Shastri, my scooter and me

[“You want t-shirt?”
“You want nice sarong?”
“You want nice print sheet – very nice for beach… you want towel?”
“No – thank you.”
“You want nice necklace – you look? Very nice for you…”
“Looking is free – you look?”
“You no buy, just look OK?”
“You very nice man, where you from?”

Ad infinitum. Enough said.]

So, the scooter. Two wheels is the way to get around in Goa, so I picked an Indian guy with friendly eyes (Shastri), paid the price he asked (400 rupees, about 6 quid for two days) and I was off.

Given that prior experience was not required, and that the lesson consisted of “Key –here, accelerate – here, brake – here, this is very important”, I opted for an afternoon on the quiet roads on day one to break myself in. Mind you, the temptation to open up the throttle and tear around at 60 kph is somewhat curtailed by the potholes, the occasional speed-bump, and the more than occasional cow in the road. (Oh yes, and the elephant. I saw my first elephant today).

Having survived day one, this morning I took the bike (or to be more accurate, the bike took me at times really) into the heart of Goa, away from the coast. Off the beaten track, Goa is quite different – very green, amazing bright painted houses, often kept immaculately, and exceptionally friendly people. Coming from a grumpy London, the constant smiling is almost un-nerving.

The rules of the Indian road are that there are no rules. As a pedestrian, it grates to hear the horn used seemingly on every possible occasion. As a biker (for I am he), the benefits (pleasures) of injudicious use of the horn become abundantly clear – to list but a few of the meanings of that tinny bleep:

– Get out of the way
– I’m about to overtake you
– I know you’re about to overtake me
– Hi
– How’s the wife?
– And the kids?
– What the hell, let’s have a beep party

It’s all very good-natured really – the trucks even have a painted sign on the back saying “Horn – Please – OK!”

I survived a 100 km round trip returning to Anjuna beach as the sun started to fade over the Indian Ocean once more. There was one task left – to return the bike to a nervous Shastri. As I handed over the keys, I realized there was petrol left in the tank. Hmmm, I thought, time for a social experiment. I requested with a straight face that he pay me 50 rupees (about 70p) for the petrol (probably worth 250). I think this might have been a first – it’s not often that the pleading is on the other foot as it were. There was much nervous giggling among his compadres, and Shastri professed to have no money. But with some gentle (smiling) persistence, I think I won the day, and he says he will bring me the money tomorrow. Time will tell.

My next task is to secure tickets for the 4th England-India One-day international in Bangalore. I arrive Saturday, and it takes place Sunday. Here’s hoping. Any hints/tips/high level Indian government contacts greatly appreciated. And if they bat Ravi Bopara down at 8 again, I’ll be the one flinging Samosas on the pitch.

And finally, for technical wizards, RSS should now be enabled – see link at the bottom of the page. If you want to receive email messages with the blog in them, let me know and I will add you to the mailing list.


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Filed under 'mind the gap' journey 08-09, All posts, India '08-'09, South India

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