How My Father Turned Me Into A Biker Long Before I Could Ride One

POV

How My Father Turned Me Into A Biker Long Before I Could Ride One

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Childhoods can be hazy, a kitschy memory full of events both minor and major. Some you choose to carry, some linger beyond the call of recognition. But a few moments are as clear as day simply because of the way they made you feel. For some it can be their grandmother’s gentle touch or their Math teacher’s cane sending searing pain through the palms as your school crush watched. For me, a lot of those childhood moments were spent sitting on my dad’s bike, in the front, on the metal tank, hurtling down slopes. He’d leave the handle, entrusting me with the ability to redirect us. That’s saying more about him than me. It’s maybe a metaphor for life, how fathers groom their sons, step by step letting go of bits of themselves so we can take over and steer us ahead.

As a father and son riding duo, we delighted in the same things, weaving through traffic, rushing past green lights, climbing down slopes or just letting the windy day hit us in the face and eyes.

As a father and son riding duo, we delighted in the same things, weaving through traffic, rushing past green lights, climbing down slopes or just letting the windy day hit us in the face and eyes. Time slows everyone down and dogged by responsibility, my father too gave up the freedom of individuality to make room for more on his rides. The bikes was replaced by a scooter, with a side-car. It was called the ‘Sholay waali gaadi’ and like most teenage boys, it was a with a sense of deep abandonment that I deposited myself into the car, thrown to sides of each curve, loving the butterflies it sent up and down my stomach.

Though a step up, a four wheeler is a more domestic vehicle, bought with a view of comfort rather than adventure. The two can of course overlap but for adventure to be truly affecting and freeing it has to also be etched in the language of free will. It’s a romantic idea, that usually doesn’t last, but it’s worth pursuing while it does. My father understood his ceilings, the demands of family life, but he also, perhaps understood that I needed to stretch my wings further and farther than he ever could. Journey the rest of his imagination, so to speak. Journey maybe even with him someday.

He’d leave the handle, entrusting me with the ability to redirect us. It’s maybe a metaphor for life, how fathers groom their sons, step by step letting go of bits of themselves so we can take over and steer us ahead.

Even though our first car – the middle class marker of upward mobility – arrived pretty soon I was smitten by a gentle paced, almost antique 1972 model that I brought home. It’s one thing to buy a bike, an entirely another to ride it with a degree of abandon. Though my father shouldered more, the burden of life seemed to fall heavier on me. It’s just that age, where modern workhorses combat the oppression of working with the prestige of reprieves. It’s I think the reason why people ride, not because it’s thrilling to hurtle down hills at ferocious speeds, but because it feels like cutting through the clutter of a barricaded life. It’s not even rebellious, just natural to reactively seek the road on the other side of these boundaries. It’s why we fight  abrasive bosses, unrealistic deadlines, paranoid parents (not my father though), partners, torrential downpours and spare parts that can cost a pretty penny.

My father understood that I needed to stretch my wings further and farther than he ever could. Journey the rest of his imagination, so to speak. Journey maybe even with him someday.

Your motorcycle says a lot about you, and so it becomes the centre-piece of most your dreams. Even the people plying groceries across busy streets, I feel, have a wanton biker hidden inside them ,waiting someday for that open road to beckon, for that opportunity of whimsy to strike. Of course bikes are uncomfortable and inconvenient for a lot of things, but that’s what makes them a badge that has to be earned. They are not just wishful premium ideas, they are also responsibilities, perhaps the first a man ever takes up in life.

All this started when the 30-something guy in me decided to not let his fatherly instincts drown the unhinged in him. Bikes are often advertised as vehicles of mischief and mutiny, but beyond that typical framing there is the promise of that one journey that kind of sets you free – maybe from yourself. My father was a different person when he was on his bike, it’s a side of him I yearn to see, but it’s a side that is often side-lined about the many certainties of life.

Your motorcycle says a lot about you, and so it becomes the centre-piece of most your dreams.

My dad hasn’t held onto a bag of regrets though. He’s quite happy riding around town on his gearless scooter, hauling groceries safely, enjoying the rush of a modern engine, acting innocent and maybe even mischievous when his no-parking challans arrive on the Mumbai Traffic Police app. It’s in these moments, perhaps that he finds bits of his old self. Bits where he let me mount that engine, let me believe that I was in control. The bikes may have changed. The kid my dad trained hasn’t.

Watch the heartwarming journey of a father-son duo that makes amends through biking on a road trip here.

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