Bicycles and Bikes – Part II

After my postgraduation, I joined Pond’s India Ltd., in Pondicherry. I bought a Kawasaki KB100. It was a good bike and served its purpose. I used it for about 2 years and when I moved to Madras to join TCS I sold it. The only incident worth mentioning is how I fell into a cesspool.

One day after the office, I went to buy a gift for my friend’s daughter— a birthday present. I went to a toy shop and bought a teddy bear—a cute white one, which was about 45cms tall, 30cms wide, and with red eyes. The salesgirl packed it in a nice box with bright wrapping paper and red ribbons. The sky was overcast and I was pretty sure it was going to rain before I got home. To prevent the gift from getting wet, I asked the salesgirl to wrap the box in a plastic cover. She gave me a big plastic duffel bag. I put the teddy bear in it tied the top of the bag with a long plastic rope in such a way that the plastic rope became a chain with the bag as the pendant. I had to drive through the crowded Pondicherry traffic with the teddy bear resting on the fuel tank and I didn’t want it to fall off.

I put the teddy bear on the tank, put the rope around my neck like a chain and drove back to my apartment. The rain was threatening to pour at any moment. There were two roads to the colony where I was staying. One was through a slum and was about 1.5Km shorter than the proper road. I rarely used that road even though it was shorter. But that day I chose it so I could reach my apartment before it started raining.

When I was about 200 meters from my apartment, I saw the road blocked. There was a cesspool on one side of the road which contained the years of accumulated waste and dirt from the different colonies in that area. I don’t think it was ever cleaned as the water in the pool was dark, murky and stinking, which was one reason I avoided that road. When I came closer, I saw a canal roughly 1.5 meters wide dug to drain the water in the cesspool to the sewage canal on the other side of the road. Since the canal across the road was not complete, the cesspool and the canal were full of stinking, filthy and dirty water.

There was a wooden plank about 8 inches wide—a temporary bridge—over the canal which was held in place by some stones. Anybody in his right mind would have turned back and gone home through the other route. But I was so close to my apartment and the rain had started. So I decided to cross the canal through the bridge—the wooden plank. It was a stupid and irrational decision. I still cannot explain how I committed that blunder. I backed the bike so as to align both the wheels in a straight line, put it in first gear and drove over the wooden plank. I got on the plank, the front wheel covered about half the distance and I was almost through when my luck ran out and disaster struck.

The back wheel got stuck on one of the stones holding the ‘bridge’ in place. I accelerated hoping to free the wheel, but it was stuck and wouldn’t budge. The bike stopped at the middle of the bridge over the canal, I started toppling but couldn’t put my foot down as the canal was about 1meter deep. Very slowly, agonizingly slowly, I fell into the canal. The bike lay on top of me but it didn’t fall through as the canal was not that wide. The plastic bag containing the teddy bear floated in the water, and I was standing waist deep in that filthy water. Yuck @#$%&*

I got up, lifted the bike over the canal and climbed out with the plastic bag hanging on my neck. I drove home before people gathered. I was staying in the first floor of a two-storied house with my landlord staying in the ground floor. I was covered in filth and the stink was unbearable. I put the bike on stand a few meters before the house, tiptoed to the first floor, opened my apartment, dumped the teddy bear, went to the bathroom, tore off my clothes and took the first in the series of showers that followed. After the first bath, I took another in hot water, then another one in cold water. I put on new clothes, went down with a bucket of water and soap solution, washed and cleaned the bike. I took another shower, again changed my clothes, went to the nearby supermarket bought all sorts of detergents, antiseptic solutions, soaps, and the like, returned home and must have had at least 8 -10 baths. Finally when I was reasonably satisfied, I went down and asked the watchman to wash my bike properly and tipped him generously. Then I remembered the teddy bear. I went in and checked; it was still in mint condition, thanks to the plastic bag. That was the only consolation of the day…

After coming to Madras, I bought a Kinetic Honda. I wanted a vehicle that I could maneuver easily through the traffic and Kinetic Honda seemed the perfect choice. During the initial days, I was staying at Ashok Nagar almost 25Kms from our office. It was the training period and the assignments were given every other day and we almost lived in the office. It was December and we (my roommate and I) used to go back to our flat only by around 4.00AM. It was terribly cold and the windcheater I had was not at all adequate. So after a few kilometers the hands and face would freeze and I used to sit on the bike steering it telekinetically. My roommate would be sleeping quite oblivious to the close encounters with danger. Somehow we managed to reach the flat unharmed.

Then we moved to Gandhinagar, a place closer to the office and after the training we were assigned to the different projects. My friend and I were allotted the same project, same module and same shift. The first shift was from 7AM to 2PM and the second shift from 2PM to 10PM and the shifts changed each week. So if we were in the first shift one week, the next week we would be in the second shift. But in our project, the shift timings were a formality—every body was supposed to work 12-14 hours. So we would start from our flat by around 7AM and would be back only by 10.30PM. We had some excitement during those days.

One day I had a fight with a traffic constable who caught me when I jumped the signal (he was angrier with the 2 Rupee bribe that I offered). He asked me to stop the bike and hand the key over to him. He was holding on to the handle and was trying to get the key. I forcibly removed his hand and took off. I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t be able to catch me as I was near to my office and my rear number plate was completely covered in mud.

Then another day when we went for a movie, I had a head on collision with a Yamaha. I was just entering the theater and saw a Yamaha (with the driver, his wife, and three kids—one on the fuel tank and two other sandwiched between the husband and wife) coming in my direction. He was going out and mistook the entrance as the exit. I stopped the bike and started shouting, but the Yamaha driver was discussing some serious family issues with his wife and didn’t hear me. I told my friend to brace for the impact and was holding the brakes with all my strength so I won’t be pushed back during impact. He came directly at me and while our bikes locked in a fierce embrace, the kid on the fuel tank came flying at me and I took my hands from the handlebar to catch him. The Kinetic Honda’s brakes are on the handlebar and when I took my hands from the handlebar it not only put me off balance but also released the brakes. The momentum of the impact and the momentum of the kid combined with the lack of brakes were too much for me. I fell down with the kid and the bike fell on my legs. My friend too was down in a very similar situation with one leg under the bike and one over it. Even though, I hit my head on the ground, the kid was unharmed as I was holding him close to my chest. Soon many people gathered around us and lifted the bike. The Yamaha and its passengers were unhurt. I handed the kid to its mother and they drove off mumbling an apology. The front mudguard of my Kinetic Honda was a mess and I had to borrow a wheel spanner from a car to pull it back so the front wheel will turn. We didn’t see the movie; instead we went to a clinic and got our wounds dressed.

Another day we were returning home after the second shift. It must have been around 10.30PM. We stopped at a traffic signal and when the signal turned green I started the bike. The acceleration of Kinetic Honda was fine but nothing spectacular to write home about. We were slowly gaining speed, but then there was an impatient driver behind us. He started honking the horn and I moved to the side as fast as I could but he was not satisfied with my response. While overtaking he started shouting at me. He was a young kid, around 18 years or so, and was as thin as a wafer biscuit. I smiled at him and winked. He was furious and blocked my way with his bike. I don’t know what made him think that he could tackle two of us. There was an old person—a poojari (pandit)—sitting behind him.

Since the kid had blocked the way, there were only two options for me—go around him or face him. I was in a very peaceful mood and so I decided to face him. I asked my friend to hold the bike, got off the bike and walked towards my ‘friend’ on bike. When the kid had a good look at me, he knew he was in some difficulty. He was not a match for me, unless he was a martial art exponent, which he was not. I went straight to him and asked why he had blocked my way. The kid was frightened and the old man behind him was even more afraid. He jumped off the bike and started apologizing to me in Tamil. So I went to the kid and told him to get the bike out of my way (in Malayalam)—“Vandi eduthu mattaeda pulle…Allengil chaviti ninte adinambu njan edukum.” I don’t know whether the kid understood the meaning of what I said, but he surely got the message. The kid and his grandpa left the scene as fast as they could.

One day while coming back from office, I overtook a car through the wrong side. There was heavy traffic and I was weaving between the larger vehicles and came behind this car. It was Fiat souped up for performance. A young man around 20 years was driving the car and all the other occupants of the car were cute twenty-something girls. He also was weaving the car to get ahead but was failing as there was not enough space to get ahead. I waited for a few minutes, but he was not willing to let me get ahead. So I accelerated suddenly and overtook him through the wrong side. My friend who was the pillion rider, gave the driver the finger (not the injured one that Greg Chappell is said to have shown the Sourav Ganguly’s fans in Calcutta) and mouthed “f*** you b******”. But he didn’t mention it to me.

Suddenly I felt a jolt as the car’s bumper hit my Kinetic Honda’s rear, pushing it forward. I thought that it was the reaction of cutting in to his front from the wrong side. So I accelerated and just put an autorickshaw between us. But the angry young man in the Fiat was not finished. He was insulted in front of his admiring fans and he wanted revenge. So he threw caution to winds and was coming after be driving dangerously and recklessly. I had to use all my experience and expertise and take a lot unnecessary risks to get away from him. Luckily the traffic was heavy and I could make my way ahead and away from him. Then we reached the traffic signal and it was still Green and we were among the last few vehicles to cross the junction before the signal turned Red, leaving the guy and the girls in car stranded at the signal. I pulled the bike to a hotel we frequent. Once safely inside, I wondered aloud about the abnormal behavior of the car driver. It was then my friend told me what he did. I nearly strangled him…

My riding career came to a spectacular finale on the 2nd of December, 1993. You can read more about it here.


  1. arvindh said,

    May 31, 2006 at 12:45 am

    It is great that you wanted to catch the child when you were colliding head-on with the Yamaha. Interesting narrative!

  2. thanu said,

    May 31, 2006 at 12:51 am

    Daivame… all the things u have done. I actually pictured u with u arms raise high and a kid in those arms.

    This is the first time I have heard anyone describing a teddy with dimensions. 45cms tall, 30cms

    I have heard cute adorable, but never dimensions.

  3. James Bright said,

    May 31, 2006 at 1:43 am

    I am after that teddy bear..did you give it to that child?
    But one thing are very brave..!

  4. Sarah said,

    May 31, 2006 at 5:26 am

    I am still trying to undesrtand this..production engineer, master’s degree holder.. what was he trying to do by riding a bike on a ‘plank’ temporary bridge over a cesspool..

  5. Suji said,

    May 31, 2006 at 10:51 am

    Proves even the most intelligent of us make the most silly mistakes once in a while. But silly mistakes usually make great stories afterwards….lol. I am sure even after so many baths it must have taken you a few days to feel clean again.

  6. Alexis Leon said,

    May 31, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    arvindh: Thanks arvindh…It was a reflex reaction… But I am glad that I did that.

    thanu: When I think back my response is the same…Daivame… :-). Teddy with dimensions; Well I mentioned it because I wanted to justify the elaborate preparation of the chain and putting it around my neck. If it was a small teddy, then I would have put it on the fuel tank and drove home. I had also mentioned cute—a cute white one with red eyes 🙂

    James: Yes, I gave it to the kid. She was happy as it was as big as her. I am brave, but that day I made a stupid decision.

    Sarah: What is there to understand? Everybody makes stupid mistakes once in a while 🙂 I have driven bikes over bridges as narrow as that. I fell down because the back tyre got stuck.

    Suji: I completely agree with you (silly mistakes). I agree with that too (great stories) :-). I must have finished 2 bottles of after shaving lotion that day. Yes it took a few days to feel clean 🙁

  7. nina said,

    May 31, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    once i was cycling my way to a fnds house and the road was dangerously narrow. a bus came in the oopsite side n i didnt have the presence of mind to put the breaks… god he had that n he put the break

  8. Dhanush said,

    May 31, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    Huh !! Chaliyilalpam Kuli Alle. Man you got a lot of experiences on Bike. But one thing I never understand is how you moved on to the lesser bikes. From an Enfield Bullet to Kinetic Honda, would that be an easy task? I rode KH at home, my mom’s, now I ride a Pulsar and whenever I go back home and drive it, I feel like I am sitting on somethin that is lesser in size. And now I am dreaming of a T’Bird.

  9. silverine said,

    May 31, 2006 at 5:35 pm

    Ewwww you fell into sewage slush? UGH! You remember every detail of your biking days with such clarity this post was more like a motion picture!!

    This time on the road from Kochi to Blr a kid suddenly ran in front of our tyres. My bro braked just in time and the car turned a neat 180 degrees. It was absolute conrol of the car that saved the kid that day. I got down and sceamed at the lady in “shudha’ Malayalam, somewhat like how you berated the kid and grandpa 🙂

    I read your story and that delayed this comment. It took some time to absorb the fact that “I was going to get married on December 26th.”


  10. Alexis Leon said,

    May 31, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    nina: Your experience is very similar to an experience my dad had when he was learning to ride a bullet. His guru (his elder brother) taught him to start the bike, change the gears and asked him to take a test drive. But he forgot to teach how to stop the vehicle. So he while he was entering a narrow bridge, a KSRTC bus came from the opposite side. Luckily the bus stopped before entering the bridge as somebody wanted to get out at that stop. That saved him. So when he always told us to learn how to stop a vehicle before learning how to start it.

    Dhanush: I wouldn’t call it ‘Chali’; it will be insulting ‘chali.’ The move from bullet to smaller vehicles was a result of convenience. When I finished my M. Tech, I gave my bullet to my brother.

    But moving from bigger and better bikes to smaller ones is a mistake. You still expect the same performance from the smaller vehicles which they cannot deliver. When I had my accident, if I was on a bullet, I would be still on the bike; I would not have thrown away from it, the Bullet’s weight would have ensured that and my spinal cord got injured as a result of the fall not from the collision. So after riding the Pulsar, be very careful when you ride the KH. Thunderbird is an excellent bike. You should definitely go for it.

    Anju: Yes and it was a terrible experience. Oh yes, I remember almost all the details of all the incidents very clearly. Sometimes it is a blessing and sometimes it is a curse. Curse, because, I remember all the bad things that happened to me, said about me, and done to me also very clearly. So it is very difficult to forget and forgive.

    So your bother did a bootlegger (skid U turn). Cool. I have often found that when you want to shout at somebody and you want to show how furious you are, there is no language better than Malayalam. It has always worked for me.

    Yes, I had my accident just 24 days before my marriage. But when you look back, it was better that it happened before and not after. At least, it eliminated a lot of complications.

  11. lalitha said,

    May 31, 2006 at 9:31 pm

    Alex you sure did a lot of fun stuff. I can only imagine how you looked covered withall that sewage with the bag hanging around your neck. Enjoyed reding this post.

  12. silverine said,

    May 31, 2006 at 9:33 pm

    I am still laughing at your friend who “gave the driver the finger (not the injured one that Greg Chappell is said to have shown the Sourav Ganguly’s fans in Calcutta) ha ha ha 🙂

    So it is called a “bootlegge”? Ok, that is new information. This lady was waiting for the bus I guess and she let this kid all of four years old or so play on the road. I am still thanking the stars that he didnt come under the car or we would have had a cop case in our hand. I remembered Minducrry’s post on driving in Kerala “Road Star” on Little did I realise then that I would encounterthe same situation.

    I was too mad at the lady and when I am angered I do give a mouthful. 🙁

    “At least, it eliminated a lot of complications.” Amen!

  13. Paresh said,

    May 31, 2006 at 9:39 pm

    I enjoyed this. Cannot imagine that you had so much fun. One of your best posts. Better than the Roger, Roger Chicken Roger & Pondi experiences post – sorry cannot remember the title. :p

  14. Alexis Leon said,

    May 31, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    lalitha: Thanks Lalitha. Yes, it was a sight 🙁 But luckily nobody was there…

    silverine: It was one hell of an experience, being chased by a mad and reckless young turk who was being encouraged by a group of pretty girls.

    Yes, it is called a bootlegger or bootleg turn. The name of the turn originates from the prohibition era of the US, when bootleggers transporting illegal liquor would use the maneuver to escape from police officers. You can find more details about it here. MC’s account and rules are a handbook (in fact an enjoyable one) to anybody who wants to ride/drive in Kerala.

    Paresh: Thank you Paresh. Nothing new from you. Busy?

  15. D said,

    June 1, 2006 at 4:23 am

    In a world where real heros are tough to come by, you truely are an inspiration, Alex.

    heres to you, Alex.

  16. Paresh said,

    June 1, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    Not really. Shall mail you the latest.

  17. venus said,

    June 2, 2006 at 2:03 am

    Mr. Brave You took many unnecessary risks in this bikes sequel,

    god, the crazy car driver scared me too!

    and the sewer.. aaiicckkss, 10 showers?!? I’m sure u were probably still smelling and your friend was just being polite by not complaining u 😛
    just joking..

  18. Manju said,

    June 3, 2006 at 1:32 am

    Nice to read ur posts…

    i hve been reading ur posts for the past 2 months but never commented

    looking forward for new posts

  19. anu said,

    June 3, 2006 at 10:12 am

    ha..! ha..! ha..!!
    really funny..
    we too were once stopped by the police .. it was in thiruvalla..soon after our marraige.. we drove from trivandrum to a bike.. by the time we reached thiruvalla our hairs were tousled and we looked like ruffians.. the constable caught us for parking just in front of the line..
    peeps noted that his licence was just past the date.. we were told to park the bike a bit farther ahead but we drove off.. after some i noted that the poilce man was following us.. in an autoriksha..!! shouting at us..!!
    but we dashed our escape..
    i still remember him shouting from the auto.. mariyadhakku vandi niruthunnathanu nallathu..!!!

  20. Alexis Leon said,

    June 3, 2006 at 10:40 am

    D: Thank you D Said,

    Paresh: Thanks. Good as usual.

    venus: No venus, I took some calculated risks. There is a big difference 🙂 And look who is saying this—the fast and furious girl on the Mazda…

    Yes the sewer incident was a bad experience. But there was nobody with me to complain about the smell 🙂

    Manju: Welcome to my blog Manju. Thank you for dropping by.

    anu: Ha ha…the serious philosopher and hubby were once daredevil drivers. Jumping the signal and being chased by the cop 🙂 mariyadhakku vandi niruthunnathanu nallathu Was that all the cop said…I don’t believe you 😉

  21. chacko said,

    June 4, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    my sister got a teddy bear as a present when she was 5 or 6 ..and she named her “kuttan” . she used to keep it near her pillow.. without that she wont sleep properly… “kuttan” was her best friend……

    BTW she got married last year..:D… and i tease her by asking about her new “teddy bear” 😀

  22. Geo said,

    June 5, 2006 at 9:19 am

    ha ha ha ha…
    so this is the dare devil part of your bike stories… the not so polished incidents…. every biker has his share of these stories… i can relate to some of these… but no falling in sewage and running away from police… ha ha ha ha…

    “Vandi eduthu mattaeda pulle…Allengil chaviti ninte adinambu njan edukum.”

    aa bullet-il irikkunna pose kandappozhe chodhikkanam ennu vichaarichathaa – “Gaja pookkiri aarunnu, alle? ” 😉

  23. Deepa said,

    June 5, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    why didnt u horn at the guy on the yamaha ?? instead of yelling at him , u could have horned , na ? coz a KH’s horn is so easily accessible .. well .. kinda easily accessible

  24. Deepa said,

    June 5, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    have the last 2 paras to read … lemme get down to that

  25. Alexis Leon said,

    June 5, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    chacko: Teddy bear named “Kuttan”!! So how is the new “teddy bear”?

    Geo: Yes Geo, these are some not so polished incidents… Gaja pokkiri onnum alla…cheriya cheriya oro numberukal…geevichu pokande macha…

    Deepa: I was honking the horn, but you know the sound of the KH’s horn. I was yelling because it was louder…

  26. Anup Nandialath said,

    June 6, 2006 at 10:51 pm

    chettai…comin here after some time i guess..need to get u on my blogroll..very interesting narrative…neendiya jeevithathile kochu kochu sambhavamgal..thoroughly enjoyed reading it…

  27. chacko said,

    June 8, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    LOL Alexis….

    i hope u properly spelled the word “kuttan” ..its pronunced same as in “kattan chaya” (black tea)…not the other way 😛

  28. poison said,

    June 10, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    i read this post some time ago 🙂
    was hung up in exams n all…still am thanks to eternal postponements.

    that incident with the fiat was totally funny 🙂
    also..poor poojari 😀

    man…the teddy saga. 😀 was glad to hear that the teddy was still in mint condition after that dip in the mud. n lol @ the teddy dimensions 😀

  29. Deepa said,

    June 12, 2006 at 10:03 am

    oh i see …. we have fitted a new horn on our KH … it kinda shrieks .. but i like it

  30. Karin said,

    June 12, 2006 at 11:30 am

    What a story!!! I better not try to imagine the feeling of having that sewage slush all over .. YUCK!! You’re a brave guy though … I’m impressed!

  31. Alexis Leon said,

    June 12, 2006 at 11:46 am

    Anup: Thank you brother. Yes kochu kochu sambhavangal 🙂

    chacko: 🙂

    poison: Hope your exams went well. Thank you for your concern for the teddy 🙁

    Deepa: I only had the horn that came with the KH. It made a sound—something like an apology of a horn.

    Karin: Thanks Kiran. Glad that you liked the post.