I started riding 2-wheelers when I was in Class 6. The first motorcycle/moped I owned was a second hand Kinetic Luna which I shared with my sister and then graduated to a brand new Hero Puch (geared motor cycle) a few years later.
It was against the rules, coz I was driving without a license. We’ve gone triples too, me and my other tom-boyish friends. The traffic cops have seen us riding in school uniforms and we managed to give them the slip with our innocent smiles and flickering eyes (with head tilted to a side) pleading with him to let us go; as we catch the cop's reflection in our side-view mirror, giggling, watching him helplessly wag his finger at us, as if to warn us that he’s letting us go because we’re kids but he will not be this kind the next time he sees us - school kids, without license, triples – that’s triple offence isn’t it?!
My usual mode of commute to and fro school was on the school bus. But when I had basketball practice, special classes or tuitions, I would take my Hero Puch. My pillion rider would either be my sister or one of my friends.
Once we rode on my friend A’s Kinetic Honda (scooter) in our school uniform, to school. A was tall and hefty with short hair, in the front seat. R, that’s me, tall and thin, with short hair, in the back seat. And 2 other friends ‘D’ and ‘V’, one short with short hair and the other short with long hair and glasses, wedged between us. All 4 of us, happily singing, whistling, riding…on 1 scooter. The traffic cop wasn’t there, thank heavens. Maybe the Lord heard us and He wouldn’t have wanted to play the spoilsport anyway!
My dad had a Yezdi, which I used to ride occasionally. And M’das Sir who used take Physics and Chemistry tuitions when I was in Class 12 used to own a Bullet, which he allowed me to ride once a while. Felt like I was king (no dainty princess this) of the road!
I used to dread the public mode of transport – Buses and autos. I remember, once when my Hero Puch had a flat tyre, I thought I’ll take the bus to my tuition class. I waited 5 minutes at the bus stop, no bus in sight, I walked to the next bus stop, no bus and kept walking… actually walked about 5 kilometers or more, all the way to my tuition centre. Now you know what I mean when I say ‘dread’!
From Hero Puch I graduated to a Suzuki motorbike. This time I was old enough to get a license. Man, I felt powerful. Could race with the meanest of machines. No Harley Davidson, but will make do. That was a time and place where there were very few girls riding (geared) bikes. From what I heard, there was just one other girl in the city who used to ride a motorbike. Hadn’t met her though.
And me with my tall frame, short hair, Levis jeans , casual tees, Nike shoes, no fashion accessories and helmet on, could pass off for a guy. When the guys realized I was a girl, I would get a second and third look and then they would want to race with me. Like I cared! My friend who would pillion ride with me would wrap a scarf around her head and face (to keep the heat and dust away), she could pass off as Phulan Devi . Perhaps why, the co-riders on the road kept a safe distance and were afraid to challenge us to a race. Enjoyed the ride, through the dust, the heat, the rains and of course, some minor bruises!
What I hated though was when my friends’ friends, sister’s friends, mom’s friends and dad’s friends reported to my folks that I ride too fast and that I would be sorry if I didn’t heed to their advice and slow down. Aarrgghh! And I also didn’t like having to clean my bike every other day, take it for servicing once every while and when my dad warns me about not running on reserve fuel for too long (and actually running out of fuel, with the nearest petrol bunk not within a mile)…. Aaarrrggghhh! And when my pillion rider holds me around my waist, sits on one side, gives me instructions to ride (pillion riding or back seat driving!)…Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!
I learnt to drive a car when I was in Class 8 (dad taught me). From Class 10, my dad used to let me drive when we went out as a family. I was appointed the unofficial driver (didn’t have a license remember!). When I got license, I was ready for the kill. Didn’t mow anybody down. I am quite a cautious driver, actually . Just 2 or 3 small dents / scratches in my many years of driving experience (which wasn’t even my fault, really!).
On my graduation day, my dad (no he didn’t gift me a car!) let me take the car (He’s someone who used to take such good care of the car that mom, sis and I almost believed that he loved the car more than us!). When I was pursuing my post-graduation, however, my dad let me take the car out more frequently. And I was always the chauffeur when we went on family outings and trips.
Love to be in the driver's seat, in control of things. Hate the "go slow, slam the brakes, left-no-right, you're going too fast..." instructions that come from the backseat driver, who thinks he/she is a co-driver or navigator. When I'm on the hot seat, it's like I wear a pair of horse blinds, complete focus on the road and where I'm headed. I've had my share of accidents, but none too serious. I steer my way ahead.
When I went to Chennai on my first job, I borrowed my cousin's Kinetic Honda and figured my way around the snarling traffic. The scorching sun was no deterrent. When I got to Coimbatore, where my dad was posted then, I got back to riding my Suzuki. I got married, landed in Mumbai. Then it was - Train for daily commute to work (as a passenger only), Car for weekends, family outings or shopping, Pick-up Truck to ferry items to the Godown when the drivers were unavailable (as a volunteer - Hubby's uncle was a tea-taster and had a tea business). I was again the unofficial driver. (If ever I ran out of a job, I knew I could land a job as a driver, given my experience!). Cochin, I ventured about in Suzuki (my bike) and Yamaha (my hubby's bike) initially and then the 4-wheels through narrow roads that looked more like lanes, alleys, blind curves and dead-ends.
Now, I'm done with bikes. I'm no longer fascinated by it. The cars too, I would be happy to let someone else drive. Hate the traffic - more than half the commuters don't seem to know how to ride/drive, some dreaming while driving, some others drunk and driving, some talking on the mobile or smoking while driving...add to it the growing number of vehicles on the road, potholed roads...and what have you!
But looks like I will have to drive, at least for now, perhaps until the time I have the luxury of having a chauffeur drive me around town. Then I will gladly relinquish the post of unofficial driver!
* All images on this post (included to make this rather long story on wheels a bit racy) are courtesy Google Search and belong to the owners of the respective sites.