Zurina 6000km Memoir

Photo Credit: my close pals Indranil Mukherjee & Shovon Ray

12th of December 2011, I saw her bums for the first time and fell in love with her … a beauty in black and graphite winking at me as the twin headlights was being tested. I slowly walked up to her, touched her, turned the key and pushed the button. The engine purred into life and she was christened Zurina – the white shadow. The name was kind of oxymoronic for the black beauty.

The R15v2 is probably the best looking bike in India at the moment and there are no second thoughts about the same. Being a big fan of the iconic RX100, I had huge expectations from this one.

The moment you put your leg over the seat you would realize the most prominent thing about the bike. The tail is high. It is so high that an average height person would still end up scratching the pillion seats with his shoes. This was something I need to get used to. The seating position is such that the weight of the rider is onto the front of the bike. And like many would think, yes the body weight is mostly onto the palms of the rider. However I noticed that the seats are designed such that you are expected to sit further up on the seat, such that you touch the pillion seat. This is the most comfortable way you can sit on this bike. You would notice that the weight suddenly vanishes from the palms and you are seated almost hugging the tank and you are maneuvering the bike at a flick of your body weight.

One of the things I noticed, a change from the previous version, was that the low/mid end torque is more spread out and it’s a breeze to flick the bike around city traffic. This was my first full fairing bike, hence took me some time getting used to the size upfront.

Next I took the bike to lady friends of mine and boy did they love the bike, like I mentioned earlier, the looks are killer. Took them for a spin around town and she mentioned that she loved the high seating position as she could see what’s up front over my head. Not all ladies had the same opinion though, some were scared enough not to even give it a try. The pillion seat is not exactly comfortable and can be a pain in the bums especially in Kolkata where the roads are bad. I’m working on getting the seats redone to make it more comfy.  Seeking an opinion from my guy friends I took the bike to two of my guy friends, one a heavy 90+ kilo guy and the other with a medium stout build. Both of them loved the seating and what was surprising was that handling the bike with all that weight was still a breeze. Even in hard breaking the weight shift was manageable. Another thing I noticed was that most pillions were holding on to me, which is nice and cozy as long as the ladies are concerned, however it can be very tiring with their body weight slung on you. The solution was simple, asking the pillions to hold the tank with their palms, when going fast. At slow speeds all they need to do is take support from the riders’ shoulders.

The run in period was the most difficult … keeping the baby under 4K rpm in the first 1000 kms. It was just too tempting to twist the throttle and go for it … but of course at the possible risk of damaging the engine. I did a two-step run in process. The first 250kms I ran the engine with the usual 4 stroke mineral oil and then drained the oil and replaced it with the recommended synthetic oil. This was done to get rid of possible contaminants from the engine compartments. The bike handled well in those low speeds and the overall handling was confidence inspiring. The efficiency was what surprised me … it returned around 47kmpl which was a shock to me. I recalculated to make sure I got it right.

Noticeable issues I had with the bike till now were a few but something that cannot be ignored. The bike has no grab rail which scared the pillions at times. A centre stand would be greatly appreciated, especially for us DIY guys who love to get their hands dirty in oil and grim.  In fact a race stand could be an optional accessory we could get from the company showrooms. The rear tail assembly came loose, required a twist of the screws to set it right. The rear view mirrors are not that user-friendly to adjust. If you get the arms right and tighten them, it is still easy for a road side romeo to twist the mirrors for his narcissist pleasures. Another thing I noticed was that the tool box did not have a spanner to adjust the rear view mirror arms; I just bought one from my friendly diy store.

Time came for me to experience the bike on open roads. I was heading home to Jamshedpur from Kolkata; around 280Kms. Post the run in period this would the first time I was going to open her throttle up. 3:30AM I started from Kolkata and touched Kharagpur (130kms away) in just less than 1 hour 15 minutes. The headlights did a pretty good job, however being a nocturnal rider, I’d be upgrading soon to HIDs. On the speedometer it showed me the highest of 138kmph, where as the GPS registered 132kmph. There could be a slight margin of error here it seems. The bike handled well in straights and stuck to the ground with oodles of grip on the curves. Even under hard breaking, when a dog jumped in front, the bike stayed in control. So far, so good.

The challenge post Kharagpur was the stretch of bad roads all the way to Jamshedpur, another 150 odd kms. Around close to 60% of this stretch will put the surface of moon to shame. Craters, Red Dust, and if it rains Red Slush is what I call it. I wanted to see how well a bike designed for the track handles in such conditions. The ground clearance amazed me. I went half expecting a blow onto the engine cowl at some point or the other. The suspension, albeit on the stiffer end, behaved well and made handling the bike a pleasure. Bums did ache, however I was expecting worse. Due to this stretch I managed to reach Jamshedpur in 4 and a half hours, the fastest train on this stretch does it in 3hrs 55mins.

This was also the first time my mother saw the bike, and what is the first question she asks me? Do I get a stool to climb onto the pillion seat? On my return I did the same route in 4hours. I hope to beat the train one day.

The bike is also my daily commute to and fro my workplace, with a daily run of around 30 kms. The absence of a main stand did prick at times, but not much. She returned me a mileage within the range of 37 ~ 47kmpl, depending on the way and the conditions in which I rode. As always the bike was an eye candy, so much so that some jealous prick even scratched the tank with his key.

Today I complete 6000kms and I must say that Leader Yamaha in Kolkata is a lovely place to get your bike serviced in, with return times of less than 2hours; with a very able set of service technicians. I must add the performance of this bike makes up for every small issue I might have pointed out so far. Now the best part of my day is the time I spend riding her. GodSpeed!!!

Kitni Ki Hai!!! Kitini Deti Hai!!!

These are two things I have been asked time and again since I bought my bike around a month back. I have covered around 2500kms and traffic lights and fuel pump stoppages have been source to these interesting questions. Going back to the day I decided to buy the bike, I was ripped between the choices of performance to fuel efficiency. I chose the former and almost thought I had taken the wrong decision as the news flashed an increase in fuel prices the day I booked my bike.

Nonetheless I went ahead with my choice and took delivery of Zurina (that’s what I call her), a Yamaha R15 v2. I rolled her straight to the nearest fuel pump outlet and bang came the questions, “Kitni Ki Hai!!! Kitini Deti Hai!!!” At mentioning the price and the expected ‘mileage’ of the bike, I was given this weird stare. “Meri tho aadhe se bhi kum daam ki hai aur dugni chalti hai”. He meant his bike costed him less than half and gave him more than double the mileage I was getting. This statement made me sit up and think. Being a petrol-head, it was kind of weird that I was thinking like an economizer.

Keeping all thoughts in place, the whole concept of save fuel, and the pleasure of riding i questioned myself, “Am I guilty of wasting fuel?” If I’m guilty, aren’t the manufacturers of such machines equally guilty? Automobile manufacturers are supposed to reduce their carbon footprint by producing more number of ‘green’ machines. How does that help? For every fuel guzzler they produce they sell five or more ‘green’ machines. Aren’t we right where we started?

I was brought back to reality when the fuel station attendant asked me to pay up. I started the bike and the rumble between my legs and the sheer power when I twisted the throttle made me leave behind all the thoughts and I started looking for an open road to live life all over again.

Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo

“Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo”. I asked for a cup and as I took a sip, the repetitive chant by the vendor on the train flooded my mind with fond memories … a flashback of sorts. It was probably twenty years ago, I was accompanying my father on train trip to Calcutta. The Steel Express leaving the station amidst all the noise and commotion among the other travelers. I used to love sitting next to the window … the wind in my face … lush green fields rushing by. As the train chugged into Sardiha, a small hamlet before Kharagpur, the voice of an old man in a shrill voice, “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo”. The words literally meant – “drink the worse than worse tea”. As a ten year old it was kind of weird for me to see someone selling something stating that it is bad. It amused me all the more to see everyone buying tea and enjoying the same as they took a sip from the bhads (earthen cups). Little did I understand that the old man had devised some sort of reverse psychology to sell his product. Curiosity got me and I coaxed my father to share a cup with me. The tea was indeed good. Probably the best I have had anywhere in a train. The old man does not sell tea anymore. I have not seen him in at least 5 years or so. His sons have taken over the business and you would notice them on trains between Jhargram and Kharagpur every day. The tea still tastes fine. Apparently the old man has a homemademasala which he uses to prepare tea. I guess the recipe will be passed down the generations to come. As I took another sip the young man moved on, as the old man did, “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo” … “Kharab Se Kharab Chai Piyo”.

That Moment When No One Honked – CityOfJoy

Calcutta (Kolkata after the name change, I still love the old name) is one city which is infamous for probably the most chaotic traffic system. The only city where the traffic police would change the signals manually after commuters prompt them by honking incessantly. Park Circus (a se7en point crossing) is still manually managed by around ten – fifteen odd traffic policemen. Any new visitor would be in awe seeing the seamless co-ordination among them as thousands of vehicle criss cross probably the busiest crossing in the city. It’s not that this city does not know commuting without honking or that they do not have any civic sense, if you may call it that. Keep aside the fact that even the best of cars in this city carry at least one small dent some where reminding you of the chaos it went through.
That moment when no one honked took me by surprise, made me get off my bike to investigate whats up with this city. There I notice a car driver stop his car right in the middle of the road. The traffic started piling up. But, no one honked. This gentleman got down to help an old man cross the busy crossing. It seems the old chap had been standing there for quite sometime. Everyone, including the unruly bus drivers waited, waited for the driver to help the old man.
So, people who call this city chaotic and a mess, let me point out, this is just one of those instances which might make you swallow the word you just blurted out. For once just ignore the negatives and look out for the lesser joys of life. I guess it was a matter of realizing that among all these commuters crossing that day, this one man decided to take a stand to help this old chap. All others acknowledged the fact and No One Honked!!!

how much is too much

a recent online privacy mis-adventure for a friend ended up with him calling me to help him login into his Facebook profile. somehow he had managed to lock himself out of his own profile and he was unable to bypass the password reset settings. this prompted me to think how much is too much? on one end we have activists crying for breach of privacy by Facebook, then we have mortals crying foul when they are locked out from their profiles due to the security features of Facebook. what we don’t realise is that it all boils down to a choice. even Facebook has given you a choice, on the level of security you want or rather may need. “Choice is an illusion, created between those with power, and those without.” as said by Merovingian in Matrix. are we choosing the levels of security or are we made to choose them? the effort we had to put in to restore my friend’s account impressed me of the security a Facebook account provided but the same was cheesed off by my friend as it was as good as getting locked out of his own house without the keys.
looking at the recent cases of people complaining regarding their FB profiles getting impersonated or being hacked, i guess its good to have this kind of security, at the cost of your being patient, i don’t think they are asking a lot from us.

lunatic turns sunshiney

a man whose desire for bikes & love for tech n music is dwarfed only by his passion for the moon!!! this was one of the best ways you could describe him. a perfect lunatic who was in love with the moon. as a kid he used to gaze at the white, through the window grills, wondering if he could become a spaceman and fly to the moon. he used to hum to the tunes of ‘to the moon and back’ by savage garden. used to go on moonlit treks all over dalma and the western ghats, thinking he could be closer, may be get a better view. thoughts even wandered to the moon being made of cheese, wonder now where that thought came from. he was in short smitten by the moon, fell in love with the sky, the rocks and starts alike. no matter what, the moon was always the queen of the dark bottomless sky. most of all he opened himself wide to the glory of the night. moonified could be a term used when he being so obsessed called one of his own the moon. so much so that everyone he knew can claim that they saw moon walking the earth. the high tides rushing straight to the head causing blackouts. 124 weeks of perfect harmony ends in shock, the aftershock of which is still in form of ripples. the sky went black, he craving for the white every 20seven days. a few letters, few melodies, mark the day. then comes the total eclipse of the heart, only in this case, the heart doesn’t see the light of day. around him are a million stars, all vowing to make him shine, all get together in a bundle to turn him all sunshiney again.

Alcohol & Roads DO NOT MIX

This was posted by a fellow Bike Nomad … felt it is a serious concern, hence posting it here.

I feel compelled to post this after reading 4 trip reports on 3 different forums where alcohol consumption has become the high point of the report!

Many of us on a forum like this love to head out on the open roads, head out into the hills and beyond. Putting the windshield down, flooring the throttles and feeling the wind on our face gives us a high! I am no tee-totaller but do we really need to add alcohol and drugs to this mix?

So alright, we have a few drinks and maybe some other barely legal intoxicants! After a hard days ride, alcohol may help relax the mind a little bit and help us get some sleep so we are ready in the morning for another day. But can we at least promote a culture of safe riding/driving and responsible drinking?

Many bike clubs, especially those with *ahem* “bigger bikes” in particular, seem to promote a culture of this kind of unsafe behavior. Maybe not openly but more subtly by making consumption of alcohol and drugs seem like the cool macho thing to do. Despite publicly professing a responsible position, forum signatures like “A real rider should have no blood in his alcohol stream” (or something to that effect) and organizing night-rides/drives where the consumption of alcohol and drugs seems to be the raison-de-etre of the ride make the claims of being responsible rather hollow sounding. The typical “night-ride” goes something like this: ride out towards Tamhini Ghat after 9 pm, sit at a chosen location with some fantastic views and then… pull out the booze and polish off a large quantity of alcohol before riding back the 65 odd kms in the wee hours of the morning. I have been on some
rides like these and have been deeply uncomfortable about the situation. A night-ride to Tamhini is a lot of fun, especially on a full moon night. But do we need to add alcohol and hash to the mix to make it enjoyable? Is this responsible? The first gift i received on my birthday from the club was a hip-flask! And atleast one such bike club actually has a separate thread running on its yahoo-group on arranging for alcohol before the “Independence Day ride” which happens to be a dry day! Without going into naming and shaming, there was this bunch of RX riders, some of them members of this forum, going out for a round of rubber burning near Bandra-Kurla complex after a drinks session. I can never forget being cornered on a TV show (NDTV) while trying to unsuccessfully defend the biker community after this shameful incident. I mean where are we getting to people? What is this culture we are promoting?

But its not just bikers on “big bikes” being irresponsible. It applies to many 4-wheeler drivers as well. I have earlier posted about an experience where a Silver colored Scorpio with TBHP stickers swerving to the extreme left on the expressway and throwing out an empty beer bottle! The dudes inside were clearly drinking but by throwing an empty beer bottle they put others at risk as well. It could have hit the vehicle coming from behind!

Then again, I have been on so many OTR’s where after a hard days work on Saturday evening, we head out for an OTR session. The idea behind leaving on Sat is to maximise the amount of time available for the OTR on Sunday. Instead we find people drinking through the night getting little or no sleep whatsoever, and then heading out for a punishing OTR session in the morning! Consider the situation: Heading out for a physically and mentally challenging OTR session having had little or no rest in the past 24 hours and having consumed alcohol barely 3 hours before! I have seen some people, while heading back from one such OTR swerving wildly from side to side on the expressway trying to fight off fatigue and alcohol induced sleep! Is
this safe?

Like everything else in life, alcohol is best enjoyed in moderation. There is nothing “macho” about drinking and driving/riding or punishing our bodies by sleep denial. On this Independence Day, let us resolve as a forum to desist from promoting such irresponsible behavior and instead promote a culture of safe driving/riding. Let us resolve to keep needless references to alcohol out of our trip logs. While on OTR’s/Rides, let us actively promote safe riding/driving practices.

Regards
Roy Skaria
Cougar Rides
Live to Ride – Ride to Live

The Topper

Everyone will give you an opinion on how to live your life. No one, no one will give you good advice on how to end it. Worse, they will tell you to continue living, without any respect for individual choice. Yes, hi, I’m Gautam Arora, and after eighteen wonderful years in Delhi, I’ve decided to end my life.

I sat with my best friend Neeraj and his girlfriend Anjali at Costa Coffee, DLF Metropolitan Mall in Saket. The coffee is way overpriced, but considering I had a day to live, I didn’t mind getting ripped off.

“The joke isn’t that funny,” Neeraj said, tearing open the second sachet of brown sugar and mixing it for his girlfriend. If this girl can’t mix sugar in her coffee, I wonder what she will be like after marriage.

“Do I look like I am joking? You are in medical college, and as a friend and someone two years elder to me, I am asking your advice on what is the most painless, graceful way to go. And ideally, it should be available at the friendly neighbourhood chemist,” I said. I ordered a chocolate fudge cake. What are a few extra calories on your last day?

Anjali kept quiet, her iPod plugged in her ears. She had come to the mall to shop with her boyfriend rather than meet me. Neeraj said he only dated Anjali as her father had given her a car and driver, which made it easy to go around. Besides, she looked ok. She was pretty enough to invite a second stare from men, though that’s hardly an achievement in Delhi where men’s standards can be quite modest.

“Dude, you topped your school. How much did you score in your class XII boards again?” Neeraj said.
“Ninety two per cent,” I said.
“Ninety what?” Neeraj said as he ripped out Anjali’s earphones, “Anjali, the dude scored ninety two per cent in commerce! Do you know of anyone who has scored that much?”
Anjali shook her head.
“Wow, you must have studied a lot,” she said.
I nodded. I had done nothing but study in the last two years.
“No time for hobbies?” she said.
I shook my head. My only hobbies were eating three meals and sleeping five hours a day. The rest of the time was with my books.
“With ninety two, you should be fine,” Neeraj said.
“Not according to SRCC, not according to Stephen’s and not according to Hindu, oh what the heck,” I said as I opened my rucksack.
I gave him the special admissions supplement from the newspaper. I had snucked it out early morning so mom and dad wouldn’t see it.
“Wow, check out Lady Sri Ram. B.Com Honours is at 95.5 per cent!” Neeraj said.
“That’s a girl’s college,” Anjali said.
“I know,” I said.
“Don’t worry, he wouldn’t have made it anyway. Anjali, why don’t you go spend some of your father’s money,” Neeraj said and winked at me.
Anjali and I both gave Neeraj a dirty look. Neeraj air-kissed Anjali and gestured to her to leave.
Seriously, don’t kill yourself. To us, you are still the school topper,” Neeraj said after Anjali justify.
“So what do I do?” I said, my voice loud, “stay back in school? This topper tag makes things worse. My parents already threw a party for our friends and relatives like I have made it big time in life. I cut a cake with the icing ‘family superstar’.”
“Nice,” Neeraj said.
“Not nice at all. All r relatives congratulated my mother. They see me as the next hotshot investment banker on Wall Street. The least they expect me to do is get into a good college in DU.”
“There are still some colleges that you will get,” Neeraj said as I cut him off.
“But none with the same brand value. Thus, you can’t get a decent job after them. You can’t get into the top MBA school.”
Neeraj pushed my coffee cup towards me. I hadn’t touched it. I picked it up and brought it close to my mouth but couldn’t drink it.
“I made one tiny calculation error in my math paper,” I said, “read one stupid unit conversion wrong. That’s it. If only…”
“If only you could chill out. You are going to college, dude! Branded or not, it is always fun.”
“Screw fun,” I said. “What kind of kids are they taking in anyway?” Neeraj said, “you have to be a bean-counter stickler to get ninety seven per cent. Like someone who never takes chances and revises the paper twenty times.”

“I don’t know, I revised it five times. That stupid calculation…”
“Gautam, relax. That paper is done. And sticklers don’t do well in life. Innovative and imaginative people do.”
“That’s not what DU thinks. You don’t understand, my father has proclaimed in his office I will join SRCC. I can’t go to him with a second rung college admission. It’s like his whole life image will alter. Hell, I won’t be able to deal with it myself.”

An SMS from Anjali on Neeraj’s phone interrupted our conversation. At Kimaya, tried fab dress. Come urgently, want your opinion. Neeraj typed the reply back. Honey, it looks great. Buy it.

Neeraj grinned as he showed me his response. “I think you should go,” I said. Rich dads’ daughters can throw pretty nasty tantrums. Neeraj took out the money for coffee. I stopped him. “My treat,” I said. Leave people happy on your last day, I thought. “Of course, I take this as your treat for cracking your boards,” Neeraj said and smiled. He ruffled my hair and justify. I came out of the mall and took an auto home.

I met my parents at the dinner table. “So when will the university announce the cut-offs?” my father said.
“In a few days,” I said. I looked up at the dining table fan. No, I couldn’t hang myself. I can’t bear suffocation.
My mother cut mangoes after dinner. The knife made me think of slitting my wrists. Too painful, I thought and dropped the idea.

“So now, my office people are asking me, ‘when is our party?’,” my father said as he took a slice.
“I told you to call them to the party we did for neighbours and relatives,” my mother said.
“How will they fit with your brothers and sisters? My office people are very sophisticated,” my father said.
“My brothers are no less sophisticated. They went to Singapore last year on vacation. At least they are better than your family,” she said.

My father laughed at my mother’s sullen expression. His happiness levels had not receded since the day I received my result.

“My office people want drinks, not food. Don’t worry, I’ll do another one for them when he gets into SRCC or Stephen’s.”
My father worked in the sales division of Tata Tea. We had supplied our entire set of neighbours with free tea for the last five years. As a result, we had more well-wishers than I’d have liked.
“Even my country head called to congratulate me for Gautam. He said – nothing like Stephen’s for your brilliant son,” my father said.
“Gupta aunty came from next door. She wanted to see if you can help her daughter who is in class XI,” my mother said.
Is she pretty, I wanted to ask, but didn’t. It didn’t matter. I came to my room post dinner. I hadn’t quite zeroed down on the exact method, but thought I should start working on the suicide letter anyway. I didn’t want it to be one of the clichéd ones – I love you all and it is no one’s fault, and I’m sorry mom and dad. Yuck, just like first impressions, last impressions are important too. In fact, I didn’t want to do any silly suicide letter. When it is your last, you’d better make it important. I decided to write it to the education minister. I switched on my computer and went to the Education Department website. Half the site links were broken. There was a link called “What after class XII?” I clicked on it, it took me to a blank page with an under construction sign. I sighed as I closed the site. I opened Microsoft Word to type.

Dear Education Minister,
I hope you are doing fine and the large staff of your massive bungalow is treating you well. I won’t take much of your time.

I’ve passed out of class XII and I’ve decided to end my life. I scored ninety-two per cent in my boards, and I have a one foot high trophy from my school for scoring the highest. However, there are so many trophy holding students in this country and so few college seats, that I didn’t get into a college that will train me to the next level or open up good opportunities.

I know I have screwed up. I should have worked harder to get another three per cent. However, I do want to point out a few things to you. When my parents were young, certain colleges were considered prestigious. Now, forty years later, the same colleges are considered prestigious. What’s interesting is that no new colleges have come up with the same brand or reputation level. Neither have the seats expanded in existing colleges fast enough to accommodate the rising number of students.

I’ll give you an example. Just doing some meaningless surfing, I saw that 3.8 lakh candidates took the CBSE class XII exam in 1999, a number that has grown to 8.9 lakh in 2009. This is just one board, and if you take ICSE and all other state boards, the all India total number is over ten times that of CBSE. We probably had one crore students taking the class XII exam this year.

While not everyone can get a good college seat, I just want to talk about the so-called good students. The top 10 per cent alone of these one crore students is ten lakh children. Yes, these ten lakh students are their class toppers. In a class of fifty, they will have the top-5 ranks.

One could argue that these bright kids deserve a good college to realise their full potential. Come to think of it, it would be good for our country too if we train our bright children well to be part of the new, shining, gleaming, glistening or whatever you like to call the globalised India.

But then, it looks like you have stopped making universities. Are there ten lakh top college seats in the country? Are there even one lakh? Ever wondered what happens to the rest of us, year after year? Do we join a second rung college? A deemed university? A distance learning programme? A degree in an expensive, racist country?

Your government runs a lot of things. You run an airline that never makes money. You run hotels. You want to be involved in making basic stuff like steel and aluminum, which can easily be made by more efficient players. However, in something as important as
shaping the young generation, you have stepped back. You have stopped making new universities. Why?

You have all the land you want, teachers love to get a government job, education funds are never questioned. Still, why? Why don’t we have new, A-grade universities in every state capital for instance?
Oh well, sorry. I am over reacting. If only I had not done that calculation error in my math paper, I’d be fine. In fact, I am one of the lucky ones. In four years, the number of candidates will double. So then we will have a college that only has 99 per cent scorers.

My parents were a bit deluded about my abilities, and I do feel bad for them. I didn’t have a girlfriend or too many friends, as people who want to get into a good college are not supposed to have a life. If only I knew that slogging for twelve years would not amount to much, I’d have had more fun.
Apart from that, do well, and say hello to the PM, who as I understand, used to teach in college.
Yours truly,
Gautam
(Poor student)

I took a printout of the letter and kept it in my pocket. I decided to do the act the next morning. I woke up as the maid switched off the fan to sweep the room. She came inside and brought a box of sweets. A fifty-year-old woman, she had served us for over ten years. “What?” I said as she gave me the box. It had kaju-barfi, from one of the more expensive shops in the city. The maid had spent a week’s salary distributing sweets to anyone known to her. “My son passed class XII,” she said as she started her work. “How much did he score?” I said, still rubbing my eyes. “Forty two per cent. He passed English too,” she said as her face beamed with pride. “What will he do now?” I said. “I don’t know. Maybe his own business, he can repair mobile phones,” she said. I went to the bathroom for a shower. I realised the newspaper would have come outside. I ran out of the bathroom. I picked up the newspaper from the entrance floor. I took out the admissions supplement, crumpled it and threw it in the dustbin kept outside the house. I came back inside the house and went back into the shower.

I justify the house mid-day. I took the metro to Chandni Chowk and asked my way to the industrial chemicals market. Even though I had justify science after class X, I knew that certain chemicals like Copper Sulphate or Ammonium Nitrate could kill you. I bought a pack of both compounds. As I passed through the lanes of Chandni Chowk, I passed a tiny hundred square feet jalebi shop. It did brisk business. I thought my last meal had to be delicious. I went to the counter and took a quarter kilo of jalebis.

I took my plate and sat on one of the two rickety benches placed outside the shop.

A Muslim couple with a four-year-old boy came and sat on the next bench. The mother fed the boy jalebi and kissed him after each bite. It reminded me of my childhood and my parents, when they used to love me unconditionally and marks didn’t exist. I saw the box of Ammonium Nitrate and tears welled up in my eyes. I couldn’t eat the jalebis. I came back home. I wondered if I should use my chemicals before or after dinner. Maybe it is better after everyone has slept, I thought.

We sat at the dinner table. Dad had told mom not to cook as he’d brought Chinese takeaway for us. Mom brought the soya sauce, chilli oil and the vinegar with cut green chillies in little katoris. We ate American chopsuey on stainless steel plates. I looked at my watch, it was 8 pm. Three more hours, I thought as I let out a sigh.

“One thing Kalpana,” my father said to my mother, “job candidates aren’t what they used to be these days. I interviewed for new trainees today, disappointing.”
“Why, what happened?” my mother said.
“Like this boy from Stephen’s, very bright kid. But only when it came to his subjects.”
“Really?” my mother said.
“Yeah, but I asked him a different question. I said how would you go about having a tea-shop chain like the coffee shop chains, and he went blank,” my father said, an inch of noodle hanging outside his mouth. My mother removed it from his face.
“And then some kid from SRCC. He topped his college. But you should have seen his arrogance. Even before the interview starts, he says ‘I hope at the end of our meeting, you will be able to tell me why I should join Tata Tea and not another company’. Can you imagine? I am twice his age.”

I could tell my father was upset from his serious tone.
“If you ask me,” my father continued, “the best candidate was a boy from Bhopal. Sure, he didn’t get into a top college. But he was an eighty per cent student. And he said ‘I want to learn. And I want to show that you don’t need a branded college to do well in life. Good people do well anywhere.’ What a kid. Thank God we shortlisted him in the first place.”
“Did he get the job?” I said.

“Yes, companies need good workers, not posh certificates. And we are having a meeting to discuss our short listing criteria again. The top colleges are so hard to get in, only tunnel vision people are being selected.” “Then why are you asking him to join Stephen’s or SRCC?” my mother said.

My father kept quiet. He spoke after a pause. “Actually, after today, I’d say don’t just go by the name. Study the college, figure out their dedication, and make sure they don’t create arrogant nerds. Then whatever the brand, you will be fine. The world needs good people.”

I looked at my parents as they continued to talk. Excuse me, but I have a plan to execute here. And now you are confusing me, I thought. “So should I study some more colleges and make a decision after that?” I said. “Yes, of course. No need for herd-mentality. Kalpana you should have seen this boy from Bhopal.”
Post-dinner, my parents watched TV in the living room while eating fruits. I retracted to my room. I sat on my desk wondering what to do next. The landline phone rang in my parent’s room. I went inside and picked it up.
“Hello Gautam?” the voice on the other side said.

It was my father’s colleague from work. “Hello, Yash uncle,” I said. “Hi,” he said, “congratulations on your boards.” “Thanks uncle,” I said, “dad is in the living room finishing dinner, should I call him?” “Dinner? Oh, don’t disturb him. Just tell him his mobile is with me. It is safe. We were on a field trip today. He justify it in my car.” “Field trip? For interviews?” I said. “What interviews? No, we just went to the Chandigarh office,” he said.

I wished him good night and hung up the phone. I switched on the bedside lamp in my parents’ room. Confused, I sat down on my father’s bed, wondering what to do next. To make space, I moved his pillow. Under the pillow lay a crumpled newspaper. I picked it up. It was the same admissions supplement I had tossed in the bin this morning. My father had circled the cut-offs table.

I justify the newspaper there and came to the living room. My father was arguing with my mother over the choice of channels. I looked at my father. He smiled at me and offered me watermelon. I declined.

I came back to my room. I picked up the chemical boxes and took them to the toilet. I opened both boxes and poured the contents in the toilet commode. One press, and everything, everything flushed out.

“Gautam,” my mother knocked on the door, “I forgot to tell you. Gupta aunty came again. Can you teach her daughter?”
“Maybe,” I said as I came out of the toilet, “by the way, is she pretty?”

The Helmet

thank u Jayaram Krishnamurthy for sending the following

Got this mail from someone who was saved due to the helmet he was wearing when he got into an accident. Read on…

Hello All,

I am fine now, recovering at a faster rate with complete rest along with medicines. It’s because of your prayers and fingers crossed that has enabled me to communicate with you in the form of this mail today. A Huge Thanks and Best Wishes from me and my family to you.

Today, I take this opportunity to share a short but very important experience. Please do read when you get free time from your work or while taking Trivedi’s Uncle’s tea (for Team working @ AFOUR) in evening. The Subject Line is “THE HELMET”.

Confused or shocked? Please don’t be, else you will not get what I want to share with you now.

Guys, it all started when I never used THE HELMET for last 2 ½ years of my driving. Many people used to tell me that I should use it, but I used to give stupid reasons that so and so are the problems with it and used to drive without it. Even Mahesh Sir himself asked me the reason for not wearing it for 3-4 times. Then as the traffic situation become worst at Hadapsar due to the BRT and new over-bridge construction, I soon realized what I was lacking. Then during my last 2 months tenure at one of our clients Reflexis, I finally purchased THE HELMET.

I started wearing it now and then while driving for office, going outside for shopping, etc. I got so used to it that I even wear it when I visit my Grandma’s place, which is just 750 meters away from my house. Then on 20thOctober morning, when I was driving on my vehicle along with my sister to Lohegaon Airport, near Blue Diamond hotel and at Koregaon Park turning, I had just taken the turn with a speed of perhaps 15-20kmph, I had a collision with a 2-wheeler which rushed to me directly from wrong-side with a considerably high speed. I stopped by applying vehicle’s brakes, but perhaps the impact was already done from opposite side. Luckily my sister went un-hurt but I was thrown over my bike’s handle over the road, directly on my face. Due to this, THE HELMET’s glass broke off and fractured my face. But 99% of the functionality of THE HELMET was already worked out, i.e. saving the Brain. I was admitted immediately by my alert and strong-minded Sister to the nearest hospital and then because of immediate First-Aid by doctors the things were brought to control. The MRI-Scan reports clearly stated that there is no danger to the Nervous System.

Now, THE HELMET will remain in the show-case or perhaps will be used to plant seeds in it, but it has already proved the commitment to save The Brain. It will be replaced by a new one soon once I will be 100% fit for driving, but this accident will always be considered as learning for me.

All the people who are using THE HELMET continue using it, you are doing a great job. While the people who are still not using it, I sincerely request you right from my Heart as well as Brain, PLEASE USE IT. I would always expect that such thing should never happen again with anyone else. Even if you drive slowly and carefully, you never know how the people around you drive and also the roads with a poor quality. For example, even if you are traveling from our AFOUR office to Vertex, which is a 5 mins drive, there are 4 speed breakers, 7-8 potholes on the road, the most dangerous one just in between Croma and Vertex, worst turning near ICICI bank and near the School corner and many more.

Remember guys, life hardly gives a Second chance to anyone, so please wear THE HELMET; you are precious for us and also for your families.

I am very much thankful to Mahesh Sir; who helped me in realizing the importance of THE HELMET due to which I started wearing it. Also, he immediately arranged help by informing the concerned people at runtime to look into my health matter.

Also, I am thankful to Rajan, we spent almost 2 ½ hours on a Saturday evening searching for THE BEST HELMET in 3-4 shops.

I am sincerely thankful to Pradnya Mam for supporting me and my family during our bad-patch and communicating with the doctors now and then so that I can get maximum medical help.

It’s that Volga (my HELMET’s company) HELMET because of which my brain got saved. I thank to THE HELMET because of which I am again with my Team today, and will be ready to work again once I pass the fitness tests. I am hoping to meet you soon. Wishing all Good-Luck in their respective project-work. Also, be best in your health.

Thanks & Regards,

THE INDIAN ELECTIONS

It is truly the greatest show on Earth, an ode to a diverse and democratic ethos, where 700 million + of humanity vote, providing their small part in directing their ancient civilization into the future. It is no less impressive when done in a neighborhood which includes de-stabilizing and violent Pakistan, China, and Burma.

Its challenges are immense, more so probably than anywhere else, particularly in development and fending off terrorism — but considering these challenges and its neighbors, it is even more astounding that the most diverse nation on Earth, with hundreds of languages, all religions and cultures, is not only surviving, but thriving.

The nation where Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism were born, which is the second largest Muslim nation on Earth; where Christianity has existed for 2000 years; where the oldest Jewish synagogues and Jewish communities have resided since the Romans burnt their 2nd temple; where the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile reside; where the Zoroastrians from Persia have thrived since being thrown out of their ancient homeland; where Armenians and Syrians and many others have to come live; where the Paris-based OECD said was the largest economy on Earth 1500 of the last 2000 years, including the 2nd largest only 200 years ago; where 3 Muslim Presidents have been elected, where a Sikh is Prime Minister and the head of the ruling party a Catholic Italian woman, where the President is also a women, succeeding a Muslim President who as a rocket scientist was a hero in the nation; where a booming economy is lifting 40 million out of poverty each
year and is expected to have the majority of its population in the middle class, already equal to the entire US population, by 2025; where its optimism and vibrancy is manifested in its movies, arts, economic growth, and voting, despite all the incredible challenges and hardships; where all the great powers are vying for influence, as it itself finds its place in the world.

Where all of this is happening, is India, and as greater than 1/10 of humanity gets ready to vote, it is an inspiration to all the World.

— V Mitchell, New York, NY

Motorcycles, life & everything else in between.