Little girl cycling
The First Ride to Freedom
by Nabanita Sengupta

My feet took to pedals
Gravel no longer scary
Tar roads with open arms
Told me not to tarry.
But mom was scared she didn’t want me to go alone.
So I waited for a chaperone.
Then there came the neighbour’s son
Ah for me, the battle was won
So my foot on the pedal and he on foot
Straight from our doors, the road we took
Hours passed, sweat soaked his shirt
Cycling breeze added to my spur
My preteen spirit in unspoken joy
But he poor thing  — caught in my ploy.
My mom was scared and she didn’t want me to go alone
So I got our neighbour’s son as my chaperone
Twice the hour hand circled the clock
Mom at door pounced on me
My cycle since then up in loft
Neighbour’s son clapped in glee!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I learned to ride a bicycle when I was around 12, but my mother was initially too scared to let me ride through the lanes alone. So one day I asked my neighbour’s son to accompany me, and, in my over-enthusiasm to ride, I made the poor fellow walk behind my cycle for two long hours under the afternoon sun. Though a prolonged scolding and a temporary ban on my cycling followed, after that I was never asked to take someone along with me during my cycling sprees.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nabanita Sengupta is Assistant Professor of English at Sarsuna College, affiliated with the University of Calcutta. She has recently submitted her doctoral thesis and is waiting to defend that. Her area of research is translation, with translations that include published Bengali short stories.