Mode of transport
by Chandroo D.
Going back in time during my childhood days, I remember my first mode of transport.. a horse and a carriage. Around 7 am weekdays, a grey horse and a carriage with the driver would wait for me and my siblings and off we would go to school. Memories of the driver with a long whip to start up the horse are still embedded in my mind. The carriage was well cushioned and colourfully decorated. If the driver or the horse were absent some days, we would alternatively take the bicycle rickshaw. This was a bicycle with a side car carrying 2 passengers sitting back to back.
As years went by, and by the age of 14, I was allowed to cycle to school all by myself. It was exciting and gave me independence aside from being tedious as I had to ride over a bridge at one stage, huffing and puffing, in order to reach my school. During the monsoon season, I would unfortunately always be drenched by the time I reached my destination. Occasionally the streets used to be flooded and that made it worse. Wearing a raincoat to protect me and my school Shan shoulder bag, I would struggle cycling in the flood water and looked forward to reach home safely. Wet socks, shoes and sneezing were the order of the day during rainy days.
By the age of 16, I was allowed to ride a motor bike to school. I loved my red 250cc Jawa (made in Czechoslovakia). Kick starting to bring it alive made me feel like James Dean. Riding in style with aviators, a leather jacket and gloves, I could sense the glares from onlookers. Those days, helmets were not mandatory so in order to keep my ruffled hair in place I used greasy Brilliantine or Brylcreem. I read, John Travolta used the same for his movie “Grease”.
By the age of 18, I was driving a Willys Jeep with a green canvas top. Sitting sideways, with one hand on the steering wheel, I felt like a king of the road! Unlike today’s automatic cars, driving required use of both legs and hands. One hand on the steering wheel and the other on the gear shift handle. One leg on the accelerator or brake and the other on the gear clutch during change of gears. During water festival, off came the canvas top and with a few friends, we would drive through the streets and enjoyed being drenched with tepid or ice cold water by the crowd. When the jeep got stuck in the floods, I learned to suck up the air in the pump of the engine with my palm. When the jeep stalled, out came the crank and I would turn and turn the crankshaft until the engine roared into life. Alternatively, I would have bystanders push the jeep to start up the engine. As expected, mother would chide me whenever I came home with greasy face, hands and clothes.
Soon I upgraded to a sleek blue Vauxhall sedan (UK made). Now this was a luxury for me. Soft comfortable seating and smooth drive with suspensions which smoothed out every bump on the road and allowed me to safely accelerate and brake. I looked forward to driving my family around for every errand or leisure.
As years have gone by, automobiles have been upgraded and advanced. Out went the gear shifts and in came the automatic gear cars which I drive now. Battery operated, hybrid and self driving cars too are already in existence. Soon chauffeurs will not be required. All we have to do is instruct the car to take us to our destination and then sit back and have coffee or read a newspaper.
Presently, more than a dozen start-ups are already working on airborne passenger vehicles that can be defined as flying cars. Reminds me of the animated TV series, ‘Jetsons’ during ‘60s. This popular cartoon show featured the Jetson family living in a house in the sky, driving flying cars that looked like flying saucers. The family had incredible conveniences that left them plenty of leisure time. They also had a robotic maid and a talking dog. Watching the shows was very entertaining but simply a ‘pie in the sky’ those days.
I may not survive to see the ‘Jetson days’ but considering the painstaking worldwide research that is taking place, perhaps my grandchildren will.