Here's a group that gathers at Cozee, a restaurant in Besant Nagar, to chat over chai about their passion — bikes
Jaiganesh Ranganathan has a sore throat and an incipient fever. Feeble-voiced and weak-legged, he mumbles a greeting to his friends as he walks up to a seat at Cozee, a restaurant overlooking the Elliot's Beach in Besant Nagar. Saravanan works at Kancheepuram but makes the long trip to Cozee twice a week. He is part of a group that assembles at this restaurant, often ignoring the little problems of life, to discuss their common love — bikes.
The group has bikers of various stripes. Introducing those who have assembled this evening — Shanthanu is a moderator of the Bullet club Madras Bulls, Rajagopal is an independent biker, Jaiganesh and Gokulram are members of the Jawa-Yezdi group Roaring Riders as well as Madras Bulls, Saravanan, who rides a diesel Bullet, is a newbie, a Bulls' jargon for a newcomer on probation, and Ajay Srinivas and Srinivasan Kasyap, members of Roaring Riders, swear by a 1976 Yezdi and a 1979 Jawa.
Besides associating with one or more bike clubs, members of this informal group embark on road adventures and biking projects independently. Gokulram Vasanthi, for example, likes to prove that the humble Bajaj M-80 is good enough for long-distance rides. Jaiganesh has a fascination for exotic machines: he used to have a rare Jawa Type 638 that he meticulously restored and now tests its power.
At Cozee, there are two tables — joined end to end — where these bikers meet from 5.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. “The chairs around these tables are vacated and occupied many times during the evening. After drinking two cups of chai, I may place twenty rupees on the table and leave. The guy who leaves last hands over the money to the cashier. There's an unspoken rule that the last man settles the bill with the money collected over the evening.”
While biking is the main topic, the conversation drifts to other topics too. In fact, the banter is so interesting, it's often continued online. They have a closed Google group called Nathari Sangam, where discussions range from the farcical to the profound. “It's geared towards having fun and establishing a sense of community among bikers,” says Shanthanu.
All of them believe the management of the restaurant has played a role in forging this unity. Explains Rajagopal, “We often order only tea, but hang out for hours together. It does not make business sense to let us stay for so long, yet they don't mind. Even when there is a rush, we are not asked to leave.”