Rescuing ladies is one thing. Rescuing ladies astride scooterettes, however, is a completely different affair, and whoever has underestimated the above task has had at least one opportunity to swallow his pride, stoop down to sweep the shattered fragments of his ego under the carpet, and head for the himalayas. You would thus look more kindly at me, then, if I told you that I hesitated the other night, when a reversing sedan threatened to unceremoniously add a rather pretty lady to the general landscape at the Khadki railway crossing. I was in a position to judge that peril was slowly moving her way, but just when I was about to swoop down and carry her off to safety, I saw something that made me abort the launch: she was on a scooterette.
Those of you men who have never been on a scooterette, this is a good time to look heavenward and thank your favourite deity for sparing you the ordeal. In fact, it would not be too much if you went to the nearest place of worship and distributed food among the needy. Those of you - again, I address the men here - who have, you have my sympathies. Never was a machine so perfectly designed for crushing the male ego. To this day, when I pay a visit to the old hometown, I have often taken ten-minute walks in the mid-day sun when the only other alternative was to take my sister's scooterette.
I first encountered this blasted piece of machinery when walking over to my parked motorcycle at FC Road, about four years ago. I was young, dumb, and brimming with the confidence that so separates the young and the dumb from the rest. Thus, when I spotted a girl struggling to start a teensy - in fact, I remember even thinking of the thing as 'cute' - scooterette, I decided to lend a hand. I had, after all, had practice kick-starting a 156cc engine without the option of a decompression valve. In fact, on one occasion, I had even started a 350cc engine with a decompression valve, though I gave as violent a start as the machine did when it started. Anyway, coming back to the present, or rather, the past, there was this girl trying hard to punch a hole through her starter button, and realizing that this might soon end in her starter motor being handed to her in a casserole, I decided to intervene for the sake of the poor machine.
All right, so the girl was cute, too. But my thoughts, believe it or not, were all for the poor starter motor. So off I went and politely enquired if I could be of assistance. The girl looked at me in an appraising sort of way that seemed to say, "Oh, so you think you can, can you? I'd like to see you try!" and handed me the machine.
Ten minutes and ninety kicks later, I was swearing under my breath - what remained of it, that is, wiping the perspiration off my glasses, and rubbing my sore ankle that had, at every fifth kick, been hit by some part of the undercarriage or the other. Telling myself that if I ever visit one of these scooterette-manufacturing places, I'd make a beeline for the chap who designs the kick-starters in these machines, and let him have it, I turned to the girl, who, incidentally, had been joined by her rather amused-looking, also-cute friend, and asked her one of those vital questions that is born out of the strong line of reasoning we learn at engineering college.
"Are you sure there's enough fuel in the tank?"
The girls seemed to giggle among themselves, and the amused-looking friend asked me to step aside. Continuing to smile sweetly at me, she did a few things to the machine that looked suspiciously to me like witchcraft, and voila - we had lift-off. That is to say, the engine purred. Like those cats that those witches keep around them. To say I was astounded would be putting it mildly - I was positively rocking about the heels.
"Thank you!" came the chorus. I know a sarcastic chorus when I hear one, and this was definitely one. Refusing to be fooled by the sweet smiles, I stiffly waved off the thanks, and I believe added something about carbon in the spark plug, and strode away with as much dignity as a shattered ego and a bruised ankle would allow.
It took me about a week to recover from that one. I kept away from FC road for about a month, and I think I grew a beard for a while, too. The memory is hazy. You know how the mind tends to block out these traumatic episodes.
So you would understand my hesitation when I saw this scooterette-riding girl in a bit of peril. However, my hesitation was only for a moment. I nimbly jumped off my bike, ran up to her, and put my best foot forward.
I took care, though, to stay on the leeward side of the machine, away from the kick-starter. You should, too. Unless you're a girl. In which case a muttered 'abracadabra' under the breath would do just fine.