My dad’s first bike was an Enfield Silver Plus. His second was a moped, a Kinetic Spark. I bet you guys have never heard of these. His third, was a Rajdoot. Touted by an aging Dharmendra as ‘Shaandar sawaari, jaandar sawaari’ (loosely translated to stylish and robust vehicle), the Rajdoot was the pride and joy that he had paid thirteen and a half grand for back then. Shouldn’t have sold it off I guess, for Ashok Shivram Dhumal, the owner of the example you see me riding here, says that these days a good one could have fetched him around Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000. And I can tell you, dad’s bike was well kept. Except for the one time when I had stolen the key and ridden off on a Sunday afternoon and the exhaust pipe fell off on Calcutta’s (it was yet to be renamed to stupidly Kolkata) tram tracks. Oh, the walloping I got when he woke up to the crazy loud racket from his beloved bike coming home! Of course that was after he went along with me and retrieved the dented exhaust. I was 14 and whacks were an inevitable part of growing up. As were two-strokes, and in my case, the Rajdoot.
“Two strokes of the era tended to do that. That strange riding posture where you actually sit on the bike and not in it as you do nowadays”
Kicking Ashok’s near mint 1972 Rajdoot to life, it’s almost as if a floodgate of memories have just opened up. This was the bike on which I had learnt to ride. The pain of the oddly placed kick lever, it’s on the left next to the gear lever on a Rajdoot, kicking me back because the timing had been advanced a bit too much. Two strokes of the era tended to do that. That strange riding posture where you actually sit on the bike and not in it as you do nowadays. And, the smell of oil burning with petrol. It’s all an addictive concoction.
This one starts without a hiccup, for Ashok goes to great lengths to ensure that his bikes, he has six more, remain spic and span. “I like riding them instead of just keeping in the garage,” he tells me. Clearly, he loves his bikes. It makes me nervous. The road is wet and greasy from the daily showers that Pune has been getting. The tyres look like they’re in good nick but they’re thin and don’t look very confidence inspiring. Cherry on top? The last time I rode a Rajdoot was in 2001, 17 bloody years ago!
But I guess what they say about muscle memory is correct. Riding down the road, and going through the clunky three-speed gearbox, it all comes back to me. The bike picks up speed. The heart soars. I’m a kid again, learning to ride on dad’s old Rajdoot. Nah! Shouldn’t have let him sell it.