THE GENTLEMEN’S COMMUNITY

Words :Navid Hossain , Photography : Abdullah Al Maruf

Rupok Rahman founded the Vespa Club Bangladesh back in early 2013. Initially it was a Facebook group intended to help out people with a love and passion for Vespas. If anyone sought to restore or look for parts or even seek advice, Vespa Club was the right place to be. Currently with about 11,000 members, Vespa Club has deemed itself as the largest owners club in Bangladesh.

It currently has 3,000 active members. Now, these active members constantly take part in various activities like rallies, meets and other events.

The main motive behind Vespa Club was restoring and preserving the classic Piaggio models. With the big rise in popularity of the Japanese imports, these models were left on the sidelines.

Despite the small start, the club ended up becoming really popular over the years. As if the popularity suddenly exploded. This rise of popularity is encouraging more enthusiasts to come out and show their love and enthusiasm.

The Vespa club has had meets and small-scale rallies over the course of 7 years. Until Gentleman’s Meet back in Decmber 2019. The Gentleman’s ride was themed rally of a whole lot restored old Vespas and new. The concept of this was for the rider to ride in formal and classic attire.

The rally started at Manik Mia Avenue and ended at Chef’s Table Courtside. This was also during the World Vespa Days 2019 and the event went really well.

Later in August 2020, Vespa Club Bangladesh met up for the second time. Once again in Chef’s Table courtside. It has become a staple for motor vehicle meets. Keeping all the Covid-19 precautions in mind Vespa Club managed to pull this event off.

Despite the pandemic outbreak about 140 participants were present in the meet. All precautions were maintained while holding this event. This time around alongside Vespa Club Bangladesh, this was sponsored by Petronas Bangladesh.

THE LEGENDS BEHIND VESPA CLUB BANGLADESH

With 12,500 plus members in the vespa club group and  3,000 Active members. The Vespa Club Bangladesh is the largest active automotive group in Bangladesh. Now let us have a look at the legends who help run this vast club.

Siddiqur Rahaman Rupok: The Founding Father

Siddiqur Rahaman Rupok aka Rupok Rahaman, the man who founded this group back in 2013. He is the spark that lit the fire Vespa Club Bangladesh as we know and admire today. Back in the day there was a severe scarcity for parts, mechanics and what not. One had to Scour the whole city tirelessly and yet find nothing. Vespa maintenance was really difficult. Now based on similar experiences Rupok Rahaman decided that he should open a Facebook group where like minded vespa lovers would join and help each other out.

Motivation Behind Forming this Group:

“Vespas have always been known to be a family friendly vehicle and Vespas have always been popular in many cultures around the world including ours however in the recent years its use has lowered increasingly. My initial concern was to bring the Vespa heritage back into our lives. After getting my Vespa it came to my understanding that the Vespa Scene in locality is dying out and in hopes of bringing everyone together I formed the Facebook Group.” According to Mr. Rupok

A Fond Memory:

Since he first created the group, Mr.Rupok is very pleased with how this group is turning out. One of his fondest memories is the first meet of Vespa Club. Back in 2013, near Sangshad Bhaban. That was moment he realized how united they are as a community. It showed the passion other people like him have for the Vespa. It showed him their love.

Current Situation of the Members of The Club:

“At the moment we are still growing as a club. With over 12,000 online members we feel like there is a lot more to go with this journey. With the current and ongoing pandemic we haven’t had much physical activity or rides this year, however with the help of social media and our valued members we have had online get together and events.”

Now, initially those who joined Mr.Rupok in his initiative, behave as active members are still in contact with one another. Despite the pandemic situation, they maintain contact through possible means. In World Vespa Days 2020, everyone got together keeping proper precaution. In every situation the club shows acute unity.

To Become a member:

According to Mr.Rupok the procedure is fairly simple. Just getting a join request accepted in the facebook group is enough. A few questions will be asked to check whether the requester is serious enough about the group. If a person is not serious, he may disrupt the harmony of the group so the selection is made from the get go.

Mr. Rupok’s Tips to New Riders:

Vespas have always been known to be a gentleman’s ride and we must live up to that by always maintaining proper road ethics when driving. Also for vintage riders especially, there is an immense amount of patience required to learn how to properly treat your Vespa.

A message to young Enthusiasts:

The Club to us is more of a family. We are here to hold on to our passions and try our best to be good to our social environment.

Mr. Rupok’s Stand on No Horn:

Horn is definitely a very important and necessary tool but it is often and unfortunately mostly misused in our streets. If all vehicles and travelers maintained safe speeds and followed lanes and traffic lights a lot of our traffic congestion would go down. It is more important to hit the brakes or slow down than to honk the horn, however it is always necessary to alert other vehicles or walkers when making turns on blind turns – it is a great and necessary way to communicate however as mentioned earlier it is greatly exploited.

Wahidul Haque: Senior Moderator

If someone is deserving of this title then it is Wahidul Haque. Someone as helpful, enthusiastic and as down to earth as him is beyond perfect to moderate the group.

What is the first vespa you owned?

The first vespa I own is Vespa LML NV. This is an Indian one, and I am still using it. I bought it somewhere around May or June 2014. It has been serving me really well for the past 6 years. I got it completely restored from the get go. The LML NV 150 is the Indian version of the Piaggio PX 150. I got this worked as per my needs and it’s been giving great service ever since. I want to keep this Vespa with me, as it is my first Vespa.

what made you fall in love with vespas?

Now, since my O-levels I loved Vespas. If you tell me to choose between a generic motorcycle and a vespa, it’s vespa for me. Vespas, are really comfortable to ride in compared to other two wheelers. I’ve been riding for 6 years now and I have no complaints whatsoever. It’s really comfortable and nothing really compares. But like I said I had an admiration for vespas since early Childhood, from seeing it in movies and stuff. I have always wanted a Vespa, really.

can you share a memorable moment with your vespa?

Yeah, sure. There are several actually. If I had to choose one… well it’s this one. It’s not really a good memory, but it’s one to cherish. So, one day, me and my wife, well back then we were dating; anyway, so we went out one day. She wasn’t really comfortable with Vespas. She used to be scared of two-wheelers actually. Now she has grown used to it though. Anyway, this was the first time we went out on Vespa. I was about to drop her at her house. She used to live in Mohammadpur. I lived in Dhanmondi. As we were driving, around Dhanmond-27, the vespa suddenly turned off. No matter how much I tried, it wouldn’t start. We were stuck for around 45 minutes. Then finally I gave up, parked it at the side of the road and left it there to drop off my wife. The interesting part is, when I came back up, the vespa started up immediately. I don’t know what happened. I guess, and I later said this to my wife, since she didn’t like the vespa, the vespa didn’t like her as well.

How did you get to know Rupok Rahaman?

Rupok bhai! Whenever you have to talk about vespa club, Rupok bhai will come up first. I happen to be a senior moderator of the vespa club, and Rupok bhai is the founder member of the vespa club of Bangladesh. I knew him before the club. I was a wedding photographer as well. I knew him through that, and we used to talk about vespas. For the first ever event, or should I say meetup, centered around vespas in Bangladesh, that happened 2015 I think, I sat down with Rupok bhai and pushed him a lot about the event. At the time, the vespa club had around three thousand members. So, we organized the event together. There was a good turn-up considering it was the first event. Around 25 to 30 vespas came near Shangshad bhaban. Rupok bhai is such a nice person. I have rarely seen such down to earth person in my life. May Allah bless him. He is so naïve, whatever I say won’t do him justice.

How long have you been with The Vespa Club?

Since 2017, as moderator, been affiliated since the end of 2014. I have always been an active member. My love for vespa club is something I can’t quite explain to be honest. It’s not just a club, it’s a family. It’s an unconditional love. Vespa club Bangladesh means a lot to us vespa enthusiasts, that really can’t be put to words.

When did you get assigned as the Senior Moderator of Vespa Club?

I believe this was in 2017. Rupok bhai one day called me asked me if I could give some time and be a moderator at the group. At that moment, I felt very honored that I was considered to be someone who could be a part of the moderator team. I felt very good at that moment. My love for the vespa club has always been there, and I was really, really happy about it.

A message to young enthusiasts

If I had to give a message, well there are some things that must be said, I think. I believe in one philosophy personally. If you drive vespas, you may learn in a day or two, but to completely learn it, it will take you from six months to a year. Ask me how? You will learn driving vespas fully when you have to push it three or four times for certain reasons. Some of the problems that new enthusiasts face and why they leave vespas, you will go out in the streets with a completely good vespa, and suddenly, your tires get punctured. Most regular shops don’t want to fix vespa tires. There is a bit of hassle involved, so you will have to walk quite a bit. That’s number one.
Number two is that most vespas do not have any fuel indicators. You think you have enough fuel when leaving your house, but then unfortunately, it will run out. You will have to push your vespa.
Number three. One day, your vespa just won’t start. Mechanic will come and check and they won’t find anything. Then you will finally figure out, that you didn’t even turn on the ignition.
Number four. And this is something that confused me at first as well. Vespas need fuel to be transferred to reserves for them to work properly. Otherwise, they are going to turn off without any explanation and you won’t realize why it’s happening. I actually got scolded by my mechanic for this once.

So yeah, these four things are things that everyone should know. For enthusiasts, let me say this, please research a bit. Make sure to carry out maintenance because these are old machines, vintages. So, you should be prepared for these things. You should be ready to take the trouble even if it gives me some. If you are okay with that, go ahead with this hobby. If not, I would discourage you.

What’s your Stand on No Horn?

I believe that this is actually absurd. Dhaka people just horn for absolutely no reason. Those who have been outside, they know how it is. Some of my friends who live outside of Bangladesh say that they have to horn may once every two or three months. It’s possible there, so it’s possible here. But the problem is that people don’t really abide by the law. I find it really irritating. So, yes, I agree with no horn. Do not horn.

Any vespa or two-wheeler that you have in mind that you will or might get later? Or want to.

Actually, I have a vintage. It’s a 1971 vespa super. It’s actually a very desired model. It comes with the square headlights. It’s been almost two years since I bought it. I bought it in scrapped condition. It was in terrible condition. I was working on restoring it. If there was no Covid, the vespa would be driving in the Dhaka streets by now but due to Covid situation, restoration has not been completed. I hope by the end of this year or next year January, restoration will be completed, and I will be able to use it. If we are talking about wish lists, it goes on and on and on. I wish to have a vespa VVB 150 CC, I wish to have a Lambretta and it goes on and on. So, yeah.

 

Sam D’Costa: The Moderator

The Vespa club has some really nice moderators. One of them is Sam D’costa. A really cool guy with a mysterious personality and really humble.

What is the first vespa you owned?

The first Vespa I owned was a PVX 100. It was an absolute impulse purchase that I made while walking through Mohammadpur, Townhall.

What made you fall in love with vespas?

My dad used to have a 1960s Vespa Sprint. On my way back from school he used to let me stand on the floorboard and handle the accelerator through Manik Mia Avenue. Childhood memories and the idea of continuing a heritage is what made me fall in love with the Vespa.

Can you share a memorable moment with your vespa?

The first morning I got out with my Vespa Super, the rear tires went flat on my way back home. My brother and I pushed her home but we were not annoyed by it at all – this is the price we pay for the life we chose as a vintage enthusiast, that moment of realization, acceptance and happiness is one of my best memories.

How did you get to know Rupok Rahaman?

Before I knew Rupok Bhai, I knew his Gold Vespa 150 VBB that I saw parked infront of New Market. I was obliged to take photos and ask around in online groups where someone tagged him on my post. I later met him at Khoka Bhai’s Workshop in Townhall one day.

How long have you been with Vespa Club?

I would guess half a decade. I joined sometime around 2015 or so.

When did you get assigned as the Moderator of Vespa Club?

I was assigned as Moderator a few weeks before I purchased my Vespa Super. It was around early November 2017.

A message to young enthusiasts?

Young is a very subjective word to me. A general message to new enthusiasts would be that before we invest in materialistic goods, we should try to find our spiritual connection to it. There is always a higher purpose to everything we are attracted to. For me, I am attracted to Vintage Vehicles, namely Vespas because I feel like it is a way for me to connect to the individuals that crossed the very streets decades ago that I cross now – history repeats itself so why not make history while we’re in the attempt of repeating it?

What’s your Stand on No Horn?

Horns are important. However in our streets, horns are used unreasonably. Horn is not a media for you to channel your frustration. Horn is very important for alerting passerbys on foot – honking while taking a blind turn – it is necessary for communicating with other vehicles on roads. We should remember that everyone has someplace to be in the streets. Horn is important but it is important to maintain responsible speeds and using the brakes more than the horn.

 

Any Vespa or two wheeler that you have in mind that you will or might get later? Or want to.

Any vehicle at least 10 years older than myself I find interesting. I would definitely love to find a 1960s Vespa Sprint. I’ve always wanted to own a Honda CD 200 as well.  Anything else that comes in my way, I would probably not say no to given that it is legal and drivable – and of course she’s gotta be old enough.

Didarul Islam Sujan: The Wise

There is always a wise person guiding everyone with their knowledge. Their experiences and expertise make them who they are. That is why they are respected this much. They are like that wizard with great knowledge. In the vintage collectors scene it none other than Didarul Islam Sujan.

 

 What is the first vespa you owned?

The first Vespa I owned was Piaggio Vespa VBB. I have had this since the very beginning. I bought this from a gentleman who’s house was being constructed to a multiplex building and he had no space to keep his Vespa. From that source I ended up buying that vespa.

what made you fall in love with vespas?

Now, I am a vintage lover and an enthusiast. I have always had an eye on Volkswagen and other vintage cars. So, liking a Vespa comes naturally to someone like me. Other than that, I find the overall shape and ergonomics of a Vespa appealing. Even the size which is convenient for roaming around the streets of dhaka. Moreover since Vespas are two stroke, the vintage appeal is there in modern day Vespas. Fun fact, people usually say, the guy fell in love with Vespa after Roman Holiday. For me it was the opposite. I saw the movie Roman Holiday after I fell in love with Vespas. The movie just made me love it even more, but it’s mainly the shape of a Vespa.

 Can you share a memorable moment with your vespa?

When it was decided that the first meet of Vespa Club of Bangladesh will take place. The very first one in front of Sangshad Bhaban, I too decided that I will join the meet. I took the VBB with me over there. Back then I didn’t know how to ride the vespa, so I took my technician and I sat in the back seat as we rode off. Then began the problems, the VBB started to leak mobile, and the amount it leaked soaked my pants and everything. Still I accepted all of it. Now at the end of the meet, when we planned to get back it wouldn’t start. Many attempts later it did. But after going a short distance it died. Now, that made me furious, first off all the leakage, ruining my pants then it died, it was all a bit embarrassing.  At that moment I got off took a rickshaw and told the technician to whatever he wanted with it, sell it off even. I then went off on the rickshaw. Around Shat Rastar Mor I saw the guy slowly bringing the Vespa on foot, pushing it all the way. At that moment when I looked at it, it came to me that I could not let it go, I had to do something about it. I was that angry. Then we both pushed it to my home. After that from anger I grew immensely attached to that Vespa. From then all of my anger turned into love for Vespa.

Truth be told, at that time I didn’t know anything about Vespas. Now I do, I can even go to Cox’s Bazar. Hopefully I won’t have to face any problems of that sort and that experience taught me a lot.

A message to young enthusiasts?

My message to young enthusiast would be don’t go with the flow. You don’t have to what everybody is doing. If someone is buying and collecting classics, vintage or model cars doesn’t you have to as well. Know yourself first and know what you want. What feels right to you. You don’t have to own a classic, you just need the passion for it. I have vintage vehicles of my own, anyone who came to me got access  to those. They get to see, sit and talk as much as they like, so to you enthusiasts I would like to say that you don’t have to be disheartened and envious by what someone else has, you need to be passionate about those and admire what other do and have. Then someday you will have your own and that will be within your own affordability. So don’t go with the flow, the passion needs to come from within.

What’s your Stand on No Horn?

My stand on No Horn is a bit contradictory from the the Bangladeshi standpoint. From a perspective of foreign countries, No Horn is great, it is rather fantastic and there is no doubt about it. Even No Horn should be applied here too. But as long as there is no harmony in our roads and proper regulation maintenance, it would not matter even if they officially enforced No Horn. It will disastrous. Because as a walker I don’t know how to cross the road, and if I am a Ricshaw puller then I wouldn’t have any idea about going from left to right. If I am driving a car don’t know my speed limit, or when to stop in front of a signal. Now, keeping these in mind, if No Horn is applied and I don’t get to honk and let people be aware, a life could be lost. I will be cautious as much as possible, but the other person won’t be as cautious as I am. We haven’t reached a time where No Horn could be applied. But speaking from a practical point of view the practice to lessen Horn should be started and applied.

Any Vespa or two-wheeler that you have in mind that you will or might get later? Or want to.

For a Vespas I don’t have anything particular in mind. But I do have a desire to own a Lambretta. People tend to make the mistake of calling it Vespa Lambretta. But it’s not Vespa, it’s just Lambretta. Only a few came in from India. But the one I want has to be Italian then I won’t have anything else to add to my Vespa collection.