There is great demand for vintage vehicles. People bend over backwards to own a 1960s or 1970s model.
Even when there are 100 vehicles aligned together, a Bullet will stand out of it. The women in the house, all they need is to hear the Bullet roar to say, “Someone has come.” When I started working on Bullets only few people had it here. It is not a trouble-making machine. Work on it well, tune its engine nicely, and it will run for years together.
I worked towards being a mechanic after I failed class 8. I began as a car mechanic and later moved to motorcycles. Initially, I fixed all vehicles but gradually came to specialise on Bullets. I learnt the nitty-gritty from Subramanian asan. I began this shop in 1979 after working for short stints in other workshops in the city as well as in Mysore and Bangalore. Those days, apart from Bullets, Java and Yezdi bikes were also popular. There are 4-5 Bullet specialists in the city. But there aren’t enough youngsters coming in to this job now. I open shop around 9.30 a.m. and shut shop after sunset. I live near Feroke College and travel nearly 20 kms one way to reach the shop. These days I am assisted by my son. Many young boys have learnt the trade from me. But most of them now repair all vehicles. Only a few are interested in setting right Bullets alone.
As a machine it does not have major complaints. Today a Bullet is a matter of prestige for its owners. There is great demand for vintage vehicles. People bend over backwards to own a 1960s or 1970s model. Most of them will immediately come to me with orders to customise it. They do not mind spending an additional Rs.40,000-50,000 on getting it customised. Some would want it to be given a coat of army green. But when it comes to an ever-popular colour, it is black. There is nothing to beat it. My customers too go back a long time; the grandchildren of some of the old owners come with their Bullets now.
It will take me about three months to completely overhaul a bike. In between, people come in with vehicles that need minor repairs. That means, there is work and no rest round the year. However, I do not repair new Bullets. Mostly because I never get enough time to learn its make which will make a repair possible.
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Kozhikode what it is.)
As told to P. ANIMA