After a brief tryst with advertising agencies, printing presses, hotel management and media space selling, I finally found my calling when I joined Dabur in Marketing in April 1987.
I was living in Karol Bagh and office was in Harsha Bhawan, Connaught Place with ample commute options the office timings of 8:45am to 5:45pm was dream especially after slogging morning till late evening in media sales… one couldn’t leave office till boss decided to call it a day!!
Then all of a sudden the floor that my brother had bought in GK-1 and getting it renovated was ready and we shifted there in the second week of May… and my problem started immediately…
Those days in Dabur, there used to be an attendance register where everyone (barring the directors) had to sign in at entry as well as exit time. The register was kept at the reception counter from 8:30 am to 9:00 am and thereafter it was sent to the desk of General Manager Marketing who was also the head of the entire office, all verticals included. He would circle the slot of all those who couldn’t make it by 9:00 am and 3 such circles meant half-day leave gone. From GK-1 there were only 2 buses that connected, one was route no. 401 to Super Bazaar and the other 440 to Jantar Mantar. The former suited me more as it was the shortest walk to office the bus stop while the latter involved 15 minutes walking. But the service of 401 was erratic and the route was long. I would typically leave home clutching on to my buttered toast eating it on way to the bus stop and sacrificing my lunch box most days, still I would barely check-in just around 9am. Then it so happened that I missed the bus twice in a row and ended up in the super boss’s cabin to sign in…he didn’t say anything but gave me a questioning look. Next 3-4 days I took an auto-rickshaw to be on time but it was an expensive proposition considering the salary I used draw those days.
I discussed my predicament with my immediate boss and he suggested I buy a 2-wheeler. It was easier said and done as there was a strong opposition from home about 2-wheelers especially by my brother who ironically was with Escorts Limited Motorcycle Division as Advertising Manager. Then over the weekend I checked my bank balance and surely it was not enough. I spoke to my sister invoking confidentiality clause and requested for a loan. The deal was that I would open a Recurring Deposit Account for 36 months and the entire proceed will go to her.
Once the financing done, I visited the Welfare Shop, the Yamaha & Rajdoot motorcycle dealer, at Savitri Cinema Complex… actually it was the only company owned dealership. I deposited the cash of Rs.15800/- for the Steel colored Yamaha RX100. I was asked to get the Ration Card for address proof (those days that was the only authentic proof of residence). I called up my boss and informed him that I would be taking the first half off on Monday to take delivery of my bike.
On Monday, I went back to the dealership with the Ration Card. I hadn’t told the manager there about my brother so he was quite surprised that I hadn’t gone through him and availed the employee discount of around Rs.1200/-. He said he call him and arrange for the discount but I stopped him and said “If he comes to know, surely you will loss sale of one bike”. He then gave me some free accessories like the rearview mirrors and a Stud Full Helmet in black color. I was asked to take the bike to the RTO at Tilak Marg for registration along with the logistics guy from the dealership. Those days, and even later the vehicle registration happened immediately on purchase. In fact some of the Maruti dealers used keep the registration numbers with them and if you were friendly with the guy, he would let you choose the number too…
Anyways, it took about an hour for the formalities and my bike was given the number DBW 822… a sort of VIP number!!
The guy from the dealership gave me a bunch of paper and requested if I can deliver those to the manager at the dealership. Since I had taken the first half leave and wanted to get the feel of my bike, I agreed and headed back to GK-2. And I got the first taste of biking within 15 minutes!!
As I was rolling down the Oberoi (hotel) flyover, the front wheel started wobbling and I maneuvered the bike to left side of the road before stopping. The tyre was flat in no time…the sun was on top and roaring and I had to push the 125kg bike… however, a good biker stopped and gave me a valuable suggestion… to start the bike, put it in first gear with little release of clutch will help the bike to roll easily without damaging the tyre. Luckily for me the petrol pump and the “puncherwala” was close by and on the very first day, I had the punctured tyre repaired. Surprisingly all through the 11 years that I had the bike, that was the only puncture I ever had.
I am fond of powerful machines (within my means) and in those days the most powerful bike was Rajddot (Yamaha) RD350 with 38bhp, but it was way beyond my reach with a price tag of Rs.30000/- plus. The next option was this RX100 with 11bhp… all other available bikes viz. Hero Honda CD100 and Ind-Suzuki( later TVS) 100 cc bikes were in the range of 7-9bhp. The RX100 could do 0-60 km in less than 10 sec and I did it many times during my biking days. Another thing was it could sustain a constant speed of say 60kmph for as long as you want without any power loss or throttle pressure. On the flipside, the petrol consumption was much higher than the contemporary 100cc bikes but I didn’t care as I was enjoying the flying experience with my RX100.
Coming back to the first day first show… I reached office around 1:15pm after depositing the document files at the dealership, well before the beginning of second half of the day. My boss immediately demanded party which I promised when I get the salary following month…he settled for a pack of Gold Flake King packet of 10’s for the moment. I didn’t mine because I knew it will be shared and I will take more from him in days to come (I was a smoker then). However, I could not deny my friend RD Sharma few mugs of beer at the Nirula’s pub in the evening.
I reached home later than usual and all the 3 members, my dad, mom and brother were on the balcony looking out for me… I was the cool dude who expertly parked the bike at the common area on the ground floor and went up to meet the questioning looks of my family. Of the three, my dad was cool about it, probably knowing it was futile to counter now but my mom was quite agitated about the traffic and probable accidents waiting to snatch her son away. It seems, the manager at the Welfare Shop couldn’t keep the secret and had spilled the bean to my brother during the day. “You could have asked me, I would have arranged for discount” he said.
“Oh yes, you would probably have instructed every dealership not to sell any bike to anyone sounding like me” I retorted.
Later, my father asked how I had managed the finances and if I need any money. I told him it has been taken care of and explained him the deal I have made with my sister.
Needless to say, thereafter, with my own transportation, I was never ever been late to office throughout my “rat race years”.
The bike came handy when as brand managers we had to compulsorily visit markets alongside the sales executives and travel across the city. And later when I briefly left Dabur to join Emami Foods with its office at the crowded Asaf Ali Road…the parking was easier, anytime of the day.
I always romanticized about riding the bike with my girlfriend on deserted roads at high speed while she would hold on to me tightly…just the way it was in the bollywood cinemas… however, the problem was my so-called girlfriend was far away in Kolkata/ Vishwa Bharati University, Shantiniketan. She was busy worshipping Maa Saraswati while I was trying to please Maa Laxmi. So, I had no choice but to wait for her to visit Delhi to live my dream.
Meanwhile, my friends had opted for Honda, Suzuki and Yezdi bikes and we would often meet on Sundays and roam around the city. On one such rendezvous, we had gone to the Tibetan Monastery market near ISBT for a plateful of chowmein and tomato-egg drop soup besides checking out the fake Wrangler/Levis Jeans (those days these brands in original, could only be imported through a foreign returning relative or friend). After a satisfying lunch of egg-chowmein with lots of red chili powder in water masquerading as chili sauce and real green chilies in vinegar along the egg-drop tomato soup we haggled with the shops selling fake jeans but did not buy. As we were departing to respective home, I had my friend Gora on the pillion whom I promised to drop at home in Noida, an autorikshaw hit my rear tyre making the bike slightly wobble. Even before I could control the bike from this rear assault, it suddenly swerved to the left and hit the front wheel throwing both of us on the ground. My other friend Babua was slightly ahead on his Yezdi, he immediately stopped the autorikshaw from fleeing. After giving him a good thrashing we realized the guy was completely drunk. Looking at the commotion, the police in their Gypsy came down, we explained what happened and looking at the state of the autorikshaw driver, it was their turn to thrash him to his senses. We didn’t want to press any further charges, so left the place. The net loss was my brand new t-shirt which got torn when I fell down. Gora shifted to Pronob’s Hero Honda CD100 who was going to Mayur Vihar and it made sense for him to go a little further to drop off Gora in Noida.
I was in regular touch with my so-called girlfriend or I should say pen-girlfriend as we were mainly talking through weekly letters which were soon to become weak!!! Anyways, she informed in one of her now infrequent letters that her family has planned a vacation of Dehradoon-Mussouree-Hardwar-Rishikesh during the Durga Puja holidays along with some close friends. I realized, it would be one chance to meet her and take her on a bike ride and the best place would Hardwar-Rishikesh stretch. I asked her to let me know the final itinerary but did not divulge my plans…I wanted to surprise her. However, I did not know what cruel surprise awaited me!!!
So, once I knew the dates, I asked my friend Pronob if he was game for a long distance biking and he immediately agreed.
At home, I informed that Pronob & I are going to Rishikesh but did not say anything about biking. When asked why I am taking the bike, I simply said that I would park it at his place and take the bus. At his home, Pronob also said the same only that I will leave the bike at my home and take the bus. We started around 8 in the morning and reached Khatauli, the midway township. We stopped for something to eat and drink. I spotted the shop that shouted out “Chilled Beer” on large banner. We bought 2 bottles of Kalyani Black Label and had Matar-Kulcha from a street side vendor. Since it was Pronob’s turn to drive now, he was entitled to max half a bottle or just enough to quench his thirst. We reached Hardwar in the afternoon and checked into UPSTC (Hardwar was still part of UP State) hotel by the Ganga. It was newly constructed place with ample parking and nice airy big rooms. The view from the room was awesome, on one side the river Ganga was flowing in full glory while the balcony on the other side offered the view of Chandi Hills and the temple on top. We had quick lunch of dal-sabji-chapati at the hotel dining room, needless to say, the place served only vegetarian food just like any other place in Hardwar.
I had no idea where my girlfriend was putting up but instinct told me that she along with her family could be found in and around Har-ki-Pauri. Our hotel was on the other side of the river so we drove down to the main parts of the city where the action happens. After parking the bike at an authorized slot, we walked down to the ghat area the milling crowd thronged. The place resembled mini Kolkata…full of Bongs talking in high pitched voice…enjoying their Puja vacation…some would soon take out their “monkey cap” as soon as sun sets on the distant horizon. Most of the eating joints had large menu boards in Bengali to entice the prospective customer…the most famous outlet being “Dada Boudi’r Hotel” and perhaps the oldest Bong hotel in that area.
Till then, I haven’t told Pronob the real reason behind our impromptu visit to the holy city, and I kept it that way as I guided us to the eating joint through the crowd. Sure enough, I could see my girlfriend at the distance with her entourage sitting on the bench kept outside the hotel. I approached her and said, “Hey, what a surprise!” sounding it was a chance meeting and I had no inkling about their visit. She too sounded casual and introduced us to the gang. I knew most of them through my visits to Kolkata but there was one set of people whom I have neither met nor heard of before. After the pleasantries we talked generally about their vacation and sightseeing…I told them about our adventurous motorcycle expedition from Delhi to Hardwar to Rishikesh. I invited them to our hotel for evening tea later and moved on but there was something amiss that nagged me…soon I was to find out.
We went up to the main Har-ki-Pauri ghat to touch and bless ourselves with the holy water of Maa Ganga and also to fill up small 2 litre plastic canisters with the holy water for back home in Delhi. Back at the hotel, we ordered for Samosa & Kachauri (famous tea time snacks) and tea to be served when the guests arrive. The hotel had less than 50% occupancy probably because it was new and still unknown to the tourist or perhaps the tariff was too high for the pilgrimage seeking crowd. So, they were delighted to fulfill the order.
Once back in our room, Pronob finally asked, “What’s the deal bro? I know you are not religious deep down to visit Hardawar…and were you really surprised to see her?” He is my childhood friend and very intelligent so I told him the details of the plan. He thought for while and somberly said, “Be careful on what you do hereinafter.” I did not much about his comment then but in hindsight, he probably had seen the unseen chemistry existed within the group. Anyways, I told him about my escapades in Kolkata and visits to Shantiniketan to meet her whenever I could manage a furlough from work.
The group came around 5pm and I invited them to come up to our room for an informal atmosphere rather than sitting at the dining room which they agreed. The snacks along with tea were instant success… the chitchat began but I was only watching her…somehow she looked distant. Pronob saved the day through his earnest engagement in the ongoing conversation. Suddenly, she got up and said, “Let’s go for ride on your bike, before it gets dark.” Pronob also echoed the thought and practically pushed us out of the room before anyone could interject. As we were climbing down the stairs I could hear her mother saying, “Drive carefully.”
We drove aimlessly choosing the less crowded roads and soon came to an isolated spot from where one could watch sun set behind the mountain range. The sight was beautiful but my mind was in turmoil. I took her hands and said, “We are in love, let’s get married.” She looked at me and then removing my hold on her hand, said, “I can’t… there’s nothing common between us to bond. Moreover there’s someone else in my life now.”
“What are you saying? I love you so much.”
“Yes, probably yes, you love me but not vice-versa.”
I was shocked by such rude retort and choked on emotion… “Who is this new guy in your life?”
“You saw him earlier today; he’s the professor at the university.”
“So, what was that between us? Wasn’t that love?” I persisted.
“I thought about it and realized, it was just infatuation that led us to some lust moments. We simply mistook them as love. You shall realize that too in times to come. But now, it’s getting late, we should go back to the hotel.” She said calmly.
I was raging inside and drove back in really high speed making her cringe…forcing her to hold me tightly which she had avoided till then. A kind of sadistic pleasure that made me calm down.
Climbing up the stairs, I stopped her and said, “Let’s have a last kiss, a parting away kiss.” She refused but the devil inside me urged me to force kiss her one last time.
The following day we checked out from the hotel and proceeded to Rishikesh. We had a quick visit to the famous “Laxman Jhula” a suspension bridge that connects Tapovan village of Tehri Garhwal to Jonk village in Pauri Garhwal. The “Jhula” refers to the swaying of the bridge one feels while crossing it. While returning, we stopped at roadside eatery and had “Bedmi-Puri-Aloo” again a famous breakfast dish across the northern parts of the country.
The return leg saw Pronob drive up to Khatauli from Hardwar as I needed the rest having driven the Rishikesh leg of the journey. The drill was similar, he drank 1.5 bottles of beer while I just satiated my thirst.
That day I had vowed never let a female sit on the pillion and never to get married not knowing that soon enough, both will be broken. But that’s another story for another day.
I had the RX100 with me for 11 long years and then sold it for Rs.18000/- making a sweet profit of Rs.2200/-!!!