Reaching a scientific workshop venue 36 hours before it starts is too early for a research student! But sometimes the transport system of the country forces one to do so. On 23rd May this year I got down at the Pune Junction railway station after not getting a confirmed ticket in the only second class AC compartment of Nagercoil-Mumbai Express as waiting list number 1. The kind ticket examiner from Tirunelveli Junction gave me a ticket for sleeper class with a fine of 250 rupees but I had to use the berth allotted for railway staff. Fortunately I got a berth in the night so that my sleep was not disrupted. At the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, (IISER) Pune, I was allotted a room in the students’ hostel where the room was in the fifth floor and no attached bathroom. No electric plug suited my laptop charger and I didn’t carry a proper adapter plug with me. I did not have a book to read and no Wi-Fi internet connection was available, contrary to what was expected. It was a hell boring situation I cursed my decision not to drop the journey once my berth was confirmed rejected. This entire ill-prepared trip happened because of an 1150+ kilometer drive that just ended a day before my departure from Tirunelveli. I could not get enough time to pack my bag.
So I am here now at the end; what to do here in this unknown institute? I have been to Pune two/three times before, but never had a chance to visit places in the city. In the evening I walked up to a village near Pashan and had my dinner, because the organizers don’t provide food from next day only, and came back with a few snacks that may help me during my boring times. Had a sleep up to 11.30 am next day and went down to the reception to read the newspaper of the day in a hope that I may find something interesting to reduce the boring times. It has been long since I read a newspaper before! Alas, I found a photo news saying there is a two-day exhibition of vintage motorcycles at the Amanora City Centre of Pune which is 17 km away from IISER. I decided to go there. Two buses and an auto, I was there at the venue, right in front of the Harley-Davidson showroom where the exhibition is going on.
When I reached there, I saw a huge crowd overwhelming around something. I saw it was an old Norton-350cc. Its proud and humble owner and the crew was trying to start the bike. There is no kicker, some electronic method is used to start the bull! Not even a stand on its own! There was an external stand on which the two-wheeler can sit as if in a Western toilet. An old bloke was explaining how to operate that age-old engine. He stressed the importance of the rider’s body language.
Then I turned to the other bikes; there were so many; the names I read only in best selling travelogues or watched in old road movies. I saw some of the motorcycles that I read in Salim Ali’s autobiography, the Fall of a Sparrow, yeah he was a die-hard motorcyclist! Vintage two-wheelers in the backdrop of modern high-end Harley-Davidson bikes! The actual show was inside the building. A huge collection of them! Members of the Vintage Motorcycle Club of Pune wearing the club’s T-shirt were roaming around with pride!
Those engines fascinated me at the thought of the extend of the landscapes they have been traversing, generations by generations! They have a really valuable service record! Happy to attend that rare event, I came out of Amanora and saw a lonely ancient Rajdoot outside the venue, waiting for its turn to enter the show!
An auto and two buses, I came back at the hostel, met Ajay, a PhD scholar in IISER Pune, staying in my neighboring room who lent me his laptop charger. He told me where I will get a Wi-Fi connection. My first thanks go to him. Next day Madura Deva and d8 came and we had a great week meeting so many wonderful people.