Ride or Die—How We Ride at the MIT Campus

Pain.

Misery.

Frustration.

These are the only feelings my painkiller-addled brain is able to feel as I hobble along the pavement in front of my hostel block towards my chariot that awaits me.

Okay, it’s a pretty small buggy, but I’ve got crutches and a cast the size of South America on my right leg. Give a guy a break.

Aside from the obvious concern, the few sympathy points that my professors dole out are worth hauling my battered and bruised self from off my bed and into my cramped college class. I’d be vegetating in my room, wallowing in my misery, had these buggies not swooped in and saved my neck. For a price of only 30 rupees, I get both the leg room (yes, I’m aware of the irony of that statement) and feel the wind rustling through my hair as if I’m in a low-budget 90’s Bollywood film.

That’s right, folks. We’re travelling in style.

Today though, I’d prefer the wind directing its fury somewhere else. Not at my hair that I can’t brush away lest I release my crutches and subsequently topple over and seal my other leg’s fate, and not at my jacket that flails about in the wind, twisting and turning onto my temporary wooden leg like a stubborn grapevine. I gingerly climb into the buggy, grumbling every two seconds as either my crutch or my pants catch onto the bottom of the car, my sling bag sliding off my shoulder with every clumsy attempt at holding my crutches steady.

When I finally – finally! – sit down, and the buggy lurches forward. I’m convinced I’ve reached a new form of hell. Surely this is punishment for bombing my chemistry practicals. I gaze at the many students trudging up the sloping roads as I whizz past them, not finding the heart to call them suckers for having to walk while I get to ride. Because truth be told, I’d kill to be in their shoes right now.

The trees become a blur of green as the buggy rattles along the street, and the air smells damp and mossy, giving me a sinking feeling in my stomach.

The air hangs low and nips at my nose as I zoom past the trees, my stomach is tied in suspicious knots, but my brain is unwilling to recognise the feeling. Flanking me, the murky green of the trees all echo one sentiment: victory.

The sudden halting of the buggy pulls me out of my daydream – or rather, my nightmare – and I’m immediately greeted by the ribs and teases from my friends as they circle my buggy in their bicycles, completely barricading the entrance to the block.

Hooligans.

However uncouth they may be, I don’t miss their concern as I am all but carried out like a bride on a palanquin and then steadied on the ground, both my crutches finding my pits.

My joy is short-lived.

They all ring the bell of their bicycles mockingly, one by one, almost as if they are paying their respects to the deceased (which, in this case, would be me), before smirking and entering the Academic Block. I try to list all the reasons I’m friends with them. At the moment, I’m coming up short. The class goes much the same way, with the incessant teasing and joking at the expense of my poor, bandaged leg. My favourite is when they all crouched in sync and groaned that their knee was hurting before dropping all pretences and doing the stanky leg.

I wave off all their offers to go out for lunch because Monday is a day of mourning and instead hop – sorry, limp – back into my buggy and rattle off towards my hostel. As I round the sloping turn that leads to my block, I feel my stomach swoop with anxiety and am hit with a wave of nausea.

I anticipate the coming turn with a rush of adrenaline. It is a treacherous task to swerve the sloping turn. Nevertheless, I love the unawareness of whether or not I pass the taunting test. The turn comes. And all I see is darkness. Excruciating pain and darkness.

I’m back in my hostel, and I can’t help feeling the embarrassment spreading inside of me. Ashamed that I’m traumatised by an uneventful event, I plop onto my bed, ignoring my roommate’s curious gaze. After only a minute of solace, he opens his mouth to ask, “hey, bro, I know your leg is broken, but you only live once. Why don’t you just ride the bike? It’s faster, more efficient, and it definitely looks cooler.” He furrows his eyebrows and adds, “plus, the bicycle stand is so close to our hostel. It’s way easier to just use them, right?”

I give him the deadliest stare I can muster.

We wait in silence for a few seconds.

A minute.

Two minutes.

But then I consider it.

“Well, to answer your stupid question,” I start, confused by my inability to keep track of this conversation, “if you had a working pair of eyes, you would notice that I have a broken leg.” He has the audacity to look ashamed.

“Besides, it’s 40 rupees for half an hour,” I add begrudgingly. I do not disclose to my roommate how the bicycle gave me my money’s worth and more, how exhilarated I felt with the wind whipping through my hair and the ground whooshing below me.

All I know is that the bicycle put me here, and for that, no matter the urgings of my friends, and no matter how cowardly I might look, I will never ride the bicycle again.

 Written By Adeela and Akansha for MTTN

Edited By Advaith Gurunath for MTTN

Featured Image by Aarushi Gogate for MTTN

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