Motoring

Love rides on the extra wheel

Mijo, a 7-year old Pitbull, waits in the sidecar of his owner's motorcycle in Los Angeles. August 26 is National Dog Day in the U.S.   | Photo Credit: MARIO ANZUONI

Ever seen side players steal the show? Imagine Yeh Dosti from Sholay without the sidecar. The song had to set the tempo for the film. It had to introduce the film’s central theme: all-weather friendship. It did, supported by memorable lyrics, peppy music, an eye-catching antique bike and, not to forget, two acting stalwarts. However, in my opinion, the sidecar was its greatest ally. It symbolised emotional attachment.

Sidecars have also promoted romance in films. Dependence too. In Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang, the central character helps those who desperately hope for a turnaround. They cling to her. Her Ariel with a sidecar illustrates this dependence. In a scene, two kids, one of them out there looking for his Armyman-dad believed to have been killed in action, and the other helping him with the search, travel in her sidecar. They have hitched her hopes to her. Without the sidecar, the dependence could not have been graphic.

Off-screen too, sidecars have done well, often serving as metaphors for noble qualities. One of them is sacrificial love. A sidecar signifies a surrender of freedom. Free movement, actually. Even a leaning sidecar design detracts from the thrill of leaning over while negotiating bends. Because, with a sidecar on, this action will be restricted. That’s one of the costs of ‘adding’ one more wheel to a two-wheeler. The gains are however immense. Having one or two more join us on our journey. Sometimes, for life. Look closely when someone rides a motorcycle with a sidecar seating a child or a friend, and you’ll ‘see’ invisible accessories attached to the machine. Sacrificial love. Responsibility. Also, a sense of family.

Family and the sidecar are in fact next-door neighbours. Sidecars rode to prominence on the desire to travel together privately as a family. There have been sidecars designed to accommodate three adults. Attached to powerful bikes, they gave rise to the idea of “one bike for the entire family”. They were affordable substitutes for cars. Most sidecar companies were born when cars and affordability were miles apart for many families. Watsonian Squire, a big name in sidecars, was founded in 1912, a time in Britain when owning any car was a luxury for many families.

Even in India, most sidecar manufacturing companies were born in 1960s to 1980s, when owning a car was a big deal.

Now, the situation has changed. Squeezing a family into a sidecar is unnecessary. It may even seem cruel. For, owning a car is no big deal anymore. And sidecars are now increasingly associated with racing. Sidecar racing has avid followers. Yet, sidecars cannot be wiped off our roads. And films too. Because, they are an arresting symbol of what we need. Togetherness and sacrificial love.


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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 10:23:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Motoring/love-rides-on-the-extra-wheel/article6567967.ece

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