2

Speed Kills

I was told that it was a beautiful morning. Dad had opened the door softly and pulled the sheets away to wake me up and tell that. I unwillingly woke up and started staring at the window. While he got his files together to leave for work, he said with some hesitation, “Consider selling the bike. You haven’t used it for an year now. There is no point holding on to things that…”

“Dad, we are done with this conversation. I am not going to sell it!”, I yelled before he could finish what he was saying, and fearing any further confrontation, I just left the room. Somehow, my footsteps led me to the garage. It was not a big one, just enough to park a car and a bike and a shelf to keep some essentials. We had covered the bike with a cover to prevent dust from settling on it. It was only a year ago that we had put the cover on, but the dust seemed to have accumulated from over a millennium.
My hands shivered as I was about to take that dusty cover off, and I almost seemed to collapse, before the sneezes brought me back to reality.

Shutting my eyes tightly, I finally gathered strength to lift the cover off the thing that changed my life forever. There it stood, a shining blue Yamaha YZF-R15. It still gave my heart butterflies. It was spotless and still had the sheen, except for the dent on the left side of the fuel tank and scratches on the left indicator. Touching the headlamp, dad’s words echoed in my mind, “Get rid of the bike. There is no point holding on to the past.” It was a bright morning, but the chills of the thought made me shudder. This bike, this beauty was my last memory of her. And dad wanted me to let go of it. Out of all the people, he should know have known better.

Looking into the mirror took me back to the pensieve of my memories. I couldn’t recollect the date, and I didn’t even want to. The morning was no different than this. I lazed in my bed for a few minutes and deciding that I’d better get ready for college, I rolled over to get off the bed. I slipped my hands into my shorts’ pockets to check if they were empty before putting them into the laundry basket. As my warm hands made contact with the cold piece of metal, I almost jumped right there. Taking it out to see what was in my pockets, I found a key with a plastic bow with the logo that read “YAMAHA”. And back then I did not have a vehicle, let alone a Yamaha. Wide awake now, I went searching for dad. He was outside the garage, wiping the headlamp of a vehicle. “Dad, this is not ours. Why are you…” Suddenly, things fell in place. I could not have been happier that day. I gave him a huge bear hug, like the ones kids give you when you surprise them with the toy they’ve been asking you for. I almost put the key into the keyhole, but rules are rules. No vehicle before taking bath. Trust me, it was the quickest shower I have had in my entire life. Excitement was beyond control. T-shirt, denims and canvas shoes were all that found me before I was on the new beast.

And I knew exactly whom to call right now. Pressing 2 on speed dial, waiting for four rings was the longest time of my life. Before a word came from the other end, I broke in, “Where are you? What took you so long to pick the call?”

“I’m at the tailor’s. The one near college.”

“All right. Stay there. I’m coming right away.” I didn’t wait for the response. After a lesson from dad about wearing a helmet while driving, reaching the place took no time. She was standing there, purse in one hand, bags in the other. “Pretty cool things bikes are, aren’t they? The suspension is fabulous. Dad got this for me today morning.”I controlled myself from talking more about the bike.

“Don’t get carried away by the power and drive fast.”

“But then, bikes like these are built for that purpose.”

“It doesn’t matter. Promise me you’ll keep yourself safe. Otherwise, I am not getting on it.”

“Alright. Now hop on. I’ll drop you home and take you back to college. You should see those guys burn when they see the bike” I grinned. Sometimes, my facial expressions tell people that differing with my opinions is a waste of time and energy.

On the way, we had to cross an intersection. And the city traffic, let me tell you, is a pain. After a tormenting 180 seconds of being stuck in the traffic, seeing the green lights, the engine hummed to life. By the time we were up front there were two seconds left to cross the signal. Now was the chance. Another 180 seconds would be hell. I held the clutch, shifted the gear, accelerated, and before I knew it, an auto came from the other end and took a sharp turn. I do not know how it happened, but in only two seconds, the vehicle tipped off to a side and took a hit to the fuel tank, and to my surprise, I stood unscathed.

Before I could reach out for my vehicle, I was terrified. Mom wasn’t around. My heart skipped a beat. The fear was traumatizing. My head went dizzy. A shout brought me back to my senses. She was there, right beside the divider. The traffic did not matter now. Rules did not. I sprinted across the road to get to her. She held her arm out. The dam burst open. The mere thought of seeing a mother in that condition would shake you in your shoes. I held my mom in my arms, trying to keep her awake. The moment she saw me, she held her palm against my face, and smiled, “I am glad you are alright”
It broke me completely. It hurt deeply to experience how selfless a mother was. 180 seconds. To save myself 180 seconds of the traffic, I risked my mom’s life. And there she was, still caring about me. As she spoke, her voice cracked, “See what haste can do. Promise me you won’t speed again in your life and keep yourself safe, even after I am gone…”

“Mom, no, wait. Nothing will happen to you. The ambulance will be…”

“Listen,” she interrupted me. “Take care of dad…”

My whole self started trembling with fear. What would I tell dad? Mom was his lifeline. I could never forgive myself for what I brought on to my parents.

As I frantically tried to keep mom awake, the words she said still ring in my ears, “ Always stay content with what you have. Every day, try to be better than the person you were the day before. Money, comfort and luxury are not for everyone to achieve. But, you can always become a better son, a better brother, a better friend, a better you. To do that, you must learn to value others’ opinions. You do not know when death will come to you. The day it does, your assets do not matter. What becomes really important is how many people you stood by in the span from your first to your last. Everyone will have struggles. What is of significance is whether you did something for others even in your own problems or not.”

“Mom, keep breathing, the ambulance has come.”

“Even my time has come. Remember one thing. For both of us, you have always been and will be our greatest gift” and she took the final breath. As she died in my arms, I died in hers, a thousand times.

After that, I had no memory whatsoever. Every time I know I have the bike with me, it reminds me of the loss overconfidence, excitement and haste will bring to life. It reminds me that I am guilty of a crime no one has punished me for. The damage to the bike tells of the damage to my life, both of which were because of me.
So after an year, I walked in to the garage. I have to start cleaning the bike to hold dust for another year. Because, even if you’re torn beyond reparations, you cannot discard the precious thing called life. You have to care for it, nurture it, and seek happiness in it. That is how life is.

Karthik K R

2 Comments

  1. Very good start Karthik. Keep it up and continue to keep writing !!!!

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