After earning the moniker ‘Bullet' Rajan, R. Thiagarajan has now shifted his attention to the 1969 Jawa, a wedding gift from his uncle

Auto talk is an inseparable part of R. Thiagarajan's life. He sells Camry, Prius and Land Cruiser Prado for Harsha Toyota, but that is just one part of the reason for the persistent auto-speak. Classic bikes make the other. He has four of them — 1986 RD 350, 1976 Yezdi, 1991 Bullet and a 1969 Jawa.

Maintaining these bikes is a priority and he swings a leg across these old machines often. The Bullet even competes with his Zen Diesel and Santro as a commuting machine. He is seen so often on the Bullet that he has earned a moniker — ‘Bullet' Rajan. In his eyes, all these classic bikes are priceless and he does not name any as his favourite. But he handles the 1969 Jawa with kid gloves. Not because it is the oldest of the lot. His uncle Ashokan gave it to him as a wedding gift last year. Sixty-four-year-old Ashokan had bought it about 40 years ago from his boss and had ridden the bike to many faraway places. “My uncle loves this Jawa. As a mark of respect, I have not removed anything from the bike – not even the talismanic cord on the frame.”

That explains why Thiagarajan has not bothered to source the original Roman helmet-shaped front mudguard for the Jawa. This Jawa 250 Type 353 Kyvacka deviates from the norm in other minor ways — the speedometer belongs to a Yezdi and the seat is another gross deviation. When you consider that the bike has always been kept running, it is easy to overlook the defects.

When the gift arrived, Thiagarajan was touched by his uncle's gesture. And he wants to emulate him.

He has already promised to gift his bikes to his nephew, Vishal Raj, and his just-born son, Kunaal Rajan, when he turns old. “Young hands are the best bet to preserve old, classic vehicles.”

Photo: V. Ganesan