Friday, December 11, 2009
This is NOT written by me! But wanted to cherish it, hence posting it. Will appreciate your thoughts on the same. However, somehow it could be prudent business decision (i dont know..!), but I am extremely unhappy about the idea of phasing out the legendary, the iconic, the fabulous - "Humara Bajaj"!! (I never had one..!)
Anyways, read on..!
The End of an Era..!
The demise of Bajaj scooter represents a passing of not only an era, but a consciousness. Nothing captured the complex reality of existence in Middle India better than this hybrid creature that offered mobility and convenience, albeit grudgingly.
If the Indian middle class man were to be reborn as a product, chances are it would be as the Bajaj scooter. Squat, a belly going to pot, wearing a grey safari suit, undistinguished, but resourceful. With a wife perched uncomfortably at the back, Gudiya squeezed between the two and Cheeku standing up front. No product came close to capturing the essence of middle class India as well as the Bajaj scooter. For decades, the scooter was both literally and metaphorically at the heart of the Indian middle class consciousness, imparting its own unique flavour to how we lived our lives.
The scooter carried with it an aura of safety (over its macho cousin the motorcycle) that its engineering does not quite merit.
Its smaller wheel size actually made it a less stable vehicle than the motorcycle, but the air of safety that it so convincingly carried had to more to do with images that surrounded it. It had a stepney, which provided a welcome safety net on independent-minded Indian roads. It had space to squeeze in a full family, a place to carry vegetables, a dickey to store sundry needs of the family- in short, it seemed safe because it catered to the all those stable, worldly things that made a man a ‘responsible’ person.
Most importantly, the scooter hid the machine from view. Unlike the bike which revels in displaying its muscular architecture, the scooter covered up the beast within with rotund blandness. The rounded soft shape of the scooter helped it be seen as a domesticated beast of burden, anonymously performing the duties asked of it.
Overall, the scooter was middle class and safe because it went out of its way to advertise its lack of masculine ambition; it wore its unprepossessing modesty on its sleeve, by eschewing any heroics.
This was evident in the manner in which the scooter negotiated the road. If the bike saw the road as a woman to make love to, the scooter preferred instead to haggle with her. The bike hugs the curves of the road, melting the rider onto the tar; the scooter maintained an awkward distance, unconvinced that continuous mobility is a natural human condition.
If the bike purrs, the scooter stammers; where the bike is a gushing river, the scooter a spluttering tap ;if the bike an untamed stallion, the scooter a recalcitrant mule. The bike pillion rider fuses into the driver- dropping a girl home on a bike is a rake’s pleasure, on a scooter a ‘cousin brother’s’ duty.
If John Abraham is the poster boy for bikes, Amol Palekar on his way to the ration shop is the abiding scooter role model. ‘Heroes’ on bikes wear bubble helmets and boots, on scooters they chew paan and give signals with their feet.
The scooter celebrates the functionality of motorised mobility, not its recreational energy. At a time when we coped with scarcity with heartbreaking dignity, the Bajaj scooter was our imperfect solution.
It needed to be kicked incessantly, first aggressively and then pleadingly, at times it needed to be tilted at an impossible angle for the fuel to start flowing and its spark plugs needed more cleaning than Bihar politics, but it blended in perfectly with how we lived and what we believed in.
Restrained, repressed, modest, versatile in an unassuming way, the scooter spoke for us and our way of life like nothing else. No wonder the Hamara Bajaj campaign rung so true- for once advertising made us look into a mirror and told us a truth we all recognised.
With the Bajaj scooter gone, we have lost a vital part of our connection with our sense of our own middleclass-ness. It is not just Hamara Bajaj that is gone, but a reference point to our idealized way of life that is no more.