Jan 12, 2011


Memories rarely arrive as fully formed sequences like an artfully directed short film. The best of the lot arrive as flashes. Flashes that offer scintillating overlays of past experience on the reality your retinas are currently capturing. The psychologists and their ilk will tell you that our senses are powerful triggers. Textures felt, aromas inhaled, things seen, taste are all capable of setting off the memory equivalents of the camera flash barrage that you see at movie premiers and celeb-dotted events.

The trip I made to Delhi recently was burnished with sweet memories. For the first time in a long time, I arrived into a bright, stunningly sunny, but ferociously cold Delhi. Thanks to the fog, I was put on a morning flight for an evening function. I'd usually pack the space in between with meetings and other boring but sometimes necessary evils. Today was different. The vagaries of the fog - ironically, the very lack of it - meant a day, literally off.

Within moments of exiting the airport, I was both cursing myself and enjoying memory flashes. Have you had them? You return to a place once familiar. You're sitting inside the car hearing the buzz of traffic around you. And just for a fleeting instant, your brain takes a sharp left at the approaching intersection. A mad two-stroke twin howls dementedly away as your right wrist just keeps rolling the throttle further and further open. In the moment, you feel the rear tyre squirming under you bum. And then with equal abruptness, you return to being within the car, smiling contentedly to yourself knowing that the straight you were on leads to two corners. The second of which is off-camber and it tightens on the exit. That's where you first heard the screeching glory of chrome on tarmac as you ground out your precious, there's-no-spares-to-be-had-exhaust. That's where the runt on the RX100 finally grasped that the RD350 was not a motorcycle to be messed with.

Then, coming back to our hotel in the night, my friend and I were sitting quietly in the car as it whirred away, appliance like, tearing a path through the gathering tendrils of the nightly mist. A hint of a rolled down window let a thin shaft of wind ruffle my hair with the attendant sizzle of the cold. It brought back musty memories of a leaky Vega HP helmet. And once more, I remembered the tireless nights I spent running in my RD350 on that very road. How I laughed while I rode that brand new engine hard-hard-hard while practical-alter-ego-me screamed in frustration - another month's salary expended on a new set of pistons, another overbore and so forth. Maniac-me retorted, "Overbore? Means more displacement and then more power." Underneath, the twin throbbed with the vitality of recently born, tearing the night apart with its brutal, all-pervasive roar. It could have been the Qatar GP if you measured the events in terms of intent and commitment.

Nothing stirs in Delhi at night. Well, it didn't in those days. The roar of the rare beast shattered the unearthly silence if at all. I should know. I was on one. I was one.

Once more the brain hangs a left sharpish at the next roundabout. Lean over all the way to the right, and hold. Lift gently out of the seat to allow the bike to aborb that nasty bump caused by tarmac that's lumped up, flowing glacially in Delhi's searing summer. Feel the sudden arrival of the wind in places it usually doesn't get to. And then remember that cold balls means more spunk - never a bad thing. Smile today at the simplistic conclusions of a more youthful time. Then lower back into the seat, nail it. And pick up the gleaming black RD and flick it hard left at an arbitrary exit, knowing that this part of Delhi is jam-packed with roundabouts. Lefts and rights in any flavour you like, in any sequence you can dream up. I see myself disappear in a blur of fog-white and smoke-blue lit balefully by the yellow sodium-vapour lamps that dot Delhi. The roar fades out, the twinkle of the weak-bulbed tail lamp finally disappears...

Drat, someone's rolled up the window all the way.

When I got back on the flight, I was beside myself with the longing for another go in the saddles of my two twins. To shatter through the night like I was twenty once more, sans care, sans EMI and sans sense. And then I wanted to come back in heat of the summer as well. To feel the 47 degree wind tear the moisture right out of my system. To feel the gaze of cagers around me as they wondered why an 'unprotected' biker would be out there in this heat. To feel the RD engine panting for a little respite. To smile and deny mechanical mercy until I was quite done.

It almost makes you want to wish that memory was a well-made long-format movie. Something you could download in 3D-HD from youtube. So you could go back and live it any time your bloody well liked.


theslayer said...

I'm at loss to explain all the emotions coursing through me as my brain processed every single word in this post. I'm afraid you have has just opened the taps inside and my veins are flooded with adrenaline, ecstasy inducing, feeling nostalgic, want to ride a two stroke and drown in pale blue smoke hormones!

Forget the 3D-HD format for memory! Your words are just as awesome. I've never been on a bike in Delhi. I've never noticed how the sodium vapour lamps light up the fog and two stroke smoke. I've never noticed the abandon with which roundabouts exist in parts of Delhi.

I have to admit though, I continue to live without regret. To be able to connect with your memories and live them as if they were mine, God I'm thankful for this awesome gift. You on the other hand, greeedy bugger. You want 3D HD films, and that too download for free viewing from YouTube? Bet you'd even ask for it to be 3D without having to put on those funny glasses :P

Thanks a million for this awesome post rearset!

EvolutioN said...

True blue motorcyclists have this thing of being verbose, stupid geeks about themselves.

There have been so many occasions when I have waxed eloquent about powersliding on a humble TVS 50, about wheelie-ing a bug eyed Fazer and how much more fun a humble Scooty ES is on busy roads than a 150 hp Mondeo. One of my close friends has a whole horde of motorcycles, and he calls his Zma The Babe while the Pulsar 180 has been ingloriously named The Bitch. Where else would you see madness and pain, heartburn and elation, churning vortex of emotions more than a motorcyclist who has seen it all, done even more, yet thirsts for that Oh Shit moment when sanity takes leave of the senses and all that remains is the Holy Trinity?

Cheers Rearset! As a dedicated reader of your blog and someone who celebrates motorcycles for what it truly stands for, unbridled freedom, your post actually left me with wet eyes.

Be well, my friend! And do not forget that throttle lock.