I began on this wondrous trip of my life, called ‘motorcycling’, at an early age of 16 and have been riding ever since! What began as a teenager’s excitement later developed into a hobby and turned into a profession over time. Today, I am a professional motorcycle rider – doing motorcycle reviews, group tours and travelogues is how I earn my bread.
The day I mounted a motorcycle, I was astonished to see the number of stares I got! Most couldn’t digest the fact that a woman can or should be riding, while others in sheer disbelief. Ignoring the gender bias, I increased my pace and space of travelling. From the hills of Maharashtra, I travelled to the beaches of Goa and to the lofty mountains of Ladakh. Scanned the length and breadth of Rajasthan before moving on to the Eastern Himalayas. Everywhere I travelled, one thing was in common – the uncomfortable stares!
Once, in Kashmir, I was stopped by a cop who began poking at my luggage, which itself was quite bizarre, and the moment he doubted that it was a woman behind the helmet, he began touching my arms to verify – thanks to my armoured jacket that he didn’t really ‘feel’ me!
My experience of the 2010 Kashmir riots was quite challenging. I had to lead my group past Srinagar towards Leh and all routes had been cordoned off but one, which had a massive outrage. I knew going past this one would be tough but that was the only way out. Commanding my group to match pace and not to blink an eyelid, we progressed. There was a mob with swords, hockey sticks and bottles about 50 metres ahead and they realised I was a woman. They came closer to hit but neither did I reduce my speed nor did I look at them. All I did was ride…once the leader goes past, safety of other members is assured. We crossed Srinagar unharmed.
Experiences keep happening on every ride and many of them are funny. For instance, I had once stopped at a Government Rest House to use the restroom. To my surprise, I was served tea and biscuits just because the caretaker thought I was a lady cop. When I humbly clarified that I wasn’t, he seemed happier and brought me a plate of hot ‘poha’ as well, saying “high respects to the lady on bike!” and offered to host me on my way back!
Daily commutes aren’t as bad as earlier. Today I find a large number of people who respect lady bikers and even bow to me in respect or show a ‘thumbs-up’ while at signals, yet there are those who question and I leave them to ponder as I find my way through rush hour traffic humming a merry note!
- Sheetal Bidaye
- January 23, 2017
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