The next day, I was passing by the workshop and couldn’t help stopping by. I asked the mechanic if I could at least ride the Jawa once. Surprisingly, he agreed, and seeing that I was nervous about the bike’s distinct traits, carefully explained how it is different from other bikes. We stole petrol from a customer’s bike and somehow managed to get it started. He kept a seat on the chassis and I gently took off.
Old is sold
By Ali Rizvi
Sometime ago, I became the proud owner of a 250cc Jawa. The motorcycle, a 1969 model, had been lying for years with the city’s only mechanic for the make. The Czech makers of the bike shut their Mysore-based Indian unit more than a decade ago, and scarcity of spares and poor mileage of the bike meant that it soon had few takers.
I first laid my eyes on a Jawa in my maternal grandparents’ house, where it rested for years after an uncle who owned it got into a major accident. I carefully studied the bike as a boy whenever I visited the house during school vacations, until one visit when I came to know that it was finally sold to a scrap dealer ‘to free the house of junk.’
Now, the little story behind me finally being able to ride and own a Jawa is somewhat interesting. On noticing the bike for the first time, I had straightaway asked the mechanic, a rugged man in his fifties, if it was for sale. He looked at me from head to toe, gave me a strange, scornful smile, and uttered a flat, ringing “No.”
“You know, I have a thing for bikes, and am willing to pay,” I said. “I too have a thing for bikes, and am not willing to sell,” he replied sternly.
My mind suddenly flash backed into a vintage rally I was covering a few months ago. I had gone there hoping to meet some really chilled out people. However, I only came across haughty feudal characters for whom owning a classic machine was more of a status symbol than the simple joy of riding. There were also the neo-rich who wanted to be seen as connoisseurs, had bought the machines at throwaway prices from people in distress, and pumped a lot of money into the bikes to make them gleam. The mechanic, I felt, was suspicious of me belonging to either of the two categories. He seemed to have grown fond of the bike, and I felt somewhat cheap for trying to buy this fondness. I returned.
I had never experienced anything like it. While the bike’s appearance, persistent clanking and smoke-belching attracted smiles, the torquey engine and exhaust sound were absolutely soul stirring. The ‘test ride’ turned into a 25-km pleasure trip in the rain, and when I returned to the workshop, drenched and with a mad smile on my face, I found the mechanic smiling back at me. This time, however, it was not a condescending smile, but the smile of a master whose pupil has discovered the joy of knowledge.
“How was it”, he asked me, already aware of the answer. “Awesome,” is all I could mutter in that cathartic state. “You can have it,” he said, “Just take good care of her.