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One Bicycle And Five Friends On A Sunny Day

That one sunny day spent with childhood friends doing silly things can become a wonderful lifetime memory- an endearing personal story.

That one sunny day spent with childhood friends doing silly things can become a wonderful lifetime memory- an endearing personal story.

Summer vacation is the most awaited and happiest time in children’s life. It frees them from the monotonous routine of school and studies. Every child waits for their summer vacation and so did we. We were a group of ten children living in Malabar Hill-the heart of Mumbai.

I remember as kids we used to get up at five in the morning during the summers. We had a strict schedule in place. It was decided that whoever gets up first would call the other friends on the landline to wake them up. Our parents who obviously didn’t have a summer vacation like us had to get up and go for their respective jobs. Now imagine the phone ringing at five in the morning on repeat till someone answered. The rotary phones were quite loud too. We as kids were fast asleep and the parents had to get up from their slumber to answer the call. I vividly remember how angry my parents used to get because of our morning regime. No wonder they were glad when we were out playing.

The Rules of summer vacations

We had certain rules that we had decided to follow

  1. Get up at 5am everyday
  2. Turn on the light of your house so that the others know you are awake. If the light was switched off, it was understood that the person hasn’t woken up yet.
  3. Whoever got up first would call up the others on their landline. None of us had mobiles in the 90’s. We all had the good old tring tring phones that were loud enough to give you a shock or a scare when they rang in the wee hours of the morning while the whole world slept.
  4. Get ready and meet at 5.30am sharp at the bus stop near our house.
  5. If someone doesn’t reach by that time. Go to the person’s house and ring the bell to wake them up. Can’t begin to tell you how we were welcomed by the vexed faces of the parents who were already disturbed by the phones ringing on repeat and now had to endure the unceasing door bell.
  6. Finally Go Cycling

Hanging garden was very close to our house, around two kilometres away. We always started our day by cycling down to the hanging garden. We played badminton there for an hour or more and then headed to Kamala Nehru Park which was just adjacent to it. That was the only time in the day that the swings and slides were empty and we all could play at the same time. We had the garden all to ourselves. It made up for the lack of sleep and the struggle to get up so early.

Slice of nature in the heart of the city

For people who don’t stay in Mumbai – The Hanging Gardens, in Mumbai are also known as Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens. They are terraced gardens perched at the top of Malabar Hill just opposite the Kamala Nehru Park. The garden was originally built over a water reservoir hence the name Hanging Garden. Another source of attraction for tourists is the ‘Old Woman’s Shoe’ or the ‘Boot House’ – a giant boot structure made out of stone and brick. It boasts of the most beautiful sunset views in the city.

I remember seeing the most breathtakingly beautiful sunrise over the Arabian Sea. The luminous sky was an amalgamation of red, yellow and orange with the sea water mirroring the colours in the sky, sparkling like diamonds in the light. There was a stillness in the air which made you reflective that a moment like this may never come again. In that moment you realise what truly matters. Nothing more than the present minute where you are fully alive and fully aware!

Ah the bliss to bask in the morning sun surrounded by greenery. To hear the birds chirp and enjoy the lush greenery was nothing but a treat to the eyes and soul. Watching the colourful flowerbeds and beautiful fountains was such a peaceful experience. Our own expansive green space where we found happiness and solace in the hustle bustle of the city.

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Creativity in problem solving

One such day five of us met at our regular time to cycle down to the garden but there was a small problem. Only one of us had a cycle that day. The others had flat tyres so they didn’t bring their cycles. On any other day when someone didn’t have a cycle we would ride double seat and take turns pedalling. We were in a dilemma what to do but when you have bunch of ten to twelve years old trying to solve a problem there ought to be an unconventional solution. The apt thing to do would have been to leave the cycle and go walking. It was hardly a distance anyway but we decided to take that one cycle and take turns riding it. Sounded fun and exciting to start with but ten minutes into it and we realised what a huge mistake we made.

One person would be riding and guess what the other four would be doing? You obviously had to be together at all times. Isn’t that what best friends do? Stick together no matter what but how do you keep up with the one who is riding the cycle so fast ? Only way is YOU RUN BEHIND THEM !!!

It was exhausting to run behind keeping up with the cycle speed but it was also very hilarious. I remember laughing my sides off while running just imagining our plight. The guffawing didn’t make it any better though, imagine running while your sides are already hurting coz of all the laughing and you can stop doing either. The people who were out for their daily walk gave us all sorts of stares. It’s not every day that you see a bunch of dishevelled kids running beside a cycle continuously cribbing and laughing at the same time.

Joyful bickering

At any point of time the ones among us who were running had their commentary on or should I be saying ‘running commentary’?

“Whose idea was this anyway?”

“Come on please go slow, you are too fast”

“I think you are going fast on purpose”

“It’s my turn now, let me ride and you run”

”I am sure you are having a fun watching us run behind you while you enjoy the ride”

“What a bad idea, why are we even doing this?”

“Should we go back home and leave the cycle?”

It took us double the time that day to reach our destination. We stuck to our schedule of playing badminton, going on the slides, playing games all oblivious to the fact that we had to repeat the entire process while returning home. None of us had the slightest realisation that after three hours of playing in the scorching sun,  repeating the same process would be gut–wrenching. What other option did we have though? Ghar toh jaana padega na. So we went home the same way. This time there was less of laughter as we were worn out, severely dehydrated and starving. We were actually crying inside due to exhaustion. Did I forget to mention none of us carried water bottles too that day.

Memories made for a lifetime

Looking back after three decades these memories are my greatest treasure. Whenever we friends get together we get nostalgic, we laugh and sometimes we cry. We hardly have any pictures of us together but I just have to close my eyes to relive those moments again.

I can see us playing as children,
Walking and having heartfelt conversations as teenagers,
and
Standing in silence, admiring the sunset, reminiscing as adults.

We’ve come a long way and we still have a long way to go.. together !!

Dedicated to my forever friends.

Image courtesy : Hari Mangayil on Pixabay

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