Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The motorcycle that went round and round

Round and round went the bike on the roads surrounding the house in Mysore and the rider did not know how to stop it. Luckily, less than half a litre of petrol was left in its tank and it sputtered to a halt after more than a dozen rounds. That was the only time the bike was on the road. For years it remained perched on the verandah of the house before it was sold for a song. Read on………..

Well, this incident happened a long long time ago in Mysore.
My grandfather’s younger brother, Lakshminarasappa, was an engineer in then Mysore State Electricity Board. He had been posted in Mysore and he lived in a joint family near Jaganmohan Palace in a huge two-storied sprawling house on Parakali Matha Road.
Grandfather was a doctor and he had a private practice in Mysore. His younger brother too was a doctor and he was serving in the Indian Army during the second World War in Europe.
His youngest brother was Lakshminarasappa and he and their families lived in the sprawling house with more than half a dozen children.
When the war ended in Europe, Lakshminarasappa the engineer, saw a huge motorbike belonging to a friend of his. When his friend told him that the bike was for sale, he did not have any second thoughts and he bought the bike.
The bike was ridden by a man servant and pushed into the verandah of the house where it stood majestically on its stand. The bike, the make of which I have forgotten, was either a BSA or a Triumph. It could also be an Enfield. Unfortunately, I have no idea about it as Lakshminarasappa died a few years ago in his daughter’s house in Bangalore.
The bike soon became a center of attraction for children of the house, their innumerable friends, class mates and even the neighbours. In those days, the only vehicles to be frequently seen were the cars of the Mysore Maharaja, cycles and a handful of motorbikes.
Lakshminarasappa soon began the day by diligently dusting, cleaning and finally polishing the bike. He went to his office only after he had lovingly patted his bike and warned the children against playing on the bike.
Over the next few days, Lakshminarasappa started the bike and let the engine run for a few minutes before switching it off. The road of the bike and the thick fumes from its exhaust pipes brought forth a volley of  high-pitched protests from the womenfolk in the house and yells of wonder from the children.
The women, particularly, his wife, told Lakshminarasappa that he could not start the bike within the house. Go out, start the bike and do what you want, they said. Lakshminarasappa took their advice literally and he said he would take the bike for a ride from the next day. He also said he would be taking the bike to the office regularly.
The next day being a Sunday, Lakshminarasappa had the bike carefully lowered from its perch on the verandah to the portico of the house. He then gave the bike one last round of dusting before he kick started it.
The roar of the engine could be heard across the road and people from neighbouring house gathered around their windows to see what the commotion was about. Their children came running to the house to watch the bike spew huge plumes of smoke.
Very soon, the entire family gathered around the bike and Lakshminarasappa’s wife performed pooja to the bike. The womenfolk then went into the house after advising Lakshminarasappa to be careful.
The children hovered around the bike and each wanted to get onto the bike first. Lakshminarasappa advised patience and said he would first go on a solo ride and then take the children. “Be patient, let me see how the bike rides. I will take all of you, one by one”, he said.
The bike was taken of the stand and Lakshminarasappa got onto it. He put the bike in gear and it zoomed off, veering crazily from one side to another for a few minutes before it steadied itself. The children-Prasad, Anantha, Lakshmi and several others ran behind the bike shouting encouragement.
Within a few minutes, the motorbike could be seen coming around the bend and as it neared the house, the children waved and asked Lakshminarasappa to stop. The bike rider, dare not let his arms go and he, therefore, did not wave. He shouted at the children,  asking them give way.
The motorcycle passed them and once again went around the road. Soon the motorcycle came in a second time and this time the children could make out that the rider was saying something to them. Before they could make out what he was saying, the bike once again vanished around the road.
The third time the bike came, the children could faintly make out the word the rider was saying. It appeared to them that he was saying “Hidi Ree”. Another round on the bike and all the children were sure that the rider was indeed saying “Hidi Ree”. 
But the question in their mind was what should they catch. “Hidi Ree”  in Kannada means catch and the rider had been repeatedly asking the children to “catch the bike”. By now, Lakshminarasappa had gone several rounds on the road and the racket of the bike had literally brought the entire neighbourhhood to the streets.
All they saw was a tall and lean figure astride a military bike (yes, it had been purchased from an Army man) that was going around the road at a fair clip. Suddenly, the bike spluttered to a halt and came to a stop almost on front of the house.
Lakshminarasappa hurriedly alighted and scolded the children, asking them why they had disregarded his advice to catch the bike. When Prasad, the eldest of the children, asked why he said he did not know how to stop the bike. “I thought if I press inwards the two levers in front of the handle, the bike would stop. But, whenever I pressed them, they speeded up and also let out a road”.
Unfortunately, Lakshminarasappa had thought a bike is very similar to a cycle. He imagined it would stop once you press the two brakes simultaneously. You see, cycles have brakes on the handle bar and the bike too, he thought, had similar brakes. Unfortunately, he had not asked the earlier owner as to how to stop the bike. Being an electrical engineer, he knew that the bike would start once the key was pushed into the ignition panel and turned up.
He had started the bike and even enjoyed two rounds. When he wanted the bike to stop, he found he did not know what lever to press to stop the vehicle. You see, both his feet were on the two footrests and he never knew that the leg brake was beneath the right foot rest.
He had asked the children to hold up the bike but his words were every time drowned by the roar of the bike. Well, coming back to the bike story, up the steps it went to the verandah and it once again sat on its perch for a few days before it was disposed off.
Never again, did Lakshminarasappa deign to ride any other bike or two-wheeler. The only vehicle he used almost till his retirement was his much loved cycle.
He remembered his bike when he saw me riding my Bullet. How heavy and ugly it is, he remarked. When I offered him a ride, he politely declined and told me this story.
I asked him why he did not turn off the ignition key. The bike would have stopped the and there, I said. He looked at me incredulously. “How could I remove the hands from the handle bars. I had a tough time controlling the bike. If I had even removed my hand for second, I would have crashed”, he said.                         

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