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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bonnie and Quest

I can’t recall the exact date and time I walked into Shaman Triumph but it was 2 years ago and there was something about the Bonneville that clicked. This click refrained from going off when I voraciously visited other superbike showrooms and never looked back at them (names withheld for fear of digital lynching).Everyone has that dream material acquisition of sorts. They have a visual inspired or plagiarized from some source; working its way through their grey matter, inducing endless sleepless nights and undergoing extensive customization, finally evolving into that 1 obsessive dream that won’t leave even with numerous attempts to shake it off. That is precisely the Bonneville for me. It wasn’t a Triumph so much as THE Bonneville for me.
I’ve been around bikes quite a bit. No, I didn’t start riding on a farm when I was 5. I didn’t get any motor hand-me-downs, no one in my family is a former legendary racer and neither was I inspired by pre/current MotoGp professionals. I loved bikes. Plain and simple. I loved how open and freeing they were. Someone I dated in the past took me around on his Avenger followed by his RE Bullet 350. Back then, RE still made ‘em bulls like they were meant to be: raw and sturdy. Owning one was like modern day Triumph ownership: exclusive and with a slight snob value. Sadly, that is not the case now (digital lynching alert). The closest I came to calling a set of 2-wheels my source of everything rowdy were my cycles that Dad generously showered me with to play every ruffian game under the sun with the boys. The last pair of wheels owing to being unused for a few months was sold to an eager raddiwala; an act left unforgiven and looking for redemption.
We have “been there done that”. Abeer and I fed into our motorcycle instincts and bought a Classic 500cc – learnt an expensive lesson and sold it off. It seemed like the appropriate hierarchy to buy an Enfield, go nearly bankrupt whilst graduating to a premium segment of wheels. We replaced the bull with a Japanese beast – the Kawasaki Ninja ER6n. The understanding being we BOTH would pitch in 50:50. I was averse to the idea of sports bikes. Probably all those years my eyes were assaulted with ridiculous sounding AND looking Hayabusas and other massive ferringED versions cruising down Bandra and Andheri by lanes, really scarred me. While others marveled, I turned my head away for fear of witnessing atrocity of ill-articulated art or customizations. Combine that with some chocolate boy and NO HELMET and you have completely lost me. This was best compared to owning a St. Bernard or Siberian husky in Mumbai’s tropical climate. I could imagine Uday Chopra dhooming his way on what can only be explained as mechanical monstrosity.
The ER6n is a naked sports ‘tourer’. An initial test ride on a busy SV Road at peak hours was a bad yet informative idea. I felt like I had climbed a mountain and my beloved was doing breaststroke. The view from ‘atop’ wasn’t appealing given that EVERYONE was staring at us. I was just missing a tank top, 2 layers of makeup, low rise peekaboo denim and oodles of misplaced attitude to go with my sudden ascent. Abeer was inversely… excited. We rode a tuned bike and the power was something I wasn’t used to and felt was unnecessary. To keep it short I didn’t like it and wasn’t quite open to buying one. Secretly, I hoped he would consider and help me realize my dream of the Bonnie. In the end, we bought the ER6n cuz I knew how much he adored that bike and as of 3 months now with it, I LOVE THAT BEAST. Like marriage, I didn’t want anyone to pitch in for my Bonnie without offering to do it themselves. It was never to come out of undeserved coaxing, plaguing or begging. It was too pious for me to have any story but a good one.
My lust for the Bonneville didn’t die there. As much as I grew to love the ER6n and appreciate its reliability and torque, my restlessness for the Bonnie grew like a juvenile denied toys while his/her sibling got one. This ‘toy’ was ‘shared’ with me and we had ‘joint playtimes’ but there was something I needed to call my own. Female bikers have been around for a while. However, social media presence and publicity boost has made them and their stories more accessible and visual in recent years. Seeing them on 650cc+ machines is not only inspiring but also empowering. At 1st I was proud and in awe. Tis’ true we don’t need to gender-define this activity. However, truth is women on bikes (an avenue ruled primarily by the opposite sex) is a refreshing breath of O2. When I say that I mean in gear and in motion. NOT in bare or no clothes and posing on the machine like flowers fallen from the tree under which the bike was parked. This constant bombardment of women doing what was initially a fantasy thrill in my head without the fuel injection to make it a reality, was becoming an incurable itch. Combine that with a well-versed and equally encouraging boyfriend and you know that YOU MUST RIDE.
I love riding pillion. It’ll always be a part of me – sitting behind the man I love and traveling places together, fighting, struggling, riding, smiling, loving, cheering and what not all in X cubic meters of space. All relationships should be tested like this. You can’t leave each other, hence, you must endure and love each other and find middle ground in difficult times. I would go as far as to say Abeer’s and my stints with and on the bike (no pun intended) have made us stronger, closer and more in ‘tune’ with each other. The bike was like a 1 room home where we had to express and experience a plethora of all that goes on between 2 people in love.
During all the above randomness that veered from the actual purpose of the blogpost but was intended to emotionally draw the reader into my world, the Bonnie made guest appearances. We showed up at Triumph showrooms pan India. Every time I looked at the bikes, I behaved like I was seeing ‘em for the 1st time. I yearned to take them out but did not have a license nor the proper skills to handle a bike of such proportions. I would nod and remain fixated on the Bonnie in the midst of the bike catalogue sermon from showroom sales force. Few marveled at a female rider showing so much interest and the sheer grit to own one of these classics. I would smile and make it amply clear I was a WIP; secretly wishing I could vroom out on the classic in pure Desi attitude… then descend back on earth. We would take the bike out for a spin and I was transfixed reminding myself that it’s JUST a test ride lest I have the urge to steal it and hide in some village in remote India. Whom am I kidding, that bike would stand out like sore eyes. *hmmmppfff*. Once attempted to take a friend’s SE Bonnie out in Goa and the result was a giggly mess.
Aside from physical visits and the torture of having my new office located next to Shaman Triumph in Mumbai, I became a huntress online. Every social media feed that lured and satiated my frenzy became prey. I pictured what I eventually wanted my bike to look like. I was clear in its concepts and needs; not wanting it to look like the showroom’s accessories catalogue had purposefully sneezed all over my bike – something that appears to be an epidemic with Indian bike owners. Laugh or scorn if you will but that’s sad and true. This was evident when I had multiple bouts of going on OLX, Quikr and a plethora of pre-owned superbike forums. I was subjected to motivation and demotivation of the same feelings that had settled with idea of purchasing the Bonneville. Folks not only misspelt the bike’s name and model, the reasons for selling appalled the liver out of me. Add to that the insult of reading endless lists of accessories slapped on the poor bike for no fault of its classic beauty – that too in terrible English but with swelling pride. I had many who were selling cuz they were headed “ebrOd”, 2 owners were distracted with a car cuz they refused to wear helmets and safety gear, and the rest were mainly untouched vehicles as a result of indispensable cash overflow or the need to upgrade to a sports version. Good for me but bad for the bikes in question – Why? I’m an emotional creature. When I think of the Bonnie, my immediate thought veers to me handing it down some 20-30 years to a worthy adversary or equally insane mini me. There is an attachment to it. I would think of the Bonnie as I would of my 2 incomparably useless feline rulers at home who ascended the throne to royalty moment they set their demanding paws in my territory; but I love them fiercely and cannot do without them at all.
In my quest to learn the right way, I invested in a preowned yet impeccably new Honda Maestro scooter. Abeer spent every minute teaching me to ride. The father was offended since it had been his dream/wish to buy me a 2-wheeler through college and my initial working years. Company transport or the nightmare of having all my offices in the worst lanes of Andheri East made this is a defunct idea. I was, needless to say, demotivated and adamant not to own anything since I was convinced it would guzzle fuel or have me killed. Now the urge was back but with a different purpose; hence, the arrival of the scooter. I spent hours perfecting my riding on it but continued to remain nerved by Mumbai’s merciless and homicidal traffic. Abeer was strict and then pure nasty strict (his version of saving my life). We fought and made up a zillion times in the course of these lessons. At the time, I yo-yoed between wanting, wishing and actually planning for a Bonnie. I was unsure of my own intent – at one point deciding that maybe I was being a spoilt brat and this wasn’t for me. It’ll die a natural death. These things DON’T DIE. They are like roaches roaming and taking shelter in hidden corners of your white matter so that the grey cells can’t find em.
I got into gear; went through a nightmare to sort my license and decided I’m buying the Bonnie. Preowned and make it my own. I had 3 rescued stray cats, one preowned scooter… so maybe I was meant to buy a preowned motorcycle too. The only perk being I was arrogantly jumping straight to a ~800cc machine. I prepared myself for that. I had no time to waste and no patience in reserve either. We settled on 2 Bonnevilles and 1 Street 750 as a backup– given that preowned bikes have an issue with upfront payment. Just as we were about to close in on our decision, my Abeer, the inside man at Triumph (by then he had changed jobs and had Triumph as a corp comm client – seriously the IRONY), informed me that new bikes were in the pipeline and they were all BONNEVILLES. I felt so cheated. Here I was on the brink of a much-procrastinated decision and he just ruined it by telling me about new Bonnies. I feverishly followed the launch of the bikes overseas and instantly fell flat, tongue and eyes out. In the ensuing months, the bikes launched one after the other, we bought the ER6n and I realized how monumentally underpaid I was or overpriced the superbike market had come to become. I was lost. I learned my riding on the ER6n which wasn’t a wise idea given I am too short for that beast and my feet barely touched the ground. Nonetheless, with Abeer’s and the brother’s help I managed to learn the basics on the Kawasaki but didn’t gain much concentration or ease of ride.
A certain boost of ego and pride came about post a salary revision in June 2016 and I instantly thought NOW I can pick up anything. The StreetTwin 900cc Bonnie was on my radar. What absolute sweetness… almost made for me. Could smell doom following me but couldn’t imagine what could possibly go wrong. I set the date. July 1st 2016, I was gonna book the ST in Pune under Abeer’s name. This came after a year of argument where I was adamant that the bike was to be mine aka under my name. A childish wish of having something on paper in my name was trumped with his rationale of saving a bunch of 1000s by purchasing from Pune – something we had done with our bikes so far. I made peace and pissed on the idea of the Bonnie being in my name. Turns out its possible to get it on your name with a lil here and there. As I waited, doom caught up and slapped a revised Maharashtra-only octroi and road tax on 2-wheelers. A 13% increase on premium CBU models meant a temperamental +1.5 lakhs at least. This whole journey had started to feel like the unleashed torque of a powerful bike behind an annoying truck crawling in front of you, hogging a whole lane and deliberately depriving you of open roads. Upset was a thing of the past and I was officially depressed. I knew that I was being a spoilt brat but this was a dream. Passing year after year with no consequence or conclusion. It was giving me mixed messages if I was ever meant to ride or own a bike or… The only person who absolutely understood my pain and didn’t undermined it was Abeer. It was absolutely his wish as mine to see me ride. By now Cyrus (his well-meaning Versys owning Bawa boss) could comprehend my feelings too. They sat pulling strings and working to make my dream come true. I was humbled and embarrassed that this had turned into a rescue operation lest I drop myself in some deep ravine out of misery over this.
On Thursday, 09 June 2016, we sat for breakfast at Starbucks. An exhaustive list of possibilities, some anger and oodles of disappointment hurled at the bloodsucking MH government had been spewed. I had, in desperation considered purchasing the ST from a chap from Kochi who bought but didn’t register the bike, the Delhi showroom who assured me a Delhi registration and absolutely no-issue warranty of sorts, the Kolkata showroom who confirmed that bongs were as pricey as MH govt. and that the manager was also a non-speaking Bongalee like me. What an adventure. I think INDIA got to know I needed a Bonneville almost like one gets priority bump up the organ transplant list. My love, Abeer, I think couldn’t see me disappointed anymore or my rather silent mode off late had given him the heebeedeejeebees. We opened OLX and solemnized that we would find a bonnie for me like a desperate homeless puppy with loads of potential waiting for me to notice and adopt it. We instantly laid eyes on a beautiful 2014 Bonneville SE purchased, refurbished and up for sale by a Bawa uncle. Instantly called him and set up a meeting the same evening. Abeer was already sold and just maintained that the meeting was a “formality” but subject to supportive echoes from Shaman Triumph, this was the girl I was to bring home. I spent the rest of my day building hope but not soaring too high lest I fall and crack a rib. Meanwhile Abeer was at Shaman Triumph for some routine work and called me with news of a beautiful burnt orange and black T100 standing there. I was least bothered since T100s were not my choice. Heating issues and extended wet weight had me not consider them. Upon repeated insistence, I headed to Shaman post-work with the understanding that Abeer and I were to hop on my trustee Maestro and meet Bawa uncle for his Bonnie. It was S.O.R.T.E.D.
I walked in and saw her. What a ginger delight. Was told this shiny chrome lassy was going for the same price as Bawa uncle’s offer. Holy smokes I was in a conundrum AGAIN. I blamed Abeer for this. Master of spirals and whirls. He showed me the ginger babe and said… “Nah, don’t get hung up on her. Have a look at the Bonnie SE.” Suddenly everyone there who recognized the suffering soul i.e. me, had an opinion on what to buy. Shubrata Marmar was incidentally present and literally looked me in the eye and said “Buy what YOU wanna buy. Don’t listen to anyone. It’s your purchase.” I left the showroom knowing all too well, THIS orangina was coming home. We met the amazing Bawa uncle, rode his bike, met equally interested parties who were at all the same places as us. Post the meeting, we sat down for a Parsi bhonu. As I wolfed down dhansaak, faarcha, eeda anne chawal under a dark cloud of decision making, I put my foot down and said THAT BURNT ORANGE BIKE IN THAT CONDITION AND FOR THAT PRICE WAS A STEAL. Any fool wouldn’t ignore that. Abeer asked me 100000 times if I was sure and I was bloody sure. That was that. Spoke to the manager of Shaman at an unearthly hour and literally insisted that he had my word, I was buying the Ginger. She was mine and not a fly was to buzz around her.
The following morning I spent 3 hrs at the RTO, got my learner’s license reissued and showed up in the most unruly manner to put down a booking amount as a sign of my commitment. Apparently, there were hawks swirling the place hoping for me to be a no-show. Little did they know me or my chase for one of these. Through this whole saga, Abeer kept in constant touch, called and assured me, his boss Cyrus also worked a little out of his “jurisdiction” to make things possible for me, Arash (Bawa #3) at the showroom seemed to connect with the wired up me and then there was me trying to catch up with me. Finally, things were falling in to place. Once Rajesh (manager Shaman Triumph) swiped the card for 50k, it all became too real. It hit me. I’m buying a Bonneville. I stared at her from a distance too afraid to touch her and eager to get to work lest I lose my only loan-paying gig.
Thereafter, loans, long waits, banking errors, the mother’s endless joy accompanied by even more endless sermons on shubh mahurats and finally the very disappointed and misjudging father were the norm. This wait was agonizing. We shamelessly dropped by and took her for a maiden spin like a kid in boarding school out on a break. She left gazers everywhere. I was afraid of this. I didn’t want people looking at me and the chrome and color on her was unavoidable. I slipped the news to few folks and held back tight in general. Well aware of my jinxing karma, I just held on to some realm of patience and sanity. After many issues and potential delays, she rolled out of the showroom with us on 20 June 2016. This date like Abeer’s bday and our anniversary will be etched in my memory. I entered Shaman with unexpected rolls of tears. It was awkward and my hands shook. After gaining some composure, fixing things, waxing and polishing her up and many queries later, we left around 12:30pm. Rode straight home to the ecstatic and vermillion wielding mother. Allowed her the luxury of putting her customary swastika and tying the mata ki chunni with the understanding its gonna come off soon. She took a pillion spin and her glee for me knew no bounds. This was pure happiness. Abeer was ecstatic and enjoying HIMSELF teasing me that he’s a Bonnie convert and the ER6n would be sold. We smiled and laughed like it was the perfect spring day. Too good to be true. From 2413 we clocked straight 2509 in one day. She endured heat, dust, rains and mud all in that one span of existence. Met Harshal who owns a Ducati Scrambler, played a prank on a fellow Bonnefied advocate Abhinav and generally abused our social media accounts with the latest addition to “our garage”. It was all in a Bonnie’s worth as we parked her late at night back into my garage. Soaked to the bone but content in every realm.
Today (21 June 2016) I did my maiden ride on Ginger. Abeer made it a point that I understand her as soon as possible and break into her by riding however slow at 1st. Weight and the nervousness of a beauty being my learning platform stood temporarily in the way but that hasn’t deterred us any longer. Spun around my building with slopes and tiles and bumps and parking traffic. I was nervous but a babe humming under me with unleashed power under the garb of classy poise was an indescribable feeling (no pun intended). We’ve decided to take her to the beach and spin her about there while I get a good hang of her. I’ve already got eyes rolling, judgment spewing and eyebrows soaring as I respond to questions like ‘Did YOU buy her’ or ‘was that cost in LAKHS’ or ‘you work in underworld or something’ even worse ‘so it’s like an expensive bullet’ (the last one pisses me off). Worse still are the misconceptions that I either work in an overpaid job that gives me time off, I have too much family money or that I am borderline psychotic if I’m yet unmarried, not a mother but have chosen to empty all my savings on what is conceived a senseless impractical buy. They know nothing about me and I couldn’t care about knowing them. For now, I focus solely on 3 hot things: the man, the ER6n and the Bonnie. I was practically broke all month, to a point that I could not buy sweets or had to choose my commute to and from work, had completely shut down my social life but was rich in a way I could not describe. It just looks shiny and black and feeds a hunger inside that has been starving for way too long.

Next stop: A post on my journey so far on the Bonnie, her maiden ride outside Mumbai and a plethora of trips already lined up and yearning to be executed (#BiKronicles). This girl needs a badass image makeover.