Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hamara Bajaj...

Some things are forever or so I used to think.

Thanks to Narasimha Rao & Manmohan Singh ,I spent my childhood in two different Indias. The pre-liberalization era which was slow and protected ( & dull to my cousins who came on vacations from the Gulf) and the post liberalization period which saw a new life being pumped into everything.

Both had its charms.Though I for most part welcomed the changes that were coming ,like the addition of DD Metro and DD4 to DD1, the only channel we had till then .The come back of Coke ,the arrival of Big bubble chewing gum and more Jackie Chan movies meant the future was only going to be exciting.

However there were certains things which I thought were supposed to be there forever.Like the Ambassadors & Chetaks.The Chetak more so because I literally grew up on two Chetaks.The first Chetak,which my father brought from his friend was gold in colour and now looking back, looked very humble - but it still gave me one of the proudest & happiest days in my life when it came home.I was the smallest and had the rare privilege to stand between my father's driver seat and the handle bar whenever we used to go out on it.Our family of five used to travel with ease across the streets of Trivandrum -the scooter held us together..:) like it did many other families across India.

Saturday mornings became duty time for me as the assistant mechanic to my father who used to clean the spark plugs,wipe the engine and the tilt the scooter to reach what I called the 'Chetak Degree ', the point at which petrol flowed from the tank to the engine and pushed out whatever air was stuck inside the engine tubes.Visits to the local scooter mech was a monthly thing.

The coming home of the second Chetak was an even prouder day for us as it was a brand new scooter made in the new Bajaj plant in Nasik.It was green and bigger than our old scooter , which by then was sold to a friend of my father. This scooter took us everywhere ,to the market,library,to our friends' homes ,sometimes to school and tuitions and once even all the way from Trivandrum,Kerala to Marthandam,Tamil Nadu when my father went in search of the best (read 'the cheapest' ) construction sand in South India for our new house.

It was the end of the 90s and by then most of scooter families has started getting their first cars, the Maruti 800s.I turned 18 around that time and the fact that the Chetak was no longer the primary mode of family transport helped me make the case to my father that it was my turn...he happily obliged, probably wondering what was wrong with his son, he did n't ask for the Hero Honda.And so it was my turn..and it was my street hawk.I used to ride the green scooter , sun glasses and all on, through the busy streets of catch the lastest Mohanlal flick at Sreekumar , to buy beef from Palayam market,to the Museum grounds to gang up with friends & get a secret smoke and on bright sunny days to Kovalam or Shanghumugham ,to lie down on the beach and look up to enjoy the Trivandrum sky in all its sunny glory....

Achan sold the scooter sometime after 2000, when I got my bike & left for college and no longer had time for it.I used to look at it though whenever I went to the garage.I used to wonder why Bajaj used to sell us this clunky piece of machine and why we loved it, why we kept it..and will be soon overcome with guilt and leave the garage immediately, unable to look at the humble headlight , the faded paint work or the rusted body.I realize now that however outdated and clunky it was; it was family .And that every picture that I have in my mind about my home has a green scooter parked in front of it.