Whacko is back from the US, on a holiday. It’s just the 2 of us. We’re at Bandstand, smoking cigars and drinking.
Hey Sam, let’s go to Poona.
Hmm? Drinking Sound. Why?
For old times sake man.
What old time haha. That was last year.
I KNOW. Let’s go man.
What do you want to do?
Just ride to Pune and ride back!
OK, just the 2 of us then.
Whose bike do you want to go on?
Let’s take both the bikes!
It’s 7.30 am. I meet whacko downstairs. His KB still has that super hard seat and uncomfortable handle. His engine had seized soon after that trip last year. Since then he has had his engine redone and broken it in. New tyres since then. He is raring to go. My RX is still stock, more or less.
We leave, deciding to fill up on the way there.
7.45 am: We reach the petrol station just outside Chembur. We have been going really, really quick. Am I getting older, or is this just too quick for me?
8.00 am: CHACK CHACK CHACK CHACK, something is horribly wrong with the chain of the RX.
I still have the original chain cover on it and I cannot see what the problem is. I know nothing about these things and I decide to take it to a mechanic.
We find a little motorcycle garage but it’s shut. It opens at 9.
Some coffee and cigarettes later, the guys open shop.
We’re in a hurry, we explain. We want to go to Poona. Can you please fix this sound?
He shrugs and pulls off the lower portion of the chain guard off. Chucks it to the side and says.
Jao, ab nahi aayega avaaz. (It won’t happen again)
9.15 am: We’re off. The sound has really gone and I am quite comfortable. It feels like the old days yes, only there is no truck strike so there is a fair amount of traffic.
Whacko’s snaking in and out. He’s on a mission. I realise while riding that he wants to reach pune quicker than 2.5 hours.
I cringe slightly and continue behind him, following his snaking pattern through the traffic.
9.45 am: We’ve crossed vashi. Still going full on. While I have a wary feeling in my heart about riding this quick, long distance, I am enjoying the adrenalin rush. We’re not being dangerous, we’re simply not slowing down for anything, cutting and rushing through the cars.
It seems quick, but I realise that we can’t really go much faster than 100kmph.
10.15am: We’re between New Bombay and Lonavala. The traffic has thinned and now there are hardly any cars on the road. We are somewhere. Unnamed unknown. The road is curving beautifully, to the left and right. Whacko is up ahead and I’m on his trail. We’re not racing.
I whirl around at the sound, but am unable to locate it. I felt something whack on my leg and I am sure something has broken off my bike, but I cannot figure out what.
Nothing happens. The bike revs but does not lurch forward.
I change to a higher gear. The bike does not slow down. I’m confused.
I use the brakes and stop to the side. Whacko’s gone. I guess he will realise shortly.
I get off and look at the bike.
The chain is gone. It’s not on the bike, it must have snapped off. I can also see that the chain cover (the upper portion that was left) is twisted.
I wait for whacko.
10.30 am: I see a worried whacks riding back on the other side of the road. He spots me and waves. I wave back. He finds the next U turn and joins me.
We analyze what has happened.
The chain had got entangled in the chain cover and snapped into two. It’s a good thing that it did not fly into the spokes of the wheel in motion.
We get onto his bike and ride backwards to get the chain. It is broken.
We need to decide which direction to go towards. We have no idea if there is a settlement up ahead or behind.
We flag down a car, but the driver has no idea.
11.00 am: We’re pushing the bike and talking to each other. Whacks is riding his KB slowly. We tried putting one foot and pushing and all that. We just couldn’t do it. So I’m pushing for 15 mins and then he will push for 15 mins.
11.30 am: The sun is our worst enemy. It’s getting hot to a point of desperation. I am very very thirsty and soaked with sweat.
12.30 pm: We’ve reached a small village. We push to the only motorcycle spares shop. He has a Diamond brand chain for the Yamaha. While a little grease monkey puts it on (and removes the chain guard completely), we hunt for water. There is no bottled water in this settlement.
We are offered some water at the store and we accept it gladly.
1 pm: We’re back on the highway. This has not been a good beginning.
We’re back on the highway.
We decide not to tell anyone about the chain snap.
Whacko is back to being the super fast express. I am keeping up with him.
1.15pm: We’re making brilliant time and it is really smooth. We’ve crossed a couple of trucks and some buses on our way. I am in a strange way, entranced by the rear wheels of the KB.
I am keeping my wheels exactly on the imaginary line made by the rear wheel of the KB. Every turn, every curve, every swerve.
I’m not looking at the road, or the vehicles on it.
I am hypnotised and transfixed to the rear wheel of the KB. I go where he goes, When he goes, overtake when he does, turn in when he does.
There’s a truck ahead of whacko. Horn OK please. I am still not looking at the road or the left turn up ahead.
He swerves out to overtake the truck, I quickly follow.
He swerves back in almost immediately. I am startled and look up.
A ST bus is hurtling round the turn and I am on the wrong side of the road.
I panic, turning in and hitting the brakes at the same time.
The RX fishtails.
I am now turned fully sideways, but the momentum is still carrying me in the same direction. I’m going to have a direct collision with the ST bus.
I can hear the bus driver heaving and screeching at the brake. Nope he won’t be able to stop either.
Suddenly everything is going in slow motion. I am very, very alert. I am completely conscious that the face of the bus now a few feet away from me, approaching me.
The bike is fishtailing wildly and so my right side is approaching the red bus.
I’m not going to make it.
As I’m hurtling sideways towards the bus, there is a strange ease and calm in my head. I turn and stare at the bus.
I decide to jump.
Mustering up all my courage, I leap forward, towards the front wheel, jumping as hard as I can. My eyes are clenched tightly shut. I’m brave but not that brave. I just want to live. I hear the thud of my helmet banging against the road. There are a variety of sounds, screaming metal, hot fumes and much more.
I am also conscious that I am hurt in a few places.
I open my eyes and look up. I am staring up at a horrified bus driver who has opened his door and is staring down at me. He looks really scared and shocked.
I turn towards my outstretched right arm, to my horror it is a few centimeters away from the largest tyre I have seen in my life. I snatch my arm up reflexively.
Meanwhile Whacko is staring at the scene with horror in his mirror. He has already slammed on his brakes and come to a halt right there, a few meters away.
I sit up. I feel faint. My knee and ankle are throbbing very badly. My hands are shaking and I cannot get my helmet off.
Whacko is in shock. He has parked his KB on its side stand and is walking around in circles. I am watching him and I suppress an urge to smile.
He cannot hear me. I am yelling from inside my helmet.
Suddenly a lot of people help me up. I am confused and am trying to figure out where they came from. I then realise they are the passengers from the ST.
Whacko snaps to and helps the others lift me up and take me to the side of the road. it is a bridge typr crossing so there is a little wall on both sides. They leave me sitting on the wall and Whacko helps me get my helmet off.
My hands are badly scraped and bleeding. My jeans have a lot of blood up front.
People have collected around us in a semi circle.
I can hear someone tell the driver
Gaadi peeche karo, motorcyle neeche phus gaya hai. (Reverse please, the motorcycle is stuck under the wheels)
Through the crowd I peer, only to realise that my bike is completely mangled, twisted and stuck under the chassis of the bus.
The bus is reversed and the bike is pulled out.
The handle is completely flattened. The clutch has met the front brake.
The crowd is now murmuring and some people are trying to yell at us “Kaisa chalata hai” (How badly you drive!)
Thank you, abhi jaao tum.(Thank you, you may all leave now) I say. The bus driver looks at us.
Aur tum? (And you?)
Idhar theek hai, tum jao. (We’re fine here, go.)
Koi police case nahi karne ka hai. Chalo tum log jaao. Thank you. (No we don’t want to police. Go on then, thank you.)
The crowd is still around us, in an unsure semicircle. others have gotten off the bus to take a look. Of course. This is India, everyone must take a look.
Whacko reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out two Dominicans.
I wordlessly take one from him and bite off the tip.
He clicks the Zippo and I puff hard.
Whacko is still staring at my face in a strange way.
I lived. Not bad.
The bus has left.
Whacko and I are sitting by the side of the road. My bike is lying down wounded on the grass and his KB is parked to the side.
I’m inspecting myself.
I’m hurt and bruised in many places. Nothing broken.
A large portion of flesh is hanging through a torn sock. That accounts for the bloody jeans.
A shoulder is bruised, both palms are scratched and wounded. The damage is not bad.
Whacko is still in shock.
F**k. He says. Over and over, shaking his head. F**k. F**k.
I am silent. Just happy to be alive.
I know that there is a highway users club up ahead. I suggest to Whacko we go there.
And the bike? He points with his face.
Who’s going to touch it whacks? It’s all twisted.
2.45 PM: I’m sitting behind Whacko as he rides slowly towards the Highway Users’ club. Everything hurts.
On the way I decide it’s time to ask for help. We stop at an STD booth and I call the shop. My sister will be there for sure. Who else?
She answers the phone.
Is Dwayne there with you?
Just give him the phone will you?
Ah Sammy Boy, what’s up?
Whacks and I have had an accident.
Softly, maria will hear you.
Softer now. What?
We’re OK, actually only I had an accident. But I’m fine. A little bruised but fine.
We need help. Is Jhats around?
OK give him the phone.
Jhats was the only one amongst all of us who knew everything about cars and bikes. Hell, he could fix any bike.
Jhats I’ve crashed the RX. Don’t react. I am fine, I don’t want Maria to know, she will panic.
I’m serious, I’ve had a bad accident.
We cannot truck the bike across to Mumbai. I have no money for the truck and besides we might have to pay octroi. Plus I didn’t register the accident with the police.
I need you to come here and fix the bike.
Yes, yes, I am thinking.
What are you thinking?
What parts will you need?
I dunno for God’s sake.
But tomorrow is a Sunday. All spare parts stores will be closed. We have to buy the stufff now. What do you think you’ll need.
I’m having a Beavis moment.
Uhhh.. A handle.
Yeah a handle.
Why do you need a handle. He’s being patient.
The clutch has met the front brake. It’s flattened. It came under the bus.
You’ll probably need a new accelerator cable and brake cable.
Yeah. Cool. Cables.
What else has happened to the bike?
It looks horrible Jhats.
He’s quiet. I know I’m not helping, but I’m feeling stupid and helpless.
Everything is spoiled jhats.
OK I’ll figure it out. Where are you guys?
Uhh.. I dunno. We need to get me patched up. I’ll call again. Don’t tell Maria.
: We’re at the club. They have a first aid/casualty section and when I hobble in with Whacko, 2 people rush to take care of me.
I am sitting on a chair and I am being cleaned up by 2 people.
My wounds are being disinfected and bandaged while Whacko explains what happened to the staff. They react with the appropriate oohs and aahs.
3.45 pm: The guys have finished with me. Nothing serious, they assure me. I smile brightly. I’m really glad to be alive.
How about your bike? One asks.
I dunno, it’s about 10-15 kms away I guess.
On the road?
We should get it here. You can park it here.
That would be fantastic because my friends will come here to fix it tomorrow morning.
yes, that’s fine, you can leave it here overnight.
Does the bike work?
I don’t think so, it’s all uhh.. twisted.
Whacko and the staff are talking to the side.
He comes back.
Dude, we’re going to get your bike here.
In the ambulance.
I’m staring at him. I blink. I could have sworn he said ambulance.
In the ambulance. We will load the bike in their ambulance and bring it here.
Whose idea was that?
One of the staff come up to me and tell me that I will have to pay for the ambulance. About 25 bucks per kilometre.
Soon they’re gone with Whacko.
About an hour later, the ambulance returns. No the siren is not on, lol.
They unload the bike out.
Now that it is vertical again, it looks a little mangled but not as bad as it did horizontal.
God, my poor bike.
5.30 pm: We wave our thanks and we’re off on the KB towards Bombay. There was no Mumbai then. I’m getting very hungry.
6.00 pm: We stop for a sandwich and coffee. As whacko bites into the sandwich a thought occurs to him.
Man you could have died.
Yeah, I nod, eating hungrily.
Really man. You could have died.
What would I have told my Mom if you had died? Shaking head.
I stop eating and stare at him.
Nevermind your mom. What would you have told my Dad?
Ah. says he. he didn’t think of that.
I need a drink.
So do I.
There’s that party at Pali Hill you know. The girlfriend’s sister’s birthday party. They aren’t expecting us. let’s surprise them.
OK but let’s buy a bottle of Vodka at chembur.
We stop at a payphone and call them again. They have a plan.
Here’s what we’re going to do. Tomorrow morning at 6, we will take the van.
(Note: I had a legendary Maruti Van. We were always using it for everything. This van once took 13 people up Lonavala for a picnic and much more. All without a single oil change for 4 years.)
The van. OK I see. Why?
The 4 of us will go to your bike in the Van. If I can fix it, great, otherwise we will load the bike into the van and drive across to Mumbai. Simple.
How will you get the bike into the van?
We will remove the sound system…
(Note: The Van had a HUGE box with 2 12″ woofers, 2 8 inch mid bass and 4 philips dome tweeters in the back)
...and remove the rear seat. Should be enough.
See you tomorrow at 6am at your house.
Whacks, they have a plan. It’s all done. Let’s go get drunk now.
9.00pm: Whacko, I and a bottle of Romanov (There was no Smirnoff then) enter the party. Everyone is surprised to see us. People are also surprised to see that we have brought Vodka and bandages.
Sunday,1.00 am: Whacko and I have polished off the bottle we brought with us and finished another half bottle that belonged to someone else who thought we needed it more than he.
Whacko has called his mom and told her he’s spending the night in Pune.
I’m waiting for my Dad to fall asleep.
We get home and crash. I was in some pain and various areas were inflamed.
The Vodka has killed all pain and we are both very very seriously drunk.
6am sounds fine haha, my father will have gone for his walk by then. No one needs to know what we will do next.
We’ve only just hit our heads to the pillow when the doorbell rings. Huh? Who the hell would that be?
I rush to the door and it’s the boys. This makes no sense.
What are you doing here?
What do you think you drunk idiot? It’s 6!
Blink. Where did the whole night go?
They aren’t joking. Jhats is standing there with his little tool bag full of tricks.
I must look pathetic, because they’re already looking irritated.
He’s asleep. In my room.
Fine. Give me the keys to the van and we’ll remove the seats and stuff.
Whacks, get up.
Whacks get up. Whacko, get up. GET UP. Get up whacks. Get up. God.
He’s up. He’s still very drunk. So am I.
He sits up and lights a cigarette.
Where are they?
Down, removing the seats.
Where are we going to sit?
I turn towards him. This is something I had not thought of.
On the floor?
Maybe we can sleep?
How about we spread a sheet on the floor of the van and go to sleep?
Drunk minds never think clearly. What an astoundingly stupid idea and it’s making perfect sense to both of us.
I pack up a bottle of water and a double bedsheet. I stare at the pillows for 5 seconds before deciding this might be too much and Jhats and Dwayne might get angry with us.
We go downstairs somehow. Jhats is at the wheel and Dwayne in the passenger seat. They appear to be a little pissed off with us. We must be very drunk and of no help.
I spread the sheet out on the floor of the Van and we try to lie down.
It is horrible. We’re rolling all over the place and on top of each other. The van is bouncing and we’re banging our heads repeatedly on the metal floor.
Forget sleep, we cannot even lie down.
In a few seconds we’re both sitting up and holding on to…
There is nothing to hold on to.
We’re hitting the walls and falling on each other like 2 drunk chickens on the floor of a poultry truck. The sheet has rolled up into a ball and it is bouncing all over the place along with us and some motorcycle parts.
The rescuers aren’t even turning around. They’re on a mission.
We’re just drunk. God, I think I want to throw up.
We’re on our way and have reached New Bombay. Part of what the sober two feel is irritation and it is mixed with mock anger. The drunk two feel horrible.
Not only have we had too much Vodka, but we have hardly slept at all. Top that with a terrible, bouncy ride on the metal floor of the van, just above the rear wheels, flying all over the place and a loud CLANK CLANK of motorcycle parts that are bouncing around with us.
I wish I was dead. My head is throbbing, the beginnings of a ‘orrible ‘eadache looming ominously over my uh.. ‘ead.
9.00 am: We’ve reached the Highway Users’ Club. I’ve never been so glad to be out of the van before.
We stand out of the way respectfully as Dwayne and Jhats survey the bike with their hands upon their hips.
9.30 am: Jhats has all but taken apart almost everything. The handle and the cables have already been changed. He is trying to straighten the wheel and it is reminding me of how I used to straighten the cycle wheel to the handle after a bad fall.
I am careful enough not to laugh though. This is serious business.
10.30 am: He’s done all he can to get the bike looking like a bike again. It’s a bit warped, but this is fine.
Now to get to the engine.
Oh dear, the petrol tank is leaking. Not much can be done there. There is enough petrol in there though.
The engine has flooded or something like this. I watch him remove various kinds of parts and the spark plug (this I recognise) and put it all back.
11.00 am: Jhats is furiously looking through his bag of tricks. He needs a tiddlywink.
(Note: For us non technical people, all parts are tiddlywinks or other meaningful terms, don’t ask me what he really needed, please.)
What do you need?
Ah. Don’t have one eh?
Still rummaging. Whish, crish, whish through the nuts, bolts and thingamabobs.
So now we need a tiddlywink.
Ah. Don’t have one eh?
He looks up from his nuts, bolts and thingamabobs and there is a little of that Zoroastrian fire in his eyes.
I quickly step back and stand next to whacko.
Dwayne and he have decided to go and hunt for parts.
Here? In this godforsaken place on a Sunday to boot?
Yes. Wait here. We will look for a tiddlywink.
I have a feeling that they’ve had enough of us and are going to leave us here in the Highway Users’ Club where I’ll have to wash dishes and clean floors and pay for our food for the rest of my life while Whacko stands like a watchman over my mangled motorcycle.
No. We’re also coming with you.
We have found a motorcycle spares shop. It’s wonderful!
Wonder no. 1 – That it’s there.
Wonder No.2 – That it’s open.
Wonder No. 3 – They have tiddlywinks!
1.00 pm: Back at the club, Jhats is furiously modifying the tiddlywink.
(A highly technical explanation for you bikers: He was using a tiddlywink from a 3 stroke motorcycle, but the RX has only 2 strokes so now he had to cut the extra stroker off tiddlywink number 63.)
He is rubbing it on the ground repeatedly, banging it around and swearing at it. I’ve never understood these operations.
Jhats decides to stop kicking the tyres and growling at the motorbike and tries kick starting it instead.
WHAAAAA…. WHA WHA WHAA WHAAAAA…….
It holds!! Eureka the motor is running!
They run it for about 5 minutes, shut it off and restart it. It seems to work fine.
1.30PM: We wave our goodbyes to the staff and I write a lovely comment in the guest book on my way out. I feel elated, but still a little sick.
Whacko is certainly not feeling well at all. Standing in the sun has not helped him one bit. He has taken his vest off and thrown it in the car somewhere.
I’m staring listlessly at the four-score-and-twenty brightly inked tattoos all over his body while Dwayne and Jhats are calculating the next move.
Now to get the RX into the Maruti Van.
Soon the 4 of us have loaded the Rx into the van and managed to put it on the centre stand.
It may not sound like much, but it was a very difficult task, especially to get the motorcycle up on the stnd, with little or no headroom in the car and a slippery metallic surface beneath.
The bike is in, but not comfortably. It is angled and there is just about enough place for one man to sit uncomfortably to the right of the front wheel and another to sit very uncomfortably to the left of the rear wheel.
It is hot (the van has no aircon) and I am covered with a mix of dirt, dust, grease and more. To make matters worse my head is pounding and whirring like a cement mixer on heat. Whacko is seated shirtless at the front wheel. The entire place smells strongly of petrol, because the tank is leaking fuel, drop by drop.
CLICK. The familiar sound of a Zippo being unclicked.
Dwayne turns around – You light that you f**king b***ard and I will KILL you. His eyes are raging with anger.
Whacko looks at him surprised and still drunk. What?
You moron! You are sitting next to a leaking fuel tank in a closed car. You want to get all of us blown up??!?
Click. He closes the Zippo.
We’re all silent again. Dammit, why is there no music in this van?
Jhats is driving home, but at a more sedate pace. Soon we’re at Vashi and now are actively discussing the octroi naka.
It’s no good, taking this thing across, they will stop us for sure.
So? Why would you have to pay octroi on a Bombay registered bike?
I dunno man, I’m not in the mood to stop and answer questions about how we got this way.
OK, says Jhats, I’ll ride the bike.
Are you sure?
500m before the octroi naka, we unload the motorbike and jhats kickstarts. Smooth start.
He gets on and poses for effect.
The headlight is pointing at about 2 o’clock, the handle is at about 11 o’clock and the front wheel in the middle. We all burst out laughing, all standing there and at that moment I realize that I am very grateful for my friends.
We ride across the junction – now I am driving. Later we wave to Jhats asking him if he’d like to put the bike back into the van but with a friendly gesture he waves us on, he wants to ride like this all the way home.
5.00 pm: Home safe. Hugs all around and everyone is on their way to the showers in their respective homes.
5.10pm: I hobble into my front door. My father’s sitting in the living room.
What the… What happened to you?
Haan? Nothing, just had a small fall.
A small fall?
Yeah, this rickshaw banged in to me… I was just standing there minding my own business….