Dept. of English,
BEMS Arts &Com.
His new bicycle was moving very fast down the slope of the black, straight tar road. He was sitting very comfortably on the smooth sponge cushion seat and his feet, with worn out slippers, were kept firmly on the pedals. The ‘trrrr….trrrrr…’ sound of the clutch- wheel of the bicycle was like a melodious music to his ears. Hearing the sound, he slowly slipped in to the world of trance. He never had expected that a happy moment in his life like this of riding a new bicycle would come to him. He was fed up with the sound ‘ rup…tup…’ of his very feeble, worn out slippers while walking from his home to his office and back every day on the road. Whenever some riders drove their bicycles beside him, he would feel very sad. Because he thought that he would never get such an opportunity of riding a bicycle, at least once, in his life time. But what is to be done? For everything one should have luck. Every month, after getting the payment, adjusting the family budget was a great circus for him. He had to set the money for the necessities of his wife and children. On the day of his salary he and his wife would sit together to set the salary to the expenses of rent, milk, groceries, books, fees ctc,.
But a glorious day came in his family like spring after winter in nature. He felt exited when he was informed by the superintendent of the office that arrears of fifteen hundred rupees were remitted to his account in the bank. After drawing some money from his account, he went straight to the market and bought a loaf of bread, half a kilogram of grapes and some flowers and came home. It was a great surprise to his wife and children for he never had brought home such things so far. Anyhow, dragging an old iron chair he sat on it like a king as if he had done a great thing. The chair creaked ‘krrrrr…..rrrr….’ Bending a little he examined the chair and thought to himself that it was too old to keep at home. He decided to throw it off and buy a new fiber chair. He slowly raised his head and looked at his children. They were happily enjoying the taste of grapes and bread. Further, he turned his attention towards the dresses of his children. His wife had stitched the torn parts very dexterously here and there. “Oh! I must get new cloths for children from Babulal’s Cloth Shop today” he said to himself.
“What! Would you like to sit like a maharaja on this old chair today? Don’t you want to drink your evening tea now?” He came to the reality when his wife obstructed him holding the tea cup in her hand.
“Not only tea but bread also. Get me a piece of bread. I’ll dip it in the tea and eat it today”, he said changing his position on the old chair. ‘turrrr…rrr…’ the usual sound from the chair filled the room. His wife gave a piece of bread and tea. He took it from her and dipped the bread and sat enjoying tea with bread. His wife sat in a corner to stitch her torn out sari.
“Don’t you remember that I had told you a month back that some arrears amount is due to me? Today I have brought it from the bank. See here….. Fifteen hundred rupees…… You do one thing. You get ready. We will go to the market and buy a new fiber kursi and cloths for our children. What do you say?!” he said. Though his wife felt happy, when she heard her husband’s words, she did not like his idea.
“What necessity is there for you to buy a new kursi and sit on it like an officer? Even you need not bring new cloths for kids. I’ll manage it anyhow……First you get a new bicycle… I can’t see you walking every day to the office”, she said suppressing his idea.
He felt that the idea of his wife was right. Every day he had to walk half a mile to reach the office and while coming back in the evening he would be dog tired. In fact, it was not a great distance that he would walk. But as he was a peon in the office, he had to keep standing through out the day. It was his duty to carry hundreds of files from one table to another. Even it was not a great task for him. But in the office many superiors would assign many works to him. “Go and get me half a pack Bristol cigarette”, one would say. “Take this money and bring me areca nut and pan” another would order. “I will give you a cheque, get the money from the bank while you are coming back”, the office manager would say. Thus he was assigned a dozen of works and for all those he had to go by walk. By the time he finished them all, he would lose all the strength in his legs. In the evening, after locking up all the doors, he would return as if he had fought a great war. When he reached home he would be so tired that he had no mood to speak either to his wife or children.
He accepted the suggestion of his wife. It was Sunday. He bought a new bicycle and kept it in front of his house. His children and wife seemed to have an extra energy in their veins. Even a small ceremony of pooja was performed for the new bicycle. His children had already informed all the people in the lane about their new bicycle.
Next day, getting up very early in the morning, he got a fresh shave and went to the office riding his own new bicycle. His wife stood at the front door of the house and looked at the sight of her husband riding the new bicycle till he disappeared at the corner of the road. She felt an inexpressible joy in her heart.
In no time, the news of his new bicycle spread in the office. The senior employees were very happy not because that he has bought a bicycle but because they could assign some urgent and important tasks like getting gas cylinders, bringing groceries and taking their children to the schools in case of emergency. Earlier they would not assign such responsibilities to him. But now, as he has a vehicle of his own, they thought that they could.
It was Saturday. It was a market day of the town. He took his bicycle and went to the vegetable market. On the way he met his senior office clerk.
“Ohoho! What Eerappa ? Going to the market? … It’s good. Anyhow you have got your new bicycle, haven’t you? So you do one thing. Go to our Nadaf Kirani Shop. There I have kept a small bag of rice. You bring it to our house on your bicycle. I have told them in the shop that I would send you there. Can you?” asked the clerk.
“You don’t worry sir, I’ll do it”, Eerappa said and moved towards the market on his bicycle.
Near the vegetable market there was a big peepal tree. Usually people would park their cycles, scooters and motor-cycles under the tree before entering the busy, crowded vegetable market. Eerappa parked his bicycle under the tree. He kicked the spring of the stand of the bicycle to confirm himself if it is alright. Then he took the plastic bags which were striped red and yellow from the handle of the bicycle and shouldered him into the crowed vegetable market.
After an hour he came back with brinjals, sweet gourd, drum sticks, onion, carrot, tomato etc, in one bag and rice, wheat and other cereals in another. But when he came to the spot where he had parked his bicycle, it was not there. He looked here and there. “Are?!.... I had parked my bicycle here itself”, he said to himself. He was perplexed and scared. His felt his head reeling and his legs losing their strength. But slowly he managed to recover himself. Further, he enquired some people who had come there to take their vehicles about his bicycle. No! Nobody knew. People gathered around him. They asked him hundred questions. He tried his best to answer their questions. But he could not. Suggestions- free of cost began to flow profusely towards him. Some began explaining their own experiences to the persons standing beside them.
“Was it locked or not”, asked a young man with a mobile in his hand.
He nodded his head to suggest him that he had not.
“Oh! It is sure that some rouge has stolen it and gone”, declared the young man keeping his mobile into a small pouch which he had stuck in his belt.
“You don’t leave it. Straight away you go to the police station and give a complaint. Thefts have been increasing now a days in the town”, said a middle aged man with pyjamas, setting his black cap on his head and left the place after giving his valuable suggestion. By that time there came Shivya who was Eerappa’s bosom friend. No sooner did he know the matter than he took Eerappa towards the direction of the police station. Like a lamb going to the altar, Eerappa followed Shivya to the police station.
“Namaskara sir”, both uttered the words and hesitatingly entered the chamber of sub-inspector of the crime branch…. first Sivya and then Eerappa.
“Hum. Why didyu come? Wats the matter?” asked the head constable glaring at them.
“Today he had parked his new bicycle under that papal tree near the Eerbhadra temple that is near the vegetable market and had gone to buy vegetable. Some one has stolen it and gone. Therefore we have come to give a complete” Shivya said in one breath.
“At watime? Wasn’t it locked?” interrupted a constable standing nearby.
“No…. Sahib……It didn’t flash to my head. It was…my new….new… bicycle sahib. Only a week back I had bought it. Full one thousand five hundred rupees I had thrown for it, sir”. Eerappa said stammering.
“Your house is destroyed. You say that you paid one and a half thousand. Didn’t you know that it should properly be locked?” interrogated the head constable authoritatively. Hum……alright…..give a complaint. We’ll find the thief and drag him kicking. Understand” said the head constable with an air of conformity.
Eerappa had never gone to the school. He stood blinking and scratching his head. At last he looked at his friend not knowing how to give a complaint.
“You get it written for uverself sir. He don’t know anything. He is a thumber” Shivya said laughing and exhibiting his teeth turned red because of chewing pan supari.
The head constable looked at the constable enigmatically.
“What? You say that we have to write the compliant for you and also find the burglar. It needs some money. Who will bear the expenses for it?” asked the constable.
Shivya and Eerappa looked at each other utterly confused.
“Don’t worry sir, anyhow we will manage it. How can we get the bicycle back if we look into the expenses? Our Eerappa will bear the expenses. What duyu say, Eerappa?” Shivya asked.
Both Shivya and Eerappa came out of the chamber and discussed something. Taking out a fifty rupee note from his pocket Erappa said,” Hum…..take this. I had barrowed hundred rupees from our office manager in the morning today. See…here, only fifty rupee is left after the purchase of the vegetables”.
Shivya took the money and giving it to the constable said, “Please take this sir and do whatever you want and our Eerappa should have his bicycle back. That’s all”.
“All right. Now you can go. But remember that you should come here whenever summoned”, the head constable ordered.
It was 9 o’clock when Eerappa reached home. He kept the vegetables bag near the wall and sat on the old iron chair. The chair creaked ‘trrr…’ In the bag the leaves of the turnip were withered and hanging out.
“Where is the bicycle? Where did you leave it?” the wife who had observed her husband coming home without bicycle asked a little agitated.
“It is all because of you only. That day I told you that we would better buy a new kursi and new dresses to our children. Did you listen to my words”? All of a sudden he shouted at her.
“If you shout like that how do I know the matter? Why don’t you explain it clearly?” retorted his wife angrily.
“It is nothing else. Our cycle is lost. I had kept it under the tree near Eeranna’s gudi. Someone has stolen it. What else? It is all our Fate” he said desperately.
The news was like a thunder bolt to her. She did not know what to say. Her sorrow rushed out from her heart in the form of tears and started rolling down on her cheeks. Eerappa was sitting silently on the chair. The children were in sound sleep. He saw the smooth skin of the body through the torn parts of their dresses. He moved a little to change his posture on the chair. It sounded as usual. He looked at it and felt very sad. He then looked at his wife who was sobbing. He could not control his feeling of sorrow. He began to weep silently. His eyes were filled with tears.
“Let it go…… Please you don’t weep……Gents shedding tears is not good for the family……. Please control yourself” said his wife sobbing.
The next day as usual he got ready and went to the office by walk. The incident of the previous day was all like a dream. The news of the theft of his bicycle was already spread in the office. They spoke a few words of sympathy. Days rolled into weeks and weeks into months. He was still going to the office by walk every day.
One day he was sipping his morning. He heard somebody calling his name. He got up and went towards the front door. Two policemen were in the civil dress?!
“You are Eerappa?” asked one of them.
Eerappa, who was a little amazed, nodded his head and suggested them that he was.
“Our sahib has told that you must come to the station. You must come urgently. Don’t delay. Did you understand?” saying this much they rode on their bicycles.
Thinking that his bicycle must have been traced and he could bring it back home, he immediately went to the police station. There he saluted the head constable and stood looking at him interrogatively.
“Oh! Eerappa…..come…come. See…. we have traced your bicycle and the thief also. But now you have to put a signature on this paper that’s all” looking at him the head constable said. He put a blank white paper before him. Eerappa put his signature. He was so eager to have a glance at his bicycle that he started looking here and there in the yard of the station.
“We can’t give it to you right now. You will have to get it released from the court. But it is not a great thing” said a policeman very easily.
He was suddenly depressed because he thought that he would go home riding his bicycle. Moreover he could not understand the meaning of the word ‘release’ which the head constable had uttered. So he stood dumb founded. The policeman understood that he has not grasped the point. So he explained him all about the legal procedure and told that ‘release’ means getting the bicycle to his possession. ‘Yes, a man who can wait till the rice is prepared, can’t he wait till it is cooled?’ he thought and straight away went home. Told all about the matter to his wife and asked her to get a cup of tea for him. After having the tea he went to the corner where use to keep the slippers. He gazed at them. They were fully worn out in the sole. He wore them and went out to meet the lawyer whom he knew well.
He explained in detail all about his bicycle from the beginning to the end requested the lawyer to get his bicycle released. The lawyer has already understood the point.
“Well the matter is understood. Anyway you want your property back. Isn’t it? You want to carry it back home. That’s all .But…..it is not as easy as you think. You see here Eerappa…….You will have to pay fees for it…….What do you say?” the lawyer asked very slowly.
“I’m ready to pay the fees. But I want my new bicycle back. How much will be your fees?” he asked the lawyer thinking that the fees might come around some fifty rupees.
“How can I say about it now itself…. Eerappa? Some records are to be prepared for it. So I need four days for the same. Well I’ll do it for myself. At present you give me five hundred rupees.
The words were like thunder to the ears of Eerappa. He felt as if a big boulder has dashed against him. But suddenly recovering himself he spoke humbly, “I’m……I’m very poor, please make some concession for me… sir, and show some mercy on this sinner…pli….please…..sir”.
Don’t I know about you? Eerappa….I’m very sorry….. It’s for you that I’m charging you only this much. Do you know how much I would take for a case like this?” said the lawyer pretending to be very sympathetic.
Eerappa fumbled in his pocket. Only two hundred rupees were left of the month’s salary. In the morning when he was sipping his tea his wife had told him about the fever of the daughter and told him to bring the medicine. But when he was about to go to the medical shop, the policemen had come. So he had gone to the station in a hurry. He had completely forgotten about the medicine. In the evening he went to meet the lawyer and had come late at night. Now he made up his mind. He took out two one hundred rupees notes and gave them to the lawyer. For the other three hundred rupees, he assured that he would give them in the next month’s salary and walked back in the darkness of the night to his home.
When he reached his home it was 9 O’clock. His wife was sitting on the edge of the torn mat beside her and putting a piece of cloth dipped in cold water on the forehead of the child. The son had already slept on the same mat. The mother had forgotten to cover him with a blanket as she was seriously concerned in treating the daughter. He entered the house and saw the child. He came near the child in panic and touched the body of the girl. It was burning. He stood silently bowing his head and after a minute or two he took a blanket which was torn in the middle and put it on the sleeping son. Then he sat on the old iron chair. The chair as usual creaked and ‘kurrr’ sound filled the whole house in the silence of the night. He felt very bad for not bringing the medicine. The money which he had kept with him was very safe with the lawyer.
Something flashes in his mind. He got up suddenly from the chair. Washed his legs and hands in the bath room and came back. He searched his shirt pocket and found one rupee coin. He washed it and putting it in front of the photo of Lord Hanuman in a small self in the wall of the house he said, “O God it is your responsibility to protect my daughter. When she is cured we will come to your temple and offer double coconuts”. Next he came and sat beside the daughter. He heard the loud sound of the whistle of the police who had come on their night beet. He touched the head of the daughter. The fever was diminished and there were beads of perspiration on the forehead. Now he was relived of his tension. He slept there on the edge of the same mat.
Next day evening he was returning with his wife and children from the Hanuman temple. Suddenly a car came very fast and halted beside him on the road. He looked in to the car and saw his lawyer. Immediately he saluted him. “What Eerappa, you seem to be very happy today? Oh! What? Had you been to the market for purchasing with your family? Ok. Let it be. You see, tomorrow there is your case in the court. Come to the court. Don’t forget” warned the lawyer peeping his neck out of the car. The lawyer drove the car and went very fast. Eerappa stood still and looked in to the direction of the car. “Earlier the lawyer had an old scooter but now in its place a frog shaped car has come” he thought to himself and then walked on with his small family towards his house.
Variety of people was walking up and down on the court campus. Each one had his case- murder, theft, quarrel, cheating….etc. Many had come there like him to get their property released through the court. The sight of lawyers wearing black coats and clients following them carrying their brief cases was common. Some were taking their clients to the nearby hotels discussing some thing and some were coming out of the hotel after having sumptuous food. Anyway hundreds were being diluted in to tens and tens in to mere coins. Eerappa had applied for a leave and had come to the court. He was sitting on a stone bench and simply observing the people in the premises of the court. At last he saw his lawyer coming towards him. He got up and went towards him. “The judge is on leave. Your case is adjourned. I will inform you later and then you have to come. Understand” the lawyer said and went away. Eerappa came back to his home.
The same thing had happened since two months. His case had come for the enquiry. For one or the other reason the case would be postponed. But the lawyer had already taken his fees in full.
At last one day his case came for the discussion. Entering in to the stable he saluted the judge and holding the Holy Book he said as the lawyer had trained him “I speak only the Truth and nothing else”. He answered aptly to prove that the bicycle was his own. Further there were some arguments between the lawyers in English which he could not make out. He was then asked to come out of the stable. He came out of the hall and sat on the same stone bench where he used to sit and waited for his lawyer. At last he saw his lawyer coming out of the court keeping his black coat on his left arm. He got up and went towards him.
“Eerappa ….The case is over. But I am so much tired by the time I made you get your bicycle back. Everything is concluded very easily. But….” the lawyer stopped and again continued “you will have to pay some extra fee. When will you give it” he questioned authoritatively.
It was so much for him. He wanted to get himself free from the clutches of the lawyer. So he said “I will not keep your debt sir, I will definitely pay sir”
“You’re very lucky. See, how soon you have got justice from the court. Anyhow you will get your cycle back. Now you come directly to the station and take it away. What will you do? And See here; in your happiness of having of your bicycle back don’t forget me” said the police who had come there by that time.
Eerappa was exited with the idea that the auspicious moments of riding the red bicycle is nearing. He took out money out of his pocket. There were only two red notes of twenty. He took one note in his right hand keeping the other in his left hand to give it to the police.
“What Eerappa!? We have strived so hard to enable you to get your cycle back which is worth one thousand and five hundred. You’re giving only twenty. Why don’t you give that also?” the constable snatched the other red note from his hand. Finally both went towards the station.
There were hundreds of bicycles were put in many rows under the big neem tree in front of the police station. But among those bicycles he could not find his own anywhere. He stood there searching it. Then there came a constable who opened a book and found a number and took a cycle. He gave it to Eerappa. He shuddered when he saw it.
“It is not my bicycle. It was a new one. You’ve given somebody’s bicycle to me” he said.
“That new bicycle has become an old one. You better take it and be gone” the constable said and went in to the office.
He stood looking at the police for a while and then turned his attention towards the thing in his hands. Yes! It was his own property. He felt like weeping when he saw it very closely. There was no air in the wheels, both the tires were pressed and torn. The rim had gone rusted and folks were cut. The cushion seat was torn and the sponge was spilled out. He looked at the bell. The outer cover was not there. The dynamo and the head light were missing. He moved it. No. The wheels were not moving easily. He used his strength and pushed it. He was tired very much when he brought his bicycle to his house.
In the afternoon when he was at home for lunch he had told his wife that he would bring the bicycle from the police station. She was very happy and had informed her children. So they were expecting the arrival of their bicycle.
The sound of the bicycle at the front door made both the children run out shouting “Our new bicycle has come … our new bicycle has come…..” Immediately they stopped shouting the moment they saw the bicycle. The mother who had followed their children also saw and stood like a pillar.
After keeping the bicycle near the front wall of his house, he entered the house and sat on the chair throwing all his weight on it. The iron sheet of the chair went down missing the grip on the edge. He got quickly and stared at it. He heard someone shouting out something on the road. He tried to listen to it clearly. “Old iron…….empty bottles…….plastic…old books …papers…, Old iron…….empty bottles…….plastic…..” Well, he came out with the chair, called the boy and gave it. Then he showed his old bicycle and asked him to take it also. The boy looked at it from top to toe. Took out four red notes from his pocket and handed it to Eerappa. Then the boy put the chair and the bicycle on his old bicycle and went shouting “Old iron…….empty bottles…….plastic…old books …papers…, old iron…….empty bottles…….plastic…..” The children and their mother stood gazing at their new bicycle moving on the old one.