Jive to the Jawa


The metallic beat of the Jawa’s engine is music to Ram Bhat’s ears

Ram Bhat’s philosophy of life has largely been shaped by the songs he listens to. “I don’t always need a music system. I can play the songs in my head. A small trigger is all that is required,” says the musicophile. The metallic beat of his Jawa’s engine helps turn on the music.

“In the nights, when I cruise towards destinations such as Tada and Mamallapuram, I can’t help hearing songs such as Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’.”

With him for two years, this 1960 Jawa (tank-key model) has obviously added spice to Bhat’s life. As he was specifically looking for a Jawa of that period, it was a long wait.

“Between them, my first cousin and uncle had a Jawa, a Bullet and a Beetle. Probably because I had seen much of these vehicles as a boy, they left an impression. I wanted to have at least one of them. When I went to Loyola College — I did not go alone. I rode a 250cc Jawa (tank-key model). As a student of Literature, I had a Utopian view of life. Parked in Woodstock (a popular hangout), the Jawa was used not just by my friends, but also those I hardly knew. One day, the bike got stolen.”

Later, Bhat wanted to own the same model of the Jawa. As he preferred a Jawa with a Madras registration, he had to be patient.

“In southern Tamil Nadu, it is common for estate owners to have a Jawa. Invariably, these Jawas are battered.”

Finally, there was word about someone who was looking to sell his Jawa, which bore a Madras registration plate. The Jawa had been painted black. Even the spokes had not been spared. The dial of the Smith’s milometer was painted yellow. A wider handlebar had been installed. Anyone who bought this machine had a big job on his hands.

However, two factors made it easy for Bhatt to ignore all the negatives — the bike was a tank-key model and it was in running, if not good, condition.

For a year, Bhat kept the machine in the condition he received it. Partly because he did not want to spoil the Jawa further by entrusting its restoration to an incompetent mechanic. When he saw mechanic Shekhar at work, he knew he did not have to look farther.

Shekhar took a year to restore the bike. As it has turned out to be a neat job, Bhat has forgotten the delay and has only generous praises for the mechanic.

Another workman Bhatt is thankful to is painter Jagdish. Bhat chose British Racing Green (as his earlier Jawa had that colour) and went in for a clear coat. “If not done properly, a clear coat can be a glaring blotch. Jagdish’s painting is spotless.”

Bhat says the classic bike has been restored the way it has to be. The deviations are of a minor nature. Invariably, they were the result of expedient thinking. Despite having the original Jawa tank lid (a collector’s item by itself), Bhat uses a Yezdi tank lid. “I don’t want to lose the beautiful lid to a thieving hand.”

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