By Anusha Sundar:
A sleek Honda Xtreme, gushing wind in the hair, an expanse of unending road ahead and the adrenaline rush of it all. Ann Philip, a young, amateur biker, also an active racer, takes to the road whenever she gets the time to. According to Ann, biking means breaking boundaries — ‘For me it was this need to break the stereotype. It was this total unleashing of every ounce of grit to show the guys that it is no longer their domain.’ There are hundreds of women in India like Ann who are slowly asserting themselves, reclaiming spaces that aren’t considered their ‘thing.’ Biking might in the most stereotypical notions be considered a men’s zone, but the daring women of today are changing it all. And in India, they are doing so with utmost pride and vigour.
India is the largest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world, but it is only the men of the country that are privileged enough to ride them. Even if women are seen on motorcycles, they are often just passengers, being driven by their sons, brothers, husbands or fathers. It is rare to find women riding motorcycles because they are not considered capable enough to handle these ‘powerful’ vehicles. Our ‘sensible’ media of course adds to this immensely prudent reasoning. Mahindra’s advertisement for their latest Centuro 110 reads: ‘Ye khel nahi haseeno ka. Kab tak tujhe samjaun mein?’ Bravo Mahindra, for not only an utter lack of creativity but also a mindless and an unnecessary attack on women. However, it is very important to note that these notions do not appear out of nowhere. It is a product of a patriarchal set up that has subdued women for centuries and reduced them to household activities and baby producing machines. Braving all the imprisoning labels, the patriarchal rules and the mind numbing pigeon holing, women bikers are rising above the stations that society has laid for them and racing off into beaten road tracts.
Although women bikers are a new phenomenon for a society like ours, they are quickly increasing in number and are becoming more widely known. ‘The Bikerni’ is the first All- Women’s Motorcycle Association of India that brings together new motorcyclists and similar-minded women from across the nation. Founded by Ms. Urvashi Patole in the year 2011, Bikerni aimed at breaking the male dominated field and creating a platform for India’s women bikers. ItÂ is special not only because it is an immense source of motivation and empowerment to all its members but also because it stands for an unyielding revolt against the society’s biased compartmentalization. The association created a new record by being the largest group of women motorcyclists to drive up to the highest motorable road in the world: Khardung-La. Apart from organizing drives, Bikerni also supports and conducts social awareness campaigns related to women and child development. Consisting of 374 passionate, tough women, their next goal is to expand into rural areas as well. Although Bikerni is but the first women’s motorcycle association in India, it has caused a spurt in the growth of several other smaller organizations and created a ripple in the once male centric world.
Women bikers have made us proud because they have been daring enough to take the first step in this dangerously judgemental world. They have demolished all the clichÃ©s of motorcycling being about macho men, scary gangs and tattooed muscles. They have announced to the daunting world that they cannot marginalized anymore and have become one of the many symbols of the resonating hope of the country’s women.