Growing Up Yezdi: Memoir of a Petrol Tank Rider

Before assuming the duties of a perpetual pillion, I was a petrol tank rider. Seated like a little frog on our Yezdi’s petrol tank, I would watch the world zoom by unhurriedly (because potholes and proverbial crossing fauna of the avian variety). At petrol pumps I would get giddy sniffing the sweet vapours rising from the belly of this gentle mean machine while observantly presiding over transactions that still involved five and twenty paisa coins. There was also the occasional habit of bawling in mortal fear every time we stopped next to a KSRTC bus.

The Yezdi became part of our family in 1985. Achan got it secondhand from a colleague of his. Many years later we got a secondhand (probably third or fifth-hand) Dolphin car from the same person. Even though it was a highly unusual car and period piece to drive around in, the stories surrounding it invariably involved us pushing the car across the length and breadth of Trivandrum and once a bit up and down the Ponmudi hill. Quite monotonous when compared to our Yezdi days.

When Amma was carrying me she would refuse to travel by any other vehicle because no other ride was as smooth and silky. When she developed labour pains she hopped on to the Yezdi with Achan and they rode away into the sunset (in the Medical College Hospital direction).

The sound of the Yezdi was like metal love. No one was more enamoured of it than Kandan, our first cat. In fact Kandan entered our lives by running behind the bike all the way from Matthews’ cold storage to our house when Achan was returning after buying chicken for Thiruonam. Kandan stayed on and we were pretty sure that he was Mahabali in animagus form. From that day onward we knew when Achan was returning home even before we could hear the sound of the bike approaching because Kandan would come running meowing wildly, ready to feast on the fish Achan would be bringing from Palayam Market. When we moved from Kowdiar, we had to find a way to ferry Kandan to our new nest. Achan and Amma managed to grab Kandan, who knew something fishy (not the kind he liked) was up, put him in a gunny bag and jumped on to the Yezdi. All along the way Kandan was freaking out, people were giving the stink eye to my poker-faced parents and the possessed bag. Kandan was brought to the new house safely where he spent the rest of his life happily, occasionally getting chased up coconut trees by Rahman- the local douchecat of that time.

We travelled in fours all the time. I would be on the petrol tank. Achan would ride the lead. Gingi would be the sandwich pillion and Amma, pillion. The Yezdi never complained except for the one time we decided to take a family trip up Ponmudi. After the first ten hairpin bends, we started smelling burning rubber and hearing faint groans. Amma and Gingi got down and walked across the tea gardens and up the hill for most of the remaining way with Achan, Yezdi and I meeting them after every bend.

All of us have had our own share of falls from the Yezdi. A few months before I was born, Achan met with an accident while rushing to the Observatory to catch a glimpse of something astronomical. The person who took him to the hospital later became his friend and go-to barber for many years. Once Amma, sitting sideways, fell backwards into the arms of a traffic inspector while Achan obliviously rode away. This other time the bike was about to skid and Gingi preemptively jumped off crying, ‘Ayyo Titanic!’ On another very muddy monsoon morning we fell again. The handlebar struck my chest. That was the only time I’ve heard Achan addressing me as “Moleyyy” and while writhing in pain I stopped for a nano second and rolled my eyes. Later that evening when Amma took out the lunchbox from my bag, there was a gaping hole in it where the handle had punctured through the metal before hitting me.

The Yezdi did give away signs of aging as years passed by. I remember heading to a mechanic’s place in Plammood after school on many days, sitting there and sipping on Goldspot while work progressed. I’ve written about our last days with the Yezdi before. Eventually due to leaky valves from both sides, Achan and KEV 1164 parted ways. There have been no two wheelers in the family since (at least not motorized ones).

And, here’s us


5 thoughts on “Growing Up Yezdi: Memoir of a Petrol Tank Rider

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  1. A tainted, old window. As always 🙂

    1986 RX 100. Thanks to that old dude, to this day, I find ‘crash guard’ a misnomer. They were appendages meant to let kids like myself climb on to fuel tanks. There was a time I thought those ‘ladders’ were specially fitted on to bikes when middle-class parents decided to have children.

    I always assumed I was the one driving the four of us; from the undulated roads of Perissery town to the yellow cab spotted roads of Diamond Harbour in Calcutta.

    If Achan were promised complete anonymity, he might call the Yamaha the fourth member of the family; I’d be relegated to the fifth. I think I’d be fine with that 🙂


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