Tuesday, March 25, 2008

And this thing with Two Wheelers...

A two wheeler has always made me nervous. Be it a simple bicycle ("bike" in America, will henceforth be called "Bicycle" or "Cycle" in this post)or a complex Hayabusa. While I have been an ardent admirer of the simplicity and efficiency of the cycle as a personal means of transport and the awesome aura that a Hayabusa creates, I always have stepped back from a two-wheeler.
Maybe it has got something to do with how Gopan, a childhood friend a few years older, taught me to ride a cycle. He went to the little down nearby and got a cycle for rent. It was one of those older Hercules', with curved handlebars, and a bit too big for me. Which incidentally I didn't realize until it was too late. Running in front of home was this unpaved road, the stony kind, which gets real ugly in the Kerala monsoon. In summer, the sharp edged stones would pop out, making it really unfit for walking (unless you had one of those CAT boots on) and only slightly fit for any vehicle other than the old Mahindra jeep. The road passed in front of our house and then rose onto a steep climb, one of those which you think of tackling with a third gear, but then have to shift to a second, and maayy be onto that first. There was a telephone post right on top of that climb and this was the crucial element of Gopan's tutelage.

"This is all child's play" grinned Gopan. I guess I am pretty bad at reading people's faces. That devilish look was not really hard to spot. But then the enthusiasm of being mobile eclipsed all the anxiety.

We wheeled the cycle to the top of the slope and Gopan leaned the cycle against that post there. The instructions were pretty straight-forward. I would get on top of the cycle, Gopan would walk down the slope and wait for me there. Once I was ready, I just needed to give the post a gentle push, get hold of the handlebars, try to keep the legs on the pedals, and balance the whole thing - me, the cycle and all that. "Meet you at the bottom", he said and walked off.

I climbed onto it, and sat on the seat. Sat might be too polished a word; I managed to perch on top of it. I saw Gopan at the bottom of the hill. Somehow, the both of us had forgotten that the road was not smooth, and that there existed a concept called brakes. I pushed against the post, and down went the cycle, with me screaming on it. I really did not know what happened, because I had my eyes closed, but I do remember that my feet wouldn't really reach the pedals, and that it really was a bumpy ride. I cursed the "Contractor" Gopalakrishnan who had paved the road, I cursed Hercules for making huge cycles, and of course, the smiling Gopan.

That lesson perhaps instilled a permanent fear of two wheelers in my mind, and made me realize that my center of gravity if a feet in front of me. How else can you explain the numerous times that I have fallen, sometimes for no reason at all?

In the dorm, Chacko Jose and Azher would wait every Saturday morning to see me fetch two buckets of water from the bathroom and the come down crashing when I reach the door.

But then somehow, I did master the Bicycle. Amma's running around behind me, balancing me helped.

But motorcycles were still (are still) a nay.

It was in the first year of college, while we were going home to fetch a record that Chacko urged me to shed my inhibitions and try. It was Nitin's Blue Sunny. Now, a Sunny is a vehicle that can do you no harm. It is small, manageable, has no gears, and even 7 year old kids drive it around.

But then, this was me.

We (me-kins the mahout) were driving perfectly, the road being straight and there being no other vehicles, until the formidable enemy became visible. The Curve. Now everyone had forced into my head that a curve should be taken slowly, but then I somehow managed to mess up. The accelerator got a twist, the Sunny neighed like Shivaji's horse e Chetak, and before we knew, both of us were on the ground. CBM college stands right by the curve and there were a lot of pretty dames coming out. Chacko realized in an instant the depreciation this would cause to our face value. With the same swift motion with which Alexander would have mounted Beucephalus, he straightened the scooter and got on top of it. Not to be outdone, I grabbed the back seat and climbed on, and in an instant we were off. Even before anyone could set sight on us. wow!!

Nitin was heartbroken, and of course hasn't trusted me with a vehicle since then (I myself have not), and we painted the Sunny a sparkling blue where the paint had worn off.

From then on, I never really have tried my hand on a two-wheeler, except when we got that scooter of our own in the final year. Anoop and I. He always encouraged me to try my hand, and while returning from our project place, on the lonely roads, in the silent nights, when my loud singing from the backseat gets unbearable, he would gently stop the scooter by the side and hand me the reins. I never have messed up on that one, but that was the last motorcycle I have driven.


Sanna said...

hehe, that was very sweet! I still remember the time my cousin Naveen taught me to drive a TVS 50 in the narrow roads of my home-town (must have been the same contractor ;)) A few minutes into my tyrst with driving, an old man from nowhere emerged in the middle of the damn road. Not wanting to deal with it, I shut my eyes tight and asked "Naveen? is he gone?"; he said "if you don't open your eyes now and pull the brakes, he will be". Luckily for me, the old man was sprightly enough to jump out of my way and Naveen was smart enough to get a hold of the handle bar from behind. From then, legend is that old men and women in Trichy lock themselves in when they hear i am out driving :D

Anonymous said...

Now I know why we fell! It was all because of your misplaced center-of-gravity! That's right! Never mind that I had bad vision and was day-dreaming! It was you - you hippie!

Hari said...

That was really good ..you can add the experience driving our one and only fiat car :)