Varanasi Again – 57: Of Vespas and bicycles

It was the 1990s. Throughout the 70s and the 80s several motor companies had sprouted in India, and had given a spurt to the production of scooters and motorcycles, the mode of transport for the people in a developing nation. Lambretta, Scooters India, Bajaj …. all these companies were making scooters in India in the 80s, and the newest addition, with the latest ‘chic’ design, was LML Vespa, a joint venture of Lohia Machineries Limited, a firm based in Kanpur, and Piaggio, Italy.

The LML Vespa introduced turn indicator lights in scooters and, later, were also the first ones to introduce push-button start the same segment. They also pitched themselves as the ‘in-thing’ and targeted the young, the upscale, the upwardly mobile youth of the 80s and the 90s. And with the LML Vespa NV model they introduced new colours, more powerful engine, comfier seats, and a sturdier, ‘cooler’ design. This was the LML Vespa NV that I had bought for myself during internship, and which became our mode of transport for several years till we bought our car, our pre-owned, our ‘True Value’, our second-hand, Maruti 800Dx. But let me not get ahead of time, I must begin at the beginning, at the bicycle….

Before I bought the LML Vespa NV for myself, which I did after I passed out of my medical school, and had completed my MBBS, I used to ride on another Vespa, a borrowed one, one that Appu owned. Appu was short for Abhishek, my best friend during the college days, and was a moniker given to him because of his chubby appearance which reminded us of the mascot of the 1982 Asian games, Asiad 1982. The mascot of those games was a baby elephant, charmingly round and chubby, and named Appu by the organisers. Why someone would have a chubby, elephantine mascot for an athletic meet beats me to this day. Anyway, that is where the name originated, and it was Appu’s LML scooter that we, Vaishali and myself, used for several years till I was able to buy one for myself.

But even before I borrowed Appu’s scooter, or even before he had bought one, and much before I had met Vaishali, I had another form of transport – a bicycle, the Hero Ranger. It was an ATB, an All Terrain Bike with thick tyres, wide tread (wider than its contemporaries), a curved handle bar, and a sporty design. I had made it sportier still by adjusting the handlebar such that the curve, instead of pointing towards the rider, pointed downwards. I had also painted the profile of its tyre with a bright yellow paint, so that the bike stood out from the rest, and people could tell from far off whose bike it was.

Of course, in between all these bikes, and scooters, I also had the occasion to ride different motorcycles, motorbikes if you will, that were the craze during those days. The names that come instantly to my mind are Yezdi, Java, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Enfield. No, I did not drive them all, just one – Yezdi, and what a bike it was. Heavy as a tank, with a sound that could wake up the dead if one were to drive through a graveyard; and, of course, a fuel guzzler. I had sometimes borrowed this bike from Asit, my senior of two years, and used it to go on errands, or, sometimes, simply show off…….

But I have deviated, and I must come back to where we had left off……our drive through the Lanka market on our way to BHU.

To be continued……..

Check out these Amazon Bestsellers from the author –

The Battle of Panchavati and Other Stories from Indian Scriptures
Daffodils: A Bouquet of Short Stories

By Divya Narain

Additional Professor in Plastic Surgery, doting father, loving husband, newbie author. Love travel and literature. Love reading religion, politics and history!

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