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  • Writer's pictureL.J. Singh

Royal Ride on Bicycle

Updated: Jul 3, 2021

The role of a bicycle was never so important as it has become in these times of sky-high fuel prices and the pandemic we are facing right now. Bicycles are the cheapest mode of travel to some distance and an instrument for our fitness without going to gyms. It now reminds me of a Biker's Heaven, a recently opened, 'Ciclo Cafe' in Chennai, the first bicycle cafe', where you can sit with a cup of coffee and watch your bicycle have a scrub bath. Here in this bicycle cafe, you can even shop for a new bicycle ride, or even hire a bike for rent and take a safer ride around the town, if you please. In our cities, cycle riders are not admired or applauded for causing the least inconvenience and no pollution and are just seen as poor cousins even to the two-wheeler drivers, leave aside the car owners.

I still remember, many decades back, my father went from Amritsar, all the way to Delhi to buy a new Raleigh bicycle, Made in England, for a princely price of over ₹300+. He used it fondly on special visits, kept it in brand new condition, even without removing the original paper wrappings around its frame, for years, till his death in 1977. Even I was not allowed to use his new bicycle for going to Khalsa College, Amritsar where to, sometimes I had to walk down, when the rickety old bicycle, having two different mudguards, I was given, had its too frequent, punctures and breakdowns. But now I do realise and appreciate my father's fascination and dedication to his reliable Raleigh Bicycle. After partition and India's Independence, Raleigh bicycle was manufactured in India under the brand name of Sen-Raleigh, which was even exported to other countries like the USSR.

In 1967, when my ship, on which I was serving, was in the Black Sea port of Odessa, I saw some crew members bringing Sen-Raleigh cycles after buying for and bringing them on board. For them this was a good bargain as then US $ was sold at a premium which fetched much more Russian currency-Roubles, than the official exchange rate. This was, of course quite illegal, but somehow the sailors always find out the ways to indulge in such bargains. Then once in around 1972 when my ship was in a Swedish port near Stockholm, I, in my winter uniform, went to a library in Stockholm for referring some books for my P.hd thesis. The Librarian told me that many times, the King of Sweden comes there and today he is expected, I expressed my desire to see a King. After finishing my browsing of the titles of books of my interest I enquired from the librarian about the king's visit, she told me that he is already in the premises. I was expecting that the King will arrive with his security etc. but I was amazed when I found that he had come on a bicycle, wearing just Jean suit, that too without any guard. Probably the librarian must have told the King about a turbaned Merchant Navy person's desire to see a King in real life, he sought me out most probably from my uniform and turban when I was sitting and engrossed in making notes from a book borrowed from the library. He wished me Hello and even sat with me for few minutes and we talked about life on a ship and some other common topics. On his intervention, I was even allowed to take away from the library, couple of reference books to my ship which were duly returned by me before the departure of my ship from the port in Sweden.

Bicycle deserves to be called and qualified, a real Royal Ride. I wonder why can't we make more use of bicycle, it is a safe, non-polluting, fuel saving and most important a fitness (sans Yoga) companion, which can get you through many traffic snarls. And why can't we ride a bike to work, to shop, to school, to college or picnic, even to your temple, if too far to walk down on foot, and most of all, there won't be even much parking problem.

Written By

Lal Singh

Retd. Chief Engineer( IMM)

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