Apr 13, 2006

The wet one

It didn't begin that well, really. I'd invited the girl to dinner, yes, but not because I was romantically inclined, or interested in her at all. I just wanted to see if this quiet, shy and always slightly disheveled and disconnected one changed outside the work place. Obviously, the curiosity overtook me in the middle of the Mumbai monsoon, and the girl wanted to get to our chosen dinner place on the back of my motorcycle. Come to think of it, the girl's name, literally meant rain.

Let me introduce the central character in the story, Feroz (Spanish, adj. Ferocious; pronounced feyrroz), my late '80s RD350 (she's no longer with me though, we sort of broke up. I was working too hard and not spending enough time with her, she said. I was guilty as charged). I came to meet her mostly by chance and soon came to love her. I was warned, 'That one? She's jinxed. Every rider who's ever been on her has fallen.' Two years later, I still hadn't. She'd start after a fashion every morning and run blissfully the rest of day. Tuned for mid-range, Feroz was a sublime pleasure. Always willing, usually able and never shy of pushing the envelope just a little bit when we were both in the mood. She also had a great singing voice.

Anyway, on the appointed evening, I went down fifteen minutes early and wiped the seat down. It was a tattered old bag of foam with cracks in the rexine that would let the rain sneak and hide in the sponge. And when you sat on the perfectly dry surface, Feroz would paint your butt with two large bull-eyes. The moment I got back in the elevator, it rained hard for precisely two minutes. So when the lady finally arrived, the seat was soaking wet again. She was sweet enough to cut right through my embarrassment and say, 'It's okay, I'll survive a wet seat.'

Then, Feroz threw one of her famous tantrums, she refused to start. As if to say, 'You're joking, right? You are not ferrying another chick with my help.' Wearing my helmet, jacket and all, lady wearing another lid, rain coming down in sheets, I kicked and kicked and until finally, out of pity I think, she finally burst to life.

Moments later we were off. Feroz appeared to be behaving herself and the gathering night was sweeping by at a pretty rapid rate as the three of us plunged deep into south Mumbai. And then Feroz sputtered. And again. Out of instinct I reached under the carb and realised she was flooding away like there was no tomorrow. Bitch.

I pulled into a fuel pump and got her brimmed. The rest of the evening would involve a fair amount of petcock (that pornographic word is probably the most interesting of all in motorcycle jargon) juggling to keep the flood to a minimum and the ride smooth. Feroz was not going win the battle this way.

The lady, on the other hand, was more of less oblivious to my raging argument with Feroz. She was a tiny, light little thing who all but disappeared on the back of the bike. Hell, if it wasn't for Feroz's nagging, I'd almost have forgotten she was on the bike. On one corner, I leaned in pretty hard, and Lady Rain proved perfect. Not a missed beat, no clutching, just a smooth line. I was wishing the dinner joint was further away.

We turned up at the seaside Italian restaurant, sputtering and Feroz aside, happy. The night slowed and the dinner went swimmingly. Lady Rain wasn't that different, but she had a hell of a lot more to say outside the workplace. Upshot, it was nice.

Post dinner, Feroz's mood seemed to have improved. She started meekly and while I was still fiddling with the fuel control, she ran quietly. Almost as if she'd finally figured out that my interest in Lady Rain was platonic, on the level and in no way competing with her. Ten minutes and a fleeting hug (I refused to get off the bike for some reason, was I reassuring Feroz?) later, Feroz and I were alone again. The carburettor dried up almost immediately. Her singing voice cleared right up and I finally left the fuel cock on the mains.

We rolled off high above the water, as the narrow road wound down. The night and the rain were peaking and so was Feroz. The meek thrum had gained an edgy bark that I hadn't heard before and she seemed happy suddenly.

For perhaps the only time in my riding career so far, I felt at one with the night, the rain and Feroz. Today, I could not crash. Today, I was invincible. Feroz and I turned into an impossibly alive streak in the night. Home was forty kilometres away. And we'd play all the way. Once the road opened, we screamed into its deserted expanse, rear tyre sending a ten foot tall, seething wet hello arcing into the past. The speedo climbed quickly to settle at about 130 kph. This is the speed beyond which Feroz would usually complain, but not tonight.

We shot out of the city streets on to the highway. Tonight, the trucks moved out of our way of their own. Sheets of water stood up off their zillion wheels to watch us scream past, leaving a frothy wake and a lively song that hung in the air as our 'we were here' postcards. The headlight gave off a steady contrail of fresh steam and lit up miles of wet, gleaming tarmac, seeming smiling in welcome.

We reached home having averaged a serene 120 kph. As Feroz ticked over silently in the garage, the only other sounds were the sizzle of steam coming off the exhaust and the rounded plops of water dripping off me. And a contented hum from the rain outside. Would we ever be this good together again?


born_in_the_woods said...

Nice read...

Hrishikesh said...

Rearset, u rock. If u ever decide to write a book, i'll buy the first copy.

I really mean it.

Anonymous said...

I just got my first RD350 and I can't wait to tune it. Reading this has got me amped in a way I've never felt before. A good writer you are - very inspiring.