A bike, once used, now gone. That’s all it is to all of them- the paanwalla who says it took a stroll, the man who claims I made the arrangements, the others who blame my own stupidity. They’ve gotten it all wrong. Every single of them. She is no ordinary bicycle, not one of those jumbles of mixed metals. She is a dark Arabian horse, her metal bars swaying as her midnight blue wheels cut right through. She does not deserve to be chained to a tree, forever lusting for a key to open her up. There is no need for me to tell you that, you already know.
No one does this all the time- this business of stealing bicycle. You must do it time and time again, swiping all the bicycles that have forgotten to use protection. You must have felt the way I did when I first rode her, her seat providing you a cushion like no other. That’s why you took her, right? I don’t blame you, not yet, at least. We live in a country where the gods are always watching and you know that just as well as I do. As I stand outside the store, surrounded by discarded betel leaves and cutthroat swear words, I try to find the traces you have left. She could not leave me any hints when you took her, she is still untarnished and has not begun to shed her rusted parts. Her lease has not even been paid off yet, she is tied to me. The men standing outside refuse to help me locate the two of you. I have lost all hope in my country, until someone tells me that there is are cameras in the store. The reflections of the outside world can be seen in the windows, a series of moving silhouettes. It is a mirage, forever eluding anyone that tries to watch it. I hunch over the computer, not letting the illusions fool me, so I can have her back.
The frames flicker, moving backwards as they search for you, the thief, and her, the victim. There, right there! Stop, I say! I see something, a glint of alloy, could it be her? How could it be her? There, there she is, all battered and bruised, lying on the stone cold ground. How could you do this to her? If it wasn’t enough for her to undergo the mental separation anxiety of being away from me, you had to go and physically torture her. Shame on you! In the crowd that has gathered, I attempt to pinpoint you. They all throw currency around her, as if they are attending her funeral and showering her with flowers. Grinning from ear to ear, in complete ignorance of the tragedy that has occurred. Their faces blend together in the mirror image, undistinguishable amongst the four anna, eight anna and trupee coins. I have never seen money being treated like paper before, floating into the sky as if its circulation will never end. It brings me more pain, forcing me to acknowledge that I never managed to fully pay her debt off. Even in her death, she remains a living commodity, the bill for which I have tied myself to. You, though, with all that money could have paid her off better than I ever could. Where, oh, where could you be? Right there, in the centre, the centripetal force keeping this mess together. There, there, I see you now, beside the herdboy and the buffalo. Sadiq Miyan, the shopkeeper exclaims, instantly recognising your face.
There are faces all everywhere- on the copper thrust on the floor, on the street throbbing together, and on your body bobbing up and down. I wonder why you look just like any other face, why yours doesn’t sick out more than the rest. Still, you manage to make up for the face with the magnificent cunning within you. How is it, Sadiq, that you managed to convince an entire crowd to pay you for stealing? Now that deserves recognition. I started watching for her, but now I watch for you instead. It is only when the tapes rewind once more that I realise it is not you they are commending but the herdboy. A woman, perhaps even more beautiful than my own bicycle, is shedding tears and the people who cannot bear to see a woman cry are acting upon it. Herd mentality, I tell you, that is what our country runs on. We see a woman with saltwater dripping from her eyes and we will band together to make her stop. We might not have any money to begin with, but if one person starts throwing money, then we all will. It is all simply absurd and I so badly want to click off the video. Then, I see the buffalo being milked in bucket fulls and I cannot resist the urge to know why.
The milk reminds me of her, a commodity with no home of its own. The milk belongs to the buffalo, comes straight out of it, but then goes onto belong to the herdboy and eventually the people. The poor life the inanimate battles with, oh the brutal abuse! Ten whole rupees worth of milk come pouring out of the buffalo in bucketfuls. It is the running river of injustice that flows the country disguised as creamy goodness. No one falters at paying almost nothing for the milk, instead they all excitedly pour gallons down their throats. Is the eventual guilt was got them to finally pay in the end? It must have eaten them up slowly, how losing her ate me. Despite your tendencies to go against the law, you choose not drink a single sip. An interesting choice that I admire, I must say. The wise old man is the one that suggested this, the so-called wiseacre, let him be the one to take responsibility. As I go back more, I overhear the discussion on finding a suitable seller for the buffalo. It was unsuccessful one with no bids, but that is our country, is it not? The land where every attempted auction goes wrong. It is a land of no laws, but then again, it was a lawyer who suggested this. How would he know how people you, a criminal, think? Everyone is focused on writing ten rupees for the herdboy, an injustice they will attempt to fix as you get away scotch free. Tell me, Sadiq, how did you pull this off?
When you went free, you took her with you. No one argued this, not the local mechanic that her and I once visited or the public who was eager to find someone to blame. Upon seeing the mechanic, I cannot help but feel a spark of joy. At least you cared enough to try to fix her. She still not repaired and she can never fully be whole, but the fact that you tried means something. Why couldn’t you just cough up the ten rupees and go on? I know, I know that money does not grow on trees but ten rupees and everything would have been avoided. The whole mess. You should have just come to me and I would have paid to have her back. I go back to the video and there it is, you saying that the she had to be fixed before anything else. There we go, now I believe in you a little more. It was no simple affair between the two of you, was it? It was more of love story by the looks of it. The people gather around, ready to pounce on the buffalo, but you made it about her, the cycle. You put her first, gave her a voice that she never could have mustered. You didn’t do what anyone else would have done, run away and never see her again. Then, I notice the two of you along with the buffalo laying in the street, her in the middle of you and the buffalo. A collision. The people come around soon after to interfere as they always do. Deep down, I ask myself why a crowd would want to see all three of you tangled up like that.
As the scenes of the day come to a close with the clips of the accident, all of you flying into one another. I close my eyes, not desiring to see it all happen for the first time. Some things are better left, isn’t it? There is not enough time to watch everything as is. I must return home with all the groceries, I must fill a report on the situation, I must ensure all dues are paid. I allow myself to watch one last bit, the one where you have just taken her. You admire her at first, lusting after her from a few feet away. You caress her like I once did, confirming that there are no creaks before you ride. You zip through the wind, letting her take you wherever she wants. She takes you, spinning the air, down all the streets she knows so well. She let you in, after promising that I would be the only one, but I cannot be angry at you. The court always needs someone to blame, but a bicycle will never be the one.