Of the several inflection points in the evolution of man, the invention of the wheel has occupied a place of prominence that is unrivaled Wheels have powered mankind’s evolution. Wheels within wheels have taken it to a different level. For now, we’ll stick to wheels!
The wheel, once upon a time it was plain functional. It lent itself well for the making of pots and utensils or for a slightly more glamorous utilitarian attachment to carts, wagons et al for transport.
Wikipedia will lead you to the information that it wasn’t until 1839 that someone thought of ‘balance’ and invented the bicycle. God bless his soul. Man obviously didn’t stop with bicycle and two wheels. While four wheels have become de rigueur in most urban homes, the ordinary man on the street has to be content with a couple of wheels less. Or atleast one less!
This post celebrates the ‘cycle’ in India!
There can be no instrument that is as grossly under rated as this humble piece of engineering! We could put a man on the moon, but to an average Indian, we would have truly arrived on any planet only when a bicycle ride is possible.
Around the world, the bicycle is synonymous with calorie burning or as contraption to save the planet. For many in India and other nations though, it is a basic means to livelihood. Here are a few examples.
Ask the laundry guy. The clothes of an entire neighbourhood (which can get as big as a small country), gets rolled into bigger bed sheets, and carefully bundled on to become big lumps that helped balance. Taken for a wash and a press. An entire industry survives. A neighbourhood walks fresh and sprightly!
The rickshaw and the tricycle continue to be lynchpins in transporting people in many parts of rural India. The power of bulging human calfs, heaving biceps and ballooning invisible lungs doing the work that infinitely more powerful inanimate engines do around the world.
While this can seem to be all romantic and such else, the bicycles last mile connect to the business world can be missed only at the cost of being comfortable with the idea that this blog is operating beyond the outer limits of its mental capabilities.
The refills, the trips for money collections, the market visits to the local corner store, all happen more often than not on a bicycle. Equipped with specially designed carry cases that could teach design studios a thing or two about innovation.
The list is long. Newspaper delivery. Cooking Gas. Courier services. Groceries. And so on. The bicycle has often proven that putting all eggs into one carrier is often not a bad idea, but a necessary pre-requisite for business.
Stories abound about how bicycles have been used for generating electricity to the Mysore palace and similar stories that would flare your ears and stretch your imagination when you try answering the question : ‘What else?”
News when nestled within the columns of a newspaper take a different shape and hue when something similar is spotted in real life. For instance, a bicycle that can transport and help sharpen knives when stationary. A contraption that comes alive by pedaling a stationary bicycle thereby getting a different stone wheel to rotate! Which sharpens knives!
Wheels within wheels and sharpening of knives could well sound like tales of palace intrigue and politics. But if this ingenuity and spirit of making it possible, shapes our lives, our collective futures will take to a different height by a factor that can be too high to compute.