Bajaj Chetak is like Maggi Noodles. Almost every middle-class Indian in my generation has some memories associated with it. So, I was saddened to see the news item bidding it farewell forever.
I learned to “drive” on my father’s Bajaj Chetak. Have I told you how brave the men in my life are? Let me explain by example – the simplest method really. I sometimes wonder why these textbooks write pages of theories when all they need is one example.
Situation: I had to learn to drive the scooter.
Tools: New scooter.
Lessons learnt: Each of us had a different story glean from my experience, so bear with me, while I recollect each ones learning.
1) The father learnt later, that it is not a good idea to give a new shiny vehicle to the teenage daughter with no strength and a very wobbly sense of balance. I carry the honour and the burden of the cross, since I broke the rotational gear or some part that makes the gears turn smoothly inside the engine. The parts are a little foggy – my knowledge stops somewhere around petrol tank and gears. Changing gears can be a very tricky business with these bally vehicles, you have to do something with the clutch and gargle the same time as the accelaration and finally cough with the change. All very complex of course, and I remember telling myself that practice was the only way to slap it down. I am trying to jog the memory, but all I remember is changing gears every 30 seconds to see if I still had it in me. Let’s say, I had it me, but Bajaj Chetak did not have it in it – One up for me! *Sticks tongue at Chetak*.
Years later, as it pulled through the steep hills of the Nilgiri Hills, it would sputter and jump from the first gear straight to the third, because it always slid past the second gear. The mechanic, who has never laid eyes on me incidentally, blamed it on changing gears often and unnecessarily.
2) The brother’s lessons were more philosophical than material. He learnt never to volunteer as the human lamppost for a vehicle-challenged dumb-bell. One profound life truth he carries with him to this day is that he loves me, but to love me, he had to live. I feel like a little background story is necessary here. My father stood as post A and my brother stood as post B. We were using a large 400 meter track ground for the purpose with an elevated viewing area. I felt like Androcles driving forth magnificently, sitting majestically on the beaming blue “Hamara Bajaj!” My elder sister stood a good kilometer away egging me on for moral support. Her own bicycle chronicles would fill a blog. She had never tried anything motorized before and beamed with pride as she saw me on the splendid new scooter.
My brother and father stood very close to each other (just about 500 meters apart), in which space I had to maneuvre with great skill and form an ‘8’ shape (a critical move to obtain a driver’s license in India)
I have provided visual representations of the ideal path and the reality for your reference.
The man the brother has become, learnt that it is a matter of seconds before the human pillar stands as a stone pillar frozen in time, run over by the “wheels of learning”. This was the path I took.
To my credit, I saved his life. I gave a blood curdling scream as I hurtled into his path, and he jumped aside, displaying a certain nimble movement that I hadn’t imagined him capable of.
Why did I scream instead of honking the horn? Because, it was a new vehicle and before I could remember to declutch and burp, before applying the brakes, and find the horn (phew!), this seemed easier.
3) My lessons were simple: keep trying, and you will succeed. Thereafter, everytime, I had to take a ride on the scooter, I had to entreat one of the stronger folks to take the scooter out of the stand, kick start it and give it to me. Then, I got to my destination, and implored somebody else to put the stand. When I decided to take the trip back, I had to find a third somebody to take it out of the stand and start it for me. Very simple.
I loved our Bajaj!
Adieu Bajaj! Middle class India will miss you.