Basement of Treasures- The New Indian Express -

Basement of Treasures- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

HYDERABAD:  This story is from the 1960s. A 10-year-old boy, who gets 25 naya paisa as pocket money every day, saves it. He collects Rs 150 (600 25 naya paisa coins) in two years and, when he realises that he has enough money, the boy runs to a scrapyard to buy his dream motorcycle — the Norton 16H. Though in a rusty condition, with dents all over its body (it survived World War II), he gets it refurbished and brings it to mint condition. 

This boy has grown up to be a successful businessman, who owns a company called Shree Vishwakarma Mechanical & Engineering Works at MG Road in Secunderabad. He manufactures sand screening machines and other construction equipment. 

We are speaking of Pappi Singh, who is in his 60s but remains young at heart. Over the years, he has collected over 300 vintage classic motorcycles and a couple of dozens of vintage cars. He also has a Hindustan Motor’s bullet-proof Ambassador used by former Prime Minister late PV Narasimha Rao, and a solar-powered Cadillac used by two Presidents of India. 

“I have stopped collecting now,” he sighs. “When I was young, I decided to collect a 100 of these. But with God’s grace, I made it to 200; now the number has crossed 300. If I continue collecting, the count will be endless,” says Pappi Seth (as people fondly call him). He owns over 40 Nortons as on date. “I am into European motorcycle manufacturers, and I have collected BSAs, Ariels, Lambrettas, Vespas, Furys and more. My favourite is the Norton Manx,” he says. 

Pappi Singh’s collection (Photo: Express | S Senbagapandiyan)

The oldest motorcycle in Pappi’s collection is from the 1890s — a BSA. “Nortons are my favourite machines. In fact, I named my younger son Norton Singh,” says the self-taught mechanic, welder and painter. He is so possessive of his collection that he built a closed lab to get the automobiles painted. “I hate the painters outside, they ruin the vehicle.

They ruin the shine,” he says with a frown as he walks into the basement of his store, which houses over 70 vintage automobiles that gleam with tungsten, steel and iron. Each vehicle looks as if it has been shined for a display at an exhibit. “Oh! You must see how possessive I am of my machines. I don’t take them out in the rain, I don’t take them out even when it doesn’t rain. You know, our roads are always so dusty,” says Pappi, adding that he places a mirror under a car after its wash to make sure that it is squeaky clean underneath.   

“I have a dedicated person to shine and polish my vehicles every day, even when they are not in use,” he says. Pointing at the cartons that were the only dull objects in the room, he says: “These are all the spare parts I collected 40 years ago from across the country, when I saw vintage motors disappearing. I used to walk into every repair or hardware store and buy all the spare parts in case I need them in future. I rarely have to look for the spare parts outside. Either I have them in these boxes or I make them myself.” Pappi wants to set up a museum to showcase his life’s collection. In fact, he had a plan in place, but someone duped him. He hopes to see this dream come true. 

Nailing the drag race scene  

  • Pappi Singh’s son Sundeep Singh is different, but no less. He, like his father, is into motorcycles, specifically racers and speedsters. “Papa is more of a collector. I am more of a racer,” says Sandeep, a professional motorbike drag racer. He represents Hyderabad and the country internationally in drag races. 
  • Sundeep is into Japanese racebikes such as Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha. Sitting in front of his trophies that have filled up the shelves, he says he was one of the two Hyderabadis who reached the world finals of the Motorcycle Drag Racing.

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