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Friday, January 20, 2012

The cycle ball bearing


Rajesh had this particular habit of storing strange things, from strangely shaped wooden sticks, smooth round shaped stones to dried large leaves. He loved all his possessions he had collected over years. He had carefully stored them and had kept them in his office drawer, he would often see them in his free time he got between the office work. He would take them in his hands, gaze at them for minutes and then keep them back in the drawer again carefully at the same place. He never showed it to anybody, neither told anybody about it, it was his private possession.
Today he was sitting on his chair reading few reports, correcting them, there were dozens of papers which he had to check and sign. But there was something wrong today, something different, he was finding it difficult to hold the papers in his hand and the ones which were on the table kept falling off. He got up picked them and kept them on the table, wondering what was happening? Then he looked up, it was the fan, it was too fast. He went to the switch board and reduced the speed came back. He sat down again looking at the papers, but they still kept on flying off the table. The speed of the fan was too fast to keep the papers on the table. The fan switch was not working properly since days, he had called for an electrician to repair it, but he was still not there. Trying to hold the papers together he looked at the fan again and after trying to get them together for few minutes he kept them in a file, closed it, looked at the fan again and went outside.

The office was located at a busy street, a small lane out of which went to a labour colony. There was a new building being constructed just nearby, the labourers who worked at the building site had created temporary sheds in the colony. It almost had 70 -80 huts and it seemed empty in the afternoon times but during the evening it came to life as the labourers came back. There were kids too, who used to stay back when their parents were at work the smaller ones would be taken care by the elder ones.

He was about ten years old, would roam around in the streets when his parents were at work, his parents had tried to take him to the site for some petty work but the contractor didn’t allow him. So he would stay back, roam around and in the afternoon would eat what his mother had kept at their hut and sleep. He would then in the evening come to the street and then stand outside a cycle rental shop, where he would gaze at the cycles for hours. People used to frequent the shop for renting cycles, he had once inquired about the rent and the shop owner told him it would cost him ten rupees for half a day and he would have to return the cycle by 5 o clock in the evening. He used to stand there for hours looking at the cycles and looking at the people who would come there to rent them. What he had in his pocket were few 25 paise coins and sometimes a 50 paisa coin. The possibility was not there.

That day in evening when his parents came back he was quietly sitting in a corner playing with small sticks he had and making pictures on the ground. The father was lying down on a shabby sheet and the mother was cooking their dinner, boiled rice and some daal. He asked his father “papa do you have ten rupees?"  “What ??” his father suddenly got up and sat down, his mother turned his head back words looking at both of them. “Are you gone mad, what will you do with ten rupees. Why do you want it? Shut up and sit”. He had just given him a 50 paise coin a day before. There was silence for some time. Then again he spoke “ papa I need ten rupees, there is a cycle rental shop at the corner of the street, he gives them on rent for half a day for Rs. 10."  Now it was his mothers turn, as she put some rice and daal for him in a plate “ eat this and don’t dream” if we had 10rs for renting a cycle we wouldn’t be having this daal and rice for dinner, we both get 50 rupees each per day at the site and you want 10 rs for renting a cycle ? eat this, sleep and dream about something we can get  and from tomorrow don’t go to that street again”.  As his father had his first gulp of the meal he said “i will thrash you bad if u ask this again". He was scared, he got his share of beatings now and then. He ate his share of daal and rice and slept dreaming about the cycle.

Rajesh came to office again, and as soon as he entered his cabin, he checked the fan switch, it still had not been repaired, so today also he won’t be able to control its speed. He sat started working on the papers again but he was finding it difficult to handle them with the fan on high speed. He opened his drawer took out a round smooth stone from his prized possessions and kept it on the bunch of papers.

The little boy had got up early today, his parents had already left. He checked the utensils for food, ate some left over rice with pickle, there was no daal in the afternoons. His parents also carried the pickle and rice in their tiffin. He lazed in the hut till afternoon, playing with the sticks and the earth. After sometime he went outside and played along with the other kids of the area. He came back to home in the afternoon, had some more rice, the pickle was not there this time. He was tired, he lied down for some time and slept again  and when he got up, he straight away went to the main lane, stood exactly at the opposite side of the shop, exactly at the same spot where he used to stand daily. The shop owner now recognized him, occasional smiles were exchanged.

Rajesh came down again from his office, he was now tired of the flying papers on the table, he needed a smoke badly. He went to the pan shop, almost opposite to the cycle renting shop. He stood there, asked for his regular brand , lit the cigarette and puffed out the first smoke. His mind was still wondering about the solution to the fan problem in his office. It was too hot to manage work by keeping the fan switched off. He needed to do something soon. He kept thinking, looking at the cycle rental shop. After puffing about three four times, he put the cigarette on the ground , pressed it hard with his foot and put his hand in the pocket to take money to pay for the cigarette. As he took out few ten rupees notes, a note slipped out and fell on the ground, he paid for the cigarette, took back the change and climbed back again to his office. There was no one around to notice the ten rupee note which had just fallen off.

He was still standing there, holding the drainage pipe of the building in one hand , looking at the cycles kept neatly in line on the other side of the road. The fifty paisa coin in the pocket of his worn out half pant was not enough, all he could do was, look .The ten rupee note was about ten steps away from him, he had not noticed it, in fact he had not even noticed the man who had just dropped it from his pocket. A slow hot breeze lifted the note above the ground a little and moved it towards the boy, but his eyes were still on the cycles. The breezed didn’t stop, it continued this time a bit stronger, the note after some time was almost at his feet. He felt some faint itch on his right foot, rubbed it with the left one and looked down. He didn’t believe it at first but then bent himself, his face was below his knees , almost touching the ground. He had seen ten rupees notes in his father’s old purse, but this one was different, it was new, crisp. It was only because of its crispness that it had swayed up to him and given him that itch on the foot. He picked up the note, held it between his hands and brought it near his eyes, it really was a ten rupees note. Then with a quick reflex he put it in his pocket, along with the coins, looked here and there and went quietly towards his house.

That night he didn’t sleep, he slept with the ten rupee note in his pocket, talked very little. He was waiting for the morning, waiting desperately.  

Next day, we woke up early and after his parents left for their job. He went straight towards the lane and walked to the cycle shop looking high as a king. The ten rupees in his pocket had its effect. The shop owner was bit cynical at first but then the curiosity in the boys eyes did him in. The instructions were very clear, he had to get back the cycle by 5 pm and it was not supposed to get damaged. He was on the seventh heaven, at first he did a few rounds of the street, smiling twice at the cycle shop owner, then he went off. That day he rode almost half of the town, he stopped once when he saw a tap, drank for about half a minute. Afterwards he went towards the railway station, saw few trains speeding by, few stopping. 

It was evening time now, he had to return the cycle. He rode the cycle lazily back towards the street again , he was tired , he had cycled almost for about 5 hours now. He entered the street and when he was about to reach the shop, the cycle went in a small ditch on the road, the rear tyre hit a stone and detached from the cycle. There was no noise, it happened within five seconds, he had to jump off the cycle to avoid falling on the road. After few seconds when he gathered his wits. He saw the cycle on the ground, it was intact, nothing was broken nothing was bent, there was not even a scratch. The only damage was that the rear wheel now was detached from the cycle and lay a few inches away. At first he was dead scared, but then he saw that the main screw was not there which held the tyre at its place. He found the screw and tried to put the tyre back at its place and put the screw on. But then he realised it was not that simple, something was more serious here., the ball bearing was missing , he could have easily fixed the tyre back if the ball bearing was there.

The impact it seemed had removed the ball bearing from its place. He started looking for it around the place. It was a plain road , but still he could not find it anywhere around. He asked a passer by for the time, it was four thirty. He was now shivering, sweating and tears almost filled his eyes. He asked time from about four  persons while searching for the ball bearing. He couldn't find it, now he was crying. He didn’t know what to do.

When the fifth person told him it was five minutes to five. He just put back the wheel at its place, put the screw on  and walked the cycle along with him towards the shop. The haphazard movement of the rear part of the cycle clearly depicted that the ball bearing was missing and when he was about ten steps away from the cycle shop, he parked the cycle on the stand and raised his voice  “ Uncle here is your cycle”. And as the shop owner looked at him he turned around and ran away from where he came, the owner was surprised , but he thought the kid was in a hurry to go home. He continued with his work thinking he would collect the cycle after some time, it was very near to his shop.

Next day Rajesh came down at the pan shop, the fan was still not working . He was now getting restless, even the small piece of stone was not able to hold the papers on the table. He went downstairs again, he needed some nicotine in his blood to get over this misery. As he was standing in front of the shop puffing, he felt something hard under his shoes, he lifted his foot a little and pushed the thing a little away. As he pushed it , he heard a metal sound. Instantly he looked down, there it was, a muddy greasy cycle ball bearing. He kept looking towards it for few seconds and then asked the shopkeeper for few tissue papers. Wiped the bearing clean as much as he could, asked for a newspaper, folded the bearing in it and went upstairs.

Once he was on his chair, he wiped the bearing till it was grease less and shiny. He placed the round bearing on the bunch of papers on the table, switched on the fan and sat back on his chair, looking at the bearing on the stack of papers. One more addition to his collection had been made.

As he sat on his chair enjoying the air from the fan, looking at the bearing, there was a crowd gathered below at the cycle shop. There was a labour couple, the mother was crying inconsolably, two policemen were also there. They were inquiring about a small boy who had gone missing since yesterday, some even claimed that they had seen a small boy boarding a train, alone at the station yesterday evening.

As the mother cried, the policemen enquired from the cycle shop owner, the father pleaded to the crowd, the cycle ball bearing lay on the papers keeping them away from flying away.

It has been almost a year, even today sometimes when Rajesh comes to smoke downstairs, he sees a labourer in shabby torn clothes talking to the cycle shop owner about a missing boy. 


The fan switch has still not been repaired.


Photo from : http://dsc.discovery.com/tags/bicycles/

5 comments:

Jameel Aahmed said...

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Dr.(capt) Alok Ranjan said...

awesome, especially flow of words are like gem ,keep writing ,superb:-)

Shri Krishna Sharma said...

Very nice story.

William J.Taylor said...

You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!
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Anonymous said...

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