Sunday 07 March 2021, As the alarm rang at 05:30, I cursed myself for agreeing to meet my boss at the Happy Street event at 06:30. As if meeting him 6 days a week wasn't enough!!
Having been married recently, I hoped Ria would be the dutiful wife and whip up breakfast but she decided to enjoy her weekend and shrugged my attempts of waking up, maybe even mumbling a few curses. I trudged on an empty stomach through the empty streets of Nagpur on this overcast day, unsure if I might fall off my bicycle out of sleep or the potholes.
The ride to reach the Happy Street near Ladies Club Circle is almost 15 km from home. Having recently shifted from Mumbai, I knew that Happy Street would be an area only for walkers, skaters and cyclists. What I was unaware of was the lovely route to reach there.
Yes, the road was bumpy, all roads are these days but the pleasant morning reminded me of the wonderful times I had cycled to school after attending the early morning IIT coaching classes. Not much had come out of it, except for stealing a few glances at my high school crush, as we hurried to school after the tuition. Those were the days!!
As my legs ached a little, with the lack of warm-up, my memory jogged from school and sprinted towards the time Dad bought me my first cycle, Hercules MTB, with all its bells and whistles. Strange was this Sunday, and this cycle ride bringing back fond old memories, the howls of joy, the rush of stunts with friends and the pains from bruised knees.
I finally reached Happy Street maybe a little too early around 6:20 Am. The circuit informed to me was around the Ladies Club Circle , Akashvani Chowk and Japanese Garden Square. It quite surprised me to see joyous faces of all age groups at this early hour on a Sunday but wasn't too surprised to see my boss, as usual, a little early. After a few pleasantries, we cycled our separate ways.
I have never been the athletic sorts and was hesitant to appear as the heavy guy on a small cycle, but Happy Street was indeed a happy place, people of all age groups, shapes and sizes seemed to enjoy this welcome break oblivious to the daily reports of Covid and pleas for Social Distancing. Of course, we live in troubled times, but is it so hard to smile behind a face mask? It's not as long as you find happiness within yourself.
The street seemed to have a pulse of its own, lined with lush green trees on both sides, clean footpaths and energetic people. I had once come across a term called "neural handshake" in a Sci-Fi movie, it's as if people seemed to be shaking hands mentally, hugging and giving each other fist bumps after a quick jog or a friendly sprint race. The transformation was truly amazing. All it took was a few police barricades, and the will of the people to socialize with social distancing.
I took a break for a cold coffee at the nearby Mother Dairy outlet. The fatigue from cycling almost 18 Kms now was well rewarded as I gave my legs some rest and my grumbling empty stomach some fuel.
With the Sun now starting its journey further West, it was time for me to head home. I might have started this journey begrudgingly but I realized I was making a small change, every effort taken on the pedal had the power of a revolution to turn the wheels of lethargy to health, from pollution to cleaner air, from loneliness to being alone, from surly to cheerful. But cycling isn't just about movement but also of braking to see the beauty that life offers in the smallest of things and it's also about changing gears to try something different.
As I lumbered back home I realized this short ride had freed up so many emotions. I guess a chain can be seen both as a shackle and a link. A link of positivity that drives a better future. I reached home to meet Ria with her cup of coffee and fished out a packet of Poppins, Ria's favourite candy right from school.
All it took was an ordinary day and an ordinary ride for an extraordinary set of memories, both past and new.