Today’s youth may find it difficult to believe but in 1971 when I got married, the waiting period for a scooter was 3-5 years. So I was quite excited when my elder brother presented me with a 10 year old Lambretta scooter. Soon the scooter and myself became the butt of numerous jokes and taunts in Telco colony, Jamshedpur.
“Jogarao needs no brakes, he stops the scooter with will power”.
“If it is an old Lambretta, it must be Jogarao on the seat”.
However I enjoyed my new freedom , coming home for lunch and riding out with wife in the evening. But alas!the joy was rather short lived as soon the scooter started playing tricks. It first showed signs of “morning sickness” and every morning , l struggled to start the scooter. Luckily, there was a downward incline near our block which helped me to jerk start and proceed. But the sickness often carried into evenings and after jerk starting when my wife took her pillion seat, the scooter would sputter and stop which she did not find amusing.
Soon more serious troubles followed with not a week passing without my having to push the scooter down to Mechanic Mahato. If clutch was the trouble maker this week, it would be brake next week and carburetor the week thereafter.
Mahato was a remarkable person; his dark rough exterior ever draped in greasy overalls, stubbled beard and unkempt hair were in stark contrast to his pleasant and amiable manners and “bhadralog” speech. He lived, worked and slept in his ramshackle shed. Seeing me from a distance, the eagle eyed Mahato would send his “Tania”(trainee) running to relieve me from the pushing. Many a time, when the scooter was stranded in a distant part of the city, he would organise a “rescue”mission.I was touched by his helpful nature, honesty and unhaggling attitude to money and was soon calling him “Mahato Moshai”.
Pet dogs are known to empathize with the inmates of the house when any delicate or abnormal situation occurred . I got strongly convinced that my scooter similarly empathised with me when my wife got in the family way and I had to take her often to the hospital . As if it understood my situation the scooter gave no trouble in all that period. When delivery time came, I shuttled 8-10 times a day between house and hospital, ferrying food, clothes and mother in law. But after the baby completed about 2 months, the scooter was back to its old ways !!
Our apartment blocks were adjoining the outer road of the colony , facing craggy hillocks covered with dense overgrowth of wild shrubs and several tall sturdy Sal trees swaying in the breeze. The Sal trees shimmered in the morning rays of the sun and glittered in glory in the bright light of the day. But as evening fell,silence and darkness took over, turning the atmosphere weird and scary. Ours was a ground floor corner flat with an open balcony which made the situation more intimidating.
Imagine our situation when late one night there was a persistent knock on the door which alarmed and made us uneasy. Finally I got up , took a few halting hesitant steps to the door and peered through the peephole . It was our upstairs neighbor with whom I had but nodding acquaintance. He had just returned after a late night cinema in town. He begged pardon for the disturbance and pointed to a puddle of petrol forming below my scooter with the fuel dripping from the fuel valve.
The baby disturbed in sleep was crying inside and my wife was struggling to lull her back to sleep. I was at a loss as to what to do at that late hour and wanted to wait for daybreak. But the neighbor alerted me to the danger of an accidental fire and stayed put for the next half hour, draining out the fuel tank , mopping up the fluid and cleaning up the area while I moved in and out of the house.
This incident forced me to revise my earlier random opinion of him as an easygoing overripe Goan bachelor. How wrong we can be sometimes in our opinions of others!!
I went hunting for a spare fuel valve, but spares for the old Lambretta model were scarce .Several weekend hunting expeditions went in vain until on the suggestion from a helpful shopkeeper , I went to the shop of an elderly Sardarji in distant Adityapur. He remembered that he had procured it a couple of years back for a customer who strangely never came back to have it fitted. Soon his “Tanias “were rummaging through all the rickety racks and crumpled cartons . The part was spotted in a short while to my great relief. After profusely thanking the Sardarji,I returned with it to Mahato who was wondering if my scooter would ever move out of his crowded premises.
The scooter made its way back to the house but my wife ge me an ultimatum – “either me or the scooter”. So Word was spread around and the scooter remained locked in the stand awaiting a buyer.
Meanwhile , things were not all hunky-dory for me on job front. I had already completed 3 years in the same position. My batch mates had got promoted, moved to bigger flats and were knocking on doors of the next rise. My bosses praised me for my work but passed me over for promotion. Job hunting those days was painfully slow and it was mostly “apply, apply and no reply”.But luck seemed to side with me now and in a few months, I got a decent job with good emoluments in IISCO, Burnpur.
We had a good friend’s circle in Telco which we were very reluctant to leave . The day of departure was fast approaching with still no buyer for my scooter . The sad saga of my scooter reached the ears of an elderly acquaintance from my native town Berhampur. He came with a fellow worker the evening before my departure, settled the deal to mutual satisfaction and in 15 minutes the buyer was ready to start off with his “buy”.
But not so the scooter which seemed reluctant to end its association with me and would not start much as he tried. I took the scooter and pushed it slowly to the incline speaking under my breath as if to the vehicle “Thanks my friend for standing by me in my hour of need. Thanks for opening my eyes to the good in others. Thanks for causing no accidents or injuries. Thanks for your little pranks too which were a lesson in forbearance . Now time has come to part, farewell and good bye!!”
With the buyer seated on the scooter, I gave a final heavy push down the incline ; the scooter sputtered, sputtered and sputtered again and finally came to life and moved away as if it too realized that all associations had to end one day!!!