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The Indonesian ambassador with a Royal Enfield is looking for biking pals

Sidharto R. Suryodipuro, 52, loves his bikes, but being an ambassador, he rarely gets a chance to take it for a spin.

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New Delhi: For Indonesia’s ambassador to India, Sidharto R. Suryodipuro, women are often unpredictable. And that’s why his Royal Enfield Classic 500, a rugged, iconic motorcycle, is a “her”.

“Men are better on the road, more dependable,” says Sidharto as he gently revs up the engine of his bike. “I’m still figuring my way around her.”

Sidharto, 52, is one of the few ambassadors in India with a penchant for bikes. He stumbled upon the Classic 500 completely by accident in 2018.

“I had gone to meet the CEO of Royal Enfield, Siddharth Lal, to ask him about his plans for Indonesia,” Sidharto says, with a slight smile.

The Indonesian ambassador (right) with Royal Enfield CEO Siddharth Lal | Sidharto R. Suryodipuro

Instead, Sidharto ended up sampling some of the offerings at Lal’s disposal. The newer 650, with its modern engine and reduced vibrations, held little charm for him since he preferred the older model.

The next thing he knew, he was purchasing one for himself in a custom desert colour that had otherwise been discontinued. His silencer was replaced by Royal Enfield servicemen from Tamil Nadu to accentuate the signature Enfield roar.

“It helps when you know the CEO,” Sidharto jokingly adds.

For Sidharto, the bike helped him rediscover a passion from his youth.

“My mother sold all our motorcycles in 1992, after my younger brother met with an accident,” he said. His brother had broken his kneecap then.

Sidharto was in college then, and drove a Honda CPR 100. His brother drove a Kawasaki Ninja and his father had a BMW 750. The Classic 500 is the only bike he has bought since.

His mother, surprisingly, didn’t object, he says. Instead, she told him, the bike triggered fond memories of his late father.

‘Limited’ by his diplomatic stripes

The freedom and adrenaline rush of being on a motorcycle is unparalleled for Sidharto, but his status as an ambassador acts as a deterrent to enjoying it to the fullest.

He has to always be accompanied by security personnel, and this often diminishes the experience for him.

When Indonesian ambassador Sidharto took his Enfield for a spin to South Block. | Sidharto R. Suryodipuro

“Bikes are meant to be driven on the open road, with the wind in your face, and some mountains on the horizon. That’s the fantasy,” he says. “City driving, that too accompanied by personnel, is just not the same.”

Sidharto can’t help but wish that there was a group of ambassadors he could share his passion with. Alone, he feels, is not the safest way to drive, but with a group, he can perhaps even venture into the mountains on his motorcycle.

As a result, the bike has been barely driven 154 km, that too in the vicinity of the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia.

“I’ll take her back to Indonesia with me,” Sidharto says. “Since I live on the outskirts of Jakarta, I can even take her for a spin near the volcanic mountains.”

‘At home in India’

Before he arrived in India in 2017, Sidharto served a two-year stint in Washington, where he was content with his mountain bicycle.

“I first visited India in 1999,” he says. “The chaos on the streets reminded me of Jakarta, it does even today.” Although he asserts that the two countries are not the same, the similarities are inescapable for an often-nostalgic mind.

“Take, for instance, my name, it is something Indians instantly relate to,” he says.

However, his friends and acquaintances in India find it surprising that someone called Sidharto, named after Siddhartha Gautam or Gautam Buddha, is Muslim.

A statue of the goddess Sarawasti at the Indonesian Embassy | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht

In Indonesia, a Muslim can even be called Rama or Sinta (Sita), and there is no contradiction in this tradition, according to Sidharto.

The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Washington, he tells ThePrint, has a 300-metre-tall statue of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge.

“For us, as for many in India, Hinduism is less a religion and more a way of life,” Sidharto says. “Indonesia is a Muslim-dominated country, but we chose Saraswati since she represents knowledge.”

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