The thrilling rides
N J Ravi Chander
My first ‘vahana’ – a gorgeous wooden rocking horse – was a birthday gift from a grandaunt on my first birthday. The hand-carved toy manufactured in Channapatna, the toy town, was mounted on rockers and had a handle-bar to boot.
In the pre-electronic age, my brothers, Prasanna Kumar, Prem Prakash, Gokul Nath, Chandran and I had a whale of a time on the saddle flogging the horse with an imaginary whip and egging it on to gallop faster.
Our visiting cousins would also get astride the toy horse during the vacations and rock with us. Though the rocking horse never moved around, the ‘timber wonder’ provided many hours of unbridled entertainment during our younger days.
When I was three years old, my grandparents gifted me a beautiful red tricycle with rubber wheels, and I graduated to a moving vehicle. I piloted the vehicle with my younger sibling riding pillion, and we enjoyed going around in circles inside the small compound of our home. When we ran out of steam, we would force the elders to wheel us around as we giggled and clapped. They also used the tricycle as a carrot to entice us when we refused to dine.
My maternal uncle, M D Umapathi, was my first driver. When still a tiny-tot, he would wheel me down on his bicycle from our home in Cox Town to Fraser Town where my maternal grandparents lived. Since I was the first grandchild in the family, the grandparents doted on me.
The weekend routine would see me dressed up in an olive green frock, cheek decorated with a black bindi to ward off the evil eye, and gingerly ferried to my destination. A towel wrapped around the crossbar served as my seat, and the uncle’s sturdy arms ensured that I would not fall. The great outdoors fascinated me—the sights, sounds, and the smells I encountered in the streets transported me to a different world. In a way, these were my maiden voyages!
My siblings and I also enjoyed our romance with double-decker buses that traversed specific routes in the city. They cost only a few annas back and forth. The bell’s chime was a signal to the driver to stop or proceed and was music to my ears.
My brothers and I always eyed the precious front seat on the top deck, and we would count ourselves lucky if we got one. We could then watch the world go by from our lofty perch or playfully clutch at a branch of a roadside tree. It was great fun, and we would deboard with a heavy heart at the end of the ride. Many years later, when I rode on a double-decker train to Chennai, the thrill was never the same.
Though I have sailed on a steamer and soared on an airplane, nothing can quite beat the pleasure of those simple childhood rides.
(The author is a former banker who has taken to writing as a past time. He contributes to various local and national news organizations and is a regular contributor to Kashmir Vision)