Every one remembers their first bicycle - so does he.
It was not new. His dad borrowed it from a friend and it was a ladies’ cycle to boot. More memorable than the moments spent on it were the moments he spent caring for it.
That first week when he took it to a repair shop to fit a new seat, a carrier, a bell and new tires was more fulfilling than the first ride itself. The shop filled with the scent of grease, oil and old cloth brought more thrill than he would care to admit. Since then, every Sunday evening was spent cleaning that old bicycle. Even if he had ridden it for all of 15 minutes the entire week, he took 30 minutes to clean it - but he always fell short. In spite of all his attention, the paint peeling off the body told everyone that is was nearer its end than its beginning. But boy did he care?
In spite of all that love, through the years, the one lasting memory that remained with him was not of him cleaning it, or riding it. In the hot summer of 98, owing to his poor performance at school that year, his father had grounded him. He was not to play cricket with the local lads for the entire summer. He tried protesting, pleading and begging and when nothing worked he resigned himself to the confines of his home. When one day his mom asked him to check if kerosene was available at the local ration shop he jumped at the opportunity to go out.
Leaving a clean but punctured bicycle at home, he decided to go on foot. On his way back, he just happened to notice that he had the key to the bicycle in his trouser pocket. With no one around, the mood caught him and he decided to have his own catch practices. He lobbed the key high into the sky and caught it with both hands. The sharp pain he felt on his palm was very satisfying. May be he was pleased at having fun and flaunting authority - we will never know. The higher he threw it the sharper it stung, but he loved it. Sometimes the sun made it hard to catch, but the thrill of pain was worth the next few seconds of blinding darkness in his eyes and a mild pain between them.
Halfway to the house, he threw it with all his force. He heard a rustle from the tree above and looked up and didn't know what happened after that. May be the extra effort veered the key off the intended trajectory. Or the blinding sun made him not look carefully, but the key was lost to sight. He waited for the inevitable fall, the crunching sound of key on sand or the metallic clink on the tar road. It never came. Newton failed him. He spent the next 30 minutes staring at the different branches of the tree, from different angles, but his key eluded him and he returned home empty-handed. The only good news was that kerosene was indeed available.
To this day, when he happens to walk that way, he cannot but help look up at the tree. Somehow hoping he can spot that key today. Or that his almighty strength had sent the key so far up, that it is still in its descent.
Or may be his heart only wants what it can't have.