“I used to ride a bicycle when I got engaged, I was fifteen then. Your Grandmother wouldn’t allow me to ride a bike so my friends switched to a new route that went from back of this house( the house in which dadi lived), mine was a great childhood”, said mummy. That’s how my mother shared her recollections as a teenager. I had rode bicycle before I reached 13 year age in back yard but on the street was different story. I always wondered of riding a bicycle around the city just like in old Indian movies. I know, it sounds crazy wish but a child could harbour it. Karachi, when I grew up was a lot more conservative for such freedom as women riding bicycles on street and I also completely forgot about cherishing such wish.
At 6.15 a.m., I and my husband who is already cycling for six months are ready to leave. I am slightly nervous for last time I rode a bike, I was a child besides around 50 people are expected and almost none of my acquaintance. We reached Sea view at 6.45 a.m.
Cyclist are slowly gathering. All lively, cheerful and humble people, and why not? Early rising and cycling could be passion only of those who would step out of their car in the dirt and are ready to fall off in a bush or on the road and bear few scratches. Everyone seems lightened showered by freshness of early morning; cool breeze seemed to sweep away all fever and fret clinging to the life of Karachiites; strong and tame-less like waves are we fighting against increasingly difficult political situations (target killings, snatching and ransom cases).
The group was split into two halves and early rider like me were part of first group. I started paddling soon after I realized no matter what the age one could never forget how to ride a bicycle. Just after travelling a few feet, I see a rider falling. I am about to stop but I hear someone saying in an imperious tone,”Keep going everyone! Get up and start again.” Instead of feeling bad for the rider, I am relieved: ‘Its ok if I fall down’. Perhaps, it is the fear of falling which stops us from doing so many things.
I wish, I could capture that experience in words, the joy of fulfilling a forgotten dream. On a mid-October morning, when sun is not so hot and weather is not humid, I am on the road going against the wind with waves breaking on the shore on right; bushes on the left; hard black carpet under my wheel and cloudy sky over my head. Cycling on Karachi streets! My pace is increasing gradually and I overtake many cyclists. I breathe deeply and feel free. The freedom and safety so much craved by every women in Karachi. Life is no more mechanical, no more chained, I can feel myself breathing heavily, I can feel myself alive. I enjoy every bit of this experience.
We travelled around 20 Km at speed of 14 Km per hour and took three stops in between. Critical Mass Karachi on Sunday is not a race; young, old, women and children; and people from all walks of life are invited to take joys of cycling early morning when most of the city is fast asleep.
- Study Says U.S. Has Fewest Cyclists, But Americans Most Likely To Die Bicycling (sfist.com)
- Drivers, give teen bike riders like me a break (suntimes.com)
- Blog: Would you cycle without a helmet? (sbs.com.au)