Hari Rao –  The racer

When Hari Rao went to London in 1961 to participate in motorcycle racing he was so enchanted with the country, the roads and bikes, that he decided to make it his home. And he did. He was participating in the Motorcycle racing at Brands Hatch circuit in Kent. Dr.Shanthi , his wife says “ His grandfather ( the then IG of Registrations of Madras Presidency) had bought him return ticket to London from Madras (Chennai now). Little did he realize that Hari would stay back there. The family was very disappointed with the decision, but Hari had already decided to move on.” Hari Rao adds “ those days migration was not a big issue at all. The UK Government recognized Indian education . One of my sponsors there offered me a job. I decided to stay back in London.”

In Madras I was pampered kid,  but UK suddenly made me feel the need to become more responsible in Life. ”  It was also in London did he meet Dr. Shanthi,   a family friend’s daughter.  Dr. Shanti was from Madras Medical College and had gone there for further education.  Both families were very affluent and well known families in Madras and the wedding was a traditional one.  Dr. Shanthi’s mother was the first Deputy Mayor of Madras. Though they had a ten year age difference,  it did not matter.   Hari Rao’s family was known as the Bandi Family ( they still have a family group that is known by that name).   The couple moved back to London, which had become their home for over 55 years.  Dr. Shanthi worked as an anesthetist for over 50 years and  Hari Rao was heading hospital administration for St. Thomas Hospital. 

Humorous information Hari Rao adds. “Those days the surname, first name was so confusing. In UK I was asked what my first name was, I thought it was my initials … so I became Ramamohan ( which is my father’s name)” Hari Rao’s father was a Barat Law from UK. His maternal grandfather also studied in London. So it was not a surprise when he decided to move on.

His interest in motorcycles and racing

Dr. Shanthi says “ he is crazy about bikes. He raced for over 25 years. He used to take his motorcycle right into his bedroom those days. Anand Bagh was a well-known house in Madras belonging to his maternal grandfather. This was close to Dasaprakash and Dharmaprakash. His interest in Bikes started right from the time his grandfather gifted him an AJS motorcycle ( British Brand)” .

Hari Rao was a member of the Madras Motors Sports Club since its inception in 1953. His friends circle included Malaya, Vicky Chandhok etc., They used to race at Madras Beach those days. But moved to Sholavaram ( now Irrungattukottai) tracks when it was inaugurated. In the Club’s golden jubilee souvenir ( book) Vicky Chandhok recalls the miraculous escape Hari Rao had in an accident while racing. “I distinctively remember the miraculous escape of Hari Rao on his bike. He hit a pot hole and went flying”. Hari Rao adds that there were many such accidents and it was part of a racer’s life. Mr. Dastur (referred to as Dusty by his friends) of Madras Musings had done an article on motorcycle racing and Hari Rao’s journey has been written about in it.

Very loving and understanding husband

Dr. Shanthi adds “  He is a very loving and understanding husband.  Very humorous.  Bikes and friends are his life.   He would visit the Motorcycle Museum in London every week and spend time seeing and admiring each bike there.   He used to take me with him wherever he went.   At times, I used to be the only lady midst his friends group.  It did not matter. Our first long journey was from Madras to Tirupathi on the motorcycle.  Later,  when we went to Cyprus on a holiday,  we travelled the entire country on a motorcycle.  It was an exciting experience.  He is the eldest in the family and has forty first cousins.   They are all very close, to date, though some of them are not alive.  You can imagine how big the Bandi family is today.  Three generations from the 40 first cousins.  We both love sports .  Cricket and Tennis in particular.  We have attended most of the major tournaments together.   He also plays the Guitar very well.”

The couple have been in Chennai for the last two and half years. They want to go back sometime to their home in London . Their neighbors would love to have them back. But Hari Rao seems to have adapted to Chennai well and is very comfortable here.

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