Sumit Roy’s question has my imagination running away with me in a million directions. I look at the Ducati motorbike staring at me from the PowerPoint presentation and I wonder if that’s really his motorbike. One look at him and I say to myself that he just needs to trade his black shirt, black trousers and formal black shoes for a studded leather jacket, leather pants, boots, a pair of cool glares and he’s set, ready to ride into the sunset on that fancy motorbike.
So, if biker Sumit Roy says he’s going to teach us how to ride the publishing motorbike, we better sit up and take notice.
Steppenwolf’s song ‘Born to be Wild’ from the 1969 Hollywood film Easy Rider is playing on the repeat mode in my head. A scene from the film comes alive: a group of seasoned bikers are heading my way, in what looks like Harley Davidsons, Hayabusas and Royal Enfield Bullets. As they come closer, familiar faces appear—Naveen Kishore, Sunandini Banerjee, Samik Bandyopadhyay, Urvashi Butalia, S. Anand, Chiki Sarkar and V. K. Karthika.
The roaring sound of the motorbikes makes my heart race faster. The ease with which they ride their bikes is admirable and I can’t get over their magnificent motorbikes, nothing like I had seen before, each one a unique masterpiece.
The front wheel of Naveen Kishore’s papyrus-seat-cover motorbike is a spool of rolled film and the rear wheel the lens of a camera. Sunandini Banerjee’s digitally printed motorbike has an exquisite pair of wooden legs for wheels. Samik Bandyopadhyay’s motorbike runs on ink. Urvashi Butalia’s bike has microphones for handles and amplifiers for wheels. S. Anand’s Gond-art motorbike has bull’s horns for handles and for wheels have a spindle and a potter’s wheel. Chiki Sarkar’s bike’s wheels are happy feet. V. K. Karthika’s motorbike’s body is a harp and has white tiger paws for wheels.
Once I am quite done admiring the motorbikes, my attention is drawn to the number plates, needless to say they are exclusive. I can’t recall the numbers but the rest is worth talking about. Sumit’s motorbike has ‘Products have Rationales, Brands have Emotionales’ on it.
As the bikers ride past me, I catch a glimpse of a few number plates. Naveen’s reads ‘Leap of Faith’, Sunandini’s reads, ‘From the Smple Often Comes the Profound’, S. Anand’s reads, ‘Taking Sides: Not the Right Side but the Just Side’, Urvashi Butalia’s reads, ‘Voices of and from the Womb’.
As I watch the bikers disappear into the horizon, not racing against one another but just enjoying their biking adventures, Sumit reminds us that it’s our turn to head out. ‘What? Already?’ I ask.
I’m suddenly plagued by more questions. What kind of bike do I want to ride? What should my number plate read? Do I have the license to head out into the busy roads? Do I understand all the traffic rules? What If I fall? Is my helmet good enough? How many wrong turns and U-turns will I come across? What if I reach a dead end? What will people say?
Not letting my fears and inhibitions get the better of me, I borrow Sumit’s Ducati and venture into the unknown. He lends me his helmet that has ‘Obvious Emotional Truths’ inscribed on it. I struggle a bit to keep balance but I keep going. Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild’ starts playing again.
On the journey the sights, sounds, smells and encounters sometimes confuse and sometimes overwhelm. More often than not my reactions were, ‘Aha! I didn’t know that, I didn’t realize that.’
Though the Ducati is fantastic, I’m not entirely comfortable on it. I need to assemble and customize my motorbike to make it my own.
My personalized motorbike and its number plate are waiting to be collected.
All I’m looking for now is a pillion rider, so, come, hop on and enjoy the ride.