Today was one of those days. I cycle to work now; I have now been cycling for about two weeks. It’s about 25km a day to and fro in the busy streets of central London; funnily enough I seem to like it. My backside was in protest every single day, since it never had been pressed against such a solid surface as the hard bike saddle in about three years, but now it seems to have accepted that giving me relentless pain is not really going to change things.
I went to work today, normal day in the first half – but something about the second half after lunch just wasn’t right. I had a deadline today and was really busy trying to get the drawings out, and working for a seemingly I-am-recovering-from-a-hangover senior colleague who is directly responsible for the project and hence has his backside is in the firing is not very easy. I managed to get work done and left work about 15 minutes late, which is about average.
I very reluctantly had to cycle off route for about 10 minutes to go to Liverpool Street to get something. I locked my bike into a custom made post where other bicycles were parked and went rather hurriedly to Liverpool street and came back to find my bike vandalised.
Mine was a glittering new bike amidst some other hacked or relatively old ones, and someone who really didn’t like seeing it in its well, errm virgin state thought he or she will do me a favour by trying to damage it for the first time. The chain was pulled out and everything was a mess, the vandal had tried more things but evidently didn’t get enough time to do his thing and go. I dirtied myself and spent at least 15 minutes trying to get the complicated gear chaining system in place, fifteen minutes is a long time because it takes me only half an hour to ride home. I pushed the bike to the nearest restaurant to get tissues to wipe my very dirty greasy hands and then started riding back.
I was a bit upset, mixed emotions really. You know that feeling when you buy a new ipad and it falls for the very first time and gets scratched all over? Well it was that with frustration and anger really, anger that some people out there just have fun by causing another unnecessary suffering.
Riding home, past my office again since I had to go in the other direction and went riding in my usual direction home, one hour later than when I usually past that spot. Riding on, I was just not in the mood to take on the slope that was coming, I cut across a park where I thought I may be able to avoid the slope and when I went in I got lost, well not lost in the usual sense – I could have just gone back and taken the usual route, but because of the day’s developments I just couldn’t be bothered.
I just shouted at a fellow cyclist, told him where I wanted to go and after some thought, still riding parallel to each other he said ‘just follow me’ and I did. We went through the park, a really nice one – would be my new route home.
Riding parallel to him we got to speak a bit, I mean we can’t be riding together and just ignore each other can we. Besides this man was doing me a favour, so I just asked him if he was from around here and surprisingly he gave me a fairly detailed response – bear in mind we were still cycling. I was surprised because, after a hard day’s work (and Brazil playing a world cup football match tonight) you usually would want to get on with it and not really spend time with some random stranger.
He asked me where I was from, what I do and the usual.
I told him I was originally from Sri Lanka – and he instantly went ‘I knew you must be from Sri Lanka!’ I was pleasantly taken aback really. ‘That’s surprising, given that I can also be mistaken for an Indian’ I said, ‘well, Indians have several faces, and the Sri Lankan look is more consistent’ he went on. And if I am quoting correctly, he said something like ‘you know what mostly made me think you were Sri Lankan? Your smile – you have a very Sri Lankan smile’.
Now this was different, very very different – first of all I don’t smile like this (pun intended), Secondly I am not really known amongst my friends as a ‘Smiler’ of the smiling kind! My sisters will bet all their buttering skills (buttering in the Sri Lankan sense) to say that I don’t smile! Thirdly, I was actually proud and happy for the fact that a non-Sri Lankan European associated a ‘smile’ with Sri Lankans.
We came out of the park and just as we were going back onto the main road my bike gave a weird noise. We stopped to inspect it and I realised a 65mm steel nail had pierced my tyre from the slightest of angles, the angle was so slight that it had gone in from one side and the other side of the nail was sticking out of the tyre – so two perforations.
What happened could easily have not happened if I had just moved 10mm away from where I came, it was so illogical to explain what happened that my new friend very aptly described it as ‘Sod’s Law.
I was told there was a bike shop close by, we walked to it and it was closed. I was getting a bit worried now. There are no tubes stations on that route and thinking of taking a bus with my bike on board is a joke! And unlike in Sri Lanka, we don’t have a bike repairing place (fondly known as a ‘vinkal’) at every junction.
My friend offered to go to his home and help me fix it. I was very much obliged, as I knew I really had no choice at all! Unless – well there was no ‘unless’.
We went to his house, which was a good 20 – 25 minute walk and he pushed his bike alongside mine. I had a very uneasy feeling; you know that feeling where a stranger goes through all that trouble just because I was in difficulty. I mean he could have easily said ‘Sorry about what happened mate, hope you get that sorted’ and cycled on his way, and if he did do that it would still be understandable, surely people do have other work to do.
We spoke of a lot of things; he had travelled a lot in Sri Lanka and absolutely loved it! And he had proposed to his wife in Sri Lanka, just at that moment I remembered a few female bloggers/tweeters who may have gone ‘awww’ if they were there ha! He had a decent knowledge of the Sri Lankan and global political scene and what we spoke about is a blog post in itself. Decent from the amount we spoke, but I don’t enough to deny the fact that he may be someone really well read on these matters.
We later shook hands and introduced ourselves, his name is James.
We went to his house and he genuinely took a lot of trouble to help me fix the puncture, borrowing tools, dirtying himself and the usual stuff that involves fixing a puncture. Whilst we were at it, I did remark – and I meant it when I said ‘I am sorry for all the inconvenience, I guess you are missing the Brazil match to be stuck helping me out’, and he went ‘I guess that can’t be avoided cuz you need help, but what I really may miss is reading a story to my little boy’. I was introduced to his son as we came to his house.
After a good dinner, and at the comfort of my room – when I look back, I don’t regret anything that took place today, however malicious or regretful they may have been when they did take place.
When my bike was vandalised, it was so unnecessary, something I really didn’t deserve and something about that incident just didn’t fit in place that I thought – surely, surely there must be some good in this happening to me, and may be in the grand scheme of things this will actually be a good thing.
I got lost, and I found someone who was kind enough to direct me – just then I got a puncture in the middle of nowhere, and if I hadn’t met James I really wouldn’t know what would have happened. Hell! I may still not be at home!
What if I never had to go off route to Liverpool Street? What if my bike was not vandalised? What if I was not tired, and did not get lost? What if I was just 10mm to the right or left and the nail never pierced? Answers to which I will never know. God works in mysterious ways, and I am ever so grateful for the dangerous precision in which his mystery has worked to my benefit.
This post doesn’t do justice to what James did for me, it was a great help that he did and the way he did it was unexplainably refreshing amidst all the negativities we see around us, all we have to do is just look.
Not to be politically incorrect, but if someone in Sri Lanka, where everyone looks like me and talks like me and understands me better did what James did, I won’t make a scene of it. But believe me when I say that in here, in London, where I am as significant to the great city as a dead twig is to the Amazon, and where most people are understandably just too busy to help someone, having James to help me just at that moment is simply just one of those rare things!
This is my one hundredth post, and it is only apt that I dedicate this post to you James, cheers mate!