Grease and Grace

 I wrote this following a recent visit to some friends from way-back…a delightful visit.

As a young man, my husband rode a Royal Enfield 350cc motorbike known as a Bullet:  a single cylinder, four stroke, 17 HP, four-speed, air-cooled Indian icon of the roads. With a top speed of 110 kilometres per hour, the Bullet was part of our courtship and became our family vehicle. Bullets have a distinctive pulsing exhaust thump, so I usually heard my husband return home 300 metres before he rode into view.

he takes me

to meet his family –

I hang on

wind in my eyes

and six metres of sari

 Thirty years later, on one of our regular trips back to Chennai, we visit an old college friend of my husband’s: a fine leather craftsman and an exceptional photographer who, having turned sixty, has just invested everything into restoring and selling Enfield Bullets. His wife greets us on a gloomy wet evening at a narrow entrance.  She guides us under a dripping roof along planks placed above pooled water.

The workroom-cum-showroom is filled with motorbikes – all Bullets – in various stages of repair and re-construction. We pull up chairs, chat and take tea and cake from a table cluttered with tools and paraphernalia.

wrenches, wheels

disassembled chrome bits

from a chassis –

rear-view mirrors reflect

a jigsaw dream

My husband’s friend and his wife have difficulty finding mechanics with sufficient specialisation for their business; they both spend long days at the workshop. The man eats his cake with hands engrained with grease; enthuses about being able to indulge his passion for the Bullet; is cheerful about his lack of business acumen. His wife shrugs at the “showroom” her husband has turned into a work-pit; at the fact they live in a partially constructed home.  She is dressed in loose top and long pants, her hair caught up in a soft twist. Her skin is flawless, without make-up. She is charming, elegant and radiant.

incessant rain

drips through cracks

into a dark pool

rainbowed with oil

a single lotus

                                                                                                     India, October 2015

Published in Skylark, 4:1, Summer 2016