Driving down Pune's buzzing Dandekar Pool Road, one can easily spot the famed Vishwakarma Garage, nestled in a small off-the-road bye lane. This modest workshop is the spiritual home for many Yezdis in Pune under Bhau and Sanjay's loving care.
Opposite the garage's main doorway, is an impromptu religious shrine, before which a motley collection of motorcycles pay obeisance, basking in the mild morning sun. Overseeing this unique mechanical Mecca for ailing Yezdis and JAWAs, is Vishwakarma Garage, who’s high priest is Bhau Satalkar, one of Pune’s three reigning Yezdi doctors. As we awaited the arrival of the doctor Bhau, we were greeted by his unassuming assistant Sanjay Ingle, the shy 26-year old, who for 10 years, has been Bhau’s understudy. Today he's billed as the speedy Gonsalves amongst the Yezdi community in the city. Sanjay is capable of tearing down and rebuilding any Yezdi or JAWA motorcycle in a day.
As we engage in friendly banter, Bhau Satalkar himself rides in on his heavily modified antique Yamaha Pearl. Understated, reticent, yet warm and welcoming, there’s much more behind the placid countenance and soft brown eyes that one can imagine. Finishing up our steaming glasses of freshly brewed cutting, we dive deep into the genesis of Bhau’s furious love for Yezdis and JAWAs.
It all began in 1968 at the age of 16, when Bhau migrated from his beloved Malwan District in the Konkan region, to the then buzzing metropolis of Pune, in search of fame and fortune. Reminiscing about his wonder years, Bhau recalls: “I apprenticed myself a few years after coming to Pune, as the understudy of the then renowned motorcycle mechanic Uday Dhaigude. I quickly learned everything my master knew in two short years. Two years later, I set up my own garage at Navi Peth, Pune. The dire need to provide for my family, compelled me to service all kinds of motorcycles, including Vespas, Lambys, Rajdoots and Bajaj motorcycles. When Yezdi’s flooded the Pune roads (hitherto dominated by local brand Bajaj) in the 70s, the Indian bike revolution really began. That was when I began repairing only Yezdis and JAWAs."
Since then, hundreds of bikes have been lovingly repaired or restored by Bhau and his passionate team. Bhau is not insecure and has had no issues sharing his knowledge with others. Over the years he's mentored many understudys from different cities and clubs, many of whom have today opened successful garages of their own.
One such understudy who stayed on today operates Vishwakarma Garage with a very tight team, is Sanjay Ingle. For days he hung around outside the door as an observer at the door, from morning to night, until he was one day invited in as a trainee. A decade later, Vishwakarma Garage is being run by Sanjay Ingle, who has been with Bhau since he was a young 15 year old lad. Recounting his story, the soft-spoken Sanjay says, “I studied till the 7th standard, but couldn’t complete my education because of family issues. I used to come to watch Bhau and learn. He soon asked me to join him and have been with him for more than 11 years now.”
My golden moment was in 2003, when I visited the factory to buy spares, and met Noshir Irani.
Sanjay and his team are known for the speed and reliability of the work they turn out. Vishwakarma Garage restores between two to three Yezdis or JAWAs a month. Sanjay is slowly replacing Bhau as the main technical support on most club rides. But the charm, charisma and passion of Bhau is what makes Vishwakarma Garage hold a very special place in the minds and hearts of Punes Yezdi community.
Since many Yezdi and JAWA motorcycle parts match, nothing is ever scrapped at Vishwakarma Garage. All operations are done in-house, including denting, small fabrication except for welding. One Bhau specialty is creating centre-stands, which get corroded very easily. Handing over the operations of Vishawakarma Garage to Sanjay, has enable Bhau to focus on other creative pursuits, like single-handedly designing and creating moulds and even a hand-press, for parts like chain covers, silencers and other appearance parts. He’s even designed and built special tools for handling crank cases and roller pins.
Over the years, Bhau has many achievements under his belt. “I have won many awards for best maintenance/restoration, best performance vehicle by the oldest motorcycle", recounts Bhau.
"While I am not a collector, all my customers say that their bikes are spiritually mine, they physically take them home only for safe keeping, as I have no space at my garage."
In 2007 at the age of 60, Bhau rode with the Pune Yezdi club to Ladakh and back as their main technical support person. Bhau has been an intrinsic part of the golden era of Yezdi in the 70s, 80s and 90s, right until production ceased. At one point in time Bhau couldn't control his emotions: "My golden moment was in 2003, when I visited the factory to buy spares, and met Noshir Irani.”
As he readies himself for the photoshoot, the love with which he sits astride a JAWA and emotionally caresses its tank, speaks volumes of a relationship that exists between man and machine. The emotional bond between us made leaving for our hotel extremely difficult. But what remains in our hearts and minds, is a man who displays the emotional bond between himself, his team and his beloved machines right on his sleeve.