“You promised me that you will get me a bicycle when my summer holiday starts. Are you going to get me one?” asked Kumar. Raghu glanced up from the newspaper to look at Kumar who was busy on the computer playing a Street Racer video game.
“Yes. We will get it today!” said Raghu with a matter-of-fact expression on his face.
“Really!” Kumar jumped from the chair unable to believe his father’s words.
“In that case, you ought to get me something too!” chimed in Ram, Raghu’s younger son.
“We’ll see”, said Raghu turning the newspaper. Raghu’s wife Gayatri walked into the room.
“We have to take Ram’s bicycle along so that we can get it serviced while we get a new one for Kumar”, she said.
* * *
That evening all four of them went shopping. Raghu drove the car and they had Ram’s old bicycle with training wheels in the trunk of the car.
“Can I get the bicycle with the 5-speed gears. My friend Vishnu has it and it is cool!” said Kumar.
“Look, I am going to make the selection! You can get a bicycle of your choice when you grow up”, retorted Raghu.
“Kumar, don’t push your luck!” said Gayatri.
* * *
“Dad, I love the silver gray one, but can I get it slightly smaller?” asked Kumar.
“I think this is just about right. You will grow up soon and the height will be normal for you within a few months. Take this one!” said Gayatri.
“I agree. This is the right choice for you!” said Raghu.
Ram was checking out other bicycles in the store that were apt for his size.
“Why don’t you get a new bicycle as well, Ram?” asked Raghu.
“I will have this one. My friend Mahesh has one exactly like this!” exclaimed Ram. It was apparent that he was waiting for Raghu to pop the question.
“Let us find out if the store can exchange Ram’s old bicycle for the new one”, said Gayatri. She spoke to the store clerk and was offered three hundred rupees for the old bicycle.
“That’s fine. Take that offer and let us go home. Ask her if they will deliver it to our house.”
Just then an autorickshaw driver walked into the store.
“Sir, we don’t deliver. You can take the bicycles in the autorickshaw and get it delivered to your house.”
Raghu was getting his credit card out for settling the bill. Gayatri came to Raghu and whispered in his ear, “Why don’t we take the old bicycle back? If we give it to some poor kid, he would be very happy. Three hundred rupees seems like throwaway price.”
“She is right. We are just offering scrap price for your old bicycle”, confessed the store clerk.
Raghu was a little annoyed, but went along. The autorickshaw driver walked up to Raghu and Gayatri.
“Where do you want the bicycles to be delivered, sir?”
“You need to get it to Chetpet, Spur Tank Road”
The autorickshaw driver went out to load the bicycles into the vehicle while Raghu settled the bill. He carried the old bicycle and walked to the car.
“I spoke to the autorickshaw driver. He has a 5 year old son. When you get home, give the old bicycle to him, will you?”
Raghu was a little surprised, but nodded his head in agreement.
“I need to finish some shopping. So I will get an autorickshaw and take Ram along with me while you drive Kumar back home in our car. I thought the store will deliver and we all could go shopping, but this is a slight change of plans. Can you take care of it?”
“Sure, I will”, said Raghu.
“Sir, the bicycles are loaded. I will meet you just after the traffic light on Harrington Road and Spur Tank road”, said the autorickshaw driver.
“Okay. You can follow the car”, said Raghu and started the car.
“You keep going sir. I will catch up with you”, said the driver and he turned the autorickshaw and drove away on the wrong side of the road!
Raghu was shocked. ‘Oh my God. What have I done? I did not even make a note of the autorickshaw number! What if he vanishes with the two brand new bicycles?’
“Kumar, can you be on the lookout for that autorickshaw?”
Raghu was getting impatient as he waited to take a U-turn behind three cars.
‘This is all Gayatri’s fault. She keeps changing the plans in the last minute and I am not able to focus. Look at where it has got us!’ Raghu was upset with himself.
“Do you see the autorickshaw?”
Raghu grit his teeth, his blood pressure rising. There was no sight of that autorickshaw all the way up to the Ega theatre signal.
“Dad, I don’t see the autorickshaw yet!”
“Yeah, yeah! I know…”
They were already past the Chetpet bridge and turned left into Spur Tank road at the signal. Still no sign of the autorickshaw. They were just a block away from the house now when Kumar shrieked, “Dad! There he is..”
And there he was with the autorickshaw parked by the side of the road. Raghu pulled over and told him to follow him. It would be an understatement to say that he was relieved.
* * *
The autorickshaw driver unloaded the bicycles and parked them by the wall.
Raghu settled the fare. Kumar was already tearing out the bubble wrap on his shiny new bicycle.
“How many kids do you have?” asked Raghu.
“One son, sir! He is going to first standard this year.”
The driver’s smile revealed his stained teeth. But Raghu saw a dad’s pride in him. He opened the trunk and took out the old bicycle.
“My wife wanted you to have this for your son. Take it.”
“Thanks a lot sir! My son would love this. Please thank your wife on my behalf!”
The autorickshaw pulled away. Raghu could hear Kumar circling around the flat ringing the cycle bell as he went. He despised himself for being so cynical.
* * *
“Two hundred rupees. Take it or leave it!”
“Ok. That’s a deal!”
The currency notes exchanged hands and the scrap dealer threw the bicycle into the back of his store along with the other junk.