By default, the term “pilot” in Goa refers not to someone in the cockpit of an aircraft, but to the owner and driver of a motorcycle taxi. This mode of public transportation, perhaps not found elsewhere in India, is now a relic back from the day when Goa had a civilization.
If you were going someplace solo, the pilot was a quick, convenient, affordable, and in today’s parlance, environment-friendly option. Knots of pilots are still seen in towns and villages all over Goa but their numbers have greatly dwindled. Some of the motorcycle brands I recall from my young days are: Bullet, Jawa, Yezdi.
There was at least one BMW (driven by Sheik as he was commonly known), the only bike I knew of, then (60s), having a propeller-shaft rather than a chain. Yeah, seen Amonkar with his red Jawa many a time (at the time these m/bikes were not painted to suit “taxi” colors).
I reckon the “pilot” stand near the church is a legacy of their old position of what was then the Municipal building (one time converted to Children’s park – the old building was taken down to rebuild it bigger and larger, but then the invasion intervened).
Nowadays if I happen to hire a pilot he invariably happens to be a non-Goan. I think that initially at least most pilots were Goans and had cultivated a good image of themselves being very trustworthy, so much so that they would pass the ultimate Indian test of trust: women would be willing to sit pillion on the bikes of these strangers. Rajdoots were the most common bikes in the seventies because they were among the few that were available, but they also happened to be very good fuel-wise. The Japanese ones later changed that. Speaking about Bullets, there was just one stout pilot in Panjim I can recall who had one. It was a rarely seen diesel machine. I haven’t seen him or that Bullet of late. I wonder whether it was a registered one because I can’t recall now if he had the yellow painted on the mudguards or not.
I think you missed the more common Rajdoot motorcycle. Pilots with Bullets were very few, if any. Before the Indian bikes came into the picture, there were BSAs and Puchs. There was “Namo” from Taleigao, who used to ferry passengers on his famous BMW. There was one other colorful Pilot, Amonkar, who used to believe he was Rajesh Khanna incarnate, with the hairstyle and flashy clothes! Most of these guys used to be stationed near the Panjim church and folks living in Altinho, utilized these unique taxis extensively.
Yes, Rajdoot! I knew I had forgotten a name or two at the time of writing.
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