Riding, Driving or backpacking…

To be frank, this is an elongated answer to a prospective friend on why I don’t ride a bike.

The question came like this…

The friend is a biker and I told her “And I don’t know how to ride a bike”. The reply was “You must be a car person”. For which I couldn’t find a reply short enough to ensure that the listener or reader is not bored. Hence I thought I should write it here where people have a choice to read or not to read. If someone wants to choose boredom, they should have the right to do so…

So coming back to riding, I do ride a Honda Activa scooter in Delhi and another Honda Activa when in Kerala, and just like Kanjiram, you can make a statue of me sitting on the Honda Activa when you decide to build a temple for me…

But, I don’t ride a real bike with gear and all and the story starts in upper primary school.

Once, when I was in 7th class, my uncle met with an accident. He was an avid biker, and those days had various models of Hero Honda bikes in the market. He was also one of the founder members of Vypeen Island Twowheelers Association(VITA). So, he met with an accident, and fortunately, nothing was serious, but he got several layers of skin peeled off from his arms which refused to heal for about a month or so. The accident happened because of a pothole in the darkest corner of the road where street lights were not working when he was returning after a late night movie. The uncle in question is the youngest brother of my mother and was also a favourite brother to her.

Now, what do this accident has to do with my riding? The uncle told my parents ‘teach the kids to drive, not to ride’ and according to him riding was too risky even if we are careful. I think he said it in a moment of emotion because he himself bought another bike later and continued biking for a longer time. But this statement had a bearing on my parents mind for a longer period than needed.

I learned to drive when I was 13 years old. I was studying in 8th class, and Nazar known as Nani, an experienced driver of a senior lawyer who also assists my father with his driving skills sometimes, decide to teach me to drive in our old second hand Ambassador car after school hours. Later, after I was 18, I joined a local driving school to ensure that I can drive in ‘H’ shape to get a license for driving Light Motor Vehicle.

We had an old Hero Honda RS 100 also at that time. Nani was of the opinion that people should learn to ride two wheelers also, and even three wheelers (Auto Rikshaws used as local taxis). He wanted to teach me riding once when I was comfortable with driving. It must be when I was in 9th class or 8th class. We started the lessons and riding was difficult compared to driving because I was not big enough support the weight of the bike at that age(I was a small kid, one of the smallest kid in my class room). And then the worst happened!

One fine morning when we woke up and was getting ready to go to school, the bike was not in the garage. It was stolen. My bike lessons stopped there and I never learned to ride afterwards.

During my college days, I could have learned to ride, but I never did, for unknown reasons. But once while I went to an uncle’s house in Kaloor and had to visit another uncle nearby, the uncle insisted me to take his Kinetic Honda for the commute. When I told him I don’t ride, he told me it is as easy as bicycling and insisted me to ride. That was perhaps my first riding experience or experiment which I found to be easy.

Thereafter I got a licence for driving two-wheeler added to my existing licence to drive LMV. The test for riding two-wheeler was done with an M80 scooter with gear, used by a driving school in the area, and they have adjustments to ensure that the vehicle responds perfectly irrespective of the gear in which we have put it. So, I got a licence to ride a two-wheeler with gear.

In between, I had got a Honda Activa and I enjoyed riding it to the core. I used to travel to my college which was one and a half hours away from my home, on this scooter. I used to take the scooter even I. The late-night far away rides and I never hesitated to ride.

Then I got a red coloured Maruti 800. I started alternating between riding and driving. I enjoyed both and it continued for a few years.

Me, on my friend’s bullet, a posed click.

In between, I met with a few minor accidents but nothing was relevant. But there was an accident that I actually remember. I was so overconfident about my driving skills and in an attempt to overtake a truck, my car came face to face with a bus on a curve. There was nothing to do!

The bus driver had better presence of mind and he steered away from me and hit an electric post and stopped just before falling to a well. Thereafter I mellowed down and became a careful driver.

Then I shifted to Delhi, I had no cars and scooters here. So never used to drive or ride, and I forgot the pleasure altogether. In due course of time when I shifted my place of job, the buses were less between my house and office, though the distance was hardly 2 kilometres and I was forced to invest in a scooter again. Thus I started riding the scooter again.

In the meantime, the schedules got busier, and when I go home for vacations I had to travel a lot and I was forced to drive again and I started driving when in Kerala.

So, now I do drive occasionally, ride gearless vehicles regularly, has a licence for geared two-wheelers, but don’t ride them.

Finally, coming to my choice of travelling, I prefer to be a backpacker, using the public conveyance, with free hands to focus and shoot when I feel like. Even if I have to travel in a rented car or family car, if possible, I prefer to switch myself into the backpacker mode, with a camera in my hands…

Perhaps, I have become Lazy…

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