Sunday, June 12, 2005

Final Episode of Motorcycle Diaries: Zen and the art of Motorcycle Disposal (Whew!!)

The second bike was still left unsold. All our attempts to sell it were failing miserably despite using all Philip Kotler fundas….

Then we did something a bit out of the box. We had befriended a salesman at the showroom. Jinx asked him if he could divert a buyer at the Showroom to buy our bike at a discount. We dangled a carrot of Rs 2000 out of the deal for him. He was our only hope now.

Days became weeks and there was no update from him. He was not answering his mobile & when we called him at the showroom they regularly gave the message that he was on leave.

Then one evening I met him on a Dadar station platform............

I let him have it! How he could be so irresponsible? Why had he not contacted us for long? He listened impassively to my tirade for a few minutes and then informed me ” I lost my job…Thanks to you!!!” He spat out the last part with a lot of venom....

I was the one on the defensive now “What??? I’m sorry man. What happened?”

It turned out that he had tried to do as we told. He tried to divert a buyer to our bike and the company found it out. They sacked him! Because of us. And our bikes.I was mumbling an apology when his train came. “I was getting Rs 4,000 per month. Now I don’t have any income to support my family” he let me know to add to my misery before he pushed through the sea of humanity and got a foothold on the train.

I stood there on the platform stunned as the train sped away. Another jobless man to add to the millions in Mumbai was no big news. But this one was jobless because of us in a really twisted way. The win was a dream for us. It had turned into someone else’s nightmare.I called up Jinx. He too was feeling real guilty…

This was the last straw. All this was already taking a toll on our work. Frequent visits to the showroom were becoming a pain and our rapport with our bosses was beginning to strain. We were now frustrated to the extent that we were asking every well-built guy we met whether he would like to buy a Bullet.

We decided to get it over with. So we called up a guy named Hamid who had called us earlier after our first ad and quoted a price that was about 25,000 less than actual. We had laughed at him then but now had no option. We told him that we are ready to deal at the price he quoted.He seemed to understand our predicament and very shrewdly quoted a price, which was even ridiculously lesser. A brand new Enfield at Rs 42,000 was virtually a steal for him. We still agreed meekly, not having an option.

Jinx was a married man and stayed with his parents. He was busy with stuff at home that weekend. I was handling this deal alone..

I met Hamid as decided at his shop in Jogeshwari. From his rather polished English on the phone I had expected a rather well to do businessman in a luxury goods store. But when after half an hour of search I located him, ther he was……………an unimpressive, slightly funny-looking man in a grimy checked shirt in a little cubicle sized sanitary ware shop.

Earlier he had claimed to be a Bullet aficionado and had told us how he wanted to add the bike to his collection. But as it turned out now he was not buying this for himself. He had another client and he was just the middleman.

He arrived in sometime. A 6’4” giant Sardarji on an ancient Bajaj scooter which seemed to disappear under him. I pitied the scooter the way you feel sympathy towards a old skinny horse carrying a giant knight in full body armor.

Introductions were through. The Sardarji owned Timber mill in Kurla. Looking at the scooter I felt that I was doing some public service by selling him the bike.

Hamid told us to proceed to the showroom. “On that thing??” I asked incredulously? Did not have an option. So I gingerly perched myself on the couple of inches gap left on the scooter-seat behind the Sardarji and so we carried on like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza on the same horse.

On the way the Sardarji asked me about the deal. He asked me how much I was getting for the bike. Quite honestly I said “ Rs 42,000”. He revealed that he was paying Rs 48,000!! I was outraged. Hamid was taking a cool Rs 6,000 without even lifting a finger. This was more of a rip-off than we had thought.Once at the showroom I called up Jinx. We decided that this was not an acceptable deal. Sardarji now came up with a counter-offer not involving Hamid. We really did not want to deal with Hamid’s client directly either as it wouldn’t look good. No deal was done in all the confusion.

Hamid called up now and I informed him that we would like to re-think and that we should get atleast Rs 44,000.

Jinx had got some other buyer in the meanwhile and we were getting a much better deal there. The new guy went and saw the bike at the showroom. We hoped this deal might work out.

The next day was a Monday; a busy afternoon at office, I received a call on my office number. It was Hamid. He had somehow found out about the new client. For the next 10 minutes he screamed and ranted over the telephone. He was a far cry from the polished businessman image he presented earlier. He threatened us with dire consequences if he did not sell him the bike. He told me that he would ensure that the bike would not ever get sold to anyone else. It was not about the deal but his honor. I held fort. Asked him to call up later and that we would settle only for a better deal. Being in office I was conscious of my surroundings and I had thought spoke at a low voice. But at the end of the call colleagues came over and asked me what the ruckus was about!!

The next morning another beautiful dream was prematurely paused when I was woken by a call from George, the mallu Bullet showroom manager. He seemed quite disturbed. Right away he asked me to sell the bike to Hamid and even think of looking for any other buyer. I was intrigued and asked him what was troubling him. And George told me the behind the scenes story...

Hamid was much bigger than we thought. He was just a funny looking man in a cubicle-sized shop…… but one with enough links with the Mumbai underworld!!!!! And he had managed to call up someone who talked to George’s bosses in the company who in turn told George in no uncertain terms that the bike had to be sold to Hamid.

Simple! Straight off a Ram Gopal Verma gangster flick.

And we were no heroes. Not Sunny Deol & Anil Kapoor taking on the might of the unknown nether world which till now existed in movies. Neither of us wanted to think about the possibility of ending up as a bullet riddled body a la Satya. And all that for winning 2 Bikes in a Quiz.I was contemplating the newspaper headline the next day “An eye for an eye; Bullets for a Bullet”; “Bullet riddled bodies found at Bullet Showroom” or how about ”Bullet owners Bullet Riddled”. Or even “Hot shot executives shot dead”

Rather unpleasant thought, eh???

So when Hamid called up again; we simply said yes to whatever he asked for. Sardarji came on his rickety scooter once again. We went over to the showroom and the deal was signed. We shook hands while George looked on with some relief. Afterwards we went to Hamid’s shop who now heartily welcomed us and offered us soft drinks & snacks. The Sardarji handed us the money in his presence. All of us were smiling- We, the Sardarji, Hamid and Gandhiji (from the Rs 500 notes). Perfect Kodak Moment.

During the conversation Hamid asked us again how exactly we had won the bikes. “We won at the Business Quiz” I said. “Business Quiz???He asked...................Par aap logon ko tho Business ke bare mein kuch aate hi nahin!!!” He laughed loudly at his own joke.

That is how we left him. A funny looking man in a grimy shirt in a cubicle-sized shop….

Epilogue: We split the money and Jinx’s ordeal was over. I still had to sell my Pinnacle Saporiti furniture set. Could not think of keeping it in my bachelor pad. Would look like a BMW parked in a Dharavi slum, right?. And I couldn’t accept my roomie’s plan of converting our flat into a lounge bar and pub ;-))

After another month’s struggles; another newspaper ad; a lot of talking to architects, engineers, interior decorators, furniture shop owners , calling up friends and rich relatives, just anyone who could afford the set. Even followed a lead about a colleague’s ex-girlfriend’s dad who he said was primarily into gold smuggling and stayed in a duplex Sea facing Bandra Apt!!! (who says crime doesnt pay?)


Anyway the final buyer was quite a nice guy. A newly married automobile showroom manager who handed me the money without any hassle and dropped me home in his Pajero. The money was just about 50% of the actual prize of the set but I was willing for even less then. Of the entire prize value of nearly 1.5 lakhs; I finally raised just more than half the amount.

What did I do with the money? Well, apart from Rs 15,000 which I kept for myself, I sent the rest home to parents. My sis’ wedding was happening the next month and they could use it for expenses.

Quizzes…they happen every year…… ;-))

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