Independence Day - Freedom Song
Bullet wounds - Bertrand D'souza
It's easy to say that a motorcycle is most liberating to a teen who's just got his license and the keys to his new bike. A motorcycle appeals most to someone who knows the pleasures of riding but who until that moment has been doing it on pedal power alone. So liberation is not having to pedal, liberation from a two-wheeler that's skinny to look at and liberation from having to seat your girlfriend on the rod between the handlebar and the seat.
My freedom song was a Bullet Standard Deluxe, in bright red with chrome winged badges screwed to the sides of the tank. I got it the hardest way possible, begging my dad to fund it partly, on both knees. It never ever left my side and despite my modest allowances and odd job earnings, always had half a tank of gas.
The first time I got this sense of liberation was when a friend and I rode to Lonavla from Mumbai to meet some girls. I thought it was super cool because we did not have to depend on the bus or train to travel a 100 clicks away from home. The girls would undoubtedly be impressed and I'd have my first long ride away from home, of course mum and dad never had a clue. Unfortunately we crashed just 30km away from home, at 7 in the morning, waited by the side of the road until 10 for a mechanic and medical store to open up.
If you thought that taught me how to be responsible, the following week I rode it all the way to Pune for a rave, all by myself.
Little went a long way - Shubhabrata Marmar
I got my Kinetic by the time tested hook-n-crook method. I scraped together enough cash to manage a sixth hand KiHo and used that to get my no-motorcycles dad to fund the gap to a new DX.
DL3SK8023 changed my life. On day one, I stopped using Delhi's surly Redlines to go to college, going to my best friend's house instead to pick him up. He was never ready on time which meant his mom would offer me awesome breakfasts from then on.
That very evening, Chandan directed me to Kamal da Dhaba in Safdarjung Enclave, Delhi for their superlative seekh kababs. It was something we'd discussed but the number of bus changes involved meant that we never actually went there. Sated, we hopped back on and went straight to the just-opened Basant Lok McDonald's for a burger for desert. Er, burp. Thanks KiHo.
It sounds like the scooter was just a gastronomic catalyst, but it was much more. Not just because I ride bikes for a living now either. It freed me from (our usually terrible) public transport. It gave me independence. Food places, offices, college and friends were now linked by a glowing thread of two-wheeled freedom. I put 22,000km on that year before I got my first KB125. And made up what I still subscribe to. If I have to take public transport, I might as well stop working. Life as I know it, as I want it, would be over.
Slaying the red dragon - Joe Koraith
For 22 years of my life I was a slave to public transport. From running behind the BEST buses, to arguments with bus conductors to use my student concession, to long walks when I got bored of waiting in line for the red dragon, it was a blinkered life, centred around Mumbai's BEST buses. And then I started working and that thing called a personal bank account happened. Off I went to a bike dealer and came back with the Splendor. I did want the Bajaj Caliber because I liked its exhaust note but my uncle would have none of "this sound business" over "quality and mileage". I had also ordered a Michael Schumacher's F1-lookalike helmet from Bangalore and I was ready to roll. And yes, the red helmet did match the Splendor! I remember the ride back home from the dealer. The shoulders were straight, the helmet constantly moving from side to side, to check out the people checking me out. It didn't matter it was 'just' a Splendor. I remember seeing a BEST bus on the way, making sure I overtook it and then cruising in front of it till the driver honked incessantly and then accelerating away into the distance, into freedom. Once home, I was of course chided by my uncle for riding "too fast".
Independence, the word itself has dependence in it but signifies freedom. So in a way while I was liberated from the world of public transport I had become totally dependent on my Splendor. But that I could live with.
Calibration error - Lijo Mathai
The Indian Independence struggle can be roughly divided into three stages â" mutiny/uprising, Quit India and Independence.
Learning to cycle is our first independence. It's a departure from the rigours of walking and running. I learnt to cycle at the age of 10 (uprising) and continued cycling my friends' bicycles till I was 17. After 17, it gets old. Obviously the next step was motorcycles. But
in a middle-class family piloted by a dad who doesn't want anything to do with automobiles, it was a steep task asking him for a bike of my own. However, opportunity knocked when a friend who had a Bajaj Caliber dropped in and asked me to join him for a ride. Oblivious to the fact that he didn't know how to ride, I hopped onto the pillion seat. 15 minutes later, many hiccups releasing the clutch and some 250 kicks later, the bike wouldn't budge. Red-faced, we prayed the motorcycle to life and then he even relented and let me ride it. For six metres. I didn't know which six metres he meant, so I kept going. I remember that ride - it's my benchmark to compare any thrill against.
That night, I didn't sleep. I had to have a motorcycle. I started dropping subtle hints over dinner or when motorcycle commericals were on. Dad finally agreed (Quit India, but pleading, not demanding). My memories of the Caliber and the thrill it gave me during the first ride were so strong that a used 2001 Caliber became my first love. I added 8000kms to its odo in eight months it before moving onto a CBZ.
Auto not for the people - Ashok George
Chennai has the worst autos. Why? The fare meters are ornaments and fares are a factor of how well you can bargain in Tamil. Getting from home to college meant finding an auto driver ready to go from Harrington Road to Loyola College and then convincing him not to rob me of my lunch money. A process that took no less than half an hour. All this everyday drama meant that I always showed up for class late. Don't get me wrong. I'm not the kind that cries over a few lost minutes of a lecture. It took me all of one semester to decide that even I could not do this on a daily basis. Much arguing, crying, begging and reasoning later I could call a maroon Yamaha RX-135 mine. The first thing I did was parade my prized possession in front of all those auto drivers who refused to take me to college. It was symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. I had never tasted freedom so sweet.
Now bus off - Abhay Verma
Commuting by bus made me feel like a prisoner. I never had a motorcycle in college - Dad said, "Earn it. Work, save and buy." When I did start working the money wasn't enough â" I didn't want the 100cc commuters I could afford. I was lusting after the 'Fear the black' Pulsar 180 DTS-i. So it was (still) walk to bus-stand, wait, take a bus to work and then repeat backwards in the evening. I could not stop on the way, could not hang out with friends, could not go to the movies whenever I wished nor did I have the freedom to choose what time I left home! But my Pulsar 180 (Dad paid the down payment and I paid the EMIs) changed all that. I felt like the United States of America. I do everything I wanted, whenever I felt like it. And I now had my motorcycle to practice and better my wheelies. The Pulsar introduced me to stunting and truly liberated my soul!
The awesome DioRama - Rishaad Mody
Technically the Dio was my mother's but she allowed me to claim it for myself. There were days when I got a call from home politely asking me where the hell the scooter was. But for the most part it gave me simple freedoms like not having to take the college bus and being able to get home from a friend's place after public transport retired for the day. My Dio taught me not just how to go fast, it was the bike that I took my first spill on too. I'd already told my family (a rather wretched thing to do now that I look back on it) that someday I was going to fall off my bike. You see I'd been pushing the limit on the little Honda. I wanted to see how far she'd lean over, how much grip it would have and generally stuff that was going to get me into a heap of trouble.
Turns out scooters don't grip very well when you lean them over so much that they get off the rear tyre and onto the main stand. I limped sheepishly home, torn jeans and a badly bruised arm and the Dio with a scuffed fairing and bent mirror stalks and levers. Nevertheless we were both patched up and back out in no time. My mother's since replaced the aging Dio with a Wego. Which is awesome because it's about time for my brother to cut his teeth!
Always the Luna-tic - Alan D'Cruz
My first set of wheels arrived in my second year of junior college when my dad handed me an old, battered, rust-coloured Luna. It was my 16th birthday and I was not too pleased. Hand me downs aren't exactly what you need to look cool in college.
The Luna was certainly not cool but it taught me a lot. Having to clean out rust from its mini carburettor and drying off a wet spark plug taught me the basics of motor maintenance. It also taught me some physics like power-to-weight ratio and how important it is. How a light vehicle with more power makes for quick progress in the case of my spindly friend on his Kinetic. While a heavy load with little horsepower left me pedalling. I also learnt about metallurgy when I decided to double the load my Luna with a hefty friend and failed to pay attention to the oil-fuel ratio. To add to this, I decided to give him a thrilling high speed blast (almost 50kmph!) downhill. I now know that friction causes heat. High heat and exploding petrol can melt metal. At least the seizure led my dad to upgrade my ride.
While my relationship with the Luna didn't last even a year, it freed me from some misconceptions. I learnt the difference between looking cool and having fun, and the value of practical knowledge and an appreciation for learning things the hard way.
Halley's comment - Halley Prabhakar
Ever since I first rode my dad's Suzuki Samurai when I was in fifth grade, I had forgotten bicycles and only wanted a motorcycle. But I couldn't reach the ground and dad said there was something else needed to ride - a driver's license. Going to school in the BTS bus in Bangalore was a nightmare since I had to walk all the way to the bus stand, wait forever to end up being stuffed into a crowded bus. I did this for five years until I finally got my learner's license. I went straight to dad and now he said I needed to be 18 to ride a motorcycle above 80cc. I couldn't wait another two years but my grandfather handed me his 50cc motorcycle to ride. It was a red Enfield Explorer and had silver alloy wheels (how cool was that). I still repent sticking Ferrari F1 stickers on it but I could ride to college and on the way back hang out with friends and drop girlfriends home too (my bike was way cooler than the mopeds and scooters my friends rode). Mom ended up sending me to tuition classes because I had a bike but I enjoyed the riding and explored the whole of Bangalore. The Explorer is still in Bangalore and I guess it's time to get it up and running again. And I've got new, factory-fresh Scuderia Ferrari stickers for it as well.
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