Scooters today, come in a mind-boggling array of colours, variants and performance indicators. Three decades ago, when there was only one scooter name on everyone´s lips – the Bajaj Chetak. In fact, it was so popular that it developed a reputation for making and breaking marriages. Read on to find out why.
A virtual clone of the Italian scooter Vespa Sprint, the Chetak was sleeker and lighter than the Lambretta Innocenti and later Vijai Super, whose popularity had begun to wane by the 80s. In fact, although the Sprint caught the eye of the Bajaj group for its elegant lines and design ingenuity, what made it special for the Indian scooter brand was the possibility of introducing an affordable, mass-produced, fuss-free scooter in the Indian market.
And it certainly proved to be less temperamental than a Lambretta. In fact, the Chetak, introduced in 1972, went on to live up to his name. Named after Maharana Pratap´s famous horse who saved his master despite being fatally wounded in the battle, the scooter went onto symbolise loyalty and assurance to the Indian masses in the 70s and 80s, at a time when neither government nor the economy could provide them that.
This 145cc, 2-stroke scooter proved to be ideal for riding across the poorly built Indian roads, and in fact, became the most used form of local and inter-city commute in the ’70s and ’80s. Moreover, its ability to function brilliantly in India’s harsh climate, and work flawlessly despite heavy usage proved to be in favour of Bajaj Chetak. And that’s not all! The scooter required little to no maintenance, and its servicing and repair were almost always truly inexpensive! It was also far more affordable than motorcycles back then.
Since traffic regulations weren’t as stringent back then, the sight of a couple along with 2-4 children riding the scooter all at once was highly common, which gave Bajaj an indelible image – that of being a Family Scooter, much like the modern-day Family Car.
A timeless ad and a captivating jingle aired by the company on television only further served to add to its value and ensure its permanency place in Indian society.
Hamara Kal, Hamara Aaj, Buland Hharat ki Buland Tasveer, Hamara Bajaj! is a slogan that´s popular even today
Bajaj Scooter Old Ad – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUX7KmOSbrg
So much was the desire to own a Bajaj Scooter in those years, that the groom’s family inarguably wanted it as a part of the dowry (a highly unfortunate practice that was prevalent back then)! Since the scooter was somewhat affordable, the price point was almost never an issue for the bride’s family, but the scooter’s timely delivery was.
Owing to the regulations posed by the Licence Raj (1951-1991), Bajaj Auto was only allowed to manufacture 20,000 units per year, which was far lower than the demand for the scooter in question. This meant exceptionally long waiting period, as much as 10 years, in fact!
So, how did it work out in the marriage scenario? Well, since the bride’s family was almost always sure of Bajaj Chetak’s demand in dowry, they’d often book the scooter when their girl child was barely 5-6 years old. This ensured, that they’d receive the delivery before the girl’s wedding, and things could move smoothly!
And then, there was a shortcut of sorts! Thanks to an official government-approved scheme – a foreign exchange of $500 could help a customer get the delivery of a Bajaj Chetak out of turn, at a much earlier date! That said, even this arrangement involved a long long queue of highly eager customers.
But what if they didn’t receive the scooter in time? Well, as amusing as it may sound now, unfortunately at the time, the weddings were often delayed or postponed to match the expected date/month of delivery of the Bajaj Chetak!
So, yes, this was the reality! We bet there isn’t a single vehicle on earth, that shares or ever shared, the same level of excitement, enticement, or eagerness as Bajaj Chetak.
While the scooter of the yesteryears is no longer in production, Bajaj Auto has tried to tap into the nostalgia of it all, with its latest offering – Bajaj Chetak (electric scooter)!