Morning comes early- the summer is here. If you can no longer sleep, if there is no comfortable compromise brokered between the blanket and the A/C, if your eyes are not stinging, then rise and saddle up. Stretch quickly, throw your phone and wallet into your slingbag and push off.
Up the first meager slope your thighs groan and complain, they too are waking up. You pass all the sleeping cars, and one woman who is bleached so pale and tucked so heavily that she has no expression. She too could be asleep, with her eyes pinned open by some cunning surgeon.
The tennis players are up too. One stands at the baseline slinging leaden-footed forehands. His tutor stands patiently at halfcourt with a cart full of balls. You know half the balls are bad but they leave them in the cart anyway, from when you were a child, walloping dead balls into the net, and looking up like-I-swear-it’s-not-my-fault-I-bent-my-knees-and-everything, but no one buys it.
Around the corner, the school parking lot is filling up with cricketing. Don Bosco himself sits princely on his stone throne. Down the road, through the Alaknanda market, where there is only one person, an old man in a white topi doing breathing exercises. Past the cops at the chowki, where one holds his back and leans.
The Hotrats - Bike - 2010
Back up through the garbage strewn Gobindpuri back lanes, where stray dogs trot, patchwork dogs rummaging through rubbish heaps. Drop a gear, pedal faster. Around the corner to Kalkaji. There is a big modern concrete Church of the Holy Spirit, a plaster Jesus welcoming above the gate, the high concrete tower above the chancel breaking through the trees like an aircraft carrier. A metal staircase leads to it. Beside it is the Sri Balavenendu temple, with its multitude of gods on the nominal gopuram. You contemplate taking a picture, and then scold yourself for being a tourist.
School buses crowd up outside the apartment colonies of Alaknanda. Parents look at the windows which contain their squalling brats, an eternity of painfully early mornings, you think. You have to watch for school buses. Their drivers have no heart, it has been screeched out of existence by thousands of children. They will run a cyclist over and laugh, and all those children will laugh with them, because children are cruel like crows.
Up the hill, pump pump pump, and then down the hill, coast, to CR Park. The markets are empty. Even the famous fish-market is empty. A big dog sits on the table and yawns with equanimity. Millions of flies buzz around it and it is not bothered. Through the backlanes of CR Park, past the Kali temple, past the police station where you once came to reclaim your towed car. The small roads twist and turn, and you see small parks for children, morning walkers, determined. Boys everywhere wash cars. We too should use first-world terms for our city, you think. Why do we not call CR Park a quaint ethnic enclave? It is Chowdhury after Bhattacharya after Ganguly after Dutta after the delightfully spelt Mowdgal. One lady looks at you while she waters her plants and frowns – a young man on a bicycle joyriding on a weekday morning does not compute.
The Beatles - Good Morning, Good Morning -1967
At the corner back to GK-II, four older school-girls stand in wait for their bus. Three are reading magazines and one is putting her face on. Big shiny Punjabi GK-II – a beautiful woman learns how to pilot the Mercedes from her husband. In the balcony of the top floor of a new glass and marble three-story, a maid takes a break, her hip pressed against the railing, looking into the neighbour’s.
You pick up mangoes at the corner fruit-shop. Then you pedal home slowly, pick up your bike and take it in. Your heart is singing with the glory of the morning and you ring your bell – trangtrangtrang- joyously.