|Photo from Facebook page of Gamini|
I squinted at the small cardboard box on the computer table. I picked it up and read the label. Engine Oil temperature sensor. The seal is broken. I opened the box and took the gadget out. The metal gleamed. This is brand new. Then what is it doing sitting on the table? Usually if I replaced this last year, this box should contain the old oil stained used part. And it shouldn’t be on the computer table.
After the ordeal the previous night (Read TheNightmare on E01-the Southern Expressway!), I was at auto electrician Lakshman’s place. The removed driver’s seat was on the parapet wall. The engine cover was removed for Lakshman to access the alternator. I was watching his movements. I was so eager to find if the problem occurred because of the loose alternator mounting bolts. After he tightened the bolts I peeped in and checked. Then I noticed the oil stained oil gauge.
"Lakshman, did we replace the oil temperature sensor last time?"
"But there is a brand new one on my table at home. How so?"
"Mmm, you said you wanted to replace it and you bought one. And I didn’t have the tools to do that that day. So you said you’d get it done when you replace the belt set by the mechanic."
"Oh, and I didn’t. I want to fix it now. Now that you have removed the engine cover and it is accessible and everything we might as well replace it."
But how am I going to get it? Usually if I do some repair of the van I go home and get the bike the too, because I have to keep on visiting the spare parts shops.
“Bro, I’d happily lend my bike to you but it’s a death machine. No one else can ride that but me. No brakes to start with… and the engine stalls...”
Okay okay. I had a brain wave. I wiped my hands on a rag and pulled out my phone
Gamini Samarakoon – Home
Gamini answered after several rings.
“Machan, this is Henry. Are you free at the moment?”
“No I’m working on the ceiling. The carpenters are…It’s okay. What’s the problem?"
“Machan, I’m at Lakshman’s. The dude who lives further down your road. My van is sort of dismantled. Can you run to my home and bring the small box containing Engine Oil temperature Sensor over here. If this is too much trouble I’ll call a three wheeler.”
“You just hang on machan. I’m on my way.”
As promised Gamini arrived with my Engine Oil temperature Sensor in about twenty to thirty minutes. When Lakshman saw Gamini, his mouth hung open.
“Did you ask this Mr Gamini to bring the oil sensor? I heard you on the phone, but I didn’t even…”
“Gamini and I’ve been best of friends for a several decades, Lakshman," I explained. Gamini also talked to Lakshman in his usual hearty manner, then listened to my ordeal briefly and then was on his way back to his ceiling renovation project.
Lakshman screwed the oil sensor into the engine block and plugged in the wires to the terminals. Then he checked it the dash board indicator worked.
“Why were you so shocked when Gamini brought this part?”
“Bro, Mr Gamini is a very much respected person in this area. And he is a Wild Life big shot too, isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is an assistant director of Wild Life Department the last time I checked.”
“And that’s right.”
And I also explained his position at the Girithale Training center and added.
“And most of all, a down to earth person, too.” I added.
* * * *
My motorbike failed the emission test, though it is unusual. I have seen much newer Indian bikes fail, but not my 143 dash series original Japanese Honda. It’s always been one of my biggest dreams to own a CM 125 T Custom. And finally it became true. With its extreme maneuverability round bends at higher speeds due to its low center of gravity this low hung machine assures a comfortable ride over long hauls though not as fuel-efficient as the new Indian ones.
But it failed the emission test.
The attitude of the mechanics infuriated me. Their lack of interest and disrespect for my dream bike disgusted me. Some made not so subtle suggestion to go for an Indian bike because the days of these Japanese bikes are now over. Some had no time. Some wanted to replace the original carburetor with an Indian or Chinese fake one. I was waiting for the spare parts shop to open for me to buy a cheap carburetor and fix it myself when I got to know about this new mechanic in town.
To begin with, Mr Gunawardene a school teacher recommended him. Mr.Gunawardene is an extreme vehicle enthusiast who drove the mechanics nuts. He is dedicated to whatever vehicle he owned and maintained it in immaculate condition, using only original parts no matter how expensive they are and cleaning and polishing all the disassembled parts before reassembling himself, if the mechanic wasn’t willing to do so. For the mechanics he was a major pain in the ass. A freaking nightmare. He used to own a Honda CG 125 which he kept in immaculate condition after so many years, and now he owns a Toyota Townace, which we feel embarrassed to park next to. :D
The workshop of the new mechanic recommended by Gunawardene was the cleanest I have ever seen. He had a staff and they wore overalls. And he showed interest in our problems and had time for us. And most of all he was respectful to our vehicles and never condemned them. Actually he appreciated my bike.
And this seemed to be a bit scientific dude, who read my fail report and verified values of the carbon monoxide and carbon PPM.
He disassembled the carb cleaned overhauled it with a new kit. Replaced the floater, too. Then he tuned the engine and asked me to ride a number of kilometers before coming for a second tuneup.
“It’s wrong to starve the engine of fuel replacing the original jets with smaller ones. We have to use the jets with company recommended original ones and then see how to reduce wastage by tuning it.” I immediately liked the guy.
“Yes. What I want is not just to get through the test. I want this bike to have power and low emission levels both while being as economical as possible.”
“That’s the right attitude sir. Most of our customers want only to pass the test. After the test they want the old settings back, to hell with the emission levels.”
And like I said before, to repair one vehicle you have to take two to the garage so that you can run about fetching things. So I was there with the van. Before taking the bike home I had to go home to take the van home and come back to the workshop with an alternative mode of transport like a bus or taxi.
Then I met this other director Sajith Whatzisname say director to the Sri Lanka Whatever Board who was there to get something done.
I don’t know why I didn’t think about taking the bus or a three wheeler back.
“Machan, now I’m going home in the van. If you don’t have the next appointment, can you follow me on your bike so that I can come back here with you to pick up my bike?”
“Of course machan, whyever not.”
As I had parked facing the wrong direction I drove on looking for a place to turn. When I came back he was still at the garage and waved me on.”
“You go ahead dude. I’ll be right behind you.”
I drove home parked the van and hurried to the road. No sign of the dude. I called his number. He answered on the third ring.”
“Machan, if it’s a trouble to you’ I’ll come on a bus. Or a three wheeler.”
“Are you nuts? Wait I’m coming. I just met a friend…”
Just then I saw a bus coming round the bend. I lifted the phone back to the ear to tell him that I could come on the bus and…
“Huh, see the goddamn contracts we get, huh. When they ask we can’t say no. Now I haven’t even started what I came here for. His work is done. He’s say ‘Bye bye machan tata machan and he’ll leave. His work is done. My job hasn’t even begun. We have to waste our time here…just the friends we get…”
I listened to the monologue with shocking disbelief. Both of us had forgotten to disconnect the call.
I disconnected the call and started to ring again. This time to ask him not to come and I could take the bus. I was regretting that I asked for his help in the first place. Why?
But there was no answer. I was wondering whether to get on the bus or not. I decided not to because he could be on his way already. The bus left. I waited a few more minutes and then he arrived all smiles. “Get on Machan,” he said which I did. I slipped on my helmet. He made a U turn and we were on our way. I was just wondering if this is the same dude I heard bad mouthing me a few minutes ago. He was very jovial and easy going at the moment.
We arrived at the garage and I got off. I paid the garage bill and was preparing to leave. Then I thanked the dude.
“What are the friends for machan. It’s no big deal. You’d have done the same for me. So forget it."
"Then Ta-ta bye bye, machan," I said. I thought I saw he wink at the other dude through the back of my crash helmet before I crossed the road and raised downhill, comparing the two directors and their attitudes.
This is my tribute to my friend Gamini Samarakoon, the humble, down to earth Asst. Director of the Department of Wildlife who celebrated his birthday only last week.
Happy Birthday, dude.