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From biker to builder, Kurnal Varma has come a long way. He takes us on his automotive journey

What began as a ritual of prepping his bike for a ‘yearly pilgrimage’ from Bangalore to hometown Mumbai, has now turned into a full-time job for Kurnal Varma. And this is something Pondicherry locals are grateful for, as everything from a Royal Enfield to a range of Yamahas arewheeled his way for a makeover. He moved to Pondicherry recently. With an inherent passion for bikes and all things automotive, Varma says that following this path was  “only natural.’’

Switching gears
‘‘I spent a quarter of my life studying and working in a non-automotive field in Bangalore. This got me to take my annual vacation to  ‘janmabhoomi’ via  Goa,’’ begins Varma, adding that he’d spend endless hours preparing his motorcycle for the trip.‘‘Over the years, I spent more and more time with my motorcycle, tools and set out on independent road trips. They taught me everything in return–mechanics, culture, people, geography,’’ the Pondicherry resident shares. It was then that he ditched the formals and corporate chaos to learn the ropes of the automobile industry.

The first bike that made it into his modifying lab was the Yamaha RX 100, which he got when he was 18. Speaking of his first ‘surgery’, he relates how he changed the exhaust and cleverly replaced it with an expansion chamber, and how he stripped the motorbike of all unrequired weight to make it move better-—that was inspired by his idol and dream collaborator, Shinya Kimura, the Japanese-born custom motorcycle builder.

Free wheeling
A self-taught designer and mechanic, Varma says that no amount of education or college taught him as much as his mistakes did.‘‘I am primarily self-taught and I had to learn from everything I did wrong,’’ says the bike enthusiast, adding that once he overcame those challenges, he had to deal with retaining the defining feature of a bike. ‘‘All motorcycles are different because they are made for different kinds of people. So the challenge is to keep the road-worthiness of the bike intact and make aesthetic changes,’’ he offers, disapproving the expensive trend of changing the core of a bike. And you know he’s found his calling when his work is his inspiration.‘‘When I ride, and I mean over 1,000 kms, my senses are overwhelmed with a constant flow of thought-provokingly blissful images, smells and sounds that our humble countryside bombards me with and the thoughts that follow change you a little bit forever,’’ says the designer, who believes that his most prized creation is still to come.

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— Aakanksha Devi and Avinash Kumai

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