Buying the Bullet (Sept. 30, 2005)

I talked my neighbor, Thomas, into going with me to shop for a bike. He had owned many motorcycles in his life (including a Bullet) and knew where to go and what to ask. The day was clear and bright when we climbed into the back of an auto rickshaw and headed for a dealer in Old Delhi. The twisted streets of Old Delhi were jammed with the ever-present round Ambassador cars (both private and taxis), auto rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, bull-ox carts, and pedestrians. Our drive came to a jerky stop in front of what looked like and abandoned store. The windows were coated in thick dust and all was dark inside, but Thomas seemed to know what he was doing so I followed him inside.

Thomas approached slight Indian salesman, whose hair smelled of coconut oil, and explained that I wanted to buy a Bullet.

"Yes, sir. Which one would you like to buy? We have two Standard 350s and one Deluxe model. Please, come this way," he said ignoring me while motioning for Thomas to follow him.

Seeing that I was going to be ignored no matter what Thomas said, I walked over to one of three Bullets that occupied the so-called showroom and climbed onto it. The motorcycle did not feel up to its reputation of being solid, sturdy, uncrushable. It wiggled under me, feeling delicate, fragile, collapsible.

I heard Thomas saying, "Don't talk to me about motorcycles, she is the one buying," but even his loud insistence did not deter the salesman who continued to encourage him to "take a look, sir."

Thomas was walking away from the perplexed-looking salesman when I decided to approach him. His brown eyes snapped my way, seeing me for the first time, then glanced at the retreating Thomas. I opened my mouth to speak, but he turned without a word and disappeared through a shabby curtain-covered doorway, never to be seen again.

Back on the street the sun seared into us. Not yet noon and already the temperature was 106 degrees. It was hard not to take the salesman's treatment personally, but I reminded myself things were different in India. Here it was disrespectful to the man to speak directly to a woman if she was with him. On the surface, it appeared men made the decisions; men bought motorcycles. And, if advertising told me anything, then is was the only role women had with motorcycles was to drape their half-naked bodies across them in hopes of boosting sales. But I would not be a naked rider. I would layer my body in so much protective gear it would be hard for people to know what sex I was. But that is a story still to come.

At the next motorcycle shop small boys in greasy t-shirts and tatty trousers rushed about as I stared at the immense variety of bikes: red, blue, grey, black, 350cc, 500cc, standard, deluxe, import. Thomas eased comfortably past it all toward a desk where an authoritative man in his thirties sat behind a nameplate.

Ajeet Singh smiled, showing a neat row of tiny teeth and nodded his indigo-turbaned head. He, too, tried to sell Thomas a motorcycle at first, but he was savvy in the ways of farangs and knew female foreigners could be dealt with directly. We sat; chai was served in cracked china cups the size of a child's tea party set, and Sahib Singh listened, sipping the spicy sweet tea as I detailed the kind of motorcycle I wanted.

"Of course, madam. As you like, madam," he said perfunctorily, as if he sold motorcycles to women everyday. He listed the prices of various bikes then added, "Excluding optional upgrades, of course."

He told me what he wanted me to know, letting me feel as if I'd cleverly extracted all I needed to know from him. Thomas sat silent.

Singh and I shook hands, agreeing that in two weeks I could claim my motorcycle: a 350cc Deluxe fitted with the tank and the superior front-disc brakes of the 500cc. Singh's workers would paint the tank black (it came in grey) and replace the knob-handled tool boxes with twin locking ones. These were "optional upgrades, of course," and I was charged extra. Singh would keep the original parts, squirreling them away in his stock room for resale, without mentioning a word of this to me, of course. I promised to return in three days with 25,000 rupees cash as a down payment, the balance due upon delivery. I was smug, thinking I'd finagled a great deal. Later, I figured out I'd paid $1,400 for a motorcycle worth $1,200, not to mention all the extra parts I'd let Sahib Singh keep.

Of course, this was relatively painless compared to what would come.

© 1997-2006. C.L. Stambush, All Rights Reserved Worldwide


Anonymous said...

COME ON, i have been waiting for your next chapter for four days now, when is it coming ? :-)

C.L. Stambush said...

Sorry. I'll have the next chapter by the end of the week. :-)

C.L. Stambush

Moose Gear said...

What a Nice bike. You've reached my dream. congratulations and enjoy it.

Kelly Renaul said...

That's gr8 experience I suppose !

Unknown said...

Buying the Bullet (Sept. 30, 2005)"
The different Languages of Business followed around the World have one common goal...Profits. Anything beyond the profits is called Bonus.

We The People said...

a great blog you have here. even more greater are your sense of freedom and escapade. I'm an indian male, 29 who lives in the US. My first bike ( my dad bought for me) was the Enfield Bullet Machismo 350. I loved it. I own a GSXR 750X which is in california and i love riding there. It's amusing that the words 'india female motorcycle california' in google brought me here.. I'm not disappointed coz it was a swing in the air and I ended up reading your stories that are undubitably nostalgic.

Thank you
Peace :)

C.L. Stambush said...

Hey, Tobacco Kills --

Thanks for your kind comments. It's wonderful how serendipitous life is. I've driven the California coast line, although not on a motorcycle, and the entire way I was wishing I was on a bike.

Safe riding....

Grandma Honey said...

Oh boy I remember the day I bought my bike.

JIM said...

Brand new ROYAL ENFIELD SWISS regulator cum rectifier unit. This unit is 12v

Aloha bro,
I really need your help, i just bought this regulator, but i confused the wiring direction
this regulator have 4 wires color
1. Yellow Wire
2. Black Wire
3. Green Wire
4. White Wire

which one is minus? which one is plus? which one connect to the battery? please advice bro.



Aurora said...

Oh wow so how does it work in India? I want to bike around India as well. Can you tell me more about the laws? Will I be hassled by the police? Do I need a license

C.L. Stambush said...

Hi, Aurora --

So do you have riding experience? If not, please take a rider safety course in your home town. It will save your life for sure. Second, you have to get there a buy a bike. I love the Bullet for its simplicity, but I also had the benefit of studying it a bit with the great mechanic Nanna. You do need a motorcycle license and can read about how I got mine in the blog.

Good luck to you. Women should ride. It is Empowering!!


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

For Royal Enfield Lovers at Bangalore. We have an Annual Maintenance Contract at Rs 8,725/-