OFFBEAT A passion for speed, adventure and drama spurs 26-year-old biker Chithra Priya to take on new challenges
S he hates a 9-to-5 job. “I dislike being cooped up in a cubicle and taking orders all through the day,” she says bluntly. Trained in visual communication and film-making, she tried being her own boss and made wildlife films. A love of nature drew her to this vocation. Still, she was not content. The nagging sense of futility disappeared when she replaced the camera with a bike. Meet 26-year-old Chithra Priya, who makes a living as a biker girl.
Ever since Priya made this quirky career move, exciting rides have come her way — as if to justify her decision. She rode a Mahindra Stallio as part of the ‘Great Indian Ride', doing 7,000 km in 45 days.
This rambling tour across the country convinced her that she had the best job on earth. “I got a salary. My logistics were taken care of. Above all, I got to keep the bike.” The Hero Honda Stunt Tour 2011 is another memorable trip. For 15 days, she travelled with a group to the cities and towns in Tamil Nadu and conducted stunt shows. She relied on her gift of the gab and emceed these performances.
Together with the members of Bikernis — a pan-Indian group of women bike riders — she rode from Delhi to Khardung-la on a Royal Enfield Classic 500. Sponsored by Royal Enfield, the ride has created a record for being the first-ever all-female motorcycle group to scale Khardung-la, the highest motorable pass in the world.
Priya did not suddenly wake up to the charms of biking. She has been racing motorcycles and going on bike adventures since 2005, when she finished third in the UCAL-Rolon Championship Circuit Racing in the 80cc-110cc category. “I was the lone girl in the race,” says Priya. She has won the gold twice at ‘Speed Run' drag racing events in Mumbai and Bangalore.
She still races in the circuit. Priya also enjoys heading out of the city to random destinations that challenge the limits of endurance. At present, she is practising for an ambitious solo 1700 km-plus Chennai-Vizag-Chennai ride in 24 hours. If she succeeds in this attempt, she will be ushered into the Saddle Sore hall of fame (an endurance challenge offered by the United States based Iron Butt Association) — and she probably will be the first Indian woman to achieve this. “I'm working on my technical expertise so that I can handle minor crises on the road,” says Priya.
Sore saddle anyone?
She has pencilled in the Saddle Sore for December 2011 or January 2012. If she does it this year, the achievement will crown a good year, in which she came within striking distance of Ceat & xBHP's “Biker Of The Year 2011” title. Through a process of selection, she made it to the 2,000 from an initial list of 20,000 participants. She then made it to the list of 200, then to 20 and finally, to a shortlist of six riders.
Since her childhood, Priya has shown she can handle the pressures of competition. As a gymnast and as a korf ball player representing Tamil Nadu in the junior category, she displayed this quality. “In the Saddle Sore ride, I'll be competing with myself; this is what appeals to me.”
Priya believes any activity is meaningless if your soul is not in it. When she is not scorching the highways, Priya engages herself in Nature conservation. She is closely associated with Supraja Dharani's Tree Foundation. As a Greenpeace activist, she has drawn attention to environment issues in dramatic ways. “I have held banners hanging on ropes suspended from tall buildings, bridges and chimneys,” she says with a smile.