Last week I read a news item in the newspapers. Bajaj Auto will stop manufacturing scooters in March 2010. They are going to shut the plant and stop production of their scooter’s super hit brand Bajaj Super completely. This innocuous news item opened a floodgate of remembrances and memories of my early life. I was uplifted and transported to the India of 1970s and 80s, when I used to be young, when I used to dream big and used to wish for an affluent future and life. In those days Bajaj scooter used to be a proud possession of every middle-class indian. It used to be dream of commoners and wish and aspiration of connoisseurs. I vividly remember that in those days, waiting period for Bajaj Super was almost 10 years. Bajaj Chetak had a waiting period of almost two decades. After waiting for a decade or two, people used to flaunt their possession proudly, when the scooter was delivered to them. Envious neighbours and happy relatives used to come to congratulate the elated and lucky owner. And the owner used to feel as if he has accomplished his lifelong dream or goal. In those days of license and permit raj, Bajaj Auto was the biggest manufacturer of scooters in the world. “ Hamara Bajaj ” used to be the slogan of not only Bajaj Auto but of the whole of middle-class India and that too so aptly.
Advent of Maruti 800 started a slow change and within few years the scenario got changed completely and that too beyond recognition. Because of the economic liberalization unleashed by the government of P. V. Narasimha Rao, and because of the end of license, permit raj, Indian middle class started having huge disposable income. Their aspirations soared and with the help of this new found money, they started dreaming big. They started dreaming of a better future and affluent life. So for them, the fling from two wheelers to four wheelers was next and inevitable move. Apart from that, younger generation’s craze for bikes and advent of many international brands and their easy availability in India, dent a bloody blow to Bajaj Scooters. Its sale dipped and in spite of the best efforts of the mandarins of Bajaj Auto, it could never be the same again. They were unable to revive and resurrect it. In 1999-2000, compared to 8,09,251 scooters only 4,31,370 bikes were sold . But the scenario got changed completely in 2009-2010. Only 3,356 scooter were sold compared to 10,85,785 bikes. Sale figure justifies company’s decision of lock-up and permanent closure of the plant and discontinuing of Bajaj Super scooter.
But feelings don’t understand logic. Feelings defy arguments or statistics. Feelings have their own world, their own logic. For me, once Bajaj Super was my prized possession. My two younger brothers also had their own Bajaj Super scooters. My father used to love foreign cars and he had Chevrolet and Plymouth during his prime days. So throughout my childhood, me and my siblings, were accustomed to chauffeur-driven cars. During those days I had a Herculis bicycle also. I bought it with my scholarship money of Rs.100.00. Since its price was Rs.125.00, my father chipped in remaining Rs.25.00. After my father’s untimely demise, we had fallen to bad days and we could not afford a car. So, to look after my sprawling estate, I bought a bike. It was Yezdi Motorcycle. My second vehicle was Hero Majestic Moped. But I always longed for Bajaj scooter and though my two vehicles, Yezdi bike and Hero Majestic moped, were new, I sold them and my younger brother bought a second-hand Bajaj Super scooter for me in 1985 and thus I became a proud owner of it. I used to drive it in Deoria and when I moved to Mumbai in 1989, I brought that scooter here and used it extensively for 14 long years. UHW 5970 is the registration no. of my scooter and in my struggling days, it became an inseparable part of my personality and life in Mumbai. It carried me and my wife to many filmy parties in various prestigious 5 star hotels of Mumbai. We used to arrive near the designated 5 Star hotel on the scooter and I used to park it in a nearby lane. Though I wanted to drive it to the parking lot of the hotel but my wife used to get embarrassed because of the fleet of swanky cars of stars and other dignitaries being driven inside. At that point of time, I was a nonentity and I was living a pitiable and spartan life in Mumbai with limited means. I had no proper clothes and was unable to provide even two meals to my family. It was a colourless life but my students were kind and gracious enough to invite me and my family to their colourful and high profile parties and functions. Barring my Bajaj Super scooter, I had no material possession worth the name. Though I was proud of my scooter, I didn’t want my hosts to feel embarrassed to see me on a two-wheeler. So I used to park it in a nearby lane.
My Bajaj Super carried me to the lavish launch parties of Hritik Roshan and Fardeen Khan‘s debut films. It carried me to various grand premiers of the films of my students. It carried me to the huge marriage party of Ashish Singh, who is now an executive producer of Yash Raj Films. It carried me to numerous parties thrown by Vikas Kalantri at the Mahalakshmi Race course ground. I used to drive it to Erose, Regal, New Empire, Metro and Sterling cinema halls for watching latest Hollywood and Bollywood flicks. For 14 long years, it served me faithfully in Mumbai. While driving it, I never met with an accident. It went only for regular denting and painting, but that is a routine story.
In July 2003, I bought Bajaj Pulsar bike from the same Bajaj stable and sent my Bajaj Super scooter to Deoria again. Bajaj Pulsar, with registration no. MH 02 AC 5325 became my new vehicle in Mumbai and Bajaj Super still remains my vehicle in Deoria. From1985 to 2003, It served me incessantly in Deoria and Mumbai, and from 2003 to this day, it still serves me, whenever I visit my native place Deoria. It is a 24 year long association with Hamara Bajaj, and it refuses to hear or understand logic, statistic or balance-sheets. It refuses to see changing times and is unable to understand dwindling sale figures. Rahul Bajaj, the young Bajaj scion, is a man of today. But I belong to a bygone era. May be he is pragmatic and realistic, but I am an emotional fool and so I am deeply saddened and pained at the turn of the events. To me UHW 5970 Bajaj Super is not a lifeless machine, it is an integral part of my life and it will always be like that. Though now I own two cars; Maruti Zen and Maruti Swift, but still my feelings for my old scooter refuses to subside or ebb.
In March 2010, when Bajaj Super will finally walk into the Sunset Boulevard, I would be celebrating the silver jubilee year of my association with it with a saddened heart. It is so bizarre, it is so strange but it is starkly real. Very surreal. This is life. And yes, life is like this only.
Farewell Hamara Bajaj !!! Thou shall live in the hearts of millions of middle-class Indians of my age and era.
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