January 27, 2014

The Titanic and M.N.S, दिल से और मन से

Images that stand on their own, each telling their own stories and unrelated to one another, will sometimes yield a narrative to a meandering mind when paired with each other, more by chance than intention.

On Mumbai roads, on long commutes, their pairing sometimes helps me endure the ride.

One such instance presented itself on the back of an auto rickshaw recently, driven no doubt by a rickshawallah “Dil Se” (दिल से) dedicated to the cause of M.N.S or Mansa or Mansey (म.न.से) as Raj Thackeray’s party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, is known.

दिल से, म.न.से

दिल से  और  मन से, म.न.से

Wah bhai, wah. 


Only I doubt if Raj Thackeray, for all his skills in steering his new ship in the rocky sea of state politics, would be amused seeing the Titanic share space with the rickshawallah’s “Dil Se” (heartfelt) dedication to M.N.S. that too in the election year where many, including the Shiv Sena, hope Raj will sink to the bottom.

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