Haute Wheels

As a child,part of Habib Faisal’s joy in spending his summer holidays in Bhopal was watching one of his uncles,the owner of a bike-maintenance shop,at work.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published:May 14, 2012 1:48 am

As a child,part of Habib Faisal’s joy in spending his summer holidays in Bhopal was watching one of his uncles,the owner of a bike-maintenance shop,at work. “Anyone with a Yezdi was treated like a king. And once the bike was fixed,they would start up the engine and listen to the sound,which was unique to this brand,” he recollects. This fond memory made the director give Arjun Kapoor’s character ‘Parma’ in Ishaqzaade a Yezdi bike to ride.

While Faisal’s decision may seem whimsical to some,several biking enthusiasts across the country will second his choice. Yezdi bikes,which have been out of production since 1999,continue to evoke nostalgia and enjoy a loyal following even today. There are active fan clubs in Delhi,Mumbai,Pune,Bangalore,Goa,Pondicherry and so on,where members organise drives. “I started a club for Yezdi bike owners in 2003 with a friend. We undertake a ride every month,” says 33-year-old Mumbai resident Hiren Chanda.

Automobile expert Kartik Ganesh attributes this following to the technology behind Yezdis,which are considered tough and extremely reliable. They were manufactured by Ideal Jawa,an Indian company that was a joint venture with Czechoslovakian bike manufacturer,Jawa,in 1960. “Jawas could run on any fuel,from petrol and kerosene to vegetable oil and aircraft-grade fuel. These bikes were designed during World War II. The idea was to move troops across rough terrain with whatever form of fuel was at hand. This gave them cult status across the world,” explains Ganesh.

Soon after their launch in India,Jawas and Yezdis gave stiff competition to Rajdoot and Yamaha and the immensely popular Enfield. Ideal Jawa first brought in some Jawa models and later started making Yezdis,based on similar technology.

In 2007,Amrit Appaiah of Bangalore met three Jawa/ Yezdi owners. “In 2008,we registered 60 bikers but close to 140 people turned up. The number has increased and we now see over 500 Jawas/Yezdis taking part in our yearly event,” says the 31-year-old.

Like with Faisal,the passion for these bikes is often triggered by the nostalgia of having watched fathers and uncles ride them. But Mumbai-based advertising professional Ameya Gokhale believes he was destined to own one of these. “My father owned a Yezdi before I was born but he discouraged me. Regardless,I paid token money for a second-hand Yezdi in 2004. The very next day,I had a knee accident that made it impossible for me to use a bike with a left kick. Yezdi/ Jawas are the only brand that have a right kick,” he says.

Also,these bikes can easily be restored to working condition since they are made entirely of iron. Since these are highly reliable for long trips,Gokhale has travelled to Leh and Arunachal on his Yezdi. Phadke,who drove his 1947 Jawa to Khardung La,has to his credit a Limca record of driving the oldest bike on the highest motorable road. Appaiah says that their shape allows for speeding and racing in what would be difficult corners,without being thrown off.

Despite such technology,competition got severe by the ’90s. Also,most models had two-stroke engines,which had to be phased out when four-stroke technology — considered environment-friendly — was introduced. Ideal Jawa ran into financial troubles,finally closing down operations.

But the legacy is being carried forward by biking enthusiasts. For most,the fascination with Yezdi/ Jawa does not end with owning one bike. If Mumbai-based Sunil Mandke owns three,Appaiah and Gokhale own four each and Phadke has 30. The one problem they face is making their families understand the passion for owning multiple bikes. While Mandke chooses to ignore his mother’s protests,Appaiah has a better strategy. “I got married last year and soon after,introduced my wife,Kavya,to biking. Now,she’s an accomplice,” he jokes.

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