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EASY RIDERS

From Bhadrakali Temple facing Singha Durbar, where the equestrian statue of King Prithivi Bir Bikram Shah Dev (frequently mistaken for a Rana prime minister) stands, I often revved up the engine of my new motorbike for a moment or two of glory and raced towards the statue of Prithivi's namesake ancestor. The year was 1971 and I had acquired a 90 c.c. Honda motorbike from Japan to take me to college. In that short stretch of road I always hit speeds of 110 kph and more before braking.

I was no legend in motorbike antics like Uday Gurung, a Nepali Evel Knievel or another daredevil driver like Tri Bikram Singh, the local Schumacher of our time. Tri was peforming tricks in his Hillman Hunter like executing hairpin turns in crowded New Road. Those two had a cult following among some of my friends who had just passed from school and had started to live life on the fast track. Our normal conversations would not be complete without pointed tribute to their latest exploits!

There were a few more racing roads then. The stretch of road from the airport to Bhaktapur had just been completed with Chinese enterprise, the road eventually leading past Bhaktapur to our border with Tibet at Kodari, and this was the Grand Prix circuit. In those days the road was comparable to the broad and empty avenues of today's Pyongyang. I had acquired a battered yet historic BMW 2000 4-door sedan that was passed down from King Mahendra to his prime minister Dr. Tulsi Giri who was a car aficionado. The car had changed hands some and the performance was erratic as its twin carburettor never agreed to work in tandem. My father nicknamed it "Bad-Mash Waihat" for BMW, not a flattery in colloquial Nepali and as an oblique dig at my stubborn insistence to own it. I often raced this car to Bhaktapur.

I remember an overnight excursion to Kodari some of us friends embarked upon in 1971. There was an aura of excitement that morning when we started out but a little bit of dread of the unknown was hanging in the air too just like the thick wintry morning fog: a bunch of teenagers travelling in one car and a motley mix of motorbikes is a cause of concern! We were to reach the border and backtrack a bit to camp by the Sunkosi riverside. Visibility was poor and the first casualty was my motorbike which was in front of me and abruptly disappeard before my eyes as I was sitting in the front seat of Siddheswor Singh's brand new Datsun. My mobike had done a belly-up in the rice fields near Banepa with the driver Yogendra Sakya dusting off his trousers, disheveled but otherwise unhurt. We left the leaking motorbike in a garage in Banepa and proceeded.

Not long after the second accident of the morning took place. Driver Surendra Man Shrestha in his 125 cc Yamaha and pillion rider Birat Simha had missed a turn at Dhulikhel and flew into the rice terrace below the road. This time the motorbike was restarted and the journey continued. The mood was more somber now as perhaps we all knew that misfortunes come in threes. Then it started pouring.

The ferocious winter storm broke through the morning fog and rest of the way to the border hamlet of Kodari was a blur on slippery and often treacherous road. We took shade when the rain was too heavy to drive but managed to cover the journey nonetheless driving intermittently between rain and shine. Until accident No. 3. This one was serious. It was Gyanendra Purush Dhakal who was speeding on one of the motorbikes (I think it was Binod Khatry's Honda) and close to the border he sped through a road block; a thick buffalo chain running across the road caught him at his throat and he was clean lifted off his bike and landed with a hard thud on the metalled road. He was semi-conscious and he was bleeding from lacerations on his throat. We rushed him to a nearby health post for close observation and for whatever treatment was available then in a remote region.

The vigour of youth and the will for more adventure made Gyanendra's recovery miraculously quick; some strong local rum doing as much therapy as the prescribed medication at the meagerly stocked health post. Our attempt to reach Kodari and to glimpse the inscrutable Red Guards of Chairman Mao on the other side of the bridge thus thwarted, we returned to camp at Dolalghat.

I have no regrets although my new motorbike took a knock. I cannot imagine ever again in today's congested Kathmandu Valley doing what we did in our youth: the easy rides we took through traffic-less roads with the fresh, unpolluted mountain air caressing our faces. Oh! how I wish we could all transport ourselves back to the valley that was.

Comments

  1. That Kodari trip is still vivid for me. Riding pillion, I actually somersaulted over Surendra and landed fortunately on my shoulders a foot away from a rock. Good thing I was younger then and could walk away from it. No more!

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  2. Great Moscow (or is it London) photo. Love the hip coiffure.

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  3. Dear Mr Rana, its interesting to read your story about the good old days. I myself forever cherish all my "childhood" memory (I am now 40, hehehe) I also wish I can turn back the clock.

    You are right. Due to the heavy traffic in Kathmandu nowadays it is no more possible to have enjoyable motorbike riding like what you had during the good old days. Anyhow I love Kathmandu, especially Thamel!

    By the way, its amazing that your face is 94% looks like General Kiran Shumsher J.B. Rana's photo shown above. Seriously. If there is any film made about General Kiran Rana, the film director should take you to be the lead actor. Similar to Ben Kingsley in "Gandhi" you are the best person to play "General Kiran Rana", and Rupa Rana or Manisha Koirala as the heroine in the movie!:-)

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