Bengaluru

Not here to break stereotypes

For Pratima Hebbar, women motorcyclists are just people who enjoy a means of transport. “It is something you do for yourself. Honestly speaking, we are not here to break stereotypes.” In a two and a half hour discussion, ‘Heart to Heart with the Biker Queens’ hosted recently by Design Cafe, some of the most experienced and accomplished women bikers from different biking groups shared their stories.

Archana Timmaraju, cofounder of Silent Expedition, was one of the standouts in the event. With only 40 per cent hearing (she uses a hearing aid as well), she recently completed an 8,300 km bike ride to Ladakh. She spoke about the importance of helping those who are hearing-impaired, “They should be equal, the normal and the deaf. We have to go out and fight for the cause. We have to help them.” Learning sign language is one way of doing so. Her company focuses on promoting travel and exploration, especially among people with disabilities. For herself, she adds, “I am planning to travel the world.”

Twenty-two year old Aishwarya Pissay is another inspiration. She is a professional racer and will be competing in her fifth championship this year, representing India in international rallies. She describes the time she got injured a few days before a race, “I broke my collarbone. I underwent surgeries and nobody around me, neither my mother nor my racing team, told me I couldn’t race. Five days later, we went, raced and we won the race. And that taught me the importance of never giving up.”

Each woman had different reasons for taking up biking. For Minakshi Mohanty of Bikerni, it was about getting to tuitions. “I started learning to ride when I was just eleven and half years old. I used to torture my father to take me to tuitions.” She admitted that napping on her bike (while it was parked) is her favourite memory.

For Raja Lakshmi, another Bikerni (a group), biking was always a passion. She bought her first bike as soon as she discovered the group in 2015. The other Bikernis in the group praised her for the evolution of her biking skills.

Krupa, a working mother who has learnt to balance her career and her passion, believes that biking was in her genes. “Bikerni gave me the opportunity to meet women who think alike, are bold and fairly independent, and come from various backgrounds. They give you immense strength.”

Huda Masood of Motorcycle Travellers Meet (MTM), another club, said, “We promote responsible travel, good manners on the road, and during interactions with fellow riders.”

Hop on Gurls has its own speciality. “I am an active member of Hop on Gurls, where we teach girls how to ride motorcycles, especially the Royal Enfield. We might end up teaching them to ride other bikes as well. We have taught over 280 girls,” said Pratima, a member.

Amongst the bikers sat one driver, Sujal Patwardhan. It was a 2015 cross country road trip that changed her life. The planning though, started in 2013, over a couple of drinks with two friends and a curiosity to see if some dream cities could actually be visited by road. She, along with five others, set off from India, travelling through Central Asia and Europe to end the journey in Morocco. She described how she was treated like a celebrity in Central Asia. “But it didn’t last. Everything comes crashing down as you enter Europe, because there, no one looks at you. We had gone to Hard Rock Cafe in Prague. The cashier there had been to India, she was fascinated. So with a lot of enthusiasm we told her, ‘you know what? We drove all the way from India!’. She simply said, ‘but why?’”

For Sameera of Bikerni, one solo journey led her to Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, which provides vocational training and livelihoods to rural women in the sectors of health, solar engineering and more.

Sonali Mukherjee, yet another Bikerni, was proud of her solo journey to Sikkim, right after severe floods. From being the only guest in hotels to surviving dangerous stretches of the journey, she said, “My bike didn't give up on me and I didn't give up on it.”

Shirley George of the Ladies of Harley (which has only 30 riding members in India) won the audience with her side-splitting anecdotes of her childhood and her riding trips. A very mechanically inclined child, she began riding at 15 by stealing her father's bike. “My friends think I am a rebel, but I am really not, I'm just me. If nothing curtails your thought process, you will do things just because you don't know that others don't do it. In my case, I think, ignorance was bliss."

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 10:50:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/not-here-to-break-stereotypes/article24311462.ece

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