I could not help myself. There was this young journalist in our apartments whom I saw tending to his Royal Enfield. I just had to stop by and ask if he always cleaned it himself.
“Always,” he said emphatically, patting the seat with great affection. “I never let anyone touch it.” He knew everything there was to know about his bike, he informed me.
Walking on, I smiled to myself. The last time I had seen anyone so much in love with a bike was when my father used to own one. And I loved it too. Dearly.
For as long as I could remember into my childood, we'd had a motorcycle: first a BSA, then a Royal Enfield as well. By the time I got married, the compact BSA had become too expensive to maintain. So the loved BSA went, and the heavier bike remained. Of course, it too had to make way for the car a couple of years down the line.
As they entered their teens, the Enfield was supposedly the royal one for the younger ones, but for me it was the BSA always. The Enfield was an also-ran. I think my father agrees.
I had virtually grown up on it, first as a babe-in-arms, then as a toddler, and later taking innumerable rides sitting on the tank, secure with my father behind me. As the family grew, I got relegated to the pillion. I would sit in my mom’s lap, then behind her, with very little to support me if my father were to brake hard. I never did fall, though.
As my siblings grew up, there were occasions when I had to be left behind so that those two could be accommodated. Daddy got a carrier welded to the back of the BSA, so we all five could ride together sometimes. It was uncomfortable, but I didn’t mind that.
There were oh so many times when Daddy raced the school bus because I’d missed it. Sometimes we did catch up with it. It was very callous of me, I know now, but I didn’t mind being dropped all the way to school. I cared little that my dad found it annoying. I just loved riding pillion, never holding on to the seat or carrier, cockily sure-seated. I could even leaf through my books as I rode to school as the wind flapped at my skirt and coat!
Daddy would attend to the BSA himself. As my siblings grew up, he would sometimes let them do it. The smell of petrol, the brakes, the grease, the rare day when there was a punctured tyre and the heave-ho that followed, the strong beam from the headlight that lit our path in the days when street lights were scarce…the memories came flooding back as I plunged into nostalgia.
I looked up the internet to read up on the motorcycle, and giggled at the very first piece of information. The manufacturer was Birmingham Small Arms Company. How quaint could we get?
My father tells me the original owner gave him the bike in lieu of some small amount he owed him. Bless the debtor. Now I am eternally in his debt. I trawled the internet to find a picture of one that looks closest to ours so I could put it up here. Wish I’d had the foresight to get myself photographed with our BSA. Age truly heightens sentiment!