Mahatma and the Bicycle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic
A street in India and... a bicycle weaving towards Mahatma's house. A feel-good story for kids.

Submitted: March 12, 2009

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Submitted: March 12, 2009



Mahatma and the Bicycle
 It was a bright sunny morning as Mahatma sat on his first floor veranda sipping tea.
 Below him in the busy street, sellers were shouting the prices of their goods. Cooking pans carried on long poles crashed and clattered, carts loaded with fruit and vegetables blocked the footpaths, stalls with spices and dyes piled high in gorgeously coloured pyramids, sweet breads and biscuits carefully arranged on banana-leaf platters.
 “Chai…chai…” called the chai wallah selling hot sweet tea in small clay pots. The street was now so crowded with shoppers and people hurrying to and from work there was hardly room to move without bumping or knocking into someone but somehow it rarely happened.
 Mahatma sipped his tea and smiled at the crowd below occasionally waving to a neighbour or a friend in the street.
 And as he watched, he saw way up the end of the road, a bicycle being ridden far too fast dodging and weaving through the crowd.
 He must be in a big hurry, thought Mahatma as the rider approached. The man looked hot and as he got closer, Mahatma could see his red face and the wet shirt sticking to his skin.
 “Sataka rahana…” (‘make way’…’make way’…) called the rider as he tried to avoid the shoppers, street-sellers and beggars crowding the street and footpath.
 And then, just as he got to the front of Mahatma’s house, there was a loud pop followed by a whoosh of air as the rider’s front tyre was punctured and his bicycle swerved suddenly sideways almost running over an old man carefully balancing a tray of plastic combs on his turbaned head.
 “Sorry…sorry…” called out the stranded rider to the old comb-seller as he disentangled himself from the disabled bicycle and pushed it to the side of the road to lean it upon Mahatma’s fence.
 “Dear…dear” muttered Mahatma as he put aside his cup of tea. “I’d better go down and see if the poor fellow needs some help.”
 By the time he got down to the street, the exhausted rider was looking rather lost, gazing up the street first this way then that as if looking to be rescued. He was a well-dressed man and his bicycle, despite the flat tyre, looked like a very expensive machine.
 “Hello my good man” called Mahatma as he opened his gate. “Can I be of some assistance? My name is Mahatma.”
 The tired rider swung around as Mahatma introduced himself. “Oh…why thank-you. I am Rakesh Chowdry and I’m on my way to a very important meeting in the next town. I’m late already. Where can I find a taxi? It is a very important!” he repeated anxiously. “As you can see, I have a flat tyre.”
 “Dear…dear…” said Mahatma. “I’m afraid we have no taxi in our town. It is too poor you see.”
 “No matter, no matter – is there a bus coming soon? I will lose a lot of money if I do not get to this meeting on time!”
 “Ah…I am sorry” sighed Mahatma. “We have no bus today either…only on market day. But I can help you fix your flat tyre. My nephew Vijay is a bicycle mechanic. His workshop is just at the end of town – we will have it fixed in a jiffy.”
 “Oh dear…oh dear…I’m sure to miss my meeting. What a calamity! Is there no other way to get to the next town quickly?”
 Mahatma looked kindly at the hot and worried businessman in his sweat-soaked white shirt and black ironed long trousers. His brown shoes were already splattered with mud and several pieces of straw had stuck to his heels.
 “I do have an old bicycle – you are welcome to borrow it but it is rather old an creaky.”
 The man’s eyes lit up. “Would you? I’d be so grateful – I can still make it if I hurry.”
 So Mahatma quickly shuffled inside and wheeled out his old bike. Compared to the businessman’s shiny red machine it looked quite antique but Mahatma kept it well-oiled and in good order (despite what he had said) and, most importantly, both tires were well-pumped with air.
 “I will take your bike up to Vijay while you are away and we’ll have your tyre fixed by the time you return” called Mahatma as the businessman hastily mounted the old bicycle and weaved off down the road towards the next town.
 Later in the morning, Mahatma wheeled the man’s bicycle out to Vijay’s garage and sipped chai while his nephew carefully mended the punctured tube and tyre.
 And around 3 in the afternoon, as the street had become quiet and most of the sellers were having a siesta in the shade of large trees lining the town street, Mahatma watched from his cool veranda as the businessman pedalled wearily back into town from his meeting.
 “A great success Mahatma! Thank-you…thank-you” he beamed as he wheeled Mahatma’s old bicycle back under the steps.
 “And as you can see, Vijay has fixed your puncture” smiled Mahatma. “For just six rupees – a good job!”
 “Oh thank-you again – please give him ten rupees from me and my sincere gratitude to you Mahatma for all your assistance” chuckled the tired but happy businessman handing Mahatma the damp paper notes.
 As he rode off, he turned to wave again. “Thank-you…thank-you my good friend.”
 And several days later as Mahatma was sipping tea with Mrs Mahatma on the upstairs veranda, he was again surprised to see the same red bicycle being ridden, very carefully this time, towards his house down the busy town street.
 A young boy whose feet could hardly reach the pedals dismounted outside Mahatma’s gate and knocked shyly.
 “A message for Mr Mahatma. Message for Mr Mahatma” he called.
“Goodness me – what is all this” remarked Mahatma to Mrs Mahatma as he rose and went downstairs to the street.
 “Hello my son…I am Mahatma. What can I do for you? This is the businessman’s bike you are riding, is it not? Do you have a message for me?” he enquired.
 “Oh no Mahatma…It is YOUR bike” the young boy replied. Mr Chowdrey was so pleased to be successful at his meeting he wanted to give you this bicycle in appreciation. It is a new bicycle just like his other bicycle…but it is for YOU!”
 Wide-eyed Mahatma stared at the bicycle for a moment before he realised it really was a brand new bicycle – identical to Mr Chowdrey’s.
 “Well now…well now…” he smiled. “And for what can I use a new bicycle? Too kind…too kind! But my old bicycle is a good friend and it is quite enough for me”
 He puzzled over the extravagant gift for a while as the young boy stood looking anxiously from the new bicycle to Mahatma then back to the bicycle.
 “Well now – I have it!” said Mahatma at last. “Our good doctor – Doctor Rizal – has an old bicycle but a new one would help him very much. He has to travel a long way to visit some of his patients. Oh – he will be so pleased!! The good doctor will have a new bicycle and you, my son, will have a cup of hot milk and two rupees for your trouble.”
 And over a cup of hot milk and with two rupees tucked securely into his deepest pocket, the young boy sat with Mr and Mrs Mahatma on the upstairs veranda and asked again to hear the story of ‘Mahatma and the Bicycle’ just one more time before he started for home.

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