It’s been close to 2 years since I left India – the same time it has been since I experienced genuine adrenaline rush. You know, the one that gets your heart so hot that you can feel it outside (no, I’m not being metaphorical). I’ve been addicted to that ‘rush’ as far as I could remember. As with most Indian children, there were very few means that I could exploit when I was very young. The most common was to ride your cycle fast down a slope with your hands in the air. Sometimes make turns too. Of course, the occasional accidents do scare you enough to stop doing it for a while. That’s the point though – the looming sense of danger is what gives you that rush.
As I grew up, more avenues were exposed. I lived in a relatively untamed environment. Fish was a major part of our lives then. And I imagine this craze with “kalar meen” was shared by children from other parts of TN as well (and probably, all of India). Some were so crazy that they wouldn’t care if it was a tadpole. But people like me, who wouldn’t settle unless it’s the real-2 inch long-thing, would stretch our permitted limits. Each class had its share of renegades who didn’t bother their teacher’s warning about what might happen if anyone is caught “fishing” in the “kenaru” near the school. Dindigul had several little pools and wells where you could “fish.” They were the unforgiving, ‘taken several lives’ kind of water sources – the ideal spots for us little wannabe ‘heroes’ to test our nerves. Some wells were so treacherous that you wouldn’t know difference between day and night once you’re in it. The neatly wound snake skins wouldn’t make the place any less scary. Not to mention, that’s where we usually learn swimming; with some ‘adult’ supervision, of course.
Then we moved to Madras. For a kid from Dindigul--not even Ooty, Mettupalayam or some exotic place like that--Madras seemed so lame. Only thing you can do is play underarm cricket in your street or pedal all the way to IDPL to have the ball lost in some bush. Oh yeah, you can also get on the terrace and spend all your money in some ‘kaathadi’ and watch it bite the dust because of a “deal.” But I can’t think of anything that could have replaced the things I had mentioned I did when I was in Dindigul. The times I almost drowned in the beach come somewhat close.
But it all changed when I got my hands on my father’s 100cc motorbike – I was 15 then. It provided a much needed upgrade to the stale TVS 50 I was riding around once in a while. For once I could hit speeds as high as 100 Km/h. As many teenagers, I didn’t care about holding a license. I didn’t till I was 21. But I took his bike to almost every corner of the city. The fact that I didn’t have a license made those rides a little more adventurous – helped that rush a bit more.
It got better during my college days. It was the time when we had group rides to Pondicherry, New Year nights to Besant Nagar and all the clichéd “adventures” most young men in Madras are known to go through. These occasions usually give you the opportunity to experiment with other bikes. But I always had a big fetish for Yamaha RX 100. I think all bike enthusiasts would agree that it’s the ultimate thrill machine for Indian cities.
I got my lessons directly from my cousins who had mastered the art of crowd control to crazy stunts with the bike. I got to own one myself when I was 21 – just when I got my license. The next two years during which I got to ride it, mostly in Bangalore, had some of the best moments of my life. I haven’t taken any drugs so far, but I think that’s how it feels to be high. When you are rushing through fellow motorists – like you’re travelling in a Star Trek space cruiser with the rocks and other objects disappearing in nanoseconds – your mind operates in a subliminal level. Only then would you be able to not worry about all the lives you put in danger. The top speed of my Yamaha was 120 Km/h 1.
In all my years of bike-riding I’ve had quite a few accidents. Most of the damage done to myself and to my bike(s). Nothing fatal though. To be honest, each accident would slow me down quite considerably. It will take at least a few weeks before I can go above 80 Km/h without getting all shaky and anxious. As if there’s a dog or a bitch waiting just to jump in (pun intended). This is what differentiates bike riding from most other forms of adventure – you can never get used to getting hurt, at least not thoroughly. You get methodical and systematic about how you fall, how you roll and even how you heal. But nothing that will quite make you feel like it’s ‘routine.’ Of course, I’m talking about myself here. I’m sure there are several people who can do exactly that – get used to getting hurt with no residual effects.
Driving, I think, is slightly different. When you’re driving, the whole “I might die” effect isn’t as obvious as it is when you’re on a bike. It’s mostly the ‘got to get home without any scratches or dents’ urge that gives you that rush. And driving is slightly more comprehensive in its experience. Good music, good company, reasonable comfort plus the rush - they are mutually elevating.
Ever since I got here, I’ve driven a few times. That’s about all the “rush” I’ve gotten. Even the fairy ‘ride’ in Niagara sucked. I’ve missed the daily dose for a very long time and it’s taking its toll on me. I’ll write about it from a pseudo sociological perspective in the next post. As of now, I’m just looking forward to my trip to Madras and hopefully get a half-decent second hand car when I return.
1The bike was tuned for high speed. It usually doesn’t exceed 115 Km/h, but it was a long sloping road and I weighed just 54 kilos (still do).