Sunday, June 12, 2005

Motorcycle Diaries: Zen and the art of Motorcycle Disposal (Episode II)

Please read my last post “Motorcycle Diaries: Zen and the art of Motorcycle Disposal (Episode I) “ before continuing further........................

The bikes were to be picked up from the showroom in Thane (a Mumbai suburb) .We could get them agree to keep those for some time ; then sell them to whomever and they could pick it up from there.....

Going to the bike showroom took half a day and cost 150 bucks both ways. 2 Local Trains, 1 AutoRide to the back of the beyond & repeat for return!! Obviously we did not want to visit there too many times. So we embarked on the Bike Disposal Venture with even heighted remarkable enthusiasm

Jinx and I were both Marketing grads. So we thought we ‘ll use some of those Mktg skills for this venture. We started with Positioning & Segmentation.....

First question ..Who can be our customer??

Profile of a Bullet rider :About 6 Ft tall ; macho (At least thinks he's macho) , totally crazy about bikes; actually loves maintaining the bike, (not like me who pushes the bike to the mechanic to have the spark plug cleaned and )

Age: Does not matter (not above 75 maybe)

Economic Status: Well, no clue. Maybe right from a local Dharavi daada to some rich stud Bandra boy

When i thought 6 footer; the first one who came to my mind was my cousin in the Naval Base in Lonavla! Bingo. Sub Lt. P. 6 Foot and Bike crazy.. Possible bakra.

Called him up ; He was all excited on the news of my winning the bike ; but he already had a relic Enfield handed over generations and could not think of disposing with it should the wrath of his ancestors fall upon him. It gave him unmeasurable pleasure to take it apart and put it back again. He had developed his muscles pushing the contraption down through the streets of Cochin and up the valleys of Lonavla!!

Then I thought further. There will be more like him where he is from. Yeah the Naval Base. I can always find a buyer there of the same profile!!

Also something i saw previous January 26th told me that there are not enough bikes with the Defense forces (check below link).

Next day my cousin put a note in the Base Officers Mess Notice board on two Motorbikes for Sale. He assured me that these bikes will go in just 2 days and the Navy officers will be fighting between themselves to buy these.

I was happily imagining 2 smart “ White Attired; medals n all” Navy officers riding off to the sunset on our bikes;with me and Jinx standing on the side in a smart salute (with our pocket full of cash)

Days passed and then a week; Jinx started getting jittery…"Yaar yeh cousin tera call kuch kiyaa kya??" " He said he’ll call yaar" I said. After a long while ; my cousin called and told me there’s a slight problem "The Navy Cadets who weregetting promoted to officers will be getting their allowances after 3 months only. Lot of them will be picking up bikes (its a sort of a coming of age ritual for them; but all these .........only after 3 months. Alas !!

Enough of Patriotism. Let us get practical.. We decided to put an ad in Times of India. Spent some money on it. My coffers were near empty nowadays. Technically I was a Lakhpati with a total worth 1.5 lakhs about, not yet Bill Gates but getting there in a few light years). But somehow my bank account always displayed a four digit number. All I had was 2 envelopes; one telling me that Enfield is supposed to give me a bike; and the other telling me that Pinnacle Saporiti was to give me a Designer Furniture set !!

After some deliberation , me and Jinx decided to give both our cell numbers in the TOI ad.

I had worked till 3 am the day before the ad came on TOI. At about 6:45 in the morning I was in the middle of some dream where a girl who had taken my autograph after the quiz had turned into that pretty girl in HR. She had taken my phone no: And she was calling me…My mobile was ringing , ringing……………..I picked the phone and said hello in my most deep romantic sexy voice………………

A most harsh Gujju sounding male voice jolted me out of my reverie "Baaas, Aaj Times of India mein ek Bullet bechne ke liye ad dekhaa thaa. Uske bare mein poonchne kaa tha!!!"

Everything came back to me slowly "Huh, kaun??"

"Mein Hites bhai". He replied

I proceeded to tell him all about the Bullet and how were giving it for 8,000 less than the MRP. (This 8,000 figure we had reached upon after a lot of debate and after referring to Philip Kotler’s ideas on the 4 P’s of Marketing!!Bata pricing) remember paying 39.99 for a Bata Chappal) We kept the price at 59,000. Not quite 60,000 but amost there. Sounds like a good bargain to the buyer).

He asked where I had got the bike from so I proudly told him how I had won it in a quiz.

" Quijjj??, Yeh quijjj kya hota hai bhai?". He asked

"Boss, jaise yeh Kaun Banega Crorepati aata thaa na TV pe?? Vaisa hai quiz jeeta ek" I explained very patiently

A whole new respect came into his voice "Arre waah , aap CROREPATI jeet gaye?

"Nahi Boss, KBC nahi thaa. Waisa ek doosra quiz" I try explain

"Tho aap Bacchan saab se mile?? Kya bole woh??" He was still excited. He was talking to a crorepati who had actually shook hands with Mr Bachhan

I was fighting not to lose my cool " Nahin boss; KBC nahin thaa; Bacchan saab bhi nahin thaa. Bolaa naa yaar yeh Doosra Quiz thaa"

Our man was extremely disappointed by this turn of events." Aaap pehle bolte hai ki Crorepati jeeta ; phir bolta hai Bacchan saab se nahin milaa; yeh kyaa baat hui??"

I think we hung up by mutual consent…

This was just a tip of the iceberg. I had just managed to start off my dream from where I had stopped (alas there’s no pause button for dreams)) when the next call came. Calls just started pouring in thereafter; My roomie took his pillow n bed and wandered off into the other room.. I had to ignore his uncharitable comments on my family tree..

By the 17th caller i had been fielding various enquiries. I had flicked a Bullet brochure from the Showroom and was using it to talk about the Bhp and other features very knowledgebly ...

" I’m Saldhana" The caller was definitely in the sweet 60s ;"I’m an old bugger, heheheheh"
“Heheheh“ I replied in like just to get the rapport going……….
"I read about the bikes…." At last an English speaker

I repeated the same spiel on the bikes, price negotiable etc.That triggered a long story on his own bike.Then i said we won it in a Quiz. That triggered a long story about how his nephew Stanley used to be a champion in Quizzing. I listened patiently.He asked where I was from. When i mentioned Cochin that triggered a long story about his own Kerala trip. Somewhere after 25 minutes I gingerly asked him if he would like to come and see the bike at the showroom...

"The Bikes??, aaww no! as I said I’m an old bugger, I cant ride any bikes anymore. I had just called when I read about the bikes as I like Bullets. Good bikes, arent they?"………….

I silently cursed Jinx for answering that last question in the quiz. The 3rd prize had been a TV . We could be happily surfing channels sitting on our comfy couches this time

We figured that it was going to take us some time to sell the bikes. We had to buy time. So we went to the Bullet Showroom to negotiate. I pushed Jinx in front to speak to the Manager in Marathi; like everywhere else in Mumbai.But as we entered the room I saw that the manager with a thick bushy moustache who ushered us into his cabin was speaking on the phone in a rather familiar lingua franca. You gessed it right ; jezzt zimble yeveryday Malayalam!!!

“Leave this to me Jinx” I winked. I conducted the entire ensuing conversation in our dear old native tongue while Jinx sat like he was watching a ping-pong match with Chinese subtitles. Just after I had managed to locate a distant aundee of his who was a classmate of an ungle of mine in the gelf; I quickly changed the topic and asked for some time to sell the bikes as we had not found a buyer. He agreed reluctantly to keep the bikes in the showroom itself when I assured him that it would not be longer than 3 weeks

We put a second ad in the TOI with the prices slashed a further Rs. 5,000 !!

Around 25 calls on the first day. Around 10 on the second ; a couple of calls on the third and none on the fourth day.

From the 5th day Jinx and me started the reverse process of calling up everyone who had called us up for an enquiry. After every couple of hours we used to compare notes and reported responses such as

“I want to buy the bike; but my wife wants to buy a new Washing Machine instead”

“I want to buy the bike; but my daughter wants to buy a new TV instead”

" I want to buy the bike; but I want to get married first”

(Alas , It’s a vicious cycle..)

Slowly we were losing hope of ever being able to sell the bikes when one morning I got a call from someone who introduced himself to be a Sindhi Businessman based in Hong Kong. He said that he was interested in buying a bike and can pay the money down payment.

I was overjoyed and fixed a time of visiting the showroom that weekend. Once in office I rushed to see Jinx and with evident elation reported that my bike is sold. Jinx sported a similar grin on his face as he said that he also had found a buyer. Both bikes getting sold the same day !!!!!!We did a more enthusiastic high-five than when we had won the quiz !!

Then Jinx asked me who the buyer was

“ Some Sindhi Businessman from HONG KONG; I said proudly.

“Hey cool, man even my buyer is a Sindhi businessman from HONG KONG!! ” says Jinx

Buzzzzz....." Wait a sec “ It was our quizzer instincts that had buzzed this time.

“What was his name??” Jinx asked

“Some name like “Manmani” or something yaar” I said.

“Manmani”??? ……………or was it “Pamnani” ; Jinx asked with a slight decrease in enthusiasm & a marked increase in concern

“Yeah Pamnani”………I knew it.

It was the same guy who called both of us... It was not both the bikes but just one bike, which will be sold. Still one buyer is better than none

But the question now is whose bike as he had called both of us!! Like good quizzer buddies we made the pact right then…we’ll sell each bike and split the booty each time

On the fixed day I reached Thane after receiving thorough body massage in the Mumbai Local Trains. Met Jinx at Thane station and then we went over to the showroom.

We waited for the Businessman from Hong Kong to arrive……I had brought my camera along and we clicked snaps of each of us sitting on the Royal Enfield Thunderbird at the showroom. Had brought my dark sunglasses along and I felt I looked like Arnold in Terminator 2; though Jinx did not agree.

“Hasta la Vista Baby” I said in a real Austrian accent and Jinx thought maybe I had a point. Mebbe he did not want me to repeat to reinforce the point..

Well as things went later ; the more appropriate Arnold line was “I’ll be Back” (again and again and again)

The businessman arrived finally. An Esteem braked in front of the showroom and out stepped 2 guys. I was expecting a 6 ‘ 2’’ well built businessman with gold chains around his neck and gold watch on his wrist. But our buyer turned out to be hardly 5 ft tall businessman with gold chains around his neck and gold watch on his wrist. Even Jinx and me were towering above him…

There were no problems with the deal but for the fact that he wanted to buy a Thunderbird instead of an Electra and pay the difference. Though there was a minor confusion; after it all cleared the company allowed him that.

Our man wanted a test drive now and I was getting concerned.

Afterall, when this guy looked like a mahout on an elephant when he sat on the bike. The very existence of the second guy seemed for feeding our buyer’s ego. Our man sat on the bike; posed hero-like.

The chamcha was appreciative “ Waah!! Saab aap tho hero lag rahe hai” The guy beamed with pleasure. Jinx and me also agreed he looked like a filmstar. We did not specify which one coz we feared that the deal might be off if we did...

The chamcha was feeding us stories about how the saab can drive any motorbike and how he sets the streets ablaze with his Harley Davidson in Hongkong. We did look suitably impressed and resisted comments like whether the bike had 2 extra side wheels coz his feet would not reach the ground.

The man came back from his test drive and was happy with the bike. The deal was signed and everyone were all smiles. Now was the moment of truth. Our man whispered something to the chamcha and he went to the car and came back with paper packet. Out came some bundles of 500 rupee notes. Hadn’t seen so many of those for quite some time so I toyed with the idea of Xeroxing one for nostalgia sake.

He handed over the money to us and I did a quick check if it were all really Indian currency notes. Gandhiji smiled reassuringly on each of the notes told us that all was fine. We bid good bye to the duo as they sped away on their car. They were taking delivery later on a more auspicious day. We did not care; we had the money!!

We went over to the nearby restaurant and had Paav Bhaji with extra paav to celebrate!

(A minor success but a major boost to our efforts. Was it the end of our travails or was it just the beginning?? Dont go anywhere!!..the final episode is on its way.)

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