Today, Nouf was extremely happy. She had just gotten the result of the final exams, and had passed with flying colors. All her teachers encouraged her and made a big fuss of her. Her parents too, like they had promised, had bought her a bicycle. Every minute or so, her glance would go involuntarily to where her new bike stood, and she thought “My previous bicycle had training wheels behind them, but this one doesn’t. Now I’ll get the real pleasure of riding a bike.”
That evening, Nouf went with her father to the nearest park, where she could practice riding the bike. When she got ready to sit, she started to feel a bit nervous. What if she fell? What if she got badly hurt? Nouf was not a very brave person, but she always wanted to learn new things, so she prepared herself. In the beginning, her father walked along with her, holding the bicycle. He showed her how to balance the bike, but after an hour, both returned home quietly. Nouf’s father was silent because he was tired out with all the exercise, and Nouf was quiet because she was disappointed that she had not yet learned how to ride the bike.
“It’s alright,” her father encouraged her. “It’s only the first time, you should not feel upset.”
“Baba, did you take a long time to learn how to ride a bike?” Nouf asked her father.
Her father thought for awhile. “Not really. I think I just learnt it myself, over time.” He sipped his coffee.
“Baba, can we go to the park again tomorrow?” asked Nouf, hopefully. Her father nodded.
“Of course, why not?”
The next day, they once again headed for the park and practiced, but it was still difficult for her to get the hang of it. She kept trying to balance the bike, but failed to. She even fell from her bike once, and started to cry at the sight of the cut on her knee.
Her father coaxed gently, “Get up, darling. Until you get rid of the fear of falling, you will never be able to learn how to ride the bike.”
“No, Baba, I will never be able to ride a bicycle. Even children younger than me can do it,” she replied, still crying.
“No, my dear. You will learn eventually, inshallah, but all you have to do is keep on riding it and practicing it until one day, you will find that you know how to ride it perfectly! Just don’t lose heart, okay?” he said, helping her up.
Nouf didn’t reply, but secretly, she did not believe her father.
The next afternoon, they made their way to the park, Nouf bringing her bike along half-heartedly. Seeing her lack of spirit, Nouf’s father laughed.
“No, Nouf, not like this. You should have spirit, and do this bravely!”
“No, Baba, you will see, I won’t be able to balance today either.”
“If you think like this, you actually won’t be able to do anything,” said her father, signs of annoyance appearing on his face.
Nouf was scared that he would stop helping her so she nodded. “Well, I’ll try.”
Today was her third day of practicing, yet she was still having trouble with the bike. Her father would leave the handles after a while to see if she could balance herself, but she would wiggle around and crash. A bunch of children were playing on the side, and they giggled as they watched Nouf trying to ride, unsuccessfully.
Her face soon turned red with anger. She pushed out, ready to lash out at them, but her father laid a warning hand against her shoulder.
“Let them say what they want. Ignore them.”
Extremely frustrated, she burst out loud, “That’s it! I’m not doing this anymore! I’ll never be able to ride a bike!” She insisted on going back home. When they entered, Nouf’s mother was very surprised to see them arrive so early. She asked them for the reason, and her father pointed to Nouf, whose face was still showing signs of her previous outburst.
A few minutes later, when her mother went to check on her daughter, she found her on the bed, crying, and sat down beside her.
“It’s okay, dear. Riding a bike isn’t that difficult, you know. You will soon get the hang of it.”
“But I won’t. Kids smaller than me can ride it, only I can’t! They were making fun of me for struggling to ride a bicycle! I would have scolded them if Baba hadn’t stopped me.”
“Don’t pay any attention to them,” said her mother. “If you care too much about what they think, you will never learn.”
But Nouf was not to be deterred from her point of view, and she thought that she was a failure at bike-riding anyway, so there was no use trying.
A few months passed, and soon the bicycle was forgotten. Then winter break arrived, and Nouf’s father had to go away on a business trip. Since she didn’t have to go to school, she was free the whole day, and got bored.
Suddenly, she remembered the bicycle in the backyard. ‘I’ll try it, just to see if I’m any better,’ she decided. Going outside, she took out the bike and started riding it. Her mother stared at her in surprise, but said nothing.
As usual, Nouf had some trouble balancing the bike, and because of all the furniture, her bicycle would shake, and she would put her feet down to stop it. She continued this for two hours, and for five days after that kept on doing that, every morning, for two hours.
On the sixth day, her mother was in the kitchen when she heard Nouf calling happily to her. She came outside,to see her daughter shouting excitedly, “Look, mum! I can balance the bike perfectly now!”
To demonstrate, she rode the bike all the way till the end of the hall without stopping once. Her mother applauded her. “Well done! Now, when father comes you must give him a surprise.”
So when her father came that day, she had a surprise for him. She told him to close his eyes, and, amused, he did so. When he opened them, he saw that Nouf was sitting on the long-forgotten bicycle, and riding it perfectly!
“Wonderful!” he laughed, in surprise. “How did you do it?”
“Well, I just kept everything you and mum said in mind, and then I practiced the last five days, until I got it. It’s not really that hard at all, you know.”
Her father nodded in approval. “Good. Nouf, now your next goal is to win the bike race in your school, okay?” Nouf nodded confidently. “Yes, inshallah.”
And so, the next year, added to Nouf’s collection of awards was a large trophy, won in the bike riding race.
“Don’t be afraid, keep going on, try harder!” Two years later, Nouf was telling her smaller brother while teaching him how to ride his bike.
Translated by: Maryam Sohaib
Written by: Naima Sohaib