Yesterday I ended up seeing Jodhaa Akbar (a way to long movie, but this post isnt a review) and after seeing all the kings, generals and armies on horseback immediately reminded me of my most beloved possesion ever.
My own motorcycle, (technically belonged to my dad, bought with his money but I was the sole user)
I remembered the fights I went through for 2.5 years to buy this motorcycle, and how I finally settled for a cheaper model (a Splendor instead of a Hero Honda CBZ). HOw I cribbed in front of my friends and my obsession was made fun of by all and sundry.
I actually cried and threw temper tantrums at home, fought with Dad, Mom and Sis making this unreasonable demand. I still believe how lucky have I been,
Finally on 31st August 2001 I got hold of my motorcycle. Registration number MH-02 EA 7211. Hero Honda Splendor, Black colour, with a Lavender swoosh sign on the petrol tank. It has many many fond memories
Right in the middle of Santacruz flyover on the western express highway, with Avinash Mohan as pillion, and I was late for V.V. Mahajani's lecture. (The terror, as any student of Chemical Engineering in UDCT will tell you) I remember pushing the bike for a kilometer and half over the highway till I saw a puncture shop, and cars whizzing past me.
This was 4-5 days after I bought the bike, while commuting to college early morning around Dharavi (after turning left from Mahim Sion Link road towards Sion Hospital, I was trying to over take a taxi from the right, and the taxi squeezed me and I lost control of the bike, went over the tiny divider, facing the wrong side of the traffic and skidded and fell off. Thankfully escaped with minor bruises and scratches on my wrists shoulders and jacket torn around my left wrist.
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Hahahaha, this still brings out the smile in me. Hero Honda Splendor being a high mileage and a lower pickup bike this is usually unlikely.
But one fine day, during a break between the lectures, we wanted to photocopy a classmates (Chunnu) notes. Thus I went with Jaideep Raje on my motorcycle from my college to the photocopy center (Chandan Xerox). I had forgotten the petrol lock was on and after about 50m the motorcycle sputtered to a stop. I tried starting by kicking the kick start hard but no avail. Many of my classmates were around and making fun of me. Suddenly I realised and switched on the petrol lock and the engine roared to life. In order to act cool and not to show my disappointment, I revved up the accelarator, pushed into first gear, and let the clutch go lose, and lo and behold the front tyre defied gravity and the bike went up on the rear tyre, rising a couple of feet and travelling for a 4-5 meters or so before landing back up. If anything, the embarassment and jokes cracked on my riding inability went on further. Now I was the true laughing stock. (And Jaideep was petrified)
I could only get out of this by showing off I could do a wheelie at will, (by tuning up the engine and losening the valve from the tank to let more petrol flow down) But nothing was as spectacular as the first effort.
Best Single Ride
Sunday morning in October, not much to do, my bike had just completed the running in of 1000 km so now I could go over 60 kph. So without telling my parents I non chalantly go off in my shorts, T-shirt and chappals, wearing no helmet for a long ride from Andheri to BOrivali on the Western Express highway. the first time i cross 70 kph, and then 80, after a bit of coaxing do I reach 85 and then I see lightening and hear thunder. These are the retreating monsoons in mid october. It starts pouring cats and dogs. The visibility is bad, the road is slushy, but nothing matters. I am going the fastest I had ever been on a 2-wheeler, in the worst riding conditions, the wind is blowing in my face, (polluted with exhaust from the trucks and other vehicles) rain is hitting on my back, having no protection what so ever.
But nothing ever mattered. I crossed the Dahisar Check naka did a 3rd gear U-turn (another first for me) and came speeding back home. The whole feeling was exhilarating, I was drenched in the rain, and was down with a bitter cold for a week. But nothing mattered. I now was liberated. I had my own wings and I could fly.
First Big Bad Biking Trip
This happened in IIM Ahmedabad. Hitanshu Gandhi planned the trip from Ahmedabad to Junagadh via Rajkot, then the Gir National Park to see the Lions off to Somnath Temple to pray for our forgiveness, to Diu (out of the dry state of Gujarat to territory of unlimited cheap booze) and back to Ahmedabad via Amreli.
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Thus 1030 km in 53 hours, seeing Lions, visiting temples, fisher villages, drinking legitimate alcohol after a long time, those were the times.
This was also the first step in formation of the biking club "Freeriders". inspite of all promises to quit long distance biking after the back pains, the butt aches, we kept going again and again and again. Covered many national parks lakes and bird sanctuaries around Ahmedabad. This was the first time I cherished my bike more than just a machine. It gave me a new identity, and the temper tantrums, fights, tears spilled (who says boys dont cry) was completely worth it.
On the Freeriders trip to Dangs, we had left at 4 in the morning, there were 5 motorcycles and Sharath Coorg was my pillion rider. Going towards the Sardar Sarovar dam, we were on the old Ahmedabad Baroda highway and I was overtaking a truck (now you will see patterns in my accidents) and I was coming back to the left. Unfortunately in the bid to overtake I had veered too far right, and while coming back in I hit a divder. (The highway was a 2 lane without dividers for most of the journey, and suddenly this obstacle came in, being dark i didnt notice it, and went over it, lost balance and fell down at a high speed, myself and Sharath Coorg sliding on the road for 10-15 feet, and bike another 20 more feet. We were lucky to be alive, with the truck behind us breaking in time, and Abhilash Unnikrishsnan right behind us, swerving to avoid us. I was mentally shattered for a while, but thankfully all friends assembled around me, (Hitanshu, Narahari, Manu Raja, Sharath, Abhilash, Salman, Vaibhav Bhamoriya and Pixa). At that point I was thinking i might turn around and go home, may be never ride again. Then the words came to my mind, the Chumbawunba's song "I get knocked down, then I get up again ..." so off we went on the journey after a cuppa chai by the near by roadside chai-walla at the next junction (who just opened up at 5 AM. Off we went on, for another back breaking, 1000 km trip.
With Chirag Raisharma from UDCT Matunga to Andheri Bisleri Factory on the highway. Evening 4.30 PM
He had a 156 cc, Hero Honda CBZ. I had a 97.2 cc Hero Honda Splendor. But what I lacked in power, I made up in my skill, and my manouverability in the traffic. (or so I thought)
After fighting through the traffic and maintaining a narrow lead till Sion Hostpital, he raced ahead of me in Dharavi, just for me to catch up near Bandra Kurla Complex, as he sat idling at the traffic signal. Then on the stretch of open road, he went whizzing past and I realised a fact. Neither am I an athlete by any stretch of imagination, nor was my trusted bike. A nice commuter vehicle, givign decent mileage, could hold steady at 70 kph, but no racing machine.
My fastest Speed:
Though I have touched this speed many times, always when alone, the 95 kph barrier is one which my bike has never crossed. the first time was coming down the slope from the Santacruz flyover, accelarating further down the slope rather than decelarate or stop revving the accelarator as my a standard procedure.
The fastest I went with a pillion on was with Ashwin Prasad (Bamboo) when we (Along with hitanshu and Pixa on hitanshu's bike) were going to Idar for a day long bike trip. there I touched 90 on the flat streches of the road, where due to my bad shock absorbers I could feel the bump due to the lines painted on the highway.
This should never ever be done. during my internship at ICICI bank, Shashu, VJ, Jamun, Jhatku, Fraud and a few other friends were busy drinking beer one evening at Toto's in Bandra Pali hill. After a beer too many I was barely able to stand, let alone walk. But a glass of cold water, sheer will and determination got me back home. (Or may be I was simply lucky) Riding slowly on the left, only in 2nd and 3rd gear, I some how snaking through the traffic reached home after midnight.
Just to be scolded, screamt and shouted at by my Mum and Dad.
I guess I am lucky to be alive today to tell this tale, and the bike has long gone, sold to some one by the legal owner (my dad) when I left for London. I am thus dependant on the public transport, the corwded tubes and buses of London, the expensive black cabs which cost an arm and a leg. I feel inspite of all the good times, I have been lucky to have the motorbike ride it for 20,000 km without any permanant disability inspite of my lack of athletic ability, slow reflexes and devil may care attitude.
I doubt the attachment and the charm of the first vehicle will ever be matched by anything i might ever buy again, (who knows i am yet to buy a car, or any other expensive gadget) Just like the scars and marks left on the bike by me the bike has left its permanant impression on me, changed the person who I am.