By Etan Doronne
31 Mar 2013
What makes a foreigner naturalize as a Desi or native?
Tea, which Indian rejected as Angrez or English is today's Chai masala. After much bumping and grinding to the rhythm of Indian spices it lost it's original bleached identity to join the local party.
The "holy trinity" for becoming an Indian are vivid (rich flavor and color), economic (utilized with maximum efficiency) and community oriented (being a gathering ground, guest welcoming).
The Royal Enfield motorcycle assimilated quite alike.
As one of the few diesel motorcycles ever manufactured it populates Indian roads far ahead even on a global scale. The crude fuel it burns costs less to produce and lasts 70 kilometers on a single liter. Despite it's big 350cc engine, twice the size of common Indian bikes, it's surprisingly the most efficient motorbike.
The history of south Asia is most known for rich color. The Hindu, and later buddhist, culture boasts with colorful temples, dresses, foods. It's also a festival of shapes in architecture. The 'Made in England' two wheeler had also changed its appearance during it's pilgrimage journey. Adopting to needs and likes it got endless local manifestations. The Chagra, Meen bodi Vandi are two Jugaads (improvised creations) from Gujarat and Tamil Nadu that owe it their guts. Their organs, different on any instance depending on salvaged parts availability, were sourced from this muscle bike.
The famous Greaves Cotton diesel engine also propels sugar cane juicers on street stalls across India.
Last but not least the vehicle needs to become part of the community. Just like tea's exclusive status was evoked upon it's Indian naturalization and it thinly spread Chai wala street stalls into every village. So had to become the Enfield contribution.
Today a Chai shop is the meeting place. Every village square has at least one and that's the place to get the news, wait for the bus or just start the day/afternoon with a short and sweet boost. But how could a vehicle become a gathering ground? Well, there were people who wanted to go places, sacks of grains, boxes of vegetables or fish to be delivered and so Indian ingenuity put the beast to work. Engineering improvised trikes in rural facilities these vehicles became the hard working passenger and produce movers. Easy to own, cheap to maintain and even free of driving license requirements they joined the ranks of the colorfully decorated.
The long standing, uninterrupted Royal Enfield plant in India is now enjoying renewed interest as the west looks back into retro design. Here in Shanti India new and old has always lived side by side in the peaceful version of 'if you can't beat them, join them'.
Here's a video of an Enfield Diesel owner I ran into in a Tamil village by the Hindu temple gate and he's demonstrating all the bell, knobs and whistles of his bike: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdkUDN9c7To