannot claim to cover the bicycle as it lacks a motor, the very essence of the Act.

Thus armed, our Indian bicycle rider, having been sufficiently insured by the constitution against monetary penalties of any kind, embarks on his daily commute, which, in fact, is more dangerous than the motogp races we see, but don't fully understand on TV.

Getting the right kind of bicycle would probably be the first thing one would do before hitting the roads (pun not intended), but that's not important here, look around and the majority of bicycles would be ramshackle black frames that emit more squeaks than a mouse having multiple orgasms. This kind of ride is usually found attached to our fellow citizens existing on a hand-to-mouth basis.

For a lot of people in our country the bicycle is a two-seater, a family vehicle, a SUV, and a cargo vehicle, all rolled into one. A family of four on a bicycle is a fairly common and dangerous sight in our country. To them, the greatest inventor wasn't the one who invented the wheel, it was the one who invented the second one and attached them to a frame and pedals.

You might argue that we see a lot of swanky bicycles nowadays, with more gears and gadgetry than the average car but these are restricted to the big cities. Look around in rural India and you will be greeted by these faithful rusty squeak machines moving along at the pace of their riders life.

Going by alien western concepts, cyclists are supposed to drive either in cycle lanes or on the extreme left of the roads. But you and me, we know the truth; our cyclists can ride anywhere and on anything as long as they can cheat death. Traffic rules and signals are for sissies whose world depends on fossil fuels, a cyclist is virtually unstoppable as most of them lack proper brakes. The few who try to slow down, do so by scraping their feet on the ground, and a few of the more athletic ones jump off their bicycles seconds before impact. Who needs seat belts?

Like most modern vehicles, the common Indian bicycle has driving options too. For riders who suffer from vertigo and are scared of being perched atop a triangular wedge (also known as the seat), they can slide back on to the rear carrier and enjoy a more stable albeit a hard base and feel safe. This is the coupe bicycle mode. If the rider is vertically challenged, or if the seat at a height greater than his legs then he has the option of the ski mode or commonly known as the scissor stroke. In this mode the rider isn't seated, instead he stands on the pedals and half pedals while leaning on one side of the bicycle. Since this mode allows the rider to only travel in a straight line and doesn't involve braking, if you see them coming towards you, RUN for cover.

Like every cult, even bicycle riders have their fair share of cheaters and so don't be surprised if you see a few parasitic cyclists holding on to the rear ends of trucks and buses moving along at obscene speeds (for bicycles), without pedalling. These infidels usually crash into either the host vehicle or into stationary objects. They are then downgraded to a chair fixed between two wheels and their cycling privileges are suspended for a while if not permanently.

It has been a longstanding quest of mine to find a man on a bicycle who waits at the traffic signal to make a U-turn. This pedal-powered rarity has so far eluded me. When a cyclist wants to get to the other side of the road he simply walks across in a straight line using his bicycle as his armour against the attack of oncoming vehicles. When faced with a divider or a fence, he will carry the bicycle over his head thereby returning the favour and collecting his "good deed karma credit points". Luke 6:31 - Do to others, as you would have them do to you.

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