Tuesday, January 09, 2007


MY FIRST LESSON and other embarrassing moments
Leading Colombo driving schools do offer ladies motorcycle lessons and this means you have to get on a bike with a strange dude and after some time he sits behind you.

From my 2004 diary,then:
3rd jan 10.00 am
I’m sitting in the neatly painted but nevertheless shabby third world office of a Colombo driving school.. As a rule I notice, the Driving Instructors are grey haired, casually dressed fiftygenarians, who give the aura of being totally drunk and gregarious but hopefully are neither The one I saw first was no exception-and shot me a very stern and dignified glance , more of a glare really, before yanking shut his fly with the determined , pointed air of someone ready to get down to serious business. …
However, to my heartfelt relief he strode past me and then it was that my designated instructor came out searching for me. It so happened (oh the relief-) that he was neat (had all his clothes buttoned on), clean (no ear hair or carbuncles), young (normal eye colour, not rheumy red and most of his teeth intact) and –beat this-even tall dark and good looking too (well, ok that’s totally besides the point, but one must be thankful for large mercies…)

He spent a lot of his time looking over the room which was odd, as I was the only person there, and I looked all over the room behind him, since it was obvious from his behaviour that it was not me he was looking for- until it sunk into him, painfully I must say, that I was to be his instructee. The co-ordintor with the registry book clinched matters by gesticulating in my direction and I swear there was a secret half smile on the faces of at least 3 other staff in that room-my doomed instructor however looked at me as if I was something disgusting the cat had left on the bedside floor mat and I was later to find out why…I beamed cheerfully at him and he scowled at his feet, and then we went down to get aboard a motorcycle – at last.
Ok girls- time for some embarrassing moments (well, this is not as bad as a visit to the proctologist but) – yes, I had to sit behind this strange bloke and he took me on a spin to a nearby churchyard- and I could not hang on to his waist or shoulders (which I believe only friends or relations can do – neither did I actually want to -) but had to grip desperately at some kind of handle below my seat , while whining cravenly for him not to ride too fast …
He took about half an hour to explain carefully ,like dealing with a total drooling idiot, the accelerator, brakes and gears and what the dials meant -and then got me to sit in front , after which very genteelly and without any unwanted physical contact, managed to take me on a few test loops followed by (really scareeeey-) the point where he let me steer .That accomplished ,he proceeded to hand me total control of the handlebars , and a few ,jelly like wobbles away I was riding.
…the next thing this impossible person was suggesting, barely an hour after id met him –was that I practice on my own. Before you know it, he was lounging happily under a tree, checking his inbox, and I was being allowed out there on my own, describing happy somewhat rabid circles in the dusty church car park!

Ladies and gentlewomen, there is nothing I can think of that will beat this feeling (well, ok, nothing printable) - you are in the pilot seat, the wind is in your hair and you are responsible for your own direction, and speed, not to mention keeping your teeth, knees and elbows intact:
You are in control:of your destiny and your destination.
You are at one with your surroundings and a living part of a powerful machine.

Needless to say this is an adrenalin rush that can become highly addictive.

No amount of being the model pupil would make the instructor so much as grunt a positive comment, until he had withdrawn to a prudent distance from me and watched me do my thing for about an hour- after which he sheepishly admitted that many of the women he taught had no sense of balance and had put him through about half a dozen nasty falls, which is why he had been dreading this as much as me. …have you ever experienced gravel rash on your elbows or knees? Its crippling....

What can go wrong? Plenty. But you can be prepared. Insure your bike fully , that way you need not worry about parking it somewhere and going home in an emergency. Third party insurance means that if you knock one of those expensive lights out on a passing Prado, you will not have to work as an indentured slave for the next ten years to pay for it (or marry the owner which is, of course, worse). Insurance is quite affordable coming to just about 5% of the bikes value.
Follow the usual technical advise about petrol and 2T oil and go easy with the experimenting- do not listen to the tykes next door who suggest kerosene or sunflower oil. Carry a first aid box with antiseptics, stay away from lose gravel because its like oil to bike wheels, always have your tools nearby so that if you are stuck at least someone who passes by can help you. Memorize where the repair joints are – there is one almost every 200 yards in Colombo and be prepared to use your marketing smile to get things done. The strange thing is that although or because women on bikes are not yet common to Sri Lankans, they are also tolerated with a good deal of instant affection. There is nothing like riding up on a bike to open doors for you, you get treated amazingly akin to royalty or at least with indulgent smiles which means you can get almost any kind of assistance you politely require, from people who would not glance at you twice if you came in a three wheeler….You may also have to push the bike for a few miles if you get a flat tyre- or if you have a spare fifty rupee note you can simply pay a more manual looking passer by to help you by pushing it themselves.

You will tumble which is another good reason to wear thick denim pants and if possible Xena like breast armour. Falling is pretty much compulsory but happens when you least expect it. If you are going at 20 miles an hour, near the drains, you will not have to worry about something large running over you after you do. You will also hit a few pedestrians if you keep staring at SHOE SALE signs, so don’t. As for ogling well built male pedestrians, well, you deserve what you get if you do (but don’t let that stop you)

Insure yourself too but accept that you are responsible for your fate. Your life is in your hands so don’t ride no hands. Pray three times a day to every deity that will listen and take one day at a time. Never ever start out late, or worry about reaching your destination dead on time. Answering cel-phones on the ride should be out of the question.

Finally if you are killed randomly on the spot, remember to be happy because it means your troubles are over sooner rather than later. That’s what you call win win. Hakuna Matata!
The author affectionately remembers her mentor Gaya, who practices archery, owns a 600cc Suzuki and taught her not to be afraid of bikes. You go, girl!
She also reiterates she will not be held responsible for casualties resulting from decisions to follow in this extreme hobby based on this article series.

(ps the above graphic is probably copyright Daily Mirror )


Anonymous said...

I can understand exactly how that learner fellow feels like when he has to teach a woman how to ride a bike. I've done that a few times and it's no bloody joke!
As for your post however, it's finely written, as always.Keep biking.

Fahim said...

Well Written indeed! always a joy to read. :)