Munna eagerly offered to take him to Bachoobhai’s garage. “Just a few minutes away. A well-known place. I work there.” he added. He fiddled around and managed to kick-start the bike.
The biker said “Ok, hop on.” Munna was up in a trice and the bike sped away. Jaggu shrugged and continued alone with the business at hand.
At the garage Bachoobhai had a quick look at the Yamaha. “I can get it fixed” he assured the biker. “We’ll give it a thorough check too. Come back tomorrow around 5 PM.” he added. Munna hailed a taxi and saw the biker off.
The next morning Munna was hard at work on the Yamaha when Bachoobhai came to the garage. Jaggu lounged on a bench, yawning and scratching his stubble. Munna had carefully checked the gears, compression and valves. A minor fault in the starter system was detected and fixed. He’d changed the oil, cleaned the battery cables and spark plugs. He’d oiled the parts that needed oiling. Finally Munna replaced everything and started the bike. The engine came to life exactly as it should and Bachoobhai nodded approvingly. The bike was ready to go.
With a final flourish Munna wiped the handles of the bike and stepped back to admire his handiwork. “A test ride?” he asked Bachoobhai who nodded indulgently. “Come on Jaggu!” cried Munna.
The two friends rode smoothly out of the garage. At the end of the street Munna hesitated a second, then accelerated, pointing the bike towards the main street. Bachoobhai stood up and yelled “That’s enough!”
But the bike had already turned the corner and was headed towards the flyover. Jaggu screamed “Slow down! Turn back!”.
But Munna heard nothing but the thunder of the bike beneath him and the rush of adrenaline inside. Baring his teeth in fierce joy he shifted to top gear. On a Sunday afternoon there was hardly any traffic. They sped along the flyover stretched invitingly open. Within minutes they hurtled past Byculla, Dadar and Sion. Munna handled the bike like a pro. Jaggu held on to Munna and let out a whoop. Munna threw back his head and laughed.
“If this is a dream, let it go on forever!” he thought.
The wind lashed at them as they zoomed along the Eastern Express highway. As they were approaching Thane, the bike slowed down and spluttered. Munna revved up, but the engine did not respond. Then right in the middle of a long stretch, the bike coughed and stopped. The fuel gauge was empty. The joy ride was over.
The two friends sweated under the blazing mid-day sun as they wheeled and pushed the bike to the nearest petrol station. Neither had any money. They glanced at each other. Without a word they had hatched a plan. Jaggu told the attendant to fill up the tank. Munna casually strolled ahead. When the attendant was preparing the voucher Jaggu got on to the bike and called out to Munna.
“Bhai, hurry up and pay the guy. We’re late already.”
“Sure.” said Munna as he turned round and started to search his pockets for a non-existent wallet. “Why don’t you check the tyre pressure while I pay.”
Jaggu started the bike and inched towards the pressure gauge near the exit. The unsuspecting attendant waited for the payment. Munna ambled towards the attendant, on the same path as the approaching bike. The moment he was close enough Munna leapt on to the pillion. Jaggu wheeled the bike and accelerated. They raced out of the petrol station.
The attendant yelled “Hey!” and ran after the bike. A truck coming in the opposite direction swerved to avoid him and effectively blocked the escaping bike. The burly truck driver jumped out and caught the crestfallen duo. Hurling angry abuses he marched them back towards the gesticulating attendant. Munna and Jaggu tried without success to evade the fists of their captors. The commotion drew interested spectators from the teashop next door.
“Give them a sound thrashing.”
“Must have stolen the bike.”
“Call the police.”
The commotion drew the manager out. He caught Jaggu by the collar. “Show me your driving license. Where are your papers?”
Jaggu shrugged. Munna pointed at the bike and handed over the keys. The manager found some documents. Glancing at one, he questioned Jaggu “This bike belongs to Anil Kumar. Is that your name?”
Jaggu was about the same age as the biker. He hesitated for a second and decided that impersonation was too risky. He replied in a conciliatory tone “I’m Jaggu. Munna and I took the Yamaha for a ride.”
The manager snorted “Stole it, didn’t you, you no-good thieves!”
Munna explained “No, Saheb. Anil Kumar is a customer. I’m a mechanic from Bachoobhai’s garage.”
The manager was suspicious. “Then why did you try to run off without paying?” he demanded.
Munna replied “I took the bike out for testing and ran out of petrol. I forgot to carry my wallet.”
The manager was unconvinced. Munna quickly held out a visiting card. “Saheb, please check with my boss. Here’s his phone number. ”
Doubtfully, the manager pulled out his cell phone and dialed. Munna was sweating. How will Bachoobhai react?
“Hello, is this Bachoobhai? I’m the manager of the Thane Naka Petrol station. I have caught two boys with a Yamaha RD 350. License number…”
“No, the bike is not damaged. Please calm down. It is right here and I have the keys. Yes, they’re here. ”
“Right. But I want payment for the petrol they’ve filled.”
“Sure. I’ll release the bike only when I see the cash. Ok. ”
The duo were shoved into a shed and locked in. “We almost made it, eh, Munna” said Jaggu.
“The truck came by at the wrong time.” Munna replied. “Tough luck.”
They stretched themselves out on the floor of the shed and waited. Hours later Munna pricked up his ears. “Bachoobhai’s van.” he said to Jaggu.
The door was flung open. “Out!” ordered the manager.
The attendant was counting the cash paid by Bachoobhai. The Yamaha was being lifted in to the van. Munna sidled up to his boss.
“Bachoobhai…” he began.
In answer, Bachoobhai’s fist shot out and landed on his jaw. “Shameless idiot!” he snarled. Ensuring that the Yamaha was firmly mounted in the van, he banged the door shut and drove off.
Ruefully rubbing the bump on his chin, Munna walked out of the petrol station. Jaggu ran after him. They walked on till they reached Thane station. The next train to town was already moving out of the platform. They loped alongside, grabbed the steel rod at the nearest entrance and swung in. The train picked up speed. Travelling without tickets was routine. They made themselves as comfortable as possible in the packed compartment. An hour later, the train slowed down as it neared Victoria Terminus. The platform was visible ahead.
“Now!” said Jaggu. With practiced ease, both jumped out and landed on the railway track. Before the next train could approach they had sprinted across and vaulted over the railing. They were back in their home territory.
The sun had set. The streetlights were on. On Sunday evenings most shops in the bazaar downed shutters early. Munna and Jaggu walked through the quiet city, stepping over familiar objects on the footpath – huddled sleepers, empty handcarts, piles of litter and crates stacked against walls. Soon they reached Lohar Chawl. Bachoobhai’s garage was closed.
“I’ll wait till tomorrow for Bachoobhai to cool down” said Munna. “I’m famished.”
“Me too” said Jaggu and led the way to their usual restaurant.
The waiter flicked a soggy cloth n the formica table top and placed a jug of water and two glasses.
“Samosas and tea.” the friends said in unison, thirstily drinking the water.
Within minutes the waiter was back with their order. They began to eat, relishing each mouthful.
Munna remarked “I never thought I’d actually get to ride the Yamaha!”
He swallowed a mouthful of tea. “But we missed the return ride” he slyly added.
Jaggu looked up and laughed, “It was fun while it lasted. But you’ll face the consequences tomorrow.”
Munna’s reply was dismissive. “No problem. I’ll take my punishment. Whatever Bachoobhai decides.”
He continued dreamily “ It was a fantastic ride! ” and sank his teeth into another hot, spicy samosa.