Saturday, December 24, 2005

freedom is a two wheeler with an engine

thats as basic as it gets! everything else is an accessory.

ok, ok! no idiotic jokes about seats and handle bars, or the lack of these. i was introduced to this mode of transportation, rather a way of life, when i was all of sixteen. as far as starts go it wasn't great or fancy. a lime-green bajaj scooter was my first set of wheels. actually, if truth be told, it was my dad's. but as far as inheritances go, this was great for a teenager who didn't care about jibes from friends, snickers from chicks (some of whom begged for the privilege of the pillion seat at later dates), and other assorted inconveniences as long as he didn't have to wait for public transport.

i became a believer in the hamara bajaj campaign ever since. one could squeeze amazing amounts of mileage from it. this is a blessing when you have a limited cashflow, every rupee saved on fuel was a rupee more spent on beer. come to think of it, liquids ruled my life.
the sheer freedom it entailed is hard to describe in words. the little matter of the license was taken care of by two bribes to the concerned officials in the mumbai metropolitan traffic department. with the fake license and 50 bucks i was free to do as i pleased. of course, fuel was priced a lot less so this meant two and a half litres then.

late night parties in any part of the city weren't transportation nightmares anymore. i could ride back at two in the morning without worrying about midnight charges in taxicabs. more often than not i could get someone who'd be dying for a lift back to someplace and this turned out into a profitable business proposition. it went like this, in the middle of the night i'd agree to drop someone off to their place for a nominal fee which would cover my fuel cost for the entire day and which would still be considerably lesser than what they could expect to pay the taximen's union.

i definitely logged in enough hours of drunken or semi-drunken driving then to be able to do it with some degree of confidence even now. mind you, i wouldn't recommend it to anyone but sometimes a man's got to do what a man's got to do. whats an optimal choice when you're drunk and broke, ride the bike home or pay an expensive cab fare. the economics of it is mindbogglingly simple, even to a drunk.

exploration and understanding city roads got an instant boost. yes, a spectacularly large number of people did make fun of me and this included the fairer sex too. but with time and patience everyone appreciated the no-frills basic service provided by the machine. bajaj had nailed the concept of a low-cost carrier even before europe had heard of it.

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