Fast and Foolish…

Whenever there was a celebration in the college, there used to be at least one accident. I had seen it happen several times. The only questions that remain to be answered on any such day were who, when, how and how severe.

So, we always used to keep a couple of cars and a few sober people to take the injured to the Medical College Hospital. One advantage of going to the Medical College was that we got preferential treatment because of our friends there, the parents of our classmates who held many an influential position and the regularity of our visits which made us preferred customers.

The causes of the accidents could be attributed to the excellent roads inside the campus that encouraged driving at high speeds, the amount of alcohol consumed as part of the celebration, and the insistence on driving after drinking. One of the most spectacular accidents happened during a Holi celebration.

The Holi festival was usually celebrated with the usual throwing of colored water and colored powders at one another followed by consumption of large quantities of alcohol and bhang. No one was spared from the coloring process.

One of my classmates had an Yezdi. He was a daredevil driver. Once he starts his bike, he zooms to 90kph and stays there or above that speed, but will never come down. The terms like deceleration and braking were not in his dictionary. Immediately after buying the bike, he took it apart and then assembled it from grounds up as he was not satisfied with the company’s assembling process. He had tuned the bike for maximum performance. He was a good mechanic and had a magic touch. The bike would respond like a racing stallion and had an amazing acceleration, thanks to his tweaks on the engine and carburetor. Even though, he was reckless, he was an excellent rider, with lightning fast reflexes and always was in absolute control of the machine.

The entrance to our college is quite impressive. The college sat at the top of a small hill. There were three roads from the main road to the college porch. Two of them were for vehicles and the center one was for pedestrians (see figure). The total distance from the entrance to the car porch through one of side roads and then back to the entrance through the other road was about 1.2 Kms.

Now coming back to the story… On that day, after the coloring competition and drinking session we were sitting on the stairs next to the car porch. Suddenly our biker friend had a brainwave. He got up and informed us that he was going to set a record and if anybody could beat his record he will sponsor the next rounds of alcoholic refreshments. He would start from the car porch go down through one of the roads and then come back up by the other road to the point he started. He wanted somebody to time him. We tried to dissuade him from this Kamikaze mission as he was totally drunk. He was a reckless driver when sober and with alcohol in his veins, he was more dangerous than a suicidal bomber. But our pleas fell into deaf ears. He said he was going to ride whether we agreed or not. So we agreed and appointed a timekeeper while somebody went to get the vehicle to take him to the hospital!

Some of the sober guys in our group had the sense to immediately post a few people at the main gate and the different approach roads to keep other vehicles and people from getting in his way. The news about the drunken driving spread and soon a sizable crowd gathered in the car porch and on other safe positions. The timekeeper was ready and our friend started the bike, put it in gear and was revving up.

The timekeeper gave the signal and off he went like a tracer bullet. What followed was a stunning display of skill, balance, control and nerve. It was an exhibition of flawless and fearless riding where both the man and the machine were acting in unison at an astoundingly illegal speed.

He came roaring and could stop the bike only about 10 meters from the finishing point. The time he took to cover the distance of 1.2Kms was 42 seconds. He averaged about 102 Kilometers per hour! We were all jubilated at the record at the same time relieved as nothing untoward happened. Never did we know that a little more than an hour later two of us would be needing a trip to the Medical College.

After the initial excitement was over, several others tried but couldn’t even come anywhere near the record. Then two daredevils, equally mad, reckless and drunk as the record holder, vowed they would break the record and started their preparations. They thought they had an advantage, as they had Yahama RD 350s, the fastest bike at that time. Both the teams wanted to race at the same time. Since it was difficult to time each bike if they went one after another, it was decided that the both would start from the same point but would go in opposite directions. It was one of the dumbest decisions that we made that day!

So the bikes were positioned with the drivers on them, and at the timekeeper’s signal both of them took off. The RD 350 had superior acceleration and power when compared to Yezdi. But to win a race, a superior machine is only one of the prerequisites. It is the rider’s skill and expertise that matters more. The contestants drove accelerating all the way down the road. Both of them were traveling at very high speeds as they neared the entrance of the college. They had covered the distance in good time and for a few moments we thought the record would be broken.

But at the entrance, the place where the road was the widest, disaster struck. Instead of avoiding each other and continuing their journey up the road, they ran into each other—a head-on collision. The bikes were traveling at more than 100 kph and the impact was tremendous. The riders were thrown off from the bikes and traveled a few meters through the air before landing on the road with considerable momentum that dragged them forward over the tarred road a few more meters before they stopped. Both the racers lost considerable amount of skin and flesh from head, face, knees, arms, legs and so on. The bikes were entangled and looked as if they were in a hard embrace. All of us rushed to the scene and immediately a car was brought to the site and the injured loaded and was taken to the hospital with many of us accompanying the car on bikes.

The Medical College casualty room was like a riot scene. About 30 people, all totally drunk and wearing multicolored dresses were milling around the injured racers. The duty doctors immediately started dressing and stitching the wounds. One of them had lost a couple of teeth. But both of them were in good spirits thanks to the amount of spirit in their bloodstream. The doctors could do the dressing without giving any sedatives or anesthetics as they were not experiencing any pain. They were in the hospital for about a week before they were discharged. Fortunately no bones were broken, but one of them had to visit the dentist to fix his broken teeth.

The accident did not stop future celebrations or further accidents. But till we graduated from the college the record of 42 seconds was not broken. I don’t know whether anybody attempted the stunt after we left and broke the record…

Statutory Warning: Many researches have found that there exist a strong link between alcohol consumption and motorcycle injuries and deaths. After studying the cases of bike riders killed or injured, the researchers found that more than 50% of the riders had had elevated blood-alcohol levels. So don’t ride when you are drunk…

10 Comments

  1. James Bright Said,

    January 24, 2006 @ 6:29 am

    Very true. May be 99% of the bike accidents are the results of excessive drinking!
    When we drink, we have no inhibition+over confidence=accident!

  2. Paresh Said,

    January 24, 2006 @ 8:53 pm

    In youth we tend to do reckless & stupid things. I’ve lost a very dear friend in a bike accident. You’d not be remembering this event happily if one of your three friends had lost his limbs or life in this madness. If such a thing would’ve happenned cursed their fate or destiny… shunning any responsibility.

  3. Alexis Leon Said,

    January 24, 2006 @ 9:19 pm

    Paresh: Yes, we tend to be reckless and do stupid things when young. When I think back, I realize how stupid and dangerous our actions were. But that does not change the things we did.

    I am just narrating the incidents that happened during my college days. It makes me neither happy nor sad.

    I definitely know how it feels to lose the limbs; it is worse than losing the life. I apologize for upsetting you, but that was not my intention.

  4. Paresh Said,

    January 24, 2006 @ 11:44 pm

    Please don’t take it personally. My friend’s death anniverssary (2nd) is nearing. He is on my mind for last few days. Then I read this… sorry. He was also in the same state as your friends at the time of his death (inebriated).

  5. Chacko Said,

    January 26, 2006 @ 3:30 pm

    i too had a friend who was crazy with his bike ….. .. the problem was, even if somebody was sitting behind him he would ride as if he was taking part in MotoGP..

    BTW Yezdi Reminds me of a cousin who got his leg burned(from silencer) while trying to climb it… i think we were in LKG when it happend….

  6. silverine Said,

    January 26, 2006 @ 5:05 pm

    Alexis, you must compile all these into a book. Amazing read. Believe me, I will be first to buy the book! Excellent writing. I could actually see the event unfold before me. I am looking forward to more of your CET capers unfolding here!!!

  7. silverine Said,

    January 26, 2006 @ 5:10 pm

    I lost a friend last year and another the year before last, both were 23 years old. Both were drunk and driving a bike. So I can feel Paresh’s anguish. I still keep asking “Why?”

    You have done well to drive home the point that alcohol and bikes just do not mix !

  8. Binoy Valson Said,

    January 26, 2006 @ 6:26 pm

    An year back, I too lost a friend of mine, but he wasn’t the one who was drunk, it was the driver of the truck which rammed him into a brick wall. It is sad that people do daredevilry on bikes even though they know how dangerous they are…

  9. Alexis Leon Said,

    January 26, 2006 @ 7:59 pm

    Chackochen: I think it is the age that makes us bold and alcohol that makes us reckless. Most accidents of these kind happen to people who are young, which makes it much more difficult to accept.

    Silverine: Thanks. You said it right. Alcohol and vehicles do go together. I had read about your friend’s accident on your blog.

    Binoy: These days trucks and buses are making the life of people with smaller vehicles very dangerous. And the authorities are not doing anything to control those big bullies.

    To all: I wrote this post as part of my memoirs. I usually write about the incidents that made an impact on me. That is why even after 20 years, I remember them so vividly. It never was my intension to glorify drunken driving.

    I met with the accident, when I had stopped all the high speed and drunken driving. So, I always advocate the importance of driving safely as I perfectly know how it feels to be in an accident. But it seems that I had evoked many a painful memory. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I am sorry. I can feel your sorrow and pain of losing your friends. That is why I had titled this post as Fast and Foolish…

  10. silverine Said,

    January 28, 2006 @ 11:43 am

    Alexis I am glad that posts like these make people reflect and instrospect. Thats what we all did here. You have highlighted the foolhardiness and bravado that alcohol brings about in people very well here. Keep posting. Sometimes painful memories also needs to be rekindled lest we forget.

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