Cycle stand minus the cycles

Scores of girls speeding on their scooters is a common sight in urban India today. Perched smartly on their two-wheelers, confidently negotiating chaotic traffic on roads, girls are on their own. Thanks to the light scooters without gears, girls today enjoy far greater independent mobility than the women in the past. Independently, they crisscross the city while commuting for education, employment, shopping and recreation. In fact, the two Ms which have contributed significantly to women ‘liberation quotient’ are –‘Mobile phones ’ and ‘Mobility’. Of course, girls do drive cars but for the majority, these are the scooters which provide mobility.

I am envious of these young, enthusiastic female scooter riders whose  speed and alacrity amazes me .The moment the traffic light turns green, the girls on their scooters whiz across the road while I still struggle to get my car moving in the traffic. Their swiftness at the traffic signal baffles me but what rattles me is their attire. A majority of the female scooter riders do not wear helmets but keep their faces thoroughly covered. Evidently skull safety does not bother them. It is the skin protection which is their priority.

As these smart girls on their scooters zoom past me, I can not help recalling my own college days when majority of us boarded the college bus or cycled our way to the college. Of course, two-wheelers were there in early 80s but were the preserve of men, certainly not for girls to drive. In those  pre-Maruti days, not many cars could be spotted on city roads. Not only were the cars rare, but were used sparingly. Only a couple of girls had the luxury of chauffeur driven cars for commuting. I remember one of them was the daughter of Deputy Commissioner of Jalandhar who would be dropped and picked up from the college in a white Ambassador with the red beacon on the top.  It is another matter that at that time I was not aware whether it was use or misuse of the official car.

In contrast to my college days when the humble bicycle used to be the personal mode of conveyance for us, today the auto-geared scooters have caught the fancy of the college girls who have patronized these light two-wheelers in a big way. In not too distant a past, every college had a cycle-stand where scores of bicycles used to be lined up; when one bicycle fell the rest tumbled down one after another. But today cycles have disappeared from the landscape of the colleges; instead we have an array of fancy scooters of all hues and make. Cycles might have vanished from the stand but as a hangover of the past, in common parlance the stand continues to be labeled as ‘cycle stand’. Even today colleges have a place designated as ‘Cycle Stand’ but of course, minus the cycles.


(Published in the tribune as MIDDLE ON JULY 19,2013)

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