January 12, 2014

Bullet Sardar

Sardar matlab Power. Power matlab Bike. Bike matlab Bullet.

When I first heard this from someone I know closely, I had little doubt that Sardars would subscribe to it as willingly and enthusiastically as the non-Sardars who’ve known Sardars (Sikhs). The Bullet it'd seem is made for them in more ways than one.

You hear the Bullet long before you see it - the lazy thumping of the engine spaced at just the right intervals to pulsate the road in distinctive interludes alternating between “all other noises” and the “Bullet ki awaaz”.

On the Mumbai street it’s the morning raga some commuters play out as they make their way to work and elsewhere astride Royal Enfield ka Bullet variants. They're however few and far between among those from the Bajaj and Hero Honda stable.

While the Royal Enfield Bullet is outnumbered and outrun by nameless other ‘plastic’ bikes of the garden variety on Mumbai roads, it's often mounted by city riders whose persona does little or no justice to its majesty and classic lineage; the Bullet in Mumbai nevertheless soldiers on gamely usually under short riders in formal office-wear carrying Tupperware lunch boxes or laptops in worn shoulder bags to a deadening 9 to 5 routine where they warm their cubicles in meek acquiescence of pot-bellied bosses barking orders – hardly the image of a Bullet Thumper who rumbles the road astride the Royal Enfield.

Think of midgets riding stallions and you’ll empathise with the Royal Enfield Bullet. But then this is Mumbai and not the ‘strapping’ North of Chandigarh or Delhi.

So imagine my surprise one morning recently when I awaited the distinctive thumping of the Bullet joining the traffic flow somewhere behind me to draw alongside only to find a nattily dressed tall Sikh (Sardar) in a dark blue pagdi (turban) paired with a matching untucked shirt and golden jootiyan minus the jurabein thumping along with little or no urgency other than to be riding somewhere for no particular reason or need. Atleast it seemed so from his laid-back manner.

He wove through Mumbai traffic in leisurely mode, the monotone of the Bullet's distinctive thump thump characteristic of the bike cruising at low speed.

The bike bore Chandigarh registration. Aha.

It's not often that I see a Bullet in Mumbai bearing Chandigarh registration. You're more likely however to see a Bullet with Delhi registration plate in the city.

Them Sardars from Chandigarh know how to ride a Bullet, and most importantly why ride one as Mandeep Singh indicates via his tags in the road-shot above.

And equally importantly how to care for one as Vir Nakai of Helmet Stories shows us from Motor Market, Sector 38, Chandigarh when he "went to meet the god of Bullet mechanics in this part of the world".

The Bullet was no more meant to ride to office than it was meant to ride ‘silenced’.

The power the Bullet invests in the rider projects itself the best when restrained to thumping at a leisurely pace, the spaced-out growls reminding passers-by of full-throated roaring should it decide to rev up and speed away.  

Singh is indeed King – the non-Mumbai Singh that is.


Old Delhi Motorcycles – The Film

Directed by Inderjit Singh and Tanveer Singh, watch Bobbee Singh in Old Delhi Motorcycles and you’ll understand the passion that edges toward altruism when a Sardar connects with his Bullet, and in Bobbee’s case, with all the Bullets that come under his care.

Further Reading


Riot Kitty said...

I would be scared! But they look fun.

Balachandran V said...

That post had me swelling my chest! A bulleteer that I am ( We had a club called Silver Bullets and we used to address each other as Bulleteer!) who has rode him to Ladakh and Khardung La ( Did you hear the popping of my shirt buttons?), I am of that classic school of Bullet Bhais. It leaks litres of oil, drains my purse for its fuel, breaks my right knee cap trying to kick start it to life, I am more familiar with my mechanic than my wife - so what? As I ride by, I see the covert coveting glances and boy! That's the life of a bulleteer! Forget the city streets; as we eat up kms after kms on those long stretches, we are ONE, me and my baby! :-)

Balachandran V said...

And oh, thanks for the links, Anil, but as you'd have guessed, I have seen the movie a hundred times!

Anil P said...

Riot Kitty: Sure, they are great fun. The power they exude with the rhythmic thumping and the personna the bikes exhibit make for a great experience though I've only ever, always ridden pillion.

Balachandran V: That's some passion :-) Good to see it.

"Silver Bullets" is a great name. What happened to the club? You must write about it sometime.

That's a long journey by a Bullet to Khardung La. What was the route you took?

I can imagine the whiplash of the back-kick. Seen it happen.

The Bullet is no doubt an icon. I hope India can spread its charm beyond its shores.

Back in Goa, the Bullet was one of the preferred bikes of the Big Boys or those seeking to break into the Big Boys club. And also of those who loved bikes.

There was this group as well who called themselves "Goa Protectors", all of whom rode Bullets as a means to intimidate and were upto no good, and it came to a point that the CM is said to have given search/arrest orders for anyone founf riding a Bullet in those areas.

The film is a lovely take indeed. I hope more people see it.

An Iengar Chick said...

had a Sardi colleague who used to drop me to Bandra stn after work. Fun days. good memories

Anil P said...

Red: I'm sure Bandra had more of Royal Enfields than other suburbs.

Twilight Fairy said...

Juttis are typically worn without socks :)

And I agree - bullet sardar is a "creature" that can be typically spotted like you did!

Anil P said...

Twilight Fairy: Aha. Thanks for pointing out :-)

We see so few of the trend on Mumbai streets, especially on the morning commute that it's easy to forget :-).

Ambika @asunnyellowindow said...

Thanks for the Twitter profiles and the video. A bullet is definitely neighbour's envy owner's pride, move away Onida. That distinct thump no harley davidson can give :) I dont ride or own one, but have a fascination for that familiar thump on the Indian roads.

Anmol Sarao said...

talking about old bullets ,chanigarh 48 is fatherland for all such recovred bike.Mechanics who can make a bike from a screatch its more like buildina whole bike from a handle.