Man and machine

It’s a love affair that begins 60 years ago, an urge to be astride two wheels to go riding on a long, winding, endless road.

Published: 10th November 2019 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th November 2019 05:09 PM   |  A+A-

Jan Fillem on Unsplash

Jan Fillem on Unsplash

Author Murali K Menon’s love for a motorcycle began on a miserably wet night. He hears the muffled roar of a Norton Dominator.

The sound came long before the bike came into view—the dull thud of a fishtail exhaust. It’s a love affair that begins 60 years ago, an urge to be astride two wheels to go riding on a long, winding, endless road. 

Life was never to be the same again. ‘My name is Kandakarnan Swamy—and I am a village deity.’ And every night in in the mind he puts together the Velocette Venom Thruxton HT, the greatest motorcycle ever made and each day a new machine emerges.   

As a reviewer, I know full well what it’s like to fall in love with two wheels that crave attention. Sundays found us glued to a workshop in a busy mohalla. 

‘Shocker bol gaya hai!’ (Shocker’s gone bust!), announced the mechanic barely hiding his glee. Oh! If only he had stopped at that.

But no matter which way you looked, everything except the horn made a noise: shockers, chain, spark plug and the headlights, for instance, you had to light a match to see the puddle of light trailing from its beam.

Though be warned: ‘The cow gets a lick of salt, the calf gets a lick of the cow’s mouth!’ Anyway, I was that proverbial calf as that motorcycle sputtered around for 10 years, and spelt the death of our lean and hungry looks and signalled the arrival of the middle age. And I was not alone. Among others foremost is author Stephen Alter who putters around astride her. She growls, snarls and purrs—a 1936 vintage Norton 16H. And there is the Scotsman, Bill Aitken, who takes his readers on a Jawa to Ladakh. ‘On a bumpy ride the spare wheel fell off and rolled into the river,’ he chuckles. ‘Across the border it floated minus passport or a visa!’ 

Nor did Padre Das have any papers when in a moment of divine weakness, he picked up an old motorcycle. He was a careful driver, who peered through fogged up spectacles, before hitting what was right in front of him. The end came unannounced in a torrential downpour as he tried to park on the edge of the road, fumbled, the slippery seat came off into his hands, the rest sailed clean over the defile a few hundred feet below. Come meet Kadar ‘Mechanic’ Moideen who loves the joys of nursing back to good health all types of two-wheelers. If you enjoy a good read, sit back with your copy of The God Who Loved Motorbikes.

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