We are moving base. From a town I had lived in for the entire 15 year span of my school life to a place which always meant home for Mom and Dad but for me until recently had meant only a destination we headed to during our summer holidays at school. 3 years of working in Calcutta has given me a certain degree of familiarity with the city but home for me had always meant the little town of Bharuch in south Gujarat. Amongst the many things that will have to left behind as we re-adjust to a life in a big city will be a very dear possession which unfortunately no one in our family has any use left for.
Thankfully for me and my teenage years, Preity Zinta and Sania Mirza had not started advertising for the TVS Scooty yet, thereby saving lots of scrawny teenage guys like me who zipped around on it by the thousands from great embarrassment. I won't lie. I still positively adore the tiny little 59cc engine that the TVS Scooty originally came with when my parents bought me one in 2001 and the light frame body with tiny wheels which made screaming through stopped rush hour traffic a breeze. But I can surely say that if the 'Scooty = Girl Power' slogan were around when I was 16 years old, I would have begged, borrowed and stolen to make my folks buy me a motorcycle instead. But leaving hypothetical bad memories aside, let's jump to some real nostalgic ones. For us, the only real Scooty ad was the one with the Eagles song "Take it easy" in the background as a guy tried to teach his lady love how to ride the two wheeler.
The first time I saw the blue variant of the Scooty at the showroom where my parents had taken me, I knew I had to get that shade and that shade only. Co-incidentally my present Bajaj Pulsar 180 is almost exactly the same shade. Scootys were already a dime a dozen in our school parking lot with Santosh's (The original Scooty guy of our batch) grey pioneer and then Sidharth's white one. Blue was the way to go and though I had ridden pillion quite a few times, I hadn't made the progression to the driver's seat yet. Dad took charge and rode the brand new machine all the way home as I sat all excited behind.
Evening was when my sister showed up, much more excited than me and informed me that she knew how to ride it as she had already done so a couple of times on her classmate's vehicle. Not only that she also convinced me to sit behind her to prove her point. Big mistake! Within seconds of starting within the compounds of our flat buildings itself, she managed to graze my knee against a solidly parked Enfield which looked in no mood to give way to a puny Scooty. From then on I decided that if anything, I would learn to ride the thing all by myself rather than put myself in harm's way thanks to my erratic teacher. If my sister still wanted to crash our spanking new Scooty, she was free to do so but she could very well do it without the benefit of having her brother play an accident victim in that disaster too.
A few days of riding the back alleys gave me the confidence I needed to venture onto the roads. The first trip I made was to Santosh's place and I still remember my terribly aching hands at the end of the short trip, one which my Scooty would make a gazillion times later but by which time I had figured out that the secret of riding any vehicle comfortably was literally "taking it easy" handling it like an ally, like an extra body part and not gingerly as if it were a live bomb or something on those lines.
Since that day, the blue Scooty has been an integral part of so many memorable snippets of that period of life. Three guys (on a couple of occasions even 4) making its little engine groan under all that weight as it still bravely chugged along carrying us returning from an after-school cricket match, located on the NH-8 highway in the middle of nowhere as our school was. The GNFC ground evening commute was where my Scooty and other's would work on a first come-first serve basis (almost like a cab but without receiving any fare) to any friend/friends who had just seen us drive up and was/were not eager to make the long walk from the gate to the lawns where the stumps being carried were to be set up. The drive into school on winter mornings through the open highway was an exercise in physical endurance, as the very tip of my nose would be freezing yet there would be no let up on the buzzing 60-65 kmph speed which in those days seemed decent enough. There were the late night trips to the highway side dhaba Nyay Mandir as a sudden munchies attack got to us as a group and the ganging up in front of the Relax/Relief/Shalimar halls as we all bought tickets and laughed in chorus at the Hindi dubbing of whichever Hollywood monster/disaster movie we had bought tickets to.
Then there were the evening buddy get-togethers in front of the Anni paan-shop near Hotel Shital, as all of us watched with bated breath for the few hot girls of JP college about whom word had spread around. They never ever did come that way down the thoroughfare to the railway station but that still didn't stop us from waiting in vain. That we were engrossed in all kinds of guy talk any which way helped prolong our stay at the aforementioned Anni's even with the lack of supposed 'greenery'. Once in a while, the rain would catch us out by its sudden arrival but the dash back home riding through the waves of showers and the puddles was always rejuvenating no matter what may have been the preceding mood.
The best trips made by my Scooty were to the Narmada bridge on the highway in the evening as we would drive up the wrong side and park our two-wheelers at the very beginning of the bridge. Then our group of buddies would walk all the way to the middle of the long bridge down the footpath to where there was always water of the river flowing below it irrespective of the season. The heavy traffic of loaded trucks and buses kept vibrating the bridge in such a violent way that we feared that one day the bridge might just snap. The difficulties of lighting a cigarette in the unrelenting gusty breeze from the Narmada would be overcome with great difficulty but that still didn't prevent the river breeze from smoking away half of our cigarettes. We would look down into the dancing patterns of the incessantly moving waters leaning over the parapets in the fading light as we discussed the latest developments in our individual lives looking out for someone to slip up, say more than he intended to and then collectively take up his case.
I may not even get a chance to say goodbye to my first motorized ride, a little engine with a big heart. By the time I get back to Gujarat to wrap up our assets there, my reliable two stroke powered friend might already be in somebody else's possession. Like many a dearly loved object from my past, it too will only reside in the sunny portions of my memory for all the good times that I shared with it. On some days, there was no better way to boost my mood than to twist that little throttle and hear the little fella' sing all of its 59 cc out loud as it rushed forward putting in a genuine effort to speed up.
Those days and that image of the TVS Scooty are long gone, but I have no real reason for prolonged sadness even though these days there are a number of things which I just can't identify with. That's because I have got an emergency plan in place after recent traumatic events. A couple of days ago, as I was dragging myself on foot to the local bazaar, I saw a girl zoom past me on a full fledged motorbike! So launching a Scooty in baby pink wasn't enough, now you want to prettify motorcycles too? I have decided that I will buy a gun and keep it oiled & ready. The day I see the advertisement "Bajaj Pulsar - Definitely female", I'll go right ahead and shoot myself in the head!