Thursday, December 9, 2010

one more day in Bombay

I had an entire day to kill in Mumbai before catching the train to Delhi and spent it taking the Yamaha for a final service and finding a safe parking for it for a week until Stephen fetched it and started his own, brand new adventure. This didn’t take nearly as long as I’d hoped and to kill the time I went to the famous Regal Cinema and watched Harry Potter. It was the only movie showing and I soon discovered that at this cinema only one movie is shown per day (well, 4 shows a day but the same movie). After the movie I went for a farewell ride through Mumbai and ended up parking it outside the famous cricket ground (I forget the name) where impromptu cricket matches are held all day long. Have I mentioned that India is cricket-obsessed? I’m not a cricket fan but I was starting to get a little nostalgic (in a few days I would be heading back to South Africa) and thought it was an appropriate end to my last ride. As expected the cricket bored me so much that I fell asleep next to the field. I woke up about 2 hours later and realized that I had less than an hour to take the bike back to its parking and get a taxi to the train station. Plenty of time. I leisurely strolled to the spot where I’d left the Yamaha but the Yamaha was missing.

A nice man with orange henna hair told me that the traffic police had towed it because it was illegally parked. What? The seriousness of the situation hit me between the eyes and I went into a frantic panic looking around for anything resembling a traffic cop. I found one across the street who told me where I could find it. It was long walk but eventually after 30 minutes I arrived at the traffic department and saw my poor bike among hundreds of towed others. I asked around and ended up speaking to a very rude and impatient Punjabi traffic officer who demanded my license and registration papers. ‘Ok look’, I said (a little more forceful than I meant to) ‘I have it but I left it at my hotel’. This was the truth but he reacted like I had just slapped him in the face and insulted him severely. ‘You’re a foreigner! No foreigner is allowed to own property in India! You’re lying!’ he spat at me. A big part of me wanted to go fetch my registration papers, shove it in his face and say ‘Aha! I told you so’ but I simply had no time. I explained my situation to him as calmly as I could but his mind was set again me and my sorry plight. I’ve been alive long enough to know that in situations like these you need to go directly to the person in charge. By the time I found the chief commander’s office I was close to tears and by the time I shook his hand I was crying. I had 20 minutes to get my bike released, park it and find a taxi. Anyone who knows me well will know that not only do I cry easily but once I start crying it’s very hard to stop. The chief was a wonderfully patient and understanding man and within minutes he had released my bike, offered me a tissue and apologised for any ill-treatment inflicted by his department. ‘Please come visit us again’ he said. ‘Ok’ I said through my subsiding tears but secretly knew that as soon as I got on my bike and rode off, I would be gunning it out of there, never looking back.

I made it just by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin and was still trying to get my tears under control as I settled into my bunk on the train. Whew. Once I was relaxed enough to reflect I started thinking about the journey the Yamaha and I had been on. What an incredible yet incredibly hard adventure and one that I would not trade for anything. Goodbye old friend.

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