Some people love what they do, others do what they love and then there is Harjit Singh Dhanjal aka Kakay (ji), the man who needs no introduction to bikers in the city. Working long hours when most people of his age consider retirement, he still lights up the brightest smile the moment you ask about bikes. This is us catching up with the legend.
How and when did you start with restoring bikes and rallying?
There’s this school, Ling Lang, where I used to study; and since class 5 I would go to the nearby bike mechanic’s shop during recess and simply stand there and observe how the mechanic would go about mending various motorcycles.
And by God’s grace I have a talent to learn things as and how I see them happening; since then I’ve been very keen on building motorcycles.
What was your parents’ reaction when you told them that you want to mend motorcycles for a living?
Well, we had a family business of fabricating and heavy machines where I worked for years until out of frustration I couldn’t do any further and told my father that I want to build bikes and also race them. I was married by the time and my father gave me an ultimatum to choose between family or bikes and I chose bikes; and my friends were a big motivation for me as they supported me through out and kept pushing me towards what made me the happiest− Motorcycles. And here I am, still building bikes.
How long have you been doing this?
I have been working in this field for the past 35 years or so, probably more. I love doing it, hence it’s hard to count the years.
Tell us one incident in your life that you will always remember.
My first ever bike was a ‘Java’, once while riding the brakes completely failed and I almost got myself killed that day. So that very day I decided to install ‘rod brakes’ on it, which was an impossibility as many had told me. But after days of failed attempts and hours of frustrations, eventually, I succeeded in not only installing ‘rod brakes’ in my java but also make them fully functional. After that, many customers started coming up to me especially to get the ‘rod brakes’ installed on their machines.
You seemed to have aged gracefully and most people would be retired by now; yet you seem to be more than happy working all day long. How do you do it and why?
I have grown up seeing my father work all day long, he worked till the age of 84 and now he’s 95+; yet he’s fit, doesn’t needs a stick and stands pretty much straight. So he’s been my inspiration all along. Also I don’t want to sit at home and just while away time playing with my grandchildren− how long would I do it every day? Then I would eventually become a house of ills, I would rather work and be happy in what I’m doing.
Lastly, what is your message to the young riding generation?
This 1947 Ariel was used in the movie Lootera
I would say that one should know and understand their respective motorcycles, every machine has its own characteristics and they should know everything about it before you ride them. You should know how to fix the basic things and survive in any given event.