Wednesday, December 19, 2007


These are a few of my memories from when I was quite small which have somehow remained with me pretty clearly.

The one that is the farthest is of me wanting to go with my father wherever he was going. I don't remember the details but I do remember him dressing up after lunch, putting on his helmet (a half face one with the peak which can be fitted on with studs which he used to wear with his photosensitive riding glasses) and me wanting very badly to go with him. I do remember realizing vaguely that it was absurd (or maybe not) but still crying my heart out to go with him. I still remember quite clearly, me standing at the door bawling and he getting on his scooter and riding by. The front door led to a partly open garage and you can see the road that leads off to outside the colony and I still remember seeing him ride by without looking back. Thinking back, he probably did feel bad or maybe he was just irritated.

The second one is a memory of one of my school days. School used to get over around 1:30PM and we used to go back home for lunch. Lots of kids in my colony went to the same school and there used to be auto-rikshaw men who ran shifts just for getting kids to school and back. So my sister and I used to take an autorikshaw to school too. Well so most days, after school, we had to wait for our autorikshaw to show up and so a bunch of us usually ran around and play ed during the wait. Well so this day that I remember, I come running down from my class and as usual swing my bag over a small parapet which separates the class rooms from a small playground in the front. I swing it right over my head, over the parapet and bang it against the wall and then let go so that it stays there waiting for me to pick it up when the autorikshaw comes. But then I see a man who has been watching me do all that from maybe 4 feet away and realize that its my father with some guilt. And he goes so thats why your bags don't last or something to that effect. I don't remember the riding home part but I do remember the look on his face. It had the pleasure of catching me in the act, a bit of sternness but also affection.

The third memory I have is when I had gone with my father on the scooter to a shop. I don't remember what shop but I do remember there was someone else with us. So I guess I was riding in the front, standing on the foot boards of the scooter with my head just below my fathers (later years had me have to lean down so that he could see). The scooter was a Bajaj Chetak and it is a pretty durable decent scooter (I had a friend of mine in college who had one and it still rocked). Well so he goes into the shop leaving me on the scooter and I remember playing with the break pedal on the foot board. Then I remember playing with the accelerator on the handle bar and I found that it got stuck sometimes at maybe quarter throttle. Most of the times I couldn't get it to stay stuck at that position - it would snap back, but finally I did manage to keep it that way. I wanted to know what would happen when he finally came back and started it up. I had no idea that it needs to be started in neutral (and so would cause no harm) and had a vague notion that it was a bad idea to have the throttle open. So yeah, I was evil even then. So he comes out and of course the first thing he does is hold the accelerator open before cranking the kick start and he realizes what I have done. So he looks at me and tells his friend what I have been up to and I feel the guilt rise up again and he has that same look on his face - but I see a trace of puzzlement too - like he is thinking how did I end up creating this?


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Motorcycling in Vancouver

I have been asked by more than a couple of people on how to go about getting a motorcycle and on the road here in Vancouver. I came here in August 2006 – my first journey abroad, and have been riding around quite a bit in the one year I have been here. So it’s not hard to get one and not that hard to ride one either, in spite of the change in lane directions and some traffic rules. In fact, the first automobile that I drove here was a motorcycle – which is definitely more interesting than a riding in a ‘cage’ as motorcyclists call a car – and boo you if your car has automatic transmission :-D. So in this write up, I will go into the stuff that you need to do to get that motorcycle and start riding around beautiful Vancouver without being ‘caged’ in, weather permitting! :-D.

So the first step – getting a motorcycle. I bought both my motorcycles through craigslist ( You just have to keep looking for that affordable, durable, not too bad looking motorcycle – and I am speaking about those of you who are just scraping by with the money that you make RAing, TAing, working on-campus shifts and not the people who have cash to splurge. So for the tight budgeted, there IS hope. You just have to start cooking food at home and stop clubbing :-D. Both my motorcycles were sub $1500. But the problem is not just the actual price of the bike, it’s the insurance and the parking, the gas and maybe maintenance expenses that you might entail. Insurance is in slabs – less than 125CC, 125CC to 400CC, 400CC to 750CC. The premium also depends on how long you have been riding, your age, your insurance history (if you crashed or you were in an accident – it goes up) – it’s more personal here than in India. For a 750CC motorcycle, for the most basic insurance scheme, it will cost you about $120 per month. Parking at Thunderbird on campus residence will cost you $25 per month. And 1 hour at a motorcycle workshop would cost you about $80. So I wasn’t joking about the skipping dinner and working 3 shifts to ride a motorcycle part.

That said, once you have decided it’s worth it, and you really do want to smell the wind as it rushes past you at 140kmph, here are some rules of buying a motorcycle. Mostly the sellers let you test drive it if you give them a token amount (maybe $200) and some trusting/foolhardy people (like me) let you test ride for free. For the first purchase, I would advice taking a friend with you who does know something about motorcycles. Don’t worry about the humungous engine sizes – the basics of motorcycling are the same – if it’s a 100CC Indian motorcycle or a 750CC Japanese one. It’s heavier and quicker and it needs more care when handling – but don’t be intimidated. Once you are satisfied with its condition (and cross your fingers that its not glued together with gum and tape), you get it transferred to your name by going to an Auto Insurance broker. In BC, insurance is government-run by the ICBC and they have Auto Insurance brokers all around the place. The closest one on campus is University Insurance Brokers near the Village. I would strongly advice you to go down to the broker with the seller before you give him/her the money rather than him/her giving you the necessary papers with signature (you need the transfer of ownership form and the vehicle registration). Woes entailed by me for not following this procedure can be read at

So you have the motorcycle, next you might need motorcycling gear. Apart from the legally necessary helmets (which you might also trying buying off your motorcycle seller) for both you and your significant other/close friend (if you do take a close friend of the same sex with you, people on the streets smile knowingly), you might also want to buy a motorcycle jacket and gloves. In India, you could just buy a bike and ride it around, even without a helmet. But here, if you are riding early or late in the season (Summer), you would need a good jacket and a pair of gloves because of the cold. You could wear leather if it isn’t raining or invest in a good armored motorcycle jacket and gloves. Again, cragslist is the place to search for. There is also a forum at which you might want to check out too. In the Summer I bought a leather jacket and wore leather gloves ($100), but now I have a Joe Rocket armored jacket and gloves (for around $150) – it does make you feel more safe – potentially dangerous :-D

About legalities and adapting to new traffic rules – if you are a student, you can drive in BC with your Indian license, your student card and your study permit. I have driven to Seattle and I know a friend who got pulled over in Seattle, showed his Indian license and that worked fine. So as long as you are a student and you have a motorcycle license from India, you are good to go. About traffic rules, you have to get used to riding on the right side of the road but you learn fast that you orient yourself with other traffic mostly – so it’s easy to get used to. Other major changes include the left turn – most intersections don’t have a green signal explicitly for a left turn. For learning about the rules and more, go here: Chapter 4 explains what to do at intersections without explicit left green signal. Go through the rules numerous times because you don’t know when you are in a situation that you definitely would need to know the rules to handle.

Most of my motorcycling routes have been set by my ex-roomie – who taught me quite a bit of the ropes. If weather allows, I usually take daily trips to Jericho via the Marine drive – once you take the left fork from lower mall, there is a good curvy stretch on Marine drive, where you can learn the fine art of counter-steering. If you have more time, you could go to Cypress – it is an amazing ride after you are past Downtown traffic. The road is wide, clear of traffic mostly and has long straights and more than a couple good curves. You could also go to Iona beach near the airport which is another beautiful spot for an evening walk. You take the first right onto Templeton street after getting off Arthur Laing bridge (on the way to the airport from UBC via Granville street). The sea to sky highway to Whistler was another great route – but the construction work for the Winter Olympics has messed it up for motorcycles. Another route that my ex-roomie did was the Duffy Lake loop – search for it on Google. I haven’t done this yet but its on my to-do list for the Summer :-D

So that’s it! Hope I have motivated at least a few of you to buy a motorcycle and start riding. Its fun riding in a group too! Do mail me if you have any questions at

This is taken from the UBC Indian students' association annual newsletter, which can be found here: Geetanjali 2007 -Roobaroo