Monday, August 18, 2008

Top dog

There isn't much about India that I miss right now. I like the infinite freedom that leading a hostel like existence in a place literally a few continents away from home offers me. I was to pinpoint just one thing, I would say that I really miss the feeling of my bike rides through Calcutta. Sure, the Harleys and the Suzukis that I see here could eat my poor Pulsar 180 for breakfast, but just because it's my ride I love its capabilities as they are, limited though they may be.

Calcutta's streets are definitely not any biker's dream come true. Apart from a few sections on the EM Bypass, the Park Circus flyover and the Fort William/Victoria Memorial area, the roads are nightmares packed with deadly tram-lines, protruding manhole covers and spine shattering potholes. Not to forget the infinite variety of slow moving traffic consisting of wheezing trams, killer buses and taxis/auto-rickshaws operating under the mistaken impression that they had Ferrari engines under their bonnet (An impression that I take special pleasure in correcting, whenever I am astride my bike).

All these irritations not withstanding there is always the thrill that urban bike riding has to offer, not only in Calcutta but in the traffic of any other city roads of the world. The thrill that I speak of is of an impromptu anonymous duel. The duel may have roots in an innocuous growl of the engine at the red light, signalling a challenge to fellow motorists waiting for the green light, or it may be the little gust of wind as a biker hurries on his way to his destination overtaking a fellow two-wheeler who hither to was taking it easy. All other traffic, obstructions and people on the road become non-entities from there on in. All the focus is then on just putting that guy who had just passed you in your rear-view mirror. It's not just the young who catch this rash of aggression. I have seen middle aged men loaded with vegetables from the market take up the challenge of my Pulsar on their puny CD-100s and Max-Rs. A biker's pride is a powerful thing and in the vagaries of the traffic on a Calcutta road with local knowledge of the roads a vital advantage, as much as I hate to admit it, there've been times when my rivals have beaten me to the next flagpost.

Then there are days when you feel that the bike is an extension of yourself; especially on days when the office hours have been really long and home is where you want to be. A positive sense of buoyancy levitates you and the bike feels like a blade smoothly scything through the entangled mess of the traffic of Calcutta. These days are appropriately rare and that is why I savour them even more. On occasions like this, even the elder brothers of my bike like the bigger Pulsars (the 200 and 220) and Karizmas have had to face the ignominy of defeat. The adrenalin surge as competitors fall away in a quick drag race with all the manoeuvering that is necessitated by other traffic on the road can't be surpassed by any other.

Bikers seem to live for the thrill of the moment, for the impulsive twist of the throttle. You win some and you lose some, but never ever do you want to drop out of the game. There is something primitive about such a race, with a rival you do not know and do not care to know. It'll probably be the last time you match your wheels against his before he is swallowed up by the churning traffic of the city; he going on to his destination and you onto yours. It's a power struggle out there on the streets of Calcutta amongst its engine powered denizens and in a dog-eat-dog world, you'd always want to be top dog.

[Do not be foolish enough to consider everything stated above as an incentive to speed. Drive and ride safe. Reach home. Alive. With all limbs in their respective places. Let others on the road do so too. Please.]

1 comment:

Kunnu said...

I dont know how many people read your blog...but I am fairly surprised..that I hardly see any comments...Anyway...the blog like yours is something I can read at any time of the day...its pure pleasure..
Seems like you hav increased your activity here...And hey..I hav addded your blog in my blog list..

Keep posting..take care