That fellow who had Shyamolie Varma as pillion (do people still use that word?) rode a Yezdi. Along with the Charms cigarettes she advertised, the thing I wanted on turning 18 was a Yezdi. We were middle-class Gujaratis and so I was given an uncle’s second-hand Bajaj Chetak instead. As a result of this injustice, to say nothing of cruelty, Shyamolie Varma never sat with her long arms around me.

The chief virtue of the Bajaj Chetak, according to my uncle (who called it a “stooter"), was that because scooters weren’t straddled, in an accident one’s legs could escape serious injury.

To me this was not sufficient recompense for the loss of Shyamolie Varma. But I had to submit.

Fortunately, the thing was so old that even in my tender care it lasted but a little over a year. At the next family council it was voted, with me abstaining, that I would be given another uncle’s used Hero Honda.

My family touted its reliability and its excellent mileage—utterly useless for someone with nowhere to go, especially without Shyamolie Varma.

Let’s return to Yezdis. Since I lived in Surat, I actually knew many people called Yazdi and the name was not that cool. The Jawa, with its ovaloid tank and dull military green, was better. Both bikes had the gorgeous twin, silver exhaust, that is true, but to make a Yezdi cool, you had to invert its tin label on the tank, making it “Ipzah". This is what my friend Sahil Patel told me though I, being more mature than he, did not fully accept this theory.

It was much later, on turning 20, that I realized that it was silly to have thought that a Yezdi could really make life different.

The thing I should have was, in fact, the Yamaha-Rajdoot 350. This was the most beautiful motorcycle in the history of the world. It had a large red, blue or silver tank on which was written either Yamaha or Rajdoot.

Cool people fused the two, removing “aha" and “Raj" to make it read Yamdoot—messenger of death. This awesome name the Yamaha-Rajdoot 350 lived up to. It was the first twin carburettor motorcycle in India. For women reading this, that means it was a very good thing. The Yamaha-Rajdoot 350 (you must always say it in full to be able to savour its full-bodied, rich flavour), made a surprisingly feminine sound. Best described as “cham-cham-cham-cham". But it ran like blazes.

For some inexplicable reason, mileage was not its strong suit and Gujaratis called it “tel no fuvaro (fountain of petrol)". The chances that I would be magically gifted one were not good, I accept, but many were the pleasant afternoons spent in the contemplation of “if".

Clearly, and this need hardly be said here to the classy readers of Lounge, I would cut and paste the label to “Yamdoot".

The other bike that I considered, we’re in my mid-20s now, was the Enfield Bullet. You didn’t need to invert its metal badge, or rewrite it. You didn’t even need a label. Riding a Bullet, and I understand this is a scientifically proven fact, made you cool.

My friend Javed Kathawala, who knows something about motorcycles and has spent his life on Jawas and Yezdis, says the Enfield is a crap cycle. His reason, he explained to me more than once, has to do with tappets and some metals being different from another, or something like that.

I bow to his Parsi wisdom, and us men all have our opinion on these technical things. My attraction to the Bullet was its torpedo shape and its lazily paced exhaust called, quite rightly, a thump: dhak... dhak... dhak.

Heart-stopping.

I always wanted one, till I learnt, on turning 30, of the availability of a used motorcycle called the Honda Valkyrie. It had six cylinders whose pistons displaced 1,520 cubic cm (ladies: That means very, very good). The owner wanted 7 lakh rokda, which I did not have.

What remained now was to take into confidence my friend and master, Tariq Ansari, proprietor of the newspaper that employed me.

I introduced the vital and urgent subject in the middle of yet another meeting featuring circulation, revenue and, inescapably, Microsoft Excel.

Me: “TA, give me 7 lakh. I need to buy a motorcycle."

TA: “What? Didn’t we buy you a car last year?"

Me: “I don’t like it."

TA: “A seven lakh-rupee motorcycle? What will I tell the board?"

Me: “That I really must have it."

All right, said TA, he would give it a thought, which meant he wouldn’t.

I took it like a man: I whimpered. He understood. At any rate, he succumbed.

Later that week I had a six-cylinder Honda Valkyrie in my garage. It was a frightening thing, over 300kg and impossible to back out. If one fell, and here Uncle Stooter may have had a point, automatic amputation was not out of the equation.

I was brave enough to ride the beast only after three weeks, encouraged by a spliff.

But it was magnificent. Taxi drivers would ask me how much it cost and let me go first at the lights. At Just Around the Corner in Bandra, this is a true story, the stranger in front told the cashier to put my bill on his tab because he witnessed me park it.

Unfortunately, Shyamolie, if you are reading this, I sold it after enjoying it for many years. Motorcycles, of whatever type, I am not ashamed to now admit in my 40s, do not change life.

What I must have, of course, is a sailboat.

Aakar Patel is a writer and a columnist.

Also Read | Aakar’s previous Lounge columns

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