It all started when today morning my parents called up to ask if i would get a vacation to visit them in Canada, and that they are planning a trip to Dallas and were hoping if I could tag along.
I said nah...the old cliched dialogue - "I am busy with project here, it would be difficult to get a leave". I knew this is the one of the many to come tomorrow, next years and the years ahead. But it so happened that it triggered the memories from my childhood.
Back when dad used to work at the Vishakapatanam Steel Plant, we used to live in the Steel Plant Township known as Ukkunagaram. Dad, had the greatest scooter of those times - a Bajaj Cub.
Bajaj Chetak was unknown then and the only bike in market was Kawasaki 4S and a Yamaha model I guess. Dad got it soon after he got married and then there I was born in '86. And - No, I am not going to talk the dreams of a government employee that are attached to a scooter.
The scooter as it was, was an amazing 'thing' for me back then. I would run to peep out of the window everytime a 'scooter' passed by to see if dad was home from office. Then, dad worked in shifts, I never understood the concept of shifts except for the A, B and C part of them. The township had everything - parks, shopping complexes, schools, awesome roads and lots of friends to play with. We used to visit the Nehru Park in the township almost every weekend. Dad, Mom, Me, Sis and our scooter. Well actually dad also had a Fiat Padmini then, but we rarely used it. We even went to the city - 20kms away on the scooter.
I being the eldest got to stand on the footrest, dad obviously drove and sis shared the seat with mom. In the beginning I was so short that I could barely see the road ahead of me. But then as I grew taller, the rides became more & more fun. The wind gushing on your face, the speed it was all amazing. I counted the trucks that passed by or read the speedometer for dad. The long trips were tiresome. Sometimes I didn't like the scooter, I wish we had a bigger scooter or maybe dad took out the car.
Dad used to pick me from school, when he left for office in the afternoon. He something, also picked me up from Karate class in the evenings, when he returned from office early. Most of the times I so wished I could drive a scooter or dad rode me everyday, because the dogs in the neighborhood used to chase me every single day, they had a sadist pleasure in making me run. And then there were the trips to the movie screenings in the club, occasional dinners at the restaurant in the club. But most of the times, all the friends & families in dad's friends circle got together for dinner and everyone had their 'scooter'.
Dad left VSP and joined Ispat Industries Ltd. (formerly Nippon Denro Ispat Ltd) and he was posted in Calcutta. We moved. Mom cried, I was emotionless, rather I was sad that I was leaving all m friends, sis was too young to understand that we were moving. Well, I don't remember how dad felt that day. And our scooter got transported too.
And Calcutta, it was! The weekends were the same except for the part that the sun rose at 5 in the morning and it was pitch dark by 6 in the evening. My school was from 6AM to 10AM. Rest of the day, I was absolutely jobless and the worst part - I didn't have a single friend in Calcutta. I just clung to the grill in the veranda seeing people & vehicles passing by and sang 'Sexy Sexy Mujhe Log Bole' from the Karishma's movie. People might have thought i was a retard and my mom whacked me petty hard when she learnt about it. It was our owner who complained about me.
I used to wonder why the number plates of vehicles started with 'W' while it was 'A' back in Andhra. And one of my first lessons from dad - always vehicles no's start with the first alphabet of the state name in which they were bought. Calcutta was a nightmare and it ended soon. We moved to New Bombay in '94(as it was known then ;)) Bambai - was the slang term.
Bombay was different, I liked the city. I liked the apartments we lived in, though there was a cemetery behind our apt. I was in 3rd class then and still we went around on the same scooter. Dad got the engine re-bored and got got it new piston rings. And the it did the magic againhttp://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=11328715. Dad for some reason cling to the scooter, he never got a new one. There really was no reason to get a new one. I was tall enough to block dad's view so I shared the front seat with dad and had to kind of kneel down. The complete family trips never happened on the scooter unless there was a demand for all of us to go together at the same time - like, obviously the temple trips.
The last family trip we had on a scooter was a trip to visit the site of the new apartment dad bought in a place called 'New Panvel'. We were then living in 'Old Panvel'. It was a horrible ride, I wished we had walked down the 10kms rather than riding on the scooter. And in 2 years we shifted to the new apartment. Dad then decided scooter's certainly not the thing for all of us to together. It then started serving the purpose of all the 2 people trips, that mostly involved me and dad going to the Sunday market to get supplies for the whole week.
Dad rarely used the scooter. It was semi-retired. I was 14 or 15 when dad taught me to drive a scooter and soon it was all mine. The maximum distance I was allowed to go was 3kms. I got the keys only to go to do household chores and shopping and in case of emergencies - to go to my friends place. I really didn't prefer the scooter to go to my friend's place. Their dad's had cars, and my little kid ego got hurt if they saw me on our scooter. Instead, I used my favourite - 'Ranger Swing'. Haah...it has a story of it's own ;)
Then, I moved to my grandma's place for the so called 'higher' studies, ya that was it 9th class. My grandpa never gave me his scooter. He promised he would after I get my license. I used to say - License my foot!! It's 4 years away, what will i do till then. Grandpa used to smirk and say - I will drive you. I accepted and sat down frowning and hoping I would grow up to be 18 soon.
Four years passed and I joined engineering. I always dreamed of having a girl friend and a bike in my engineering. When I thought I almost found a girl friend, I asked mom, if she would buy a bike for me. She happily accepted and offered me to send me our scooter to Ahmedabad, if I really wanted one. Again, it hurt my kid ego and the presence of the scooter threatened the prospect of me having a girlfriend. I was better off without it.
Then the scooter was fully retired, after dad got a promotion and the company paid for a car. But, it always gave me a sense of ownership of a great vehicle, we had. I hoped I would keep it as an antique to show my kids and take them around on it. But, surprisingly mom & dad decided to sell it. And before I could protest and make a drama out of how important is the scooter as a memory and as an antique for my kids, mom sold it off!!
The whole point being - The twenty years in which I have grown up a lot has changed, I mean a lot. It's been a transition from the times when a scooter was used for travelling long distances(20kms, ya that's a very long distance on a scooter with 70cc engine) and the times when was an object of pride to the times when my dad asks "me to fly to Canada and then we will fly to Dallas" times.
Something has changed, the way we perceive distances has changed. 1000 miles is no longer a 'long' distance, not even 10,000 miles are.
A call to the moon is now the 'long' distance call.