Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Kinetiks in my Life

The Kinetik is a scooter, a local brand, a healthy, bulky, fuel-guzzling machine that had dogged me from my childhood days. The first one that came my way was in something like the seventh standard, belonged to this friend of mine, who used to take me around by making me sitting in front of him like children sit on the fuel tanks of bikes. He was so big that his arms went around me, and I was a thin little midget of a fellow (but I had to bend down or my head would hurt his chin). In fact, the whole bunch of us guys got to ride on it, sometimes four at a time, on one tiny scooter, and the girls got impressed just because we did it for them. Or for some other reason, I wouldn't know. One of the earliest lessons of riding on a two-wheeler I learnt then, which was never to hold the left handle with the right hand, because then you didn't know how to steer (you would go left when you wanted to go right, and then you would wobble and fall). What I enjoyed most about the scooter was that just when the rider would brake to stop, you could dismount by jumping backwards over the rear wheel (the spare, attached to the back). There was also this hook in the front where you could keep bags, and once, we took this big plastic bag, filled it up with water balloons, and went around the place throwing it on people and then zooming away. This was not eccentric behavior, because it was during holi time. The scooter got sold, the friend faded away, and I got a new bunch of friends.
It was the time for antics on the road. The highway was nearby, and rushing up and down the roads was great fun, sometimes teasing and laughing at truck drivers (once, pretending to have a gun, and shooting them, the sporting fellow had the laugh of his life).
There was this other time, in the back roads of a school, I was on a kinetik (without a license) and this friend of mine on a bike, and for some reason, we decided to have a drag race. The Kinetik was better than the bike at the pickup, I accelerated like crazy, going really fast, and well ahead of the bike. Now the road opened up into the main street, and none of us had decided where to stop. The end of the road was the assumed finishing line, and I was well ahead of him. Something just hit me, that if there were vehicles going up and down the road, they wouldn't see me, I wouldn't see them, and there would be an accident. So I braked hard. Remember, that all I was thinking of till that point of time was going as fast as I could. The thing shook like a bull trying to throw someone off at a rodeo, and that's when the other bike overtook me, shot out into the road, went to the other side, then stopped. Nothing hit the bike, but I fell bodily, scraped both my knees, but fortunately nothing serious happened to anyone. He apparently won the race, and I was laughed at, but that's that. It was an insane thing to do anyway, and it paid me right.
I am not a heavy guy. So when I am alone on a two wheeler, especially a Kinetik, it can go really, really fast. This old dilapidated, rusting thing with the visor coming off and shit, was a fun thing to ride. It was the middle of the night and some friend had left his scooter near my home, I was headed to his place for the night, and I was riding it over - without a license, or a helmet, for that matter. But it was the good old days when the roads were free, and I was on the highway. Now judging by the cars and trucks rushing past me at insane speeds, I really didn't see how fast I was going. The wind was rushing through my hair, I was enjoying the night and the moonlight, when I realise suddenly that I am scared of something. I look down on the speedometer and see that I am doing an eighty. A truck barrels past me at some godforsaken speed, disappears into the distance, and I slow down. Just in time too, right ahead of me was a police patrol. It takes the turn I need to take, and I shadow it for a while, in perfect safety, and then reach my destination.
Now the thumb rule is that any fool can drive a Kinetik. No really, if you know how to cycle, you can totally handle this thing. So a friend of mine has no problem with trusting me with his bike, and I take it around for a nice spin, from points A to G going through everything in the middle, and revisiting a few on the way. Now the vehicle is behaving strangely, stopping every now and then, and apparently, the way to fix it is to bounce it a bit on the seats. Not knowing that I was running low on fuel (because of the prices, the pointer is almost always near the empty limit), I keep going. In the middle of nowhere, I run out of fuel. Then I realise that the Kinetik is heavy. But I push it along in the hot sun anyway, uphill, and then coast on it downhill, and then saddle it and push it along with my legs on a steady stretch and a quarter of an hour later, I end up at a petrol pump.
Now these scooters are old, their days are numbered, and these trusty things are on the verge of fading from the roads. Newer, sleeker models are seeping in, maybe a new generation will look back at them fondly, but I want to remember when I can.