“This is a bicycle” he told me…uh….huh? As if I didn’t know! He went on to explain “This is the seat and you sit on the seat”…ohh wow! I didn’t know that, I chuckled. The instructions continued, “This is the cross bar, this is the pedal and this is the stand” on he went “These are the left and right brakes. The right one is for emergencies and this is the carrier”
In the first ten minutes my dad slowly explained the components of the bicycle and their functions. He fixed his eyes on mine and asked me to focus and pay careful attention. An impish child that I was, my attitude towards his instructions was casual, on realizing this, dad raised his voice to make me focus, AND I DID! You don’t mess around with your dad at that age… do you? Those were the longest ten minutes of my entire childhood, seemed like an eternity before I could start riding that bike. I was super excited and wanted to ride, and ride fast! After giving me the initial gyaan on the anatomy of the cycle, he asked me to repeat everything he had explained. Now, I was running out of patience. He asked me to calm down and told me that once I get the basics right, riding fast would be a smooth sail. I didn’t quite understand what he meant, but I believed him. I always did.
My old man got on the cycle to give me a demo. Then he asked me to get on the bike. Damn! My feet barely touched the ground. Suddenly I got nervous and my bike got into a tailspin. I fastened my grip on the handle as if leaving it would leave me dead. I was breathing heavily. I didn’t understand! Where did I go wrong? Why was all this happening to me? Why couldn’t I just ride like my dad? I didn’t quite understand what I was missing. I was perplexed and asked dad if I had missed something. His answer to my exasperation was profound. He said you need to get the right “balance” son. It’s all about balance!
He asked me to relax my arms which were stiff and hurting. He held the seat and made me sit upright. He told me not to worry and assured me that I won’t fall as he was holding the cycle. Then he said something deep yet again. He said, “Trust me and let go, I’ve got your back and I won’t let you fall”. He pushed the cycle and it started to move. He was holding the seat with one hand and the handle with the other. I was moving but still quite shaky. He kept talking to me, guiding me and walking with me. At times I pedaled faster and he ran with me. With naive, childlike curiosity I wondered why he was getting tired when I was the one riding.
In due time I got the steering part right and my father left the handle, but held onto the seat while running with me. I soon realized that my father was jogging and releasing his grip on the seat from time to time. Each time I saw him do that I lost balance. Each time he held it back, I was on track. We were getting into a rhythm now. Soon he was jogging next to me while I rode independently. I knew I won’t fall because he was by my side. His presence was enough. I didn’t want him to hold me anymore, I just wanted him to be next to me and so he was. I was reassured.
While I was cruising on the bike, my father kept the ball rolling by guiding me, cracking jokes, warning me, scolding me but communicating continuously. One fine moment he just stopped talking, I continued speaking to him but he wouldn’t reply. I asked him something, still no reply. I started wondering what’s happening. I looked over my shoulder only to realize that he was standing a mile away and waving at me. I was thrilled about riding solo but wondered why he stood back. As I turned to move towards him, I saw him smile brilliantly at me and I had that triumphant expression on my face and announced “See dad I can ride a cycle. I’ve got the balance”!
I whizzed past him, teasing him, raised one hand and waved at him. Went further down the road took a turn again but this time I couldn’t see my dad. He had left never to interfere with my riding coz he knew I was ready to be on my own. His role was over so he let go.
That day he taught his son the first lesson on “balance” and he taught himself the lesson of “letting go”.
My old man was insightful and knew that he will have to impart many such life lessons in the future. Each time he will have to “direct” me with basic fundamentals, “coach” me through demonstration and practice what he preaches. He will have to offer “support” by assuring me that no matter what happens, he’s got my back and finally he will have to “let go” once I am fully ready so that I live up to my full potential.
Dad knew he had to follow this process in order to equip me to counter the punches life threw at me. He knew there were no shortcuts. As a young father, he was aware that he might make a lot of mistakes; he’s only human after all! But he figured that the key to keep the ball rolling was communication and I kid you not, he enjoyed every bit of this mammoth task as he knew that he was doing something that he really believed in.
Today I am a father and my daughter is 2 years old. Guess what! I am waiting to teach her how to ride a cycle.
All images are sourced from google