Guru On October - 3 - 2007

My Favorite motorcycle story is of one of my friend Mahesh. He was a bit of a stud-muffin when he was a young man and he had his eye on girls in the college to which he was loosely affiliated. He pestered his parents into paying for what he felt sure would be a chick enticement. He made them get him a motor cycle. Unfortunately, when he did get his motorcycle, he found that the girls were beset by young men on bikes and he would have to wait his turn. But since the girls in question was an equal opportunities pillion, Mahesh’s turn came and the two of them sped through the evening, an vehicle got in the way, Mahesh slammed on the brakes but the girl, who was holding on with her fingertips to Mahesh’s shoulder – it was their first date and he flew right over his head and on to the top of another parked car. Other than a damaged elbow and a very badly hurt ego, no harm was done but Mahesh never got her back on his bike. Most other stories are much more horrible. I was reminded of this when I was catching up with a friend from a decade ago. I learnt that my brother, who is D’s age, didn’t get off so lightly. He was on his way to college when he had his accident. It cost him a year and the operation didn’t take. It had to be repeated and that cost him some more time. “He was on a motorbike?” I asked. She nodded. I thought of Suresh dragging his family out of poverty when he drove his motorbike into an oil slick and killed someone. The organization on which he had been working wouldn’t take him back, not with a civil suit pending against him. I thought of one of another friend rushing home to be with his wife on his birthday and ending up in toehold for eight months as his spine recovered. He still shuffles when he walks. He has not worked since, the accident, five years ago. The motorcycle has always been a phallus substitute. Even if you think Freud was a dirty old boy with his mind in the toilet, you have to only look at the way that these machines have been marketed to know that there is a deep grammar connection between the idea of manliness and the motorcycle. The car now seems like some old man’s idea of an extended self. This here bike, steel-hard, inner- thigh-hot, vibrating deeply, protruding from between your legs? Sounds like something familiar? You might argue that masculinity has been redefined in the last twenty years, that it is now about responsibility and stewardship and keeping the promises you make. Tell that to a young man who can’t think beyond his testosterone. Thus the cinematic clichéd of the woman who peels off her helmet to reveal a mane of flowing hair – her breasts have been disguised by clever camera angles in her hunched stance on the bike -always plays with the notion of gender. But at least, she’s young and bodacious. Imagine if a little old lady shook her salt-and-pepper curls out of the helmet. That would be unthinkable. After all, the motorbike is also associated with youth.

Granted, young men will always lust after motorbikes. Death is always a subtle and seductive mistress to the adolescent because life, in the form of good loving sex has not had its chance, to make a claim. Our social structures are also geared to help them prefer death to life. Which do you think is the four-letter word a child should not use? Give you a hint. It’s a verb, transitive. Did you think of the verb ‘to kill’? To threaten someone with death is not stumble. To mention death is not a social blunder. It is common for a child to say, “I’ll kill you if you tell her what I told you” or “I’ll kill you if you mess with my comics” and no parent will twitch. The F word however brings on recriminations and tears and horror. And so on the roads of every major metropolis and B town, there is a bunch of tear away who are generally all-but virgins. As they rip through traffic, as they throw themselves into the wind, the older, the wiser shake their heads and wonder at how cheap life seems to be to them especially for surgeons. I was driving with one when a young man on a motorcycle cut in front of us. “Donorcycles,” he said. “We call them donorcycles.” “Would a helmet help?” “Of course it would. But you have to have it on. Your pillion should have one on too. Or you might end up dead.

Categories: Motorcycle Tour

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