The Harley Davidson
Uncle was the only one in Rishabh’s entire colony with a Harley
Davidson,’’ began Raman. His cousin, Rishabh lived in Jamnagar,
and Raman had recently paid him a visit. "You won’t believe
how the thing looks, up close, guys. It is awesome,’’ he was telling
his friends. They had come over to spend the weekend with him, one
know Bharat Uncle? Could he have asked for a joy ride,’’ quipped
Nagesh. "Ah! That is a problem. You see, Bharat Uncle is extremely
possessive about the machine. He doesn’t let anyone ride it. You
are not even allowed to touch it, by the way. You can see it from
beyond the fence but you are not allowed anywhere near it. Bharat
Uncle lives alone and works long hours but he makes sure that the
bike is safely locked behind a grill when he leaves for office.
And Rocko, his fierce Alsatian, ensures that children don’t jump
over the gate, either,’’ Raman explained.
is bizarre,’’ said Kshitij. "I mean, I know of people
who are very particular about children messing around with
their new cars but this is really going to great lengths to
keep us away from these vehicles, eh,’’ he laughed. "You
know, when Sarvan Uncle bought his new SUV, he wouldn’t allow
Gagan to get into it with dirty shoes. The plastic covers
on the seats stayed there for many months before Rukmani aunty
managed to convince him to take them off, and it took Gagan
a long time to finally get into the SUV with a little dirt
on him,’’ he narrated. Gagan was Kshitij’s next door neighbour.
are the ways of the adults,’’ sighed Nagesh. "They wouldn’t
mind you helping them clean their vehicles but ask them for
a joy ride sometimes and they may hesitate. Why is that so,’’
he asked. "Who knows,’’ replied Raman. "Bharat Uncle’s
case was even more serious. It had become a well-known routine
for colony residents to see him spend all Sunday morning just
cleaning and polishing his bike. And, he took no help,’’ he
said. "So, did you manage to see it properly,’’ Nagesh
He knew of Raman’s
wild streak. He was also aware that Raman had taken up many "dares’’
from his friends and won all of them. A dare is when someone challenges
you to do something and you either chicken out or rise to the occasion,
as you all know. "Didn’t Rishabh throw a dare at you,’’ he
asked, a bit surprised that this hadn’t happened. "How could
that not be? Of course, he dared me to jump over the fence and touch
the bike in front of all his colony friends,’’ retorted Raman. "And…what
happened,’’ probed Nagesh, impatiently. "How did you manage
Rocko? Did you win? C’mon, tell us,’’ he pushed forth, eagerly.
"Well! I started planning out my programme. A week day would
be better than the weekend because Bharat Uncle would be home. Moreover,
I would have to befriend Rocko somehow. He was a scary dog, mind
you. So, I began walking past Bharat Uncle’s house everyday, trying
to see if I could entice Rocko with biscuits. But he was far too
well-trained for me, and I realized in a day or two that I had no
hope here. The dare was to complete the task in a week from the
day it was thrown up,’’ elaborated Raman.
"It was already
Wednesday. And, my plan was not working. Rishabh was almost sure
that I was going to lose this time,’’ noted Raman. "So, did
you manage something by Friday,’’ asked Kshitij. "Don’t tell
me you lost the dare,’’ he added when he saw Raman’s expression.
"No. Actually, I both lost and won, at the same time,’’ said
Raman, mysteriously. The boys seemed even more interested now.
week went by, and I could do nothing. So, I thought of a new
plan. You see, during the week, Uncle got up at 6 a.m. but
during the weekends, he got up at 7.30 a.m. So, I decided
that `Operation Dare’ was going to be put into force on Sunday
morning at 5 a.m.,’’ he stressed.
shot back Nagesh. "And, what about the dare in front
of all of Rishabh’s friends,’’ he asked. "Believe it
or not, they were in on this one …all of us were to get up
at 4.45 a.m. and ostensibly leave for a jog at 5. Our parents
would be fine with this line. We played cricket and football
matches during our holidays, and sometimes got up early for
extra practice,’’ noted Raman. His friends were impressed.
hoping that Rocko would also be sleeping inside the house,
we made it to Bharat Uncle’s flat. It was still dark. We crouched
around the gate. Then, I gave a thumbs-up sign and leapt over
The grill was right
ahead through which I could put my hand and touch the bike. To our
great fortune, there was no sign of Rocko. I crept closer, and what
do I see…the bike was not there,’’ announced Raman.
The boys gave a collective
gasp. "And to make matters worse, the father of one of Rishabh’s
friends turned up and saw the entire gang hanging out House No.
23,’’ he added. "So, what did you do,’’ his friends asked.
"There was no other option but to tell him that we had all
gathered there because we were going to jog the entire 3 kilometer
stretch outside the colony. And, we began jogging and went out.
The road on which Rishabh’s house is located is a long patch, and
people run on it, every morning. So, quite reluctantly, the gang
of six began running away from the colony. It was still dark, and
we had gone about a kilometer when I saw that someone had fallen
off on the other side of the road,’’ said Raman. "I had already
lost my dare. I was being ridiculed, and decided to break away from
the gang. I crossed over to the other side of the road. A man had
crashed out by the sidewalk. He was bleeding. His bike lay by him.
I called out to him and he turned, groaning. It was Bharat Uncle.
He had taken his Harley Davidson for a spin, and had slipped and
fallen. I shouted for help. The boys came running. We got together
and helped pick up Uncle and his bike,’’ Raman said, with a soft
He had a very strange
look in his eyes. He hadn’t gotten over Bharat Uncle’s expression
when the man saw his bike in bad shape after the mishap. He wasn’t
in the least concerned about his own bruises and cuts. He was tending
to his vehicle as one would tend to a child.
Sangita P. Menon Malhan,
I am a short story writer, located in New Delhi, India. For most
of my professional life, I was a journalist with a national newspaper.
I am currently a freelance editor and translator. The stories I
write are primarily for children and the youth. Their readership,
so far, has been Indian, and therefore, the stories have Indian