By Rythm Sachdeva:
When Shriya graduated from school and had successfully taken admission in a college in Delhi University’s North Campus, she had only one thing to ask from her parents – A Bullet.
Her father was initially reluctant but had to buy one for his daughter anyway because he had promised. Even today, if a woman is spotted on a motorbike, several heads turn, but that hasn’t stopped Shriya or other amazing women from following their passion.
According to ‘Autocar India’ around 350 million people in India ride bikes out of which, less than 5% riders are females. The point to take note of is the fact that Indian women are gradually occupying the erstwhile male dominated sports of riding gear motorbikes.
When Durga Nandini, a former journalist and current employee of Change.org, had bought her first bike in 2005, she made sure that it was registered under her name. She didn’t succumb to her parents’ expectations that wanted her to behave like ‘other girls’. She believed her decision of owning a motorbike for the purpose of commuting daily was as normal as it was for any other man. But sadly, she accepts that even after a decade of owning a motorbike, the society has hardly changed its discriminatory approach to women bike riders.
The challenge begins at home. Most women have to go against their parents’ will and the society’s image of an ‘ideal woman’ to follow their dreams. “My brother does not want me to mention my love for bikes in my introduction on the matrimonial site. He is worried that no decent man will ever marry a woman who rides a motorbike”, says Shwetha Ravichandran, an independent motorbike rider from Chennai.
Receiving lewd comments from complete strangers, mostly men, is not an uncommon experience for female motorbike riders. Many think that riding motorbikes are ‘manly’ and are meant to be ridden by men alone.
Female motorbike riding clubs are coming up all over the country. ‘Bikerni‘ is one of the first female motorbike riders’ clubs in India. The group has its name on the Limca Book of World Records of 2013 for being the largest all-women group to ride to Khardung-La, considered the highest motorable mountain pass.
The group ‘Biking Queens’ went to Thailand, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, Bhutan, Myanmar, Singapore and Malaysia to promote Narendra Modi’s ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ initiative.
Be it Bengaluru-based group, ‘Hop On Gurls’ or Mumbai-based ‘Regals’ or Surat’s ‘Biking Queens’, women across India are shunning their doubts and are chasing their dreams on their motorbikes.
Not everyone has the same experience. Despite India being considered unsafe for women, many women bikers have come up with positive experiences on roads and have called India ‘safe’.
Irrespective of experiences, the air around us is definitely changing. Women will continue to break free from their shackles and do what they want to.