Feature Story

A date with a King. Rajdoot

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For some time now I've been trying to hunt down a Rajdoot with my camera but the streets were stripped of any.

Why I have a soft spot for Rajdoot ? Maybe it's hard labor as a milkmen vehicle or it's hardyDesi Indian name. However my requests to various friends ripened up today.

Jeyasankar and me rode his non-the-less old-faithful TVS XL moped to the outskirts of town, to Vinayaka Nagar. This neighborhood, named after Ganesha the Hindu elephant god, is where his friend lives. We will later get to know that it is also the home for the 'Elephant strong' Rajdoot, in the words of it's longtime and original owner.

The late afternoon soft sunset rays softened the roughness of the beast as my eyes were first set on it.

A few minutes later Jeyasankar's friend came out in a lungi alone. He had just returned home on a bone rocking ride back from the district city Villupuram and seemed to have just gotten out of shower as we paid a surprise visit. Yet, through the bars of his colorful driveway gate I ran this interview.

Rajdoot is originally a Polish post-war design that was manufactured in India and became a great success. At the time it was the only other motorcycle besides the much more costly, heavy and gas guzzling Royal Enfield. Other 2 wheelers of the time were only scooters and mopeds.

Working in the agricultural department the government granted Rajdoot bikes to it's officials. The bike is known for it's durability and hence won the milkmen with their rugged routs.

15 years ago he received it brand new from the factory. Since then he accumulate 200,000 km on an average of 30km/liter and practically no repair. The bike's 2 storke engine was never opened or overhauled. Only repairs he had done are shock absorber, sprocket and tires replaced.

Originally I meant to write a nostalgic piece about vintage motorcycle but apparently I was met with a real-time requiem. In the background, inside his driveway stood a shiny and new black Japanese Honda motorcycle, it told the whole story: the government had decided to recall all Rajdoots (8 alone in the sugar factory his stationed at) because of spare part scarcity ad the difficulty to get the bikes serviced.

Jeyasankar whispered to me "This is a 'White Lakan' ", or put into English this Tamil term refers to white domesticated and caged hens which lay low quality eggs. This bike looks good but can't do the job of it's predecessor..

Our Rajdoot owner had dragged the deposit of his until he got a private replacement bike (the government supplies no more duty-bikes). So next month his bike is going to be auctioned. My friend Sankar says that 5,000 Rupees (~$100) is about what it will go for.

In Tamil Nadu locals convert this model into trikes serving as registration-less vehicles for local good's transport. In Channai they are known as 'Meenbody Vandi' or 'fish carrier', and that might be the new reincarnation of this govt. vehicle.

This specific one, The '175cc Electronic' is the last to roll off the production line. By the following year Escorts, the automotive company behind the brand, teamed up with Japanese Yamaha and launched a totally different animal named Rajdoot 350, which was quickly changed to 'Yamaha 350'.

Even today, only 15 years after production ceased, people stop him on the way to tell their adventures with their own Rajdoots of the time.

So if you're around next month and in the market for a newly made vintage bike in an impressively good condition, come visit the sugar factory.



More about this personal & documentary project on My India: Where every village is home - Experience !

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—The JPG team

1 response

  • Ravinder M

    Ravinder M gave props (27 Sep 2011):

    What a story! Super reading... thanks for sharing! :-)

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