For enthusiasts like me, the Yezdi moniker has been a staple of motorcycle legacy for decades; often seen as an heirloom that’s passed down generations, rather than just a mode of transportation. So, when Classic Legends announced that they’ll be bringing back the legend in a modern avatar, we had our reservations. Is this simply a nostalgia cash-grab or a genuine attempt to rekindle the love of motorcycling in an increasingly stressful world? We got Shantanu Naidu, Deputy General Manager, Office of Ratan Tata, Tata Trusts to find out the answer.

Any young Indian will be introduced to a two-wheeler moped at some point in his life. It’s a thing of culture, or convenience. Usually, it’s around the age of 16 or 18 and it was the same for me. My father had a third-hand red Kinetic Honda that was handed down to me. He bought it from a scientist who had used it for five years and by the time I got it, it was almost 15 years old. I loved that story.

My father and I redid all the panels to a lovely blood red and the kind of roaring exhaust note it emitted as I sped through the by lanes of Pune gave it a definite personality. Everyone could hear the Kinetic coming. Everyone knew I was coming. My relationship with her was so close, little did I know that the world of motorcycles was waiting too. 

When I got my first job, the first thing I got, was a motorcycle. “Get it when you earn” had finally come through. I believe this graduation from a moped to a motorcycle is a rite of passage for a young Indian. One of the not-so-subtle signs of entering adulthood. What made me stay with it was a rather simple fact: a motorcycle is the closest thing to flying you will ever get.

I don’t mean just the immersive experience of being one with a machine raring to go at the flick of a wrist or the turn of your thigh, but even the way your mind flies. The way your thoughts fall into place as you swerve through the chaos of a city. That’s where I found a place of self-reflection. We have spent days together as friends and comrades, be it a ride of joy, your first date, or a not very nice day. Because when you walked to the garage, she is always waiting, edging you to ride and confide. 

It has been a few years now, that I have been looking for a motorcycle that has a legacy. A history that I can hand down to perhaps my children if that day should come. A family heirloom that gets treasured and not measured as a utility; but at the same time, in the increasing traffic density and long jams of Mumbai, could find its way out quickly and nimbly.

For the longest time there was nothing that fit this description. All the bikes were either too modern, or too retro to be able to take off and disappear quickly. There was nothing in the middle, and I almost gave up on owning something that qualified and was something I could afford. 

I didn’t really come across the Yezdi revival through any marketing channels. It was a single short clip of the Yezdi Scrambler that someone had posted from the warehouse. I watched it one too many times, staring, screenshotting, pausing. It had been a while since that feeling of being smitten by a motorcycle came my way.

The day I walked into the showroom, I remember pausing outside the door and praying for it to look exactly as it did in the video. And when I did see it in the flesh, it wasn’t exactly the same; it was so much better! Very few times in life you look at something and you just know you’re walking out with it.

That attraction and excitement and that spark hasn’t been offered by many machines. But the gritty rugged look of almost all blacked out parts, a very sophisticated paint job, a ribbed seat and a round headlight — it all added to the strong presence of a machine that was going to turn so many heads, because it definitely froze mine.

Like any legacy motorcycle, I expected it to slowly amp up on the test drive. But the Yezdi Scrambler did nothing of the sort. It took off like nobody’s business, or like any modern-day motorcycle. It was almost anticlimactic how a modern-day retro could do this. I cant even remember how I already looped around three traffic signals and came back. And then I went again, and again, and again. It sliced through the traffic with the ease of a light-weight naked bike while looking like a heritage machine. 

But one thing that was common in all those rides was the questions I got at every other traffic stop. The Yezdi Scrambler turns heads everywhere it goes and everywhere its parked from all kinds of people. But the questions were from the generations older: “Is the Yezdi back?”.

This question was usually followed by the stories of their youth — how they were handed down a Yezdi that they nurtured, protected and spent their best days on. Stories of changing cities on the Yezdi, bringing home their wife on a Yezdi, refusing to sell the Yezdi or regretting selling their Yezdi. Even chappals torn at the bottom from constantly kickstarting a Yezdi.

And after hearing these repeatedly from the nostalgic fathers, I realised why I had to get the Yezdi Scrambler: It had a story attached to it. It had a heritage of its own. It was not just another machine bought and sold, it was a personality that had disappeared in the memories of speeding Indians of the ’70s…

…I bought the Scrambler. 

Now I won’t say much about the specifications and technicalities that are listed on endless portals, and so many blogs, but I will tell you how it feels. I cannot remember the last time I have looked forward to going to work so much just to get on the motorcycle, which turns into a detour and a late day in the office anyway. A motorcycle that can swerve through any gap and space is so important to me and the Scrambler just reads your mind and moves.

I think that time span from when you think of what you want to do — be it change a lane, turn into a corner, or pass someone — to the time required to actually do it, is next to nothing on the Scrambler. That gives you a sense of confidence in riding in chaotic cities because you know you can rely on the quickness to get out of literally any spot.

But the Scrambler does not have a singular personality. You want to cruise, she’ll do it. You want to disappear, she’ll do it. You want to feel that sweet whooshing note that secretly tells you that ‘if you need power there’s plenty’.

After three months of ownership, a first service completed, and the saree guard done away with, I feel myself getting closer to being one with the Scrambler rather quickly. I am reminded of my relationship with my Kinetic, a third-hand machine my dad bought from a scientist, and I feel the same richness in the story that I will narrate to whoever I pass on the Scrambler’s keys to, if at all.

Because I know that, after flying through every by-lane of Bombay, I will still park somewhere, stand a few feet back, and stare at the Yezdi with a sense of affection. For where it has come from across the decades, and for wherever it is taking me.

An engineer, social media influencer, author and entrepreneur, Shantanu Naidu is popularly known as the deputy general manager of the Tata Trust. (Image credits: Shantanu Naidu)