Disclaimer: Everything mentioned below including the place, people, names are fictitious. Do not hold me responsible, if anything happens because of my story.
In the past, nothing had affected the people of Kendrallur more than the two announcements made by its government. The first one had unfolded in the manner given below.
Ragini stared stunned at the TV which was showing as usual ‘Breaking News’ on the loop. It said, “After successful implementation of #Demonetization, it is now #DeScooterization.”
After enduring the effects of demonetization, Ragini was in no mood to do anything like Descooterization.
‘Rohit, come here. See what they are showing on TV. DeScooterization. What is this?’ she called out to her husband.
Rohit put away his newspaper and stared at the TV. The TV presenter was hyperventilating and explaining DeScooterization.
‘From tonight 12am, no 2 wheeler will be allowed on the roads. People found riding two-wheelers will be penalized and can be kept in jail for 2 days. Among, two wheelers, only the Bicycle is allowed. So, people, if you are owning a ‘motorized’ two wheeler like the Scooter or motor bikes, you cannot ride it any longer. You have to ride a bicycle. Please note that helmets are compulsory for all bicycle riders.’
The TV presenter halted some people riding motor bikes on the road and thrust the mike under their helmet faces.
‘What do you think, sir?’
‘About what?’ the helmet man asked.
‘Descooterization.’ She then went on to explain the whole thing.
‘To control pollution and improve the air quality for the citizens of India, for our children and future generations,’ she explained.
‘But my bike has passed all pollution controls. I have the PUC certificate too,’ helmet man persisted.
‘But, the rule has changed. And you cannot ride this bike any longer,’ she continued.
The man left in a huff.
‘There will always be someone who will disagree. But, soon they will realize, that it is for the greater good. A soldier is taught to adapt to the requirement. They learn to drive all modes of transport,’ the TV presenter reasoned enthusiastically.
‘How will I go to the market tomorrow without my Scooter,’ Ragini asked.
Rohit was back to reading the newspaper. ‘Take the rick,’ came his voice from somewhere beyond.
‘That’s only for tomorrow. After hearing this, they will surely hike their fare. And I will have to beg them to take me this short distance,’ she grumbled.
‘Ok. Take the children’s bicycle,’ the voice from beyond came back.
‘But how will they go to their tuition classes? They need it,’ Ragini said.
‘Ragini, when we were young, we used to walk the distance. We never had a bicycle,’ Rohit’s voice said.
‘But I have put on 20 kilos since I rode the bicycle last. I am not sure if I can manage the balance. Then I have to also get my shopping bag,’ Ragini was out of her wits.
The phone rang. Rohit picked it up. It was his mother, he mouthed to Ragini.
‘No Amma. It will be fine…. Don’t worry… Use the rick… or book a cab… I will send in additional money for your transportation needs… yes Amma. .. Don’t worry… Bye.’
He put the phone down.
‘Amma is worried about Descooterization. She used to rely on my cousins and sometimes her neighbour to take her around on their two-wheeler for errands. Amma cannot afford the rickshaw or the Cab as it will eat into her pension money. She is in tears. I have assured her, I will send her some extra.’
The TV was still continuing with its studio debates on how Descooterization will affect the common man since every household now had 1 two-wheeler and in most cases, multiple ones. They were low on maintenance and gave good mileage. It was easy to ride for all ages and was convenient to go around the neighbourhood.
The TV presenter reported, ‘Descooterization will bring about a social change. Imagine pollution free cities of the future. Our children will breathe fresh air. Even the companies manufacturing the motor bikes have come up with options wherein, you can exchange your motor bike or scooter for 2 bicycles. You can use the scooter helmets when riding your bicycles. Remember, the helmet is must for safe riding.’
The phone rang again. It was an inconsolable Mr. Ghatak on the phone.
‘Rohit, I had purchased this 125cc scooter only a week back. Now what will I do. I cannot ride it, anymore. I had planned to use it to come to office, only 20 kms away.‘
‘Use the public transport,’ Rohit said trying to pacify him.
‘I bought the scooter to avoid the public transport. It is bursting at its seams with overcrowding.’
‘Why don’t you exchange it for bicycles and use them to come to office,’ Rohit said.
Mr. Ghatak muttered something which was unprintable.
‘Rohit, 20 kms on the bicycle. Not only it will take me 2 hours to reach, I could also get killed on the road. There are no cycle-only lanes. I will be too exhausted by the time I reach office. ‘
‘What? You want everything in one day? Give the government 30 days. They will get this sorted and have cycle-only lanes soon. Use your scooter helmet when riding the bicycle. ‘
After listening to Rohit pacifying others, Ragini asked, ‘By the way, how do you plan to go to office tomorrow without your scooter?’
‘Haha.. We will take the children’s bicycle. We both can go double seat on the cycle. Imagine, we will have so much time for loving talks, just like old times. And then once you drop me there, you can come back on the bicycle. Where there is will, there is a way,’ he grinned.
‘I would rather the government implement the PUC more strictly and penalize errant riders,’ said Ragini giving him a non-committal look.
The next two months were utter chaos on the roads. There were too many bicycles on the road. There was no place to ride it. They took over the side lanes, the alleys and the footpaths. The four wheeler vehicles had to stick to the middle of the road in one single line while the bicycles took over the road.
Many training centers cropped up to teach riding on a bicycle especially for women. They have a 2 day super crash course which guarantees to teach you bicycling. The regular course is for 2 weeks. The fees have been hiked by 200% though. The auto and cab fares went up by 20% as they had to suffer commuting in a single line instead of cutting across lanes or riding over the footpaths.
The prices of bicycles had also been increased to cater to the demand. There are low cost ones to cater to the poor, but they are hardly available in the market. There was a waiting list for them. People could still pay additional money and cut through the queue. But, there was a waiting list for those who cut the queue.
The same TV Presenter reported the benefits of Descooterization after two months.
‘People are slimmer and healthier. The air is cleaner. Air pollution and subsequently noise pollution has come down. Bicycle models, trainings institutes and their prices shot through the roof but it was all for the greater good of society.’ and then with a choked voice she said, ‘We must sacrifice.’ She paused to let the words sink in deep into the audience’s souls.
She cleared her throat and continued, ‘the public transport became more crowded. People who could inhale in the trains and buses comfortably earlier could now only take half of those breaths. But the positive side was they developed more resistance and improved on inhaling capacity. The lungs have become stronger as they have to perform less now. Everyone is happy with Descooterization.’
Then came the second announcement which was two months after the first one. It played out as below.
The TV screens flashed to stand by for another announcement by the government.
‘After listening to people’s woes and understanding their problems first hand, the government has decided to roll back Descooterization.’
‘But they will never agree to their failure in implementing the cycle lanes, or creating better modes of transport. In all this chaos, the only ones who benefited was the bicycle and the two wheeler motor cycle industry, ‘ Ragini said as she reminisced about her beloved Scooter which she had exchanged for two bicycles.