By Vijay Phanshikar :
THE boy had his little bicycle. But it broke -- beyond repair, so to say. So, his parents bought for him another, taller and stronger, bicycle, simply because the boy, too, had grown taller and stronger in the past couple of years. And, how can a boy -- or a girl -- survive without a bicycle of his own? So, a decent sum was spent to acquire a brand-new bicycle for the little one --who did not waste even half a minute in riding off on it even when it was well after evening and the colony had nearly gone to sleep. Even in the age of motor-bikes and cars, the bicycle is a very precious possession for children.
For them, it is a metaphor of freedom -- of moving around with great speed, of going longer distances on their own, of making new friends, of impressing peers with the bicycles and the exploits ....! For kids from 6-7 years onwards to the time they start attending college, the bicycle is the tool to better life as youngsters. True, these days, many families do not allow their wards to go to school on bicycle. Good enough, as the schools are located far away. So the school bus or the family car, or mother’s courtesy on her two-wheeler. But even today, most schools have rows and rows of students’ bicycles lined up neatly. Going to school using one’s own bicycle is still considered a mark of freedom and prestige among children. The traffic, however, on most roads in most cities is atrocious and full of risks for a youngster to be on his own on his own bicycle. Yet, countless families prefer the kids using their little bicycles for going to school. That it is inexpensive, is only one part.
The other aspects include easy transport over the distances of a few kilometers -- and the child’s education in handling the freedom responsibly. Every parent remembers his or her own day when he or she first learned to ride a bicycle all by self. “I did not fall even once,” said a little girl to her mother, her cheeks red in excitement. Every parent, therefore, wants his or her child to have that sense of achievement and excitement by riding a bicycle on one’s own. Managing the bicycle is not an easy thing, however. The tyres go flat every now and then, and chain gets dislodged from the cranked wheels, and the brake also gets loose. The bicycle making all sorts of complaining noises because it has not been kept well, too, is a regular feature. No matter all that, riding one’s own bicycle is a pleasure that every child looks forward to. This is one pleasure the families, too, do not mind. For, in their minds, too, the bicycle is a metaphor of freedom -- of its very own kind.