Thursday, May 05, 2005

Motorcycle Diaries (?!)

Ah, the trick of improvising upon a famous name for your blog title to catch the reader's attention!

Much as I would like this to be a post about a road-trip, self-discovery and revolution, it's just about yesterday's drive back home from work. But then, I'm getting ahead of myself now.

First the background.

I began driving to work recently. Now, now, I know me "driving to work" could possibly conjure images in your heads of a dashing, handsome (ahem!) guy in a convertible, speeding down the freeway with the wind in his hair and the music turned up loud, but the reality is my "drive" is a 20 minute ride on a second-hand Suzuki-Max100R motorcycle, through traffic which is as about as peaceful and as calm as a coop full of new-born chickens.

My bike is a different matter altogether. In fact, it's in quite good condition despite being second-hand. Except for a few...err...shortcomings. They are not much if you closely observe the bikes that ply on our roads.

It's just that the horn sounds as though it has a sore throat; but then nobody heeds the horn anyway! The indicators don't work, and to make matters worse, the kicker came off its joint a couple of days ago. I somehow fitted it back on and am still to get it repaired. Add to this a gearbox which makes strange, very "ungearbox"-like noises, and you get a very good idea of the "mean-machine" that my bike is.

Then there are other petty issues of me not having a licence and driving around on the bike without the proper papers, but then these are minor issues when compared with the others. Also, in true biker tradition, I always run the thing on reserve fuel.

So, getting back to the story, yesterday evening after work, a friend - whom I shall refer to as S since he is not too keen on featuring in my blog - and I left for home (we and a couple of other colleagues stay together in a flat - "home"). Now S is a rather queer...err...weird chap. He gets rather excited...err...thrilled when he gets a chance to sit on the pillion of someone's bike. Not knowing this, I - ever the good Samaritan - volunteered to give him a lift. Now like I had said before, I don't have a licence - neither does S - and the bike has no papers, which makes driving through Teynampet and T.Nagar as legal as selling dope to the Pope - no offence meant to the church!

Anyway, we set off - me keeping one eye on the road and the other on the I'll-drop-off-anytime kicker. Everything goes smoothly, and we approach Teynampet juction. And suddenly my keen eyes observe that I have another 10 seconds to get across. So, I do my best imitation of Trinity on the Ducati in the 'Matrix Reloaded' (with S playing the key-maker), weave - "weave" as in overtaking rapidly moving bicycles and fleeing-for-life pedestrians - through the traffic, and just as I'm about to get through, the lights turn red, and mamu - the traffic cop - runs across the road waving his lighted baton, a la Obi-Wan Kenobi. I slam the brakes , and bring the bike to a halt, just in time before the stop line - the force was with me I guess! Mamu looks at me, Master Luke, this is not the way a Jedi Knight should drive. I put on my best I-have-a-licence-I-pay-road-tax-You-dare-not pull-me-over look, mamu gets the message, and goes back to practising light-saber moves. S butts in to say. "Drive conservatively man, like Rahul Dravid" (yeah, and Dravid doesn't know how to drive a geared motorcycle yet!). Huh? I shrug off the wise-crack, but I wasn't to know he was just warming up!

So, the lights eventually turned green, and I'm back to weaving past rapidly moving bicycles and fleeing-for-life pedestrians, paying no attention to the chicks on Scooties going past me (at least I pretended not to - no use getting my ego bruised in my 'old' age I figure). We enter Pondy Bazzaar, and the traffic slows to a crawl.

Two weeks of driving on this route have endowed me with all the necessary skills to drive anywhere else in the world. I step up and down through the gears with consummate ease, row through the traffic with my feet, only to see a fleet of vehicles confront me at Panagal Park....groan! Not agaaaain! And all through this emotionally-draining, nerve-wracking, character-building exercise, S keeps offering gyaan from the back-seat - "There's a fine line between the amount of clutch and the extent to which you open the throttle", "You could have gone through that gap; it's big enough for a lorry", "This is how you learn to drive man!", "Your bike is gassing the guy behind; go easy on the throttle!"...and I began to get a feel for what Formula-1 drivers must be going through, what with all the radio talk from the pits - "A little to the right, a little to the left, ah that's better", "You are about to blow up; better come in", "Your pizza just arrived; mind if I take a bite??", "You just got divorced mate!"...Sheesh!

Anyway, traffic in Panagal Park always reminds me of a river turning a bend; but it's just that the river looks a helluva lot prettier than this machine maze! And yesterday was no better. So, back to rowing and weaving it was. But in a rare moment of weakness, I let go of the clutch too quickly and the darned bike stalls. Muttering profanities, I urgently try to kick the bike to life and bzzziiiinggg...the I-just-need-an-excuse-to-fall-off kicker goes flying! Yikes! An orchestra of horns howl out from behind, not to mention cars, buses and other wheeled contraptions whizzing past. The bike had absolutely no bloody business giving up on me like that right there! To give you an idea of the gravity of the situation, just imagine you were among those whom Moses led across the Red Sea and you just fell down! A biblical plight indeed mine was! So, it was meet-the-maker time, and drawing inspiration from Tom Cruise and Mission Impossible, I stretch out, retrieve the accursed thing, get it back on, start the bike, and get going. Phew! Just imagine, there are guys who do this for stunts and thrills!!

So, with considerable application of my latent driving talent, not to mention my well-honed self-preservation skills, we somehow make our way through the madness to Doraiswamy subway, where the traffic always eases a bit.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I step up the gears and speed down the subway. The subway runs under the railway line, and as I approach its trough, the rear of a brand new Hyundai Accent looms up frighteningly fast. I hit the brakes, step down the gears, slip through the narrow gap between the car and the subway wall, and emerge in front of the vehicle - all this out of sheer instinct and without thinking. I'm like Wow, Did I just do what I think I just did??!! when suddenly, a Red-Indian war cry breaks out behind me "WHHooooooooawww" - S again - "Let's do that again man!!", he says clapping his hands, as the other bikers look on in amazement. Yeah, Of course buddy! I almost say, but end up nodding my head stupidly, because only I know that my pulse rate just shot past 200! Whew!!! And to think there are people who don't believe in guardian angels!! Jeez!

Well, after that it was plain sailing to our flat, but I guess one near-death-life-flashing-before-the-eyes moment will do per day! And if Che Guevara was inspired to spawn a revolution after his road-trip, the least I could do was write a post about mine!


The Man Who Wasnt There said...

Cliched but you have lovely descriptive writing skills!! Your choice of words and style of writing makes one actually conjure up the images! Very vivid indeed! I could never do that! :( The same account I would have written as..
"Combination of nitpicking pillion rider+old bike+sans license+horrible roads=almost an accident. End result just as in life an anticlimax. I am still alive to write another blog. "

See you get what I mean?;) Not that I have ever been accused of taciturnity(in fact have been said to be quite verbose at times..) but me sort of the "big picture" guy so when it comes to got the wrong guy! Anyway keep writing....:)

musafir said...

@ girish...!: Thanks, I'm overwhelmed at your feedback!!

I get what you are driving at, but then that's the reason there are so many writers out there. I myself am a 'big picture' guy in reality, so it's amusing to see myself getting into the 'details' when I'm writing!

This was one of those 'keep the juices flowing' kinda posts. I was curious as to how much life I could add to a well-hashed subject!!

And I just noticed your comment for the previous post; have answered you there.

Will keep writing, and please keep dropping by!


. : A : . said...

Interesting post. A roadtrip adventure is a roadtrip adventure!


musafir said...

@ .:a:. : Yes, it sure is!

Brood Mode said...

Good description.... funny all the way! I'm wondering if i shud pity S (victim to ur gr8 driving) or u for putting up with him...

come to bangalore, just a day will do.u will love traffic in chennai.

musafir said...

Thanks - glad you appreciate it.

And no, thanks, Chennai will do for the time being!


musafir said...

@ brood mode: Thanks - glad you appreciate it.

And no, thanks, Chennai will do for the time being!


jack said...

Tom cruise is probably the most adventurous hollywood actor alive. reminds me alittle of Steve McQueen with all the bikes and cars. Must be nice to be able to spend £50,000 pounds on a custom built 170mph motorbike and not have to worry about the cost. one thing is for sure, I bet the bike insurance will be pretty hefty on his new machine. he must be obsessed with bikes, he already owns more than a dozen of them.