Almost 6 years ago, I was traveling in Ooty (a hill station in southern India) with a few of my friends. We were just interns then and had a really low budget to travel. We found the cheapest accomodation and were mostly using public transportation to get around. The public transport buses would take us only to the most touristy spots, which were all very crowded. As we were looking out of the window, we saw some beautiful places go by, where we wished we could have made a stop. We also saw many guys race past us on their motorbikes speeding up and down the winding hill roads. One of my friends said: “Next time, we’ll come here on motorbikes as well. Then we can stop anywhere we want and take a gazillion photos.” I asked: “Can I ride a motorcycle too?” He replied: “Of course! Why not?”
That’s how it began.
I asked myself that question too. Why not?
As most people know motorbiking isn’t very popular activity amongst women. More than that, the concept of women riding motorcycles itself isn’t very familiar in our society. In India, the percentage of women riding motorcycles is much lower than anywhere else. As a result of that, when I mentioned this new desire to my parents and some of my close friends, I got a reaction which ranged from pure dismissal to all sorts of questions and concerns on thinking of such a thing. Of course some of those were also a result of concern about my safety, since it’s no news that motorbiking can be a dangerous sport. But in India, millions of men ride them around everyday besides the risk. It bothered me, that if I was a guy, it would have only been natural to want to ride a motorcycle. Although, instead of discouraging me, their reactions fueled my desire even more. I had a clear opportunity to do something fun and adventuours, but also change the perception that people around me had about girls riding motorcycles. Not only that, I also had an opportunity to inspire other girls and women to try the activity. That’s when I was determined to learn how to ride a motorbike.
I first wanted to do this secretly, almost as if I didn’t want to prove it to the world quite yet. So I signed up for driving lessons at a small driving school around the corner from my house in Bangalore. I went for two classes and gave up, because I was very uncomfortable sitting so close to a complete stranger as a pillion on a motorbike giving me instructions and teaching me the controls for the bike. My 2000 Rupees just went down the drain.
That time I was fortunate enough to have friends who were motorcycle enthusiasts. I finally mustered the courage to ask one of my friends to give me lessons and asked another friend if I could borrow his bike and practice. The lessons were pretty similar in nature like the ones you get to drive a car. I picked it up slowly, but well. After many mornings and evenings of practice I was finally able to ride the motorbike around the city by myself. And I have to tell you, it was the most liberating and delightful thing to do.
When I rode it, I felt like I became one with the machine. It felt just like an extension of my limbs (with a lot of power of course). As I steered my way through the air, I could feel its resistance on my entire body, brush through my hair and make my eyes moist. My adrenaline flow was directly connected to the accelerator, and it got me hooked to riding. Not to forget, safety immediately became the utmost importance, else what was the point?
I was really grateful to my friend who took out the time and patiently taught me, bearing with my eagerness and stubborness to learn this as soon as possible. I was grateful to my friend who lent me his bike to practice. Each time I rode down the motorbike on roads in Indian cities and villages, I could see awe and pleasant surprises on people’s faces from the corner of my eye. My Dad still hasn’t seen me ride, but my Mom had a look of pride on her face when she saw me coming on the motorbike for the first time. As for many other friends, family members, and bystanders they’ve also started asking the question. Why not?