Turbine sits with the founding member of the Chittagong Vespa Club, a community of 3000 members
Motorcycles and scooters are a growing trend among the youth in Bangladesh. An ever-increasing traffic congestion as well as not having a favorable public transport system, has led people to move to the more convenient mode of transportation. But is it always only related to convenience? Like there are many car communities around Dhaka and other cities, there are also a handful of such communities of like-minded individuals with the same passion. One such is the Chittagong Vespa Club, a unique and rather harmonious group of individuals. Ashfaq Alam, the founding admin of the community gives Turbine an insight about his experience in the group as well as some fun experiences he gathered along with his beloved two-wheeler.
- Give us a few words about you? What are you currently, doing?
I am Ashfaq Alam from Chittagong and I currently act as the founding admin of the vespa community here known as Chittagong Vespa Club. On my academic background, I have just completed my MBBS finals and hope to start my career as a doctor. I am also a little involved in arts and painting.
- What made you fall in love with the Vespa?
Being deeply fond of arts, uniqueness and colors have always attracted me. In my student days, with very minimal budget, it felt like owning a vespa is the way to go to proper express myself on the road. It was a started level vespa though, but for the price, it was undoubtedly eye catching.
- How did you bring the community together?
The thing about vintage vespas is that you can’t always buy them ready for the road. Back when I was restoring my first vespa, I was completely new to the garage culture and quite frankly the automotive culture, and it was a stressful job for me in this unknown world. In that time, there wasn’t a dedicated community for vespas in Chittagong to help out people like me. That is why it was my logical next step to start the club with the few vespa riders I got to know in hopes of building the community that we once lacked.
- Tell us something about the community, the number of members there and how you organize meet-ups?
Our community, Chittagong Vespa Club is completely online based up until now. We will be reaching 3000 members very soon on our Facebook group and around a thousand likes on our display page. There is always an ever-changing inner circle of active members that we always discuss with about future rides and meet ups. I believe the riders contributing in the plans and decisions help to grow the bond between them and the club even more. After all, what is a community without its members?
- How can new enthusiasts join the club?
We try our best to promote the culture as it is in its infancy. We try to help out new riders and enthusiasts as best as we can. Anyone and everyone is allowed in the club, to explore the vespa culture. And if they do find love in what they see, then we are here to assist them in restoring one too. In short, all you have to do to join is simply reach out to us. We are eager to help and make our family bigger.
- How many Vespas do you currently have? Do you plan to get more?
I currently own a bright red Vespa VBB from 1961. I named it IchimonJakka, that roughly translates to ‘the first firedragon’. I feel naming your vehicle strengthens your bond. And to be honest, I still want to invest a lot more effort, time and money into it. It’s a beautiful piece of art, and I feel like it deserves all my attention for now. Hopefully in the future, I’ll get other bikes, but as for a vespa, I think this is it.
- Any memorable incidents related to it?
Vespa is my introduction to the streets. In a way, it changed my life. The memories and experiences are endless. We as a community have had countless rides to Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Khagrachori, Bandorban and whatnot. Each ride holds its own merit. If I had to talk about one experience though, I would definitely mention my solo trip to Dhaka. It was pretty exciting for me, putting that much trust in my scooter to travel alone from Chittagong to Dhaka and back. And to top it off, I got to meet so many riders from Dhaka too. It was indeed memorable.
- What are your plans for the future? Something more you want to do with the community as a whole?
Plans for the future? We ride to anywhere and everywhere we can. Complete the whole map of Bangladesh one day maybe. We have had a very simple goal from the start. Form a community, help vespa riders and enthusiasts and maintain interaction through rides and meet ups. And to be honest, as the club grows with us, we also grow with the club as person. And day by day, we try to utilize our community in better ways. We have contributed to humanitarian efforts as well during the winter cold. And we feel blessed to be able to help. It was an amazing feeling and definitely would love to contribute to society more. That aside, I personally have very little to ask from the club any more. I am already proud to be part of it. It has given me a family and continues to give me countless experiences.