Monday, January 01, 2007

the Moped Diaries

The Motorcycle ok,ok,- *MOPED*.. Diaries part 1

Two years ago, around this time of the year, I bought myself a shiny new Chinese moped from a very user friendly joint in Kohuwela. There was, I recall, a significant amount of family opposition to the idea of me riding a “motorcycle”. Notably most of the negative attitude was feminine. My best friend, a lovely, most lady like creature I have known since grade 7 in Lindsay BMV, wrote me a 234 Kilobyte email from New York, expressing in detail, her delicate horror at the idea. My long suffering mother called me IDD from Nairobi, to vocalise a pleading monologue on the subject and from something like 13,000 miles away and without a web-cam, I could clearly picture her wringing those lovely hands all over the place and getting red nosed with emotion.(Failing to change my resolve, she lapsed into prayers to the entire Hindu pantheon, which is generally something she has had to do for many years now, since it’s the only way she can resign herself to my fate….)Another of my very dearest friends did her best to dissuade me and failing, blasted me dutifully in three languages, to my awe, after which she reminded me that she would be my friend to the bitter mangled end. Last but not least my daughter told me, bluntly, to go take a long hard look at myself.
I have, dear people, trust me, I have.
I’ve worked it out on my trusty Citizen calculator , how much time an average Sri Lankan woman spends contorted into osteoporosis-inducing shapes on local buses and it works out to about a month per year, if you only have to travel an hour to work and an hour back: that’s an entire month of contortion, suffocation and cheerfully rejecting pineapple salesmen, jokers with banjos and kassippu scented, rheumatoid beggars with weeping eczemas. A whole article can be written about fending off lurid expressions of interest from the hairier, smellier sex, but I wont because I’m sure you have already read or heard all about life on buses :pretty much everything that happens anywhere else, the whole circle of life thing, can and does happen on buses- mating, pregnancy, birth, puberty, old age, death, and tax collection, so I wont bother going into it here.

A word, though, about what happens before you even begin your commute:
The double bus cha cha
Musical chairs, the bus way. You sit in one bus at the station and its getting late, everyone is waiting watching the clock- suddenly this little Hitler look alike dude in cargo pants comes along and says “who told you to get in that bus, its not the one – it’s the other one”. The whole herd of you, neatly dressed office going people stampedes to the other bus and there is a desperate and unsightly musical chairs thing to get a seat. You manage and then a different Mussolini lopes by and says the same thing…not this bus it’s the OTHER one. Makes my jaws stand out in grit, Ill tell you.
The bus halt tease.
Local bus halts involve about 30 feet of area. If they judge it carefully enough the drivers can appear to break about ten feet ahead of point A so that a sad desperate crowd of already late, sari clad women have to run en masse to the projected point of halt. A truly expert bus driving tease will then not bring it to a complete halt but continue to drag it temptingly about twenty feet more so that the bright little crowd has to run following it. Ive often speculated idly as to whether this feeds the drivers desire for power , for the need to control, to have a little herd of respectable working class citizens panting and tripping about in their wake ….I have idly concluded that these men were probably always nondescript and had domineering mothers and never were able to make an impression on society when they were young. Thumb sucking infants they may have been, with bed wetting issues and difficult protracted puberties. ..

The Total Avoid

That’s when you are the only desperate human standing at a bus halt waiting for a bus which comes every 15 minutes and it’s the only one that comes to the lordForsaken spot- and the bus in question zooms past, half empty , totally ignoring you because it has to get somewhere fast and you don’t count. On an average Sunday you can stand about 45 minutes waiting this way until the voices in your head start suggesting evil things, like how good it would feel to be done with it and throw yourself under the next one in revenge. Sadly at most they would probably not really notice you and wonder if it was a new speed bump and at best you may delay them a bit.

. All this hassle and women still think that a bike is dirty and rough? Really who makes us think this way !? well…I personally havnt got that many rich uncles who will write me into their wills and die leaving me enough doh for a modest little maruti(actually yuk) neither will I get paid more than enough to hold body and soul together in this interesting somewhat journalistic profession I work at (never mind the wicked job satisfaction) and finally, I m done with the marrying for money thing, since it didn’t work last time- so at the end of my tether: I decided to get me a bike.

Oddly enough, I have to say, the guys in my life have been actually approving and totally supportive, and took my declaration as no big deal, which was pretty comforting: I was accepted into hitherto male only office conversations on the price of different models of Kawasaki (not that I could ever dream of affording one since they cost more than the average car, these days )and various swapped experiences on changing a front tyre on the fly, not to mention Recounting Worst Tumble Taken competitions( which was incidentally won by a guy who ended up with scratched knuckles, alive and happy, albeit rather smelly, under a municipal muck truck).Tuk tuk driver blokes I know, instead of cold shouldering me, welcomed me like a true heroine, and continue to provide the odd screwdrivers, pliers, nuts, and plastic my cola bottles of petrol anytime I so much as say the word, not to mention bending over backwards to help me when I pretend that I cant change my signal lights or tighten my brakes….

This also means that I could casually introduce words like “alloy wheels ” , “four stroke” and “triptronic suspension*” into my day to day parlance, which I found rather ego boosting, I must admit, for an average Colombo housewife whose social standing had hitherto been measured by the weight of her( alarmingly underweight but happily active)toddlers or if she could get the yearly kavum to manifest symmetrical buriyas ( which I admit I never could, though all my excellent sisters in law can:oh the shame of it!) in fact as Ive often told anyone who would listen, getting a bike was pretty much the most legitimate fun I have had since my honeymoon…!
Next week:
Handling hooters and what not to wear.
* ok,I admit Im pulling your leg. Triptronic suspension doesn’t come with bikes but with some very expensive cars and the occasional Nasa shuttle.sorry...:-)

5 comments:

LazyOwl said...

Lady, you are gifted. This is one of the best blogs, I have ever seen about our good old urban culture from the satirical point of view. This brings old memories of the days which I loitered around the area.
Thank you.

al juhara said...

thanks!please continue to visit!

David Blacker said...

Actually, Al, you'd be hard pressed to find a "triptronic suspension" on anything. First, I think you mean "tiptronic", not "triptronic". More to the point, you wouldn't find an "automatic suspension" or a "manual suspension" either. Like the latter two terms, tiptronic is a transmisssion system.

al juhara said...

thanks!well...thats my right brain for you. slightly dislexik!:-)

Anonymous said...

Reading these kind of posts reminds me of just how technology truly is an integral part of our lives in this day and age, and I am 99% certain that we have passed the point of no return in our relationship with technology.


I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as the price of memory decreases, the possibility of uploading our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could experience in my lifetime.


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