A man with his bicycle—its back wheel’s spokes mangled and twisted, the rim crooked—comes to Bramhaiji Rao, a bicycle repairman sitting outside the park in Tanuku, a village in the West Godavari district.
“I have brought the spokes. Sometimes the air in the tyre goes out,” the man explains.
“I will fix it,” the repairman says.
“Fix the brake too,” the man says. He departs.
Brahmam, as he is known around here, has been plying his trade for 40 years, on the same stretch of the road. “I haven’t moved anywhere else for many years,” he says, yanking the chain from the teeth and loosening the bolts. “For some time, I was there,” he gestures nearby, “but always in the same area.”
He squats on his haunches, and plucks out a ring wrench and other tools, and starts working. His hands are supple. He keeps his instruments in a sack, and a wash basin filled with water helps him identify the perforations in the tubing. An air pump sits next to the paraphernalia. That, and the shade of the tree that looms out of the park, is all his workstation is.
Brahmam keeps all his things in a locked wooden box on the other side of the road. A bunch of well-worn tyres announce “Here cycles are repaired”.
“I attend to all makes of bicycles,” he says, “Ranger, SLR, and Zero cycles, and many other I don’t know the names of.”
As he examines the spokes that look like they have gone to meet their maker, he plucks wrenches from the heap of tools and loosens bolts. He turns the cycle topsy-turvy, and yanks the wheel from its place, sliding the worn tubing out. He too looks worn: veins popping under his sagging skin, muffled coughing, slightly stooping, much like one of the rickety old contraptions he puts again to use.
Aged 56 and “earning a hundred rupees on an average per day”, he is reconciled to his situation. “I used to repair motorcycles also,” he says, but then he couldn’t’ sustain it. His two sons do carpentry work, and his daughter is married off. “We earn our living through our work.”
To improve his earnings, “I applied for loan to open a small shop, but the loan never materialised.”
“I left it like that,” he says matter-of-factly, puffing on his cigarette, “I am continuing with the work like this.”
Over the years, the town flourished, developed, and all of that went past him. “Now there is more of everything,” he says, “more cycles, bikes and cars.”
The increased prices of food materials pinches him. “Now onions and vegetables are costly. So workers like us eat less curry than usual, and make do with less in many ways. It’s the tenor of life.”
Brahmam resides on 48 yards of land that the government gave him. “We haven’t been given relevant papers, though,” he says. Whenever he doesn’t get to do repairs, he borrows money for the day, and pays it off when he gets money next.
Recent prolonged strikes and bandhs haven’t affected him. Whether the state is united or bifurcated, “it doesn’t affect us much. Nobody asked me to close my work because I don’t have a shop.”
As the vehicles whiz past, kicking up dust, he turns the rim of the wheel, straightening out kinks and ironing out its twists. It’s just another day.
(G B S N P Varma is a freelance writer in Andhra Pradesh.)
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