nostalgia ~ Ride like the wind!
Always in love with long drives (now quite a bit dampened by the high beam lovers of MeraBharatMahan), Swamy is also, interestingly (or intriguingly – depending on how full your cup typically is), a biker who loved to ride!
Despite the harsh fact that he could enjoy neither driving the fabulous four wheeled XUV500 (what a #MakeInIndia car #Mahindra.. wow!) nor riding the fantastic two wheeled Classic 500 (hmmm, haven’t noticed the “500” similarity till this moment.. really interesting!) from Royal Enfield (what a respectful revival of the iconic legend #SiddharthLal.. wow!) on the mad mad mad roads of Chennai, during his commute to work (duh), he could still get a kick out of one of those traffic signal sprints (don’t even think about it kids – unless you are on talking terms with your bike or car – yep, it’s not just an automobile, it’s actually a being that you can befriend) or that rare stretch of tarmac which could be totally yours for just a minute or two. Ah, those were the days, when the preferred seat was not the one in the corner room office (of course Swamy had one of those for years, even though he wasn’t a CxO, ever 😉 but the saddle of the venerable Royal steed aka Bullet or the driver’s seat of the truly majestic highway mile muncher Cheetah aka XUV (both in red, both now sold.. uh..huh..).
But what’s a biker who hasn’t ridden a Harley! So, as a true blue biker, Swamy grabbed the opportunity to ride one, with both hands, obviously, heh.. heh.. (pun very intended), when it came through one of his genial clients in Salt Lake City, Utah, who actually owned a Harley. During a business trip, knowing that Swamy loves riding, Roger asked if Swamy would be interested in riding a Harley (after work, naturally) alongwith him, up in the mountains of Utah! Oh yes sir.
Moral for young aspiring employees: Always invest time in building a personal rapport with your customers (over and above the professional relationship, knowing full well where the Lakshman Rekha is). It almost always pays – sometimes, in the form of awesome Harley rides, for free!
So, off went Roger and Swamy on two Harleys, on a sunny afternoon. For riders of the 100 – 200cc commuter bikes, merely standing beside a Harley can be intimidating. It’s just huge in comparison. But having ridden the Bajaj Avenger and local beast Classic 500 for years, Swamy was up to the challenge. A few minutes were needed to get accustomed to the sheer size of the bike (one has to almost stand on its gear lever, which was the size of the gas pedal in the XUV), but after that it was a breeze. The throaty exhaust note wasn’t music to the ears exactly, but all those horses (1200cc, probably – more powerful than most cars on Indian roads) do come in handy, letting the beast and the rider atop, chug ahead, merrily. While Roger rode in the front (constantly watching Swamy in his rearview mirror), Swamy followed at a leisurely pace. Once they were past the plains and headed up the hills, it was simply a heavenly feeling and one can simply keep riding literally into the sunset. But it got so cold as the altitude rose (it wasn’t even winter) that Swamy had to wear gloves during a stopover (that’s when this pic was probably clicked) and the blissed out riders eventually made their way back to the plains, almost grudgingly.
Later, Roger told Swamy that he was a bit apprehensive initially, but stopped worrying after a few minutes, on seeing how Swamy handled a few turns on the road without a hiccup. The apprehension is understandable as Swamy is a lean man (daily diligent practice of Isha Yoga – at that time), almost looking puny on the beast of a bike, whereas Roger was of the right build for an even bigger bike (his brother-in-law’s, apparently). But riding a large Bike or SUV is never about the size of the person’s physique (a lesson Swamy learned while doing his first test ride of Bullet, long before he bought one – fulfilling a cherished childhood dream, fueled by the memories of sitting on his uncle’s – now defunct – Royal Enfield Crusader), but about getting to know the bike or car better, in terms of size, power, acceleration, braking, equipment, features, etc. It takes time but can be mastered by anyone keen.
Many of the horrible accidents happening to youngsters are simply because of their thrill seeking rides at breakneck speeds, without first getting to know the bike better, so the ride becomes more predictable and eventually joyful. It’s the same case with cars too. A rider or driver needs to know the automobile so intimately that s/he can actually talk to them (it’s a different kind of language.. but you get the drift) and get them to do things that may seem impossible to others. In the hands (& legs, obviously) of a skilled driver / rider, even the cute little Tata Nano (an engineering marvel, which suffered from truly stupid marketing) or a Kinetic Sym (both of which Swamy owned, at some point in time) can truly Ride like the wind (even on the mad mad mad MeraBharatMahan roads, where the only rule is there are no rules)!
P.S.1: Roger later took Swamy to a Harley Davidson showroom in that area (jaw dropping, no less), aptly reciprocating what Swamy did when Roger was in Chennai – taking him to a Royal Enfield dealership (in Adyar)!
P.S.2: Swamy also got to drive a BMW (yep, truly the epitome of “The Joy of Driving”) during that trip, in a different city, thanks to another kind offer by another customer (Swamy’s US counterpart in the unique Hosted Captive model that they ran as a partnership quite successfully for nearly 3 years), thereby reducing the karma related to 2 and 2×2 wheels!
P.S.3: The Royal Enfield Himalayan and the #MakeInIndia Harley Street 750 seem certainly worth a try… but… umm… well, that’s a story for some other time!
~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy