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26th December 2007
“We have a history of pushing the engines to their limits, here are a few examples”

Some years ago there used to be a mini truck or a tempo as it was commonly known as. It used to run on a single cylinder 4-stroke engine and used to make a sound like a bullet on steroids (Royal Enfield bullet, not the bullet from a gun) the problem with it was that it had only three wheels. Instead of two, there was only one wheel in the front. The other odd thing was the engine which was kinda mounted on the front wheel.

A very common sight on the roads of Delhi was one such tempo parked in the middle of the road. On going close you would realize that it is parked in the middle of the road because the engine fell out. Now I am sure you have heard of people dropping their spare wheels, sometimes even a wheel coming out of a moving vehicle or dropping something they were carrying but I am sure you would never have heard someone dropping the engine.

Those tempos were affectionately called Ganeshji by people. In other parts of the country, especially Punjab, those things were called "Phund" or a wasp. In those places these vehicles are used to carry people and not goods. There is only so much power you can generate from a single cylinder engine no matter how big you make it. The result was that those things used to move quite slowly. It took them quite some time to gain momentum when it was packed to maximum capacity.

My brother told me of his experience of riding one when they went to visit my uncle who lives in Katni, a place in Madhya Pradesh. They were in one such "taxi" and it reached a very slight incline, say not more than 5-10 degrees and it started acting like Adnan Sami climbing the stairs of a tall building. "If you hear the sound of the tempo, you could feel it saying "Hai hai hai hai hai....Hai hai hai hai hai"

The lack of power in an engine reminds me of a friend named Gary who was my class mate in Melbourne and owned a really old Holden Torana. The car was even older than him and didn't have much juice left. He once told me about an incident. He was on an incline and the only way the car could get on the top and make the turn he wanted to was to start speeding before the incline comes and gain momentum that will help you reach the top. As he was doing that, he spotted a car at the top which was in his way and stopped him before he could reach his turn and he was left with no options but to roll back and start the incline again.

Another incident of steep inclines was in Dharamshala. The five of us-Me, Mira, my brother and his family drove there in our 800cc Maruti and from there decided to drive to McLeod Ganj. We were directed to a short cut which was 1/3 of the original way but had very steep roads. Now don't go by the 800cc of the Maruti. It is a very capable car and never made us feel that there is not enough power in it on our 1300km journey in the hills but the inclines of the road to McLeod Ganj were beyond that car and us. We managed to go a little further but soon reached a spot where we realized that we will not be able to make it so decided to head back.

On our way up I noticed a man trying to go up on a Bullet. He was a new rider and could not manage it; he would climb a little and then roll back to where he came from. When we were heading back, that persistent bugger was still there doing the same thing. This time I heard him say to one person. "I will try to go up, you watch me go and then let me know where I am going wrong". Lucky bastard didn't fell in a valley while rolling back...or maybe he did if not while coming down then while going up and overshooting a turn.

Anyway all these things came to my mind when I was walking down to the photographer's studio and saw a rickshaw take a u turn and lose its front wheel.


This poor auto is not made for all the torture it faces, specially on the roads of Bombay. I strongle suspect that it lost its wheel because of the ditch that is right behind it. If not entirely because of this one then a as a combined efect of all such ditched it had crossed before giving up.

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