Three years ago, when I rekindled my romance with cycling, I made an ambitious plan to travel to different parts of the world and explore the local places on a bicycle. In cycling lingo, it’s called as “Cycle Tourism”.
“This is a great thought; start from your backyard, move around different cities and then travel abroad” a dear friend advised.
Fast-forward to 2021, having cycled extensively in the Mumbai city, now I understand the depth of his advice. If you observe, there is so much more to see…, but only if you notice, and that’s the pre-condition to the limitless possibilities that exists around us.
And now, since we are into the 2nd phase of lockdown; to be able to cycle in the nearby vicinity itself is a huge motivation.
The slowness of a bicycle is the ideal pace at which I am able to absorb so much, stop at will, kick the side-stand and freely park the cycle in a corner. I have done this in repetition, sometimes to grab a photo opportunity, when I bump into another cycling friend, or simply to soak in the weather and look at children play on the promenade with joy.
I make recurring visits to Carter Road and Bandstand, and sometimes I turn the handle bar into smaller gully’s.
The silence of the gaothen residential lane elevates the volume of the squeaking sounds appearing from my rusty bicycle chain as it slams the teeth of the crank with frequent pedal strokes – a melody to my ears. The music turns into a live orchestra, when more cyclists selling pav’s and eggs show up ringing the bell.
Out and about into the Chimbai village, the lane is always buzzing with people activities, and pets and stray seldom cross-over without giving a cue, and that force me to squeeze the break levers and halt.
The aroma of fried and marinated fishes arranged in aluminum trays displayed outside the house of local fisherman catches my attention; a temptation hard to resist. Reminding myself about my eating schedule, I rest one leg on the pedal, adjust my bums on the saddle, and push the pedals to move in the forward trajectory.
On either sides of the street, there are a number of home chefs selling quick service snacks as a ‘take-away’ parcel wrapped inside ‘out-of-date’ newspapers.
There is a bhel-puri wala whom I regularly see at a fixed spot with a wooden box loaded on the rear rack of his bicycle. He serves the Indian mixture of fried snacks with chutney in a glossy page, torned from a niche magazine and folded into a perfect tight cone that gives a firm grip in the hands of the hungry customer. A face of a model starts appearing as I eat into the snack. Finally, the appetizer ends featuring a glamorous model draped in a designer gown, holding an expensive clutch and with a stiletto of a premium brand as I go for the last bite of the peanut-mashed potato stuck deep in the cone.
I never miss a glance of the “Altaf Cycle Repair Services”, a 70-year-old mini bicycle repair shop situated between a cookery stall and a tailor shop in Chimbai. Salim bhai works as a head mechanic and rides a nearly century-old Raleigh manufactured in England. His cycle is casually modified, repainted, and full of greasy-dust and purposely kept in a shabby condition. “It helps to keep bicycle thieves away”, the owner believes.
Tring tring and I pedal ahead passing a number of scooters and motor-cyclists sharing the slender street. Mobility language takes center-stage as I hold my balance and safely move out of the cosmopolitan by lane, seeing a temple, a mosque and a cross being worshipped by visitors and native citizens living in harmony.
Bandra is home to many celebrities, so on my way I see a ‘sea of fans’ taking selfies outside ‘Galaxy Apartment’ of Salman Khan – an avid cyclist, and ‘Mannat’ owned by Shah Rukh Khan; two of the most photographed residential properties in the suburbs. Crazy fans wait for hours in hope and amusement to get a glimpse of them, I wonder if they would ever step-out in their balconies. Meanwhile, I continue with my loop rides watching these fan moments.
A public dog park at Carter Road promenade is a fun place to hang out for pets and welcomes dog walkers and their variety of breeds. It’s a gated park so, the owners can unleash the doggo’s and watch them learn behavioral skills, meet new furry friends, get social and converse in the language they understand.
The overly pampered and groomed lot is unleashed to play, run and mingle with their tribe and cuddle each other. Some dogs joyously lay on the grass and scratch, some are entertaining puppies, while some adults are authoritative-aggressive; and some are totally disinterested and prefer to relax on the work-out equipment.
Dogs can use the equipment to train and get fit along with their owners. It also opens up the possibility of love and romance, including between the owners. Knowledge sharing also happens amongst the pet owners at this casual gathering. And those who are ambitious, can take it to the next level by forming a canine club on social media, promote adoption, organize pet events etc. etc. Possibilities are endless, it all depends how one approaches the situation.
Nowadays, a lot of instagram handles are created exclusively for pooches and the owners post using the hash tag #dogsofinstagram. Similarly, there are exclusive pages for #catsofinstagram and so forth. Many such instagrammers enjoy good fan following and are instrumental in growing pet culture.
Unfortunately, the stray dogs are seen wondering outside the park in hope, wagging their tales and sniff the fence – feeling left out. Their entry is restricted and I ask myself why this woofy injustice? When even they are unconditional in nature; such discrimination is not good and must stop.
These are few of my observations and as I said in the beginning, if you notice, there is so much more… and I am enjoying exploring my city on a bicycle. For me, every ride is like a tiny holiday. Hoping for this pandemic to end soon so that more cities can be explored.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai