Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Puncture Surgeon

I love my bike, I really do. Among all of my materialistic possessions in the world my 110 c.c Honda CB Twister is number one. 

Together we have travelled close to 10,000 kms in the last couple of years and I have enjoyed almost every single moment I have spent with it, the reason I say almost is because every now and then my bike and I have a fall out.

Sometimes I forget to give it a proper wash and it retaliates by refusing to start when I am in the middle of traffic.
Occasionally I park it in the blazing sun and the gear system responds by getting jammed as I am going uphill.
Seldom does the bickering go to extreme lengths…. Seldom.

I knew forcing my bike to carry a weight one and half times the recommended maximum load would provoke an intense reaction, my rear tyre let out a high pitched scream before flattening out as my brother and I left from the hospital to home.

We stared at the now completely deflated back tyre in dumb disbelief; this was the worse punishment the bike could give us.

One of us had to walk home, and since I was the only one who could drive the bike in its present state, I sped away from the site.

My bike was unsteady, the back portion wobbling uncontrollably as I tried not to ram into the trees and people on either side of the road.

I stopped at three service stations none of them had the facilities or the technical knowhow of repairing a tubeless tyre, my only hope was a small tyre shop 2 miles away from where I stood.

The shop looked smaller than I had seen it before, it was nothing but a wooden enclosure with some tyres piled up on either side.
Hmmm... Why am i smiling???
The owner asked me to park the bike to one side and place it on the centre stand.

I did.

He disappeared for a moment and returned with a bucketful of water, he inflated my tyre and started washing it with some soap, carefully examining every possible portion of the tyre.

I wondered what was going on in his mind when things became clear to me.
With this simple test He demonstrated to me the leaks in the tyre, 2 closely placed holes
The prognosis was not good.

“Would you like a temporary solution or a more long lasting remedy for this tyre?” he asked me.

I shrugged my shoulders.

“The temporary thing would be for me to plug the leaks and let you go, but I cant assure you that the tyre won’t get punctured again.” he said.

I waited for him to tell alternative choice.

“Only a five people in the city know the other method which will cost you more but will eventually save your tyre”.

We both had met in the past only on one occasion close to a year ago-I had pulled over to fill air one afternoon and since I had no change to pay him, I had to drive away promising to clear my dues at my next visit to his shop; I had conveniently forgotten the whole incident till today.

I looked into my purse, Dammit I shouldn’t have eaten that lousy fried rice in the afternoon I thought to myself, I barely had enough money for the temporary solution, my fried rice induced stomach burn was now a full blown fire burning up my upper chest and belly.

I asked him if he would do the long lasting job now and let me pay him later, there was a definite sense of uncertainty in my voice, but I hoped that he would agree.

He did.

“This will take an hour and a half”. He said and got to work.

First the tyre came off; it took him 2 minutes to unhinge the tubeless brat who caused me this unnecessary delay from the back.

Next- he took out the rims in less than half a minute and he did it in a way that the tyre suffered no additional injuries.

He then brought out his instrument box, it was filled with spanners of different sizes and shaped and some weird looking tools he had developed on his own.

Upon enquiring his name he said it was Nadeem.

At a distance I saw the outline of my brother walking toward us; Just then I remembered abandoning him 5 miles away.

I expected nothing short of a sound thrashing when he saw me.

Before he could say a word I pointed at the eatery across the road and gave him all the money I had.
He silently walked away.
Two Thumbs Up For this guy :-)
That was a narrow escape I thought to myself.

Meanwhile my tyre had undergone stage one and two of the repair job, all the margins of the puncture were cleared off carefully with a scraper specially designed for the purpose and the holes were filled in with some special type of glue and rubber.

Nadeem put up my tyre to dry and quickly got to work on the other vehicles that had gathered around us, I watched as he went about his business.

He had a method, He would initially identify the puncture site, take out the offending agent usually a shrapnel, a nail or a piece of wood, he would then explain the problem the different options available for repairing the tyre/tube and then flawlessly finish the job without leaving any tell-tale marks. He had also invented a special warming deice that could integrate the repaired patch into the tube so much so that it became impossible to know if the tube was ever punctured or not

The icing on the cake-his charges were unbelievably low, and as I watched he made more money in an hour than I did in half a day.

As promised exactly one and half hours after he had started work on my tyre it was ready and promptly fixed back into position.

I wondered if his technical prowess extended beyond repairing tyres and so I asked him if he could do something about my leaky oil tank.

He politely looked up at me and said

“No sir, Can’t do that, I'm just a one hundred per-cent Puncture Surgeon”!

I think of what he said from time to time, he was a surgeon in many ways, He had a fixed regimen, he used only his own instruments, he stuck to his specialty, explained the various treatment options gave follow-up advice and better he still he left no scars.

There were many positive things I learned from that incident

I learnt that the best way to calm an angry person down is to feed him something first and then talk, I also understood that when a product manufacture sets an upper limit for something he is not being cheeky but only trying to keep you safe, but perhaps the most important thing I learnt is that nothing in the world can replace the innate goodness of the human spirit.

Nadeem could’ve turned me down because I didn't have the money for the repair work, my brother could’ve blasted me all the way to Timbuktu for just dropping him off in the middle of nowhere and driving away but they didn't.

If you are wondering what happened to Nadeem and me? I paid my dues including last year’s debt and we are good friends, every now and then when our paths cross we greet each other, sometimes it’s a wave, a nod or just a curt smile.

My colleagues and I repair punctured wounds, Nadeem and his aide do the same for tyres, but general surgeon or puncture surgeon I guess in the bigger scheme of things we all need each other.
The Puncture Surgeon and Me !

Until next time,