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No impediments when an enthusiastic motorcycle rider, who is a speech therapist by profession, takes up the pen to chronicle his long and adventurous journeys. Bike India talks to Dr Ajit Harisinghani, whose second travelogue is to be published soon.
A sense of calm and serenity overpowers you as you enter Dr Ajit Harisinghani’s speech foundation. This Pune-based doctor trains young professionals and stroke patients to recover from speech impediments. A speech therapist by profession and a grey-haired free-spirited motorcyclist at heart, Dr Ajit offers us a close-up view of his trip to Ladakh. He also tells us about his next book, which speaks about his visit to Bhutan and several other experiences.
BI: Before being a motorcyclist, you are a speech therapist. At a time when the profession was unheard of and a comfortable Central government job was the most sought-after prospect, you opted for speech therapy. Why?
AH: Back in the 1960s the only options were medicine, engineering or graduation. I missed the medical seat by 12 marks and had to settle for a degree in chemistry and zoology. Forget others, I myself didn’t know about speech therapy until I stumbled upon it. One day I had missed college to watch the newly released film, ‘Shagird’, umm, I think it had Joy Mukherjee and Saira Banu in lead roles. I had some time before the show began and so I just sauntered into the Nair Hospital next door. I read a notice that said, ‘Speech Therapy admissions closing today’. Spurred on by an urge to be in a medical setting I enrolled myself for the course and eventually developed a deep liking for it. I enjoy my job immensely now.
BI: A large number of people ride to Ladakh, a few blog about it and even fewer write books about it. So what inspired you to write a book about such a deeply personal experience?
AH: Writing a book is like painting a blank canvas. As you experience the journey you start painting the canvas with colourful brush strokes. And while doing this I have to keep the reader in mind. As you rightly said, a lot of people ride to Ladakh. Who really wants to listen to an old man riding from one place to another? Who cares about how much fuel I used and where I stopped for lunch? And that’s the reader’s perspective. To make the book enjoyable and readable I have to connect with the reader and make him/her feel the journey. So connecting with a younger audience is the challenge and that’s what got me hooked.
BI: You have been riding for over 35 years now and you must have suffered a major breakdown somewhere some time. Tell us about it.
AH: I suffered one, actually two major breakdowns. One I have mentioned in the book. It happened on the way to Leh from Manali. That one didn’t exactly leave me helpless, but it was quite bad. I realised it was only a loose contact in the ignition. I had other keys in the keyring which kept the ignition key from connecting. The other major breakdown occurred on my trip to Bhutan. I was near the Krishnanagar area in Nadia district of West Bengal. The contacts were loose, the wiring was burnt and I had no spares. And believe it or not no one rides a Bullet in West Bengal. So I had to wait for an entire day until I could get some spares and get the bike going again. Also in Bhutan there is just one Bullet service centre for the Indian Army. Apart from these two incidents the Royal Enfield has proved to be a very reliable companion.
BI: Other than the Royal Enfield which other bikes have you ridden and in which other countries?
AH: I had two Yezdis in Bombay when I was a student. That bike didn’t really suit me and I had a lot of problems with it. A little rain and it would stall, the carburettor would get flooded easily. And then in the US my room-mate had a Norton 750 Commando, which I used to ride once in a while. Finally, I chanced upon the Bullet in 1983. I bought it for Rs 17,000. Since then I have owned three Standard 350 Bullets, including the current one that I bought in 1995. And it is still in the same condition as it was when I got it from the dealer. Apart from the fabricated panniers it hasn’t undergone any modification.
BI: Your next book is about your trip to Bhutan and other adventures. Tell us about it.
AH: My second book starts with an encounter with one of my patients, the mass obsession with happiness and things like that. Then I see the King of Bhutan on the television and things generally flow in that direction. Also there are a few other incidents which now seem very hilarious. Back then, however, it was a totally different picture. Prison incidents, small deals, hitch-hiking, etc. It is all a colourful and funny picture now. After the response my first book elicited, there is a pressure to do better in the second book. I want to ward off that pressure and take things slowly. I am going to relax and let the ideas flow to me and eventually compile them.
BI: By the way, did you find out what the problem was with your bike in the chapter ‘Machinophilia’?
AH: As a matter of fact, I did. The carburettor was flooded! But that incident did serve as a literary trick for the book.
Delphi India’s Technical Centre India (TCI) was founded in Bangalore in 2000. Since then the centre has grown rapidly and has emerged as Delphi’s largest technical centre in software development outside the US. TCI complements Delphi’s strong manufacturing base in India as well as in the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. TCI has been working on a few technologies for two-wheelers such as immobilisers, instrument clusters, evaporative emission technology and fuel injection technology.
BI: What are the key performance factors and differentiators for growth in an ever growing global auto industry?
NG: Innovation has to help anyone to keep themselves ahead of time. We have been working with the Nano project for the instrument clusters while Harley-Davidson have been our major motorcycle client for instrument cluster and TSSM (turn signal and security module). The key performance factors for us would be safety, driver aid features and quality with optimised price for the Indian auto industry.
BI: As the director what will you strive for in the first year?
NG: As the automobile industry grows it throws greater challenges to provide flawless solutions to the critical functions in an automobile. Thus the passion for excellence will be the mantra to begin the year.
BI: Auto suppliers have leveraged the low-cost advantage of India. With companies looking towards emerging markets and US protectionism, do you think India can be a technology hinterland or an innovation catalyst?
NG: So long as innovation is possible at a low cost, India will have the major technology developer. We are working on integrating instrument clusters with immobilisers, body control functionalities while maintaining optimal costs on microprocessors.
BI: Where do you see India in terms of providing top-class technology to western markets?
NG: Indian engineers are strong in algorithms and mathematics. This is highly advantageous while providing mathematical algorithms, modelling and simulation and electrical and mechanical analysis prior to actual design. Electronic fuel injection systems, the demand for hybrid machines coupled with stringent emission norms and emphasis on alternative energy have all thrown challenges to work towards more efficient fuel combustion and compression systems.
BI: Is Delphi likely to make TCI a base for engineering tomorrow’s products?
NG: Delphi has more than 24 technical centres. The Indian technical centre is the biggest software center and fast expanding.
BI: What is your view on the potential of the Indian market, with large players like Hero, Bajaj, TVS and Mahindra?
NG: Delphi is predominantly into high-end bikes like Harley-Davidson. The booming Indian motorcycle industry is good news to Delphi.
BI: What are the programmes you are working on?
NG: When we started working with the Nano, it called for a change in the engineering brain along with process compliance. PCBs, components, optimisation and competitive pricing were the challenges we faced. Hence for motorcycles we are working closely with the ARAI and other regulatory authorities to understand needs and requirements for EURO V. We are working on making components like evaporative canisters and other electronic controllers work independently of the current vehicle system while providing integrated systems wherever necessary. We are beginning our India manufacturing in Chennai from July 2011. We are also looking at some advanced development projects to explore using four-wheeler technologies in two-wheelers.
BI: Please tell us something about after-sales service and training centres for instrument clusters and immobilisers.
NG: We have an after-market division, called DPSS (Delphi Product Service and Support) and they will handle service. This will also include appropriate tie-ups with local service providers to cover the length and breadth of a country like India.
Nambi Ganesh has recently been appointed as director of Delphi India’s Technical Centre India (TCI). Based in Bangalore, Ganesh is responsible for leading TCI’s efforts to meet worldwide customer demand for products that will enhance the convenience and comfort of the vehicles they drive. Bike India called on the newly appointed director to get to know TCI’s plans for the future.