So Long, Unicorn, And Thanks For All The Fun

June 12, 2009

The world consists of two kinds of people, as I’ve had occasion to note before: two-wheeler riders, and others. The others might be car drivers, auto drivers, truck drivers, bus drivers, pushcart drivers, even pedestrians; but if they don’t have a passion for two-wheelers, they are ‘others’.

I’ve been a happy two-wheeler-ist since I was 18. My parents did me the favour of teaching me to drive a car, and then scraped together their savings and dipped in to my education fund to buy me the best automatic (I mean, gearless) two wheeler available in those days: a bright red Kinetic Honda. I practically taught myself to ride, and in a week, I was driving myself from Panchkula to college in Chandigarh, much to my delight. (Now that I think of it, my parents must have been incredibly brave to let me do this.) Back then, I remember, 3 litres of petrol cost Rs 50 and lasted me a week. The good ol’ days…

That Kinie came all the way to Bangalore with me after marriage and saw us through a few adventures here before I was forced to sell it. It broke my heart to see it go, but, back then, we were moving to the US, possibly for good (which, in those heady days, meant anything from one year to one generation or more).

When we returned from the US, I bought a Scooty. This trusty steed served me well for many years, and I finally sold it only in 2006, when I already had my new bike and didn’t need it any more. It wasn’t working too well by then, but the colleague I sold it to was so delighted to finally get her own set of wheels, she didn’t mind. Besides, I practically gave it to her.

The new bike, a Honda Unicorn,29052009019 was a motorcycle, something I’d been dying to ride ever since I went shopping for my first two-wheeler at the tender age of 18. So I was over 30 when I finally got it. So what? I loved it the more for having had to wait so long. (I’ve written lots about it already, so I’ll try to keep this short.)

While I was working, I rode the bike to office and back – about 20 km return every day. That was fantastic. Looking back, and looking at traffic the way it is now, I’d have to admit that it might not have been very safe (my ever-present helmet notwithstanding). But at the time I didn’t see anything risky about it.

When I stopped working, and after the kids came, opportunities to ride the bike were few and far-between. Too many times, I had to take it out just to take it out and keep it running. Then, maintenance became an issue: vehicles hate to be kept standing and deteriorate alarmingly quickly. I should have sold it months ago, before it entirely stopped working, but it’s difficult to listen to good sense when your heart isn’t in it.

And now I really don’t have a choice. Most of my driving will now revolve around the kids and Amit is adamant that they will not sit on a two-wheeler until they are 18 – at least. So the bike hardly ever gets to go out. Now the battery has died completely, which makes taking it out a real chore, having to kick-start it everywhere.

So I finally did what I should have done long ago: I put it up for sale. At the same time, I took it for servicing: it might as well be in working condition when it goes. Buyers are coming to look at it over the weekend. I still don’t want to part with it, but now I really, really should.

By Monday morning, I expect, it will be gone. And then, I will no-longer be a two-wheeler-ist – ever again; I’ll always be just one of the ‘others’.

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Nike – But Please Don’t Just Do It

May 22, 2006
I was standing quietly at a traffic light – a red light, mind you – on Ring Road, minding my own business, waiting for the light to change, when a Maruti 800 drove over my foot!

Now, to be absolutely honest, it didn’t feel like a Maruti 800; it felt like someone had stepped on my foot. So I wasn’t in any great pain. But I was hopping mad.

For one thing, it was my left foot, which means that it was on the right side of the car – i.e., the driver’s side. So it wasn’t as if he couldn’t have seen it if he wanted to.

For another thing, how can you just go and drive over some poor, hapless two-wheeler-rider’s foot without the slightest provocation? I mean, it just isn’t on.

Well, as I say, I wasn’t really hurt and anyway the light had changed and the car had gone ahead. Being on my rattletrap Scooty, it looked unlikely that I could catch up with him, so there wasn’t anything I could do, so I just continued on my way.

Strangely enough, the Maruti 800 went a good bit down the ring road and then pulled over to the left. Whether the fellow had to take a leak, or whether he was waiting for me to catch up so he could make amends, I don’t know, and I didn’t bother to find out. I pulled up next to him and let him have it the best I could. To his credit, he didn’t try to turn the blame on me, or even to defend himself. He made guttural, placatory noises while chewing gum at me like a cow chewing the cud. So, having let off a bit of steam (but nowhere near enough) and having refused to let him get a word in edgeways, I drove off.

(The whole effect was somewhat diluted by the fact that my stupid Scooty stalled on me and I had to use my left foot to kick-start it, thus wonderfully demonstrating that there was, in fact, nothing in the least bit wrong with my foot.)

I had already noticed that his car had a Delhi license number. Is it just my prejudice or is it true that Delhi drivers are much more ruthless, callous and utterly lacking in the least bit of courtesy than the rest of the modern world?

Anyway, my foot is fine – thank goodness for my Nike sneakers!


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