My Kinetic Honda is in a scrapyard now. My father bought it for me in 1998. For a sum of Rs 36,100. It was with me, with us, for 22 years.
It was my dream vehicle. I had always wanted a Kinetic Honda. I begged my father to buy me one. But before that, I had a Sunny. And before that a bicycle. When all my friends got a two-wheeler and I was the only one with a bicycle, I repeated to my father what some of my friends had told me – “Your father is a doctor. Can’t he buy you a vehicle?”
To which, my father, who worked as a Professor of Paediatrics and a paediatrician at the Sir Sayajirao General Hospital, and who held Mahatma Gandhi as his idol, replied, “Tell them that your father is a doctor. Not you. And you are young – cycling makes for good exercise and a cycle is the perfect vehicle for you.”
And so I rode my bicycle while a lot of my friends had a two-wheeler to go to their tuition.
When I finally got the Kinetic Honda in 1998, I was eighteen years old. It was as if all my dreams had come true. Years later, when I was pursuing my second masters in the United Kingdom, my young niece asked me, what my dream car was. I drew a blank. I realised I had no favourite car that I aspired to own. All I had ever wanted was a Kinetic Honda, and having it fulfilled me.
But when it first came home, there was a problem. It didn’t lie with the Kinetic. It was with me. I couldn’t put it on the main stand. I would struggle. I could only manage to put it on the side stand.
I somehow managed to hide this from my father. But I got caught. A week into being the proud, new owner of the Kinetic, I was at the Kadak Bazaar, a large fruit and vegetables market in the heart of the city. Congested, and teeming with people, cows, two-wheelers, and hawkers – it was a parking nightmare. There was only so much space where one could park their two-wheeler, and I couldn’t keep it on the side stand because it would eat up so much space and there was always the fear that an angry cow would throw it to the ground – attacking it like a wrestler taking on an opponent.
So I asked a passer-by. “Bhaiya (brother),’ I requested, “Can you help me put my Kinetic on the main stand?” The passerby had kindly obliged, and three other young men also promptly came to my help (without being asked).
At luck would have it, my father was passing by from the Kadak Bazaar at that very moment. I think he was on his way back from the Hospital.
He had seen me asking for help.
When I went home, he said to me “If you cannot handle the Kinetic, I will sell it. There’s no point in being the owner of a vehicle which you can’t put on the main stand and have to ask perfect strangers for help.”
I got very very scared. I loved this sleek, powerful and yet gentle being, with all my heart. From that day onward, I practised putting it on the main stand three times a day. After a week, I was a master. If you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me to put it on the main stand, eyes closed, I could do it.
The Kinetic remained with me, with us.
It saw me through my years with The Times of India. I rode it to art exhibitions, to interviews, to the Vadodara Municipal Corporation’s office, to homes of artists and architects, to celebrity encounters, to the old city to interview a rising, young cricketer, covering the length and breadth of my beloved city. I also took it to Ahmedabad with me when I worked with The Times of India’s Ahmedabad edition and once I took my senior out on a drive to a multiplex. It so happened that there was an unexpected pothole on the road, and suddenly, I lost control of my Kinetic and we both fell down.
I remember being a bit afraid. This was my senior. We got up from the road. She didn’t say a word. My dear Kinetic, it was up and running without a word, without a murmur. I thought my senior would never sit pillion on the Kinetic, but like the Kinetic our friendship survived and thrived through the years.
When I moved to Bangalore to be with my husband after our marriage, some eight years ago, I wanted to bring my Kinetic along. He refused.
Prerna, he said, it is an old vehicle. It will get damaged in the transit. You have a trusted mechanic here who has looked after and serviced your Kinetic for years now. We won’t find anyone to service it in Bangalore.
I cried. But I had to leave it behind. I missed it terribly in Bangalore. Without it, I had to depend on the autorickshaw-wallahs of Bangalore, and by God, I loved Bangalore but its autorickshaw-wallahs were one of its kind. They refused to ferry passengers – sometimes, it would be because they weren’t in the mood, sometimes, because I would make the mistake of addressing them in Hindi which would instantly mark me as an outsider and also the one that spoke a language they had a grudge against (Hindi), sometimes they would ask for an exorbitant amount…
Without the Kinetic beside my side in Bangalore, I felt as if I had lost the companionship and strength that one derives from a best friend, a sister.
On this last trip to India, my mother had my Kinetic serviced and ready for me. I rode it one last time before the Covid related curfew struck and even when I did, I realised that it had now fallen into bad health. Also, it was neglected and without no one to ride it, its joints were rusting and aching, I suppose. There was no one to use it regularly since I now lived away from India. For a while, a family friend had borrowed it and it worked, and gave him good service, but as the uncle had pointed out – it had grown very old and it was time for it to be put to rest.
When the news came to me that my mother had finally sold it for scrap, I cried. I hid in a corner and cried because I did not want my husband to see me crying.
I had told him the story numerous times. Of how my mother had cried for a day and refused to have her dinner when the Godrej refrigerator that she had used for 36 years had died and my father had given it away. For scrap I think. I remember laughing when my mother had said, “How selfish we human beings are. When it is no longer of service to us, we give it away. I miss its presence. It was a being. It had grown with me, it had been with me.”
At that time, I had found it rather endearing but sentimental.
And here I am, years later, shedding tears in a way that mother had when she bid adieu to her Godrej refrigerator.
When I go to India now, it will no longer be there – standing faithfully like an old family dog, waiting for me in the courtyard, waiting for me to put it to life, bouncing over potholes and dirt roads and cruising through summer evenings and winter afternoons, through love and loss and so much in between. Farewell, my friend. You have served me like no other.