A lot happened in the period between when my father died and where I am now. In some ways the present is as familiar as then. I am now the father. I have two children. Praneel, who is six, and Tanishka, three. I rub Vicks on my sons chest the same way my father did for me. Only a lot more often. I hug them a lot and say I love you every chance I get. My father never said I love you once. He did hug me really tightly, one time. I don’t think of it as sad. My father came from a different time. In fact, he was born in India. I am a single generation away from India. Talking about feelings and working through them never happened. He didn’t have an outlet. I don’t blame him. I just try to move on and be better.
Back to riding.
So, I have a colleague at work named Clive. He rides a Harley. I always listened fervently to his stories of his Harley. It was an Arlen Ness drag bike that was once owned by Lolly Jackson of Teasers fame. The almost-Larry Flint of South Africa. Clive spoke of how the bike would periodically not start. How the widened rear wheel welds always came apart and how long it took to get rewelded. It didn’t sound like a lot of fun. It probably wasn’t. But man, oh man, that bike was a beauty. And it rode like a monster as he tells it. That black beast was stolen from outside his house in Rivonia, Johannesburg in 2015.
In January 2016, Clive, who by then had bought a new Harley; the Terminator 2 model, a FatBoy, was ordering new ape-hanger handlebars at Harley Davidson in Johannesburg. Not having near as much fun on it, he was trying to get this new bike to be halfway as exciting as the old one. It still doesn’t excite him as much.
I was hanging around with another colleague, Mike, looking at bikes in the dealership. A salesperson named Willie, doing his job, approached and asked if we needed any help. Mike politely declined, though as much as he admired the bikes, didn’t see himself riding one. I, on the other hand, expressed my love of bikes. Harley especially.
In fact, when I was working at Ster-Kinekor on the PlayStation brand, we had a partnership going with Waterman pens for one of the games we were launching. The marketing manager, Lucielle, returned from a meeting with two pen sets. One was branded Harley Davidson and the other was, well, forgettable. I took the Harley branded pen. That same pen signed on the offer to purchase and contracts from my first car to my first house and anything I ever owned in-between.
Except for the Harley I own today. Ironic, isn’t it?
I recollected my love of biking to Willie.
“I’ve always loved the thought of riding and I always knew I would ride one day. I’ve always wanted to. It just never happened for me.”
He pointed at a Harley he thought I might like. A Street 750. Harley’s smallest bike. The entry level bike.
“Why don’t you sit on it?” He asked.
“Can I?” I replied, as surprised as a kid.
“Of course you can. Throw your leg over”
I threw my leg over the Street 750. Fuck! I loved it. Just the feel. Mike took a photo of me sitting on it. Then Willie did something that would change my life.
“Put your feet up on the pegs. Both feet. I’ve got you” he said.
I didn’t believe him when he picked me off the floor. The bike straightened out and I still had put both feet down.
“Get both your feet up. You won’t fall. I’ve got you.”
I put my feet up and felt the bike.
That was it. I was buying a Harley.