There is something about motorbikes that turns grown men into kids. When words fail them, as they often do, when they describe the beauty of the machine they own, you are sure to hear men imitate the thump of the motorcycle, especially when it is as unmissable as the one a Bullet has. Even the very articulate 67-year-old Hidesign founder Dilip Kapur did that more than once while discussing his passion for riding and his much-loved machine — the 1977-built 350cc Bullet.
It is hard to miss the twinkle in his eyes when he speaks of his Bullet. In a sea of bikes parked in front of his office, which is housed in a beautiful heritage building on Saint Martin Street in Puducherry, his 1977 Bullet with its custom-made leather carrier bags stood out by a mile. You have to agree with the man when he says it is one of a kind. It has the same old-world charm that his heritage office building has and something that the new-age bikes don’t seem to have — loads of character built ride by ride over its almost four-decade existence. The tyres covered in red mud tell you they still get around the dirt tracks of Auroville quite a bit. And when we took it for a small spin to the spot where we were doing the photoshoot, we instantly knew that this old beast could still give any new-age bike a run for its money.
Kapur got his Bullet when he came back from the US in 1977. Before that, in the mid-70s, he used to ride around on a Yezdi. After submitting his PhD dissertation in the US, he came back to India and that’s precisely when he got his mean machine.
There has been no turning back since then. Kapur says he has always been a motorbike guy. “I just don’t like four-wheelers. I know car manufacturers are not going to like me for saying this. But when we stay in a place like Auroville, it just seems ecologically irresponsible to drive around in a car. I feel guilty driving around in a car here,” says Kapur.
He was born in New Delhi but moved to Auroville at the age of six, after his dad sold his shoe business. Kapur returned to live in Auroville from the US in 1977 and started Hidesign a year later. The business, which he started with just ₹25,000, has now morphed into a ₹160-crore cash machine with 70 stores across the country, making beautifully crafted leather handbags and accessories.
“So, why the Bullet,” I ask him. “At that time there weren’t too many big bikes around,” says the die-hard fan. “The stroke and the sound of the Bullet are unique. When you are on the Bullet, you feel truly free as the clean air hits your face. It almost makes you want to sing. I am a bad singer and the only time you will hear me sing is when I am riding because no one can hear me,” laughs Kapur.
From riding almost 125 km a day to his factory, client meetings in town and down the ECR highway (which connects Chennai with Cuddalore and is built along the Bay of Bengal), Kapur now rides his bike inside Auroville. “The ECR highway was earlier beautiful to ride on, with palm trees lining the road. But with increasing traffic, it is no longer the fun drive it used to be,” says a rather disappointed Kapur. He usually prefers to go down south to Thanjavur and Salem for his long rides and one of his most memorable rides has been with wife Jacqueline down to their beach house at Marakkanam, which is about 32 km from Auroville.
With a lot more options available in the market now, was he never tempted to look beyond the Bullet? “The new bikes are too flashy. I like the simplicity of the Bullet. It is basic, simple and comfortable,” says Kapur, who prefers everything in his life to be understated — be it the bags he makes, the house he lives in or the bike he rides. The Bullet sure has him smitten for life.