Growing up, before the arrival of Maruti 800 most middle class homes owned a scooter, preferably a Vespa. Lately, I haven’t seen a pure blooded scooter in Gurgaon. Of course, Scooty, the under nourished variant driven by delivery boys and women ferrying kids is common. All too often, it lurches absent mindedly from the wrong side of the road, but is hardly a match for the rotund yet robust Vespa. Or the Lambereta.
It’s easy to see why I remember riding dad’s lemon Vespa more than our first brick red Maruti 800. The scooter, apart from being a vehicle that allowed us to zip through crammed by-lanes was perfect for any sulking kid. Much like a swing, the thrill of speed against the wind, followed by an ice cream was liberating - like flying in the air, away from the drudgery of homework and mom’s rules specifically set-up to torture me. As a partner in crime, the scooter threw tantrums when it refused to rev-up on a crisp winter morning around school time. Fingers crossed, one stood hoping to enjoy a holiday. But a tip and few spirited kicks ensured that it was time for morning assembly prayer.
While it was low on maintenance and dependable, comfort was alien to scooter rides given the harsh weather conditions. Regardless, many amusing anecdotes ride my scooter memories. As it used to happen, mom would gently whisper ‘chaliye’ once she was securely perched and dad would then drive off. Once however, lost in his thoughts, dad drove off without checking if mother was on the pillion. What added to the embarrassment of being stranded in a market was the shopkeeper’s hollering, ‘Arrey, doctor sahib, madam to yahin reh gayin’. No prizes for guessing that dad got an earful after he realized his folly! Of course, the banter played itself out once both were back home.
Unlike a scooter, a bike usually a rickety noisy Enfield, was driven either by the milkman or young men as a symbol of machismo. Brawn. A Bollywood hero, for instance was seldom seen riding a scooter barring a Randhir Kapoor in Jawani Diwani. Perhaps the Kapoors have some karmic connection with scooters, because the last I saw a hero riding a scooter was Ranbir Kapoor in the movie Rocket Singh. If you’ve seen the movie, you’d recall that Ranbir Kapoor was particularly peeved with the Scooty gifted to him by his grandfather. Because by then Priyanka had fed us with the notion that like all things pink, the slim sedate variants of a scooter were feminine. Why should boys have all the fun?
Last year, the auto sector was abuzz with the comeback of Bajaj Chetak which was set to be launched in the rural scooter segment. The company had ceased the scooter production in 2006, but with falling motorcycle sales, Bajaj had re-registered the ‘Chetak’ brand name. Nonetheless, I doubt if we ready to ride scooters again.
The slow demise of a scooter is hardly a surprise. In fact, many would say, what’s the point of remembering it today? One of the signs of development is that we tune ourselves with the developed world where brands align with comfort. Today, a young man working in an MNC would rather be seen dead than riding a scooter. It would be another story, of course, if scooters are marketed on the lines of the coveted Harley - a toy that marks social arrival. Exclusivity. Then, perhaps we could see mushrooming of scooter clubs with scooter buddies whizzing on the Gurgaon-Faridabad road on weekends. Until then, the good old scooter has perhaps cashed its chips, called it quits and kicked the bucket for good. At least in Delhi/NCR.
|My two year old son few months before dad sold off the scooter|
Image Coutesy: www.modernvespa.com