(Pic credit: Google images)
Warning: Loooooong post ahead. Something I wrote ages ago. I never claimed I was 20 in the recent past 🙂
THE ad had put it very succinctly — Simple riding machine. And here I was wondering why on earth my Sunny had come to a splutter, splutter, stop right in the middle of the road.
My friendly neighbourhood pal came along. I had a woebegone expression on my face. My friend came at his own pace. The peering eyes and the mocking faces at the nearby vegetablewallahs made me sink in embarrassment.
He came over; he peered at the vehicle. And burst into a loud guffaw. Arre! The petrol switch is not on! What, I countered, “How did I manage to drive this far?”
Believe me! This incident was only just the beginning of my travails. I had a two-week deadline to meet before I was back at my campus at Nagpur University. I had to learn driving otherwise I was at the crossroads, waiting endlessly for buses with erratic timings. Or I was an outcaste, if I continued taking lifts from campus mates.
Within a week I managed to steer the vehicle sans any help. Since there were no indicators, the problem was showing hand signals for turns. I had an easy way out, I would honk, or scream, depending upon the circumstances.
Two weeks were soon over. I had graduated to taking my lil’ lightweight brother on the pillion. His encouragement was more than I had bargained for. A simple fall was easily converted into chest pain. Excuse for him to bunk school the next day.
Light-hearted, after reassurances from my father and endless fights with big brother, and a saddened expression on lil’ brother’s face (no more cooked up excuses) I was promised that my Sunny would join me within a month. How it would reach Nagpur, hundreds of miles away, was their problem, not mine.
Life continued as usual, in a whirl. When I told my friends that I would soon have a vehicle with me, their attitudes changed, for the better. They became friendlier and gave me as much as lifts as I would want.
Finally my weekly pleas over the phone bore fruit. One hot evening in April, I stood on the railway platform waiting in anticipation. As the coolie opened the door of the brake van of the Gorakhpur Express, a thrill went down my spine. I could assert my independence at last.
But it was not to be. There was no metallic brown Sunny shining in all its brilliance. There was an old worn out scooter and a few rice bags. So much so for all my brouhaha about independence and assertiveness.
I cried and cried throughout the night. With friends also doubling up as enemies for company, a parody was even made of my favourite song from Bombay, Tu Hi Re, to rhyme with the condition I was in.
Umpteen visits to the railway station and complaints reaching the upper echelons of the Nagpur railway station, my Sunny reached Nagpur 13 days later, having traveled all the way to Bilaspur on a different train.
I showed off my teeny-weeny vehicle like a prize catch. And embarked on my first ever journey on Nagpur roads.
All was smooth sailing till I reached the campus perched on a hilltop. I drove along, only to realise to my horror, that what was to be a climb had turned to be a descent. I was hurtling down the National Highway and I didn’t know how to stop my vehicle.
Then I heard a bike stop beside me. It was my friend Sanju!
“What are you trying to do? Kill yourself? Don’t you know that you have to accelerate at full speed to go up the hill?”
I smiled like a dimwit. The kind who laughs at a joke hours later.
Prodded on my Sanju, I learnt a driving lesson. To reach the campus safely. Only to be met with jeers.
Not only my department but also the whole campus had heard of my ‘heroic’ act. The standing joke was that I no longer needed lifts; I needed escorts when I drove my Sunny. One even went so far to say that if he had a camera he would have recorded the scene for posterity.
Undeterred I continued on my frequent drives. Driving my Sunny with a straight face (I wouldn’t even know if someone hit me from the left or the right!) Waiting for cows to cross the road. Cycle rickshaws to pass by. Wobbling dangerously in crowded bylanes.
My cousins taught me a few tricks of the trade. Like if a traffic policeman caught me, to bawl loudly, crying bhaiya, maaf kar do.
They were quite sure by the end of the week I would have more brothers than I had ever imagined.
Slowly, I learnt. Went on long drives. Took a six-footer hulk of a brother on the pillion. Explored the city alone. Till I knew it like the back of my hand (Sunny, ahem!)
In the meanwhile, I also got my driving licence on my first attempt (the friend who accompanied me still swears that I winked at the policeman!)
I set my sights even higher. I learnt to ride a LML Vespa, the archaic 4-gear Priya scooter and the Bajaj M-80. Unfortunately my dreams of learning to ride a Yamaha were nipped in the bud by a colleague who simply put his advice into two words, “Grow tall”.
At 20, there was no chance of me adding inches to my puny frame. So I stuck to my simple riding machine. I have no regrets. Life with my Sunny has been Easy Come. Easy Go for me all the way.