Bicycle Dreaming

By Mridula Koshy

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“Noor woke with her feet pedalling the bicycle she had ridden in her sleep. For some time she was happy just to lie still remembering the dream. What colour had the bicycle been? She switched through colours in her mind, riding a blue one, even a yellow. But this was an exercise in delay. She knew which colour she would want her cycle to be –green – if she only owned a cycle, a green cycle.
She nudged her mother.
‘Noor,’her mother scolded, ‘it’s not morning yet.’
This was true. A crow had cawed a minute earlier. But it would easily be many more long minutes before all the neighbourhood crows, then the sparrows, and finally the squirrels with their ‘chip-chip-chip’joined in the ruckus to announce morning. The curtain hanging in the doorway of their single room lifted every so often and Noor could see out for an instant–grey–and the breeze shifted and the curtain dropped again. Soon the bright hot high summer sun would be up.
Noor sucked noisily on her teeth and held her breath. Oh when would they wake–her father on one side of her, her mother on the other side, and her brother asleep on the charpoy outside the curtained front door? Didn’t they know what day this was? July 14. And thank goodness it was a Saturday.”
“And because she did not know how to tell him what she had come to tell him, she said instead that yes, she would go with him. She would meet his father, return the bicycle and yes, she agreed, if his father released Ajith from helping with the work, they would even see about finding a place to get a cold drink.
‘I want a Mirinda or a Fanta,’she said, hoping he could hear goodbye in the words for these sugary drinks. She inflected the words with her sorrow but in truth her concern with how to speak ‘goodbye’to him left her with less and less of her sorrow and more and more of the awkwardness of her situation. The old Noor, who did not know how to ride a bicycle wanted to blame Ajith for this awkwardness. She could hear that Noor summing up the situation with her usual disavowal of involvement in her own life: I didn’t force him to like me; that was his choice to do so. The old Noor continued with a rather pronounced whine: It’s my parents’decision, not mine, to send me to Talib Bhaiya’s.”

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