The God Who Loved Motorbikes - Book Review
The title of Mural Menon’s debut novel ‘The God Who Loved Motorbikes’ is what will pique the interest of the average motorhead and one chapter in, there’s no putting it down. Set in a sleepy village in Kerala, you get your first dose of the book’s fantastical nature when you are introduced to the protagonist —sharp-talking village deity called Kandakarnan Swamy (or KK, for short) that has been around for eternity and uses motorcycles to spice up his otherwise mundane existence. The book establishes KK’s love for motorcycles early on, right from how he learned to ride on a Norton Dominator in the 1960s, and then looking to fuel his passion, left his tiny village for Coimbatore and then the world. He became this “mysterious but honourable motorcycle thief” that “mooched fast motorcycles after sundown,rode them hard, and mostly left them on the side of the road, often not too far from where they had been stolen.”
On his travels, KK rode every possible bike that he could lay his invisible hands on from Triumphs to BSAs to Velocettes and even Ducatis. But one that catches his fancy is the legendary Velocette Venom Thruxton HT—a one-off motorcycle whose existence is as questionable as the protagonist’s, since no one seemed to know where it was. Fast forward to the modern day, a possible sighting of the motorcycle puts him and an unsuspecting automotive journalist on a fantastical chase across the country and beyond. The book is filled with snarky humour, plenty of banter but not without a liberal dose of philosophising motorcycles and life. Scenarios involving motorcycles and writers made it thoroughly relatable – the bit where KK is learning to ride, and keeps stalling the bike is something almost everyone who rides can understand. Take this, for example: “Nothing I did in those first few weeks suggested that one day I would indeed be able to ride a motorcycle on my own. I stalled the Dommie many times, despaired over the lack of coordination betweenmy feet and my hands...” and then the triumph that follows soon after when “I got my act together in the third weekend when I rode without any assistance for over fifteen metres.” The automotive journalist Rishabhh Mehtaa, who ends up being a rather entertaining supporting character mentions that he knows how to hook a reader with the start of his stories, but never knows how to end them. Being a writer myself, I found that extremely relatable. You also get a whiff of KK’s (or are they Menon’s?) political leanings since KK doesn’t seem to filter what he’s thinking too much.
It has been a while since a book made me cackle out loud with the utter outlandishness of where the narrative led, helped in no small part by Menon’s whimsical tone. It sneaks up on you — setting the initial tone for how far the boundaries of reality can be stretched, and then taking them far beyond what you expect. From Vikings in a Mumbai bedroom, to gunning a Ducati 1198 SP up a twisty road in the death of the night and even racing Mike Hailwood and Barry Sheen – the adventures that KK and Rishabh have over the 213 pages that Menon has penned are thoroughly enthralling. This is a book that has to be read to be believed. Descriptive yet fast paced, The God Who Loved Motorbikes has enough motorcycle nerdyness to engage the enthusiast yet, not bore someone who can’t tell an Enfield from a Jawa. That said, a fair knowledge about motorcycles and their history will add an additional layer to your reading. A highly recommended read if you want a good laugh.
Aatish Mishra (@whatesh)
You can order the book from Amazon here