Say hello to the scooter your dad waited 12 years to take delivery of. In the good old licence raj days, the waiting period for a Bajaj scooter stretched for that long, some say even 20 years. Or if you had foreign currency you could get one immediately. But either way half the stuff wouldn’t work and you’d have to take it to your mechanic to get the scooter spruced up.
New or old, to start it you had to lean it to the right to feed the carb and thus the jokes my dad’s Bajaj-riding generation bored us with – NASA couldn’t get their rocket to work, the turbaned hero (who we cannot make fun of any more!) tilted it to the right, it blasted off with Neil Armstrong for the moon. Not so funny is back in the day, wedding talks would start with the girl’s side inquiring, in all seriousness, if the boy had a Bajaj – the scooter was the mark of a ‘settled’ chap with a good job.
This is my first time astrideTHE Bajaj, the bike Bajaj was identified with until the younger Bajaj moved everything from Pune to Chakan and made the Pulsar. The Priya I’m crouched over (oh goodness that sounds so wrong) is an absolutely original piece. It has done around 7.5 lakh kilometres and apart from the cylinder block and clutch plate everything is original. I fear even the tyres are original. Like every Bajaj scooter it needs to be tilted to the right to start. Like every Bajaj scooter the front brake is as good as non-existent and the foot brake on the floorboard is as leisurely as the eighties. It has only three gears, operated with your left hand, and when new, the 150cc 2-stroke made 6.3bhp. The speedo reads to 120kmph, which is so optimistic I nearly fall over, or maybe that’s because the Priya is exactly as unbalanced as you can imagine something with the engine hanging off on one side can be. Come to think of it maybe that’s why your mum sat side-saddle on the left, to counter the engine on the right– human counter balancer for the win!
It’s four decades since this scooter cemented a marriage and it is classic biking at its very best. Slow, noisy and smelly. You tilt, kick, hop on, pop the clutch to get it off the main (and only) stand and revel in all the suspension being provided by a springy seat. After the Priya came the Chetak, four speeds and one more, err, horse. It remained uncomplicated and unhurried though. Something you’d ride for half an hour (and only half an hour) with a big wide smile. It will remind you that nobody was in any rush in the 70s and 80s. After all they waited 12 years for a Priya!