Marriages, as the proverb goes, are decided in heaven; but they are performed in our cities, towns and villages. We planned to attend one such marriage in Mumbai and our next adventure after the Yezdi trip happened.
The Yezdi, as mentioned in my previous post, more often than not, was in the mechanic shop than with us. So, when a colleague of mine offered to buy it, we were more than happy to sell. The year was 1985 and the waiting period for a Chetak scooter was still seven years, unless you had an uncle in USA who was ready to offer you green bucks with which you can buy it immediately.
Bajaj had introduced a 50 CC bike called Bajaj M-50 which was available with a small waiting period only if you had booked it in advance. The Yezdi fetched us 5,000 Rupees and the M-50 costed 7,500 Rupees. We were 2500 Rupees short and as usual, we ran to our sister for help.
It’s high time I introduced my sister Vasanthy and brother in law to readers. People like them, probably were the last in our generation, who helped their siblings, nephews and nieces. In most of the middle-class families, in those days, there usually was an uncle or an aunt or a sister or brother who helped the nephews, nieces, brothers and sisters to a get a footing in life. This has almost vanished now and the nuclear families only hastened the death of this tradition.
Our sister migrated to Pune after marriage and that’s how we ended up there after our education. Sister and B-in-law gave us shelter and food, found us a job and helped us to start our professional careers.
My sister had a great circle of friends who helped her in everything. So, she asked around and found out that one of her colleagues was ready to offer his M-50 booking to us at a premium of 500 Rupees. She also arranged a small loan to bridge the gap.
We got our prized possession, a brand-new bike/scooter. This is how it looked.
A friend of posing with our M-50 and as you can see, there was no carrier.
I used it for commuting to the factory where I worked. But the urge to go on a long drive was always there. Thus, when a chance came up to go to Mumbai to attend a marriage of a relative we decided to go by M-50.
When I mentioned this to my friends they laughed. They said, “this is not a bike. It’s just a 50 CC mouse and will seize after 50 kilo meters of driving. And you are planning to go with your brother. It’s not meant to carry two people over long distance. You don’t know what average you will get and you will probably run out of petrol on the highway”
I listened to all these advices and as usual decided to ignore it. There was no google or bikers’ blogs which you could refer to. But we were confident that we could pull off.
There was one more itch. My uncle called up and asked us to get a gift for the bride, a 24 inches VIP suitcase from Defense Canteen (our brother in law was working in Defense Accounts). The goods in the canteen were cheap as they were exempted from Excise Duty and Sales Tax. How could we carry a big suitcase on a small bike? We could not tell our plan to our uncle as we knew he would ask us not to come by bike. I told him we would get the gift.
We got the suitcase and started to think how could we carry it. Our bike did not have a carrier. We thought we could tie it at the side but the suitcase was so big, it covered the entire side of the bike and we could not keep our feet on foot rest. JK said he would keep the suitcase in between. When we tried that, there was hardly any place for us to sit. We decided we could squeeze it, if I moved a bit in front and he would move back a bit. Not for a moment we thought, this may lead to either of us falling down or it might lead to an accident. I am sure by this time the readers would have decided that we were nuts. We were!!
We started off on 30th April 1985 at 4 in the afternoon. We kept the suitcase in between us. Since it was empty, it was not heavy. But still the bike wobbled as we started off. We crossed the Kamshet Ghat, drove down Lonavla slopes and hit Khopoli (a down at the foothills of the Ghat towards Mumbai). The bike was coping up, though it was belching smoke. What else could you expect. A long drive on a 50 CC bike with two people on board and a suitcase.
We took a break for 15 minutes and continued. We had no idea where the Pune – Bombay highway would end, where the Mulund suburb was and how to reach the marriage hall. We remembered the Tamil Proverb – மதுரைக்கு வழி வாயிலே – you can ask your way to Madurai (a city in Tamil Nadu) and decided ask our way to Mulund.
We stopped, enquired, got different answers and directions, debated which road we would take and continued with the wobbling bike. Somehow we reached our destination and we told our relatives that we drove down but no one believed us. Though they were all living in Mumbai for decades none of them ever travelled to Pune by road. They always travelled by train. First they were shocked and then their shock turned into anger. They all knew how treacherous Bombay – Pune highway was. They asked us if were out of our minds? Did we even understand the number of fatalities that happened everyday on that road? We just kept our heads down. There was no way we could argue.
The next day we learnt another lesson. In those days in Maharashtra, petrol bunks were closed on 1st May. They said we could not get petrol anywhere. JK said petrol would be available on the highway. How could thousands of trucks go through the road without petrol? The problem was we did not have enough petrol even to hit the highway. One of our cousins helped us. He gave some petrol from his bike and we reached the highway filled petrol and started the long drive to Pune.
We also learnt how to drive the bike on the Kopoli ghat. Most of the time we were on first gear which heated the bike up as the bike did not have any power to pull us. We were sure the bike would seize any moment and prayed hard to help us get through. Bajaj did not become a trusted brand without any merit. The 50 CC bike carried us both through the ghat without any issues.
Khopoli Ghat and the serpentine traffic.
We made many trips to Bombay in M-50 in the next few years but the first drive still lingers in our memories. Even after all these years, whenever we go through the Pune – Mumbai highway we remember this adventurous trip.
After few years, we sold the bike and the money we got was just enough to buy a pair of shoes for us.