Although there were hardly any women in the ﬁeld at that time, my ﬁrm belief that a woman can do anything a man can, propelled me to pursue it.
Riding a motorbike round a motordrome and that too ‘hands free’, relying on just physics to keep you alive, is no joy ride. And while it may seem an unlikely career choice for a woman, for Baby B., it’s all in a day’s work.
Part of a travelling carnival, the 40-year-old daredevil has been performing stunts on bikes in a motordrome, which is also known as the Wall of Death, for the last 22 years. She loves every single minute of it. “I saw a woman performing similar stunts on a bike at a fair once and I knew then that I wanted to do something similar.”
The Malayali from Chadayamangalam whose family moved to Tirunelveli when she was a child learnt how to ride a bike from Rajiv, a stunt rider. “He is my guru. He taught me how to ride a bike and do stunts on them. Although there were hardly any women in the field at that time, my firm belief that a woman can do anything a man can, propelled me to pursue it. While I did have falls in the beginning, perseverance paid,” says the class eight drop out.
After learning the tricks of the trade, Baby joined an amusement troupe in Tamil Nadu. It was there that she met her husband, Babu Khan. “My husband now has his own travelling carnival.”
The travelling carnival is currently in town and will be treating the denizens of the city to various rides and shows at Kanakakunnu Palace and Shanghumugham beach from September 7.
“We have been coming to the city for Onam since 2001, if I am not mistaken. We started with just a handful of rides, now we have quite a few rides and shows. As there is lack of space in Kanakkunnu, we have set up some rides by the beach.”
Her life, she says is that of a nomad. “We are constantly on the move, travelling with our show from one place to another. I have travelled the whole of India several times.”
Agents, says Baby, help arrange their shows at various villages and cities. “We go with the flow as we never know where our next booking will be.”
The close to 170 members in their group travel from place to place by lorries which carry their amusement rides. They carry tents with them as they sleep outdoors. “There are three families and we all have our own tents. The rest of the men camp together. We set up a bathroom and toilet facility wherever we go and buy water for our use.”
One thing she loves about the troupe is how they are all one big happy family, despite them coming from various parts of the country.
While the members have to dine out for breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided for them. “It’s North Indian thali for lunch and chappati and subzi for dinner. We have a cook for it. Whenever I come down to Kerala, I sometimes ask my husband to buy me a Kerala sadya. Although he is more of a parotta and a meat dish person, he obliges,” says Baby, who picked up Hindi from her husband.
While in most places Baby has to work from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with short breaks in between, in the city, Baby works from 4 p.m. till 10 p.m. as the crowd comes in only in the evenings. “Till then I watch TV or just laze about. I don’t like going out much.”
The mother of three says her children are settled in Tirunelveli. She intends to do what she does for as long as she can. “I enjoy what I am doing. There is a thrill in being one of the few women in the field and also seeing the people watching wide eyed when I perform.”
(A weekly column on men and women who make Thiruvananthapuram what it is)