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|Volume 11 |Issue 19 | May 11, 2012 ||
Biking – my love
Shah Husain Imam
To say that I have aged, hopefully gracefully, riding pedal bike since my middle years would be an understatement. Actually, I have grown with it, both mentally and physically.
Middle age is conventionally tagged as a tipping point for bodily decline, so growth potential would be at a discount. Yet physically you can grow stronger, and younger relative to your age if you should be doing regular workouts. Circulation of blood to the remotest tissues spurs bodily and mental energies.
But workout sounds like a regimen, something of a rigour one goes through almost with a vengeance. But if you are into physical activity with a passion for it, it will benefit mind as well as the body, as if in an orchestra.
Like swimming, one never forgets biking. So back in the late '80s I started my workout adventure in the early morning empty streets in New Delhi riding hilariously on a bicycle. I would often test my endurance by romping on a bike from New Delhi to Old Delhi and back making anything between 30 to 40 kilometres every morning. It was a sheer delight as my mind went flying and the heart pumping to the bodily symphony of coordination.
My jaunty rides followed the lingering imageries stuck on my mind through reading Khalil Jibran's "Prophet" the nights before. This was an epic of noblest emotions lyrically expressed, an ode to separation binding loved ones as between two trees sharing the same cooling shadows underneath them. The wooded streets of Delhi through which I biked to the chirping hums of birds and the hymns of Khalil Jibran warbling into the ears is a mellifluous memory I treasure to this day.
Back in Dhaka in mid 1991, after four years in Delhi, the old bicycle, feather light, without gear and yet in the racing category, became my sole mode of conveyance. Before joining The Daily Star I had worked in another newspaper on a night shift. I was associated with the paper for more than a year and for all that time I would return home between 2 and 3 am through the deserted and sometimes unlighted spooky street corners. One time a man on a bike rolled from a side street on to my side, grunting a greeting -- a disarming nightly friend one would have avoided anyway. But intuitively I felt at home in the company of that total stranger; we parted ways at a road bend and secretly I thanked my stars.
I ran out of luck one night when eager to see the World Cup Cricket Final (1992) I hastily parked my bicycle in the empty car garage alloted to my apartment. The devil was in the detail; I had simply left the garage unlocked in an excited state to reach the TV set to watch the game. Next morning it was heartbreaking to see the bicycle missing. The powerful film Bicycle Thief was played out on me. Some poetic justice; I had only myself to blame.
It wouldn't be long before I bought another cycle which is still with me. This bike would be my constant companion on the street for long nine years before it came to be used only on Fridays after 2000.
There are three anecdotes from the period that I can share. One hartal day some 10 years back as I was biking home three youngsters on a rickshaw exclaimed, "Hmm, you will live to a hundred years, sir."
On another hartal day as I was biking through an inner road, I barely brushed with a village woman who said in Bengali dialect, 'eh dehenna' (meaning, are you blind)!
In another instance a highly educated person, an acquaintance gesticulated from a car he was sitting in, half in surprise and half in shock as to how I was biking so publicly. I sensed he thought it was beneath my dignity (mind you, not his) to be riding a bike.
As a matter of fact, one of my colleagues even suggested that it was very courageous on my part to be biking, nonchalant to what others might feel.
That is the issue with biking which should ideally have been the mode of transport for a vast majority of Dhaka dwellers. It is money saving, environment friendly, health giving, romantic and mind lifting, something I would not barter for any precious gift whatsoever. Never give up on the bike.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.
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