I was reminded of their near-infinite usefulness the other day. I was just leaving a small village, off the main highway, riding towards the town of Bundi on a real boneshaker of a road - bumps, lumps, potholes, the lot.
There were three grinning loons on a motorbike riding behind me, just about on my wheel, and I waved at them to clear off or come past, but they were having too good a time staring at me to leave yet. I had to brake sharply to miss a wheel-munching pothole, and as they were so close and paying so little attention, they clouted into the back of me.
I picked myself out of the dirt. My right pannier had been knocked off by the impact. The motorbikers had stopped just ahead - they looked at the damage, and at me in a fury, screaming abuse at them. Then they left. Bastards.
I was in a real floor-kicking, stone-chucking rage. I started hoying rocks after them, but (luckily) they were out of range.
A busload of Italian tourists stopped to check I was OK. I scrounged a fag off one of them (my first cigarette in four years) and had a smoko while I assessed the damage. My good old Carradice Super C was undamaged, as you'd expect from something sturdily made in BRITAIN, except for the hooks which attach it to the rack. They weren't repairable - however, I quickly realised that I could bodge a temporary fix with... cable ties!
By then, a huge crowd from two buses and umpteen motorbikes had gathered to watch, and pass comment, and help. But mainly to watch. I was a bit too focused to let it bother me. In short order I had my pannier re-attached, and a murmur of admiration went through the crowd. We all shook hands, one of the tourists took my photo, and I packed away my gear, with many hands passing my possessions back to me.
I'm pleased it happened, even though I later discovered that the screen on my ereader was another victim of the collision. Not only did I get chance to show off my bodging skills to an attentive audience, it encapsulated the best and worst of the Indian experience, as my mood went from exasperation to red rage to calm acceptance and finally amusement at how my situation had become another part of the street theatre that passes for your average day in India.