Sunday, January 18, 2009

They do not build them anymore

The date is still fresh in my mind, February 25, 2005. The key to my very first and the only bike was handed over to me on that day. It had a gold wing on its tank, very much like the star on the forehead of a Unicorn, after which it was named. It was black and muscular, instantly evoking comparisons to a thorough bred stallion.

I remember my first instructions, run in the engine at speeds below 40 for the first 500 kilometers. Then for the very first time I rode her to a temple of all the places. My parents had insisted that I offer my obeisance to the gods and in return they would protect me from any mishaps. I did it, grudgingly. Next thing I did was to go to a petrol pump and fill up the tank to the brim. And it has been ever since, the same. I always fill the tank to the brim. No half measures.

I had nurtured it through her run in period, took care of it and kept the bike spotless by cleaning it everyday for two years. I fell of my bike when I took it to college for the first time. Apart from a few scratches on the visor, there was no damage done, thanks to the crash guard.

Anthony Hopkins quote comes to mind and sort of been an anthem to me: “You live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out than some people live in a lifetime”

I had foolishly tried to find my limits and that of the bike resulting in a couple of near death incidents. After that I had sobered down, partly due to Bangalore’s ever increasing traffic. Now did my obeisance to the gods pay off?

It has been almost four years, and I have already a couple of lifetimes worth of memories.

Yesterday, I guess fate had caught up. I had given the bike for servicing and the mechanic calls me to say that there is a problem with the bike’s thumper. “There is some sort of noise coming from the engine and it has to be dismantled in order to find out why” he said.

It seemed to me that the grim reaper had finally paid a visit. But why? Bike’s pretty new, has run 14,995 kilometers. I could not fathom.

I guess I had made a mistake or was it pure chance. It simply can’t be! It was a Honda. Honda is known for reliability. Shut it and forget it mantra still rings in my ears. My bike was unique as I had wanted the electric start version, waited for it to be introduced in India and it was in the first shipment (the dealer had proudly told me).

It has not sunk in yet that the engine has to be completely dismantled. It is the heart and soul of the bike. One thing I know, it will not be the same again. The mechanic assured me that he will dismantle the engine in my presence on Monday.

They do not build them anymore. Bikes that last. They do not build them anymore.

My father had bought a LML Vespa in 1988. It is still running in good condition. I had hoped for something similar.

It was a Honda. The day my bike was introduced in India, I remember reading an article that said that many people had invested their life savings in booking the bike the moment it was launched, simply because it was a Honda. Honda had that legendary reputation.

Unfortunately, I had witnessed the reality at the service center. I couldn’t control my rage when I saw my bike stashed away in a corner, haphazardly with other bikes. When the mechanic was explaining to me about the engine, another dropped a bike. He then nonchantly picks it up, adjusts the twisted mirror, ignores the scrapes and drives it out to deliver it to the customer. This was the impeccable Honda?

I wonder how many times my bike has met similar treatment. It did completely shatter the myth and aura that I had for Honda.

The estimate for the engine work is around 8 grand.

The thought keeps pinging in my head. They do not build them anymore. Bikes that last.

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