Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Chainless Bike Story

On that summer evening, I decided to desert my bike. It had been just five months since I had bought it from a flea market in Turin for €25. Can't say I’d used it much. It remained indoors most of the time when it was raining or snowing. By the end of the fourth month, the chain became so loose that it started making an awfully shrill noise rubbing on the chain cover.

I had finally decided to leave Turin in July and thought of selling the contraption, now sans a chain which I had removed in the hope of replacing. I tried selling it at two used stuff shops with long notes explaining it all translated into Italian. They all refused, either suspecting it to be stolen or really having a policy of buying stuff from usual trusted sources as they claimed.

By the eve of my departure, I started panicking as the landlord had instructed me not to leave anything lying around. And then I decided to abandon the bike. When I made up my mind, I felt oddly mighty. It was all to do with the newly realized discretion associated with that decision. I could just give it away to anyone and according to me, change their lives.

So, on that night before departure, I set off to see a friend pushing the chainless bike along, planning to hand it over to the first person I felt deserved. The first one who came to my mind was the really old man I often saw downstairs in the night who seemed to be a volunteer of some sort. After waiting for him for a while and when he didn’t turn up, I moved on in search of the next prospective recipient.

The next one that came to my mind was a hooker I often saw standing somewhere in Via Ventimiglia, on my desperate waiting for buses in the night. We had developed a curious bond with she waiting for customers in the passing cars and me waiting for the infamous GTT buses that are often infrequent in the night.

I was a bit nervous about her reaction. My biggest drawback was the language barrier. Maybe she would think that I a penniless jerk who’d want some of her time for the chainless bike. So, I decided to be very expressive with my actions - hand it over, make some wild gestures as to how I wanted nothing in return and flee.

I pushed on with that piteous bike that warm July night, sweating my way through via ventimiglia. It was a Saturday and the entire province seemed to be high on. There were youngsters staggering along on the way, unsteady women balancing themselves on their partners, bands of boys shouting and howling. And I couldn't find the lady anywhere. Maybe, she got a client or she had shifted to someplace else. After waiting for her for a while, I started for the city centre where my friend lived.

Two sloshed boys lying on a bench stopped me on the way asking whether I had a cigarette to spare and for no reason I replied Io non fumo. One of them tried hoplessly to show me a middle finger and failed, falling down in the process.  

The bike was slowly becoming a burden and I was losing my grip on the philanthropic designs. And suddenly, a wave of emotion swept me across. Looking at the biwheeled contraption that I was pushing along, I felt a gushing pity. It was like a sick dog that had served its time. Without protesting, it silently followed me to its uncertain future. But all I could do was shed a few selfish tears and proceed with the job for I was severing my ties with Turin by the next day and the bike was a liability that I could not afford to take.

Moving across the metro station at Lingotto, I reached Eataly, where I had first stopped to take a pause on my journey back home from the flea market six months ago with the bike. I remember locking the bike to the parking rack and getting some cheese from Eataly. I remembered admiring it that day from a distance. I kept it in the same rack, mimicked a locking action and turned to leave. On a forethought, I took my phone and with its weak excuse for a camera, took two snaps of the bike bathed in yellow street light. And I left.

By the time I was back after three hours, it had disappeared. The small blue and white bike without a chain.


I even lost the snaps I'd taken when I lost my phone after returning to India in one of my travels.  The snap above - courtesy to Nicolas Borgsmidt (nicgallery blog)


aarti anand said...

Leaving the bike at a place where it used to get your admiration- that was the perfect goodbye!:)
Curious about that bond with the hooker by the way!! :P

Anonymous said...

Ha! Should by all means be better than the bond that the LL.M grads shared between themselves.