New Delhi — India’s capital city — has hugely congested roads. It’s also notorious for being unsafe for women with stalking and molestations reported on streets and public transport.
This daily strife of travel paved the way for a beautiful pan-Indian women’s bike organization — Bikerni — which took shape in 2011 to unite female bikers across the country. A motorbike brought independence, safety and confidence. It brought power.
While patriarchy did widen its eyes at this revolution, the Indian woman zoomed ahead with her shoulders erect and head held high, reclaiming her space in this city of over 20 million. As an Indian female biker once said, your gender does not matter on a bike. All that matters is your confidence.
There are thousands of female bike riders in India today inspiring girls and women across the country. Their presence has also encouraged feminist campaigns, like the 2016 women’s motorbike ride through Delhi, which was organized by a human rights NGO.
One of India’s leading dailies reported last year that Bikerni now has over 2000 members across India, ranging from the ages of 19 to 53 years, and 14 chapters across the country.
Many commercial centers have started teaching women how to ride bikes, and travel sites are seeing registrations for women-only bike tours rise in number.
To celebrate the spirit of travel and the resilience of the Indian woman, we bring you a short interview with Indian biker Kavita Nambiar:
Q: When did you first ride a bike? And why?
A: I was thirteen when I first started learning how to ride a bike. My father had a bike and because I always did what my brother did, I began to learn along with him.
Q: What did it feel like to ride a bike?
A: It felt so good! I was the only girl in my friends circle who could ride a bike. I have also taught one of my aunts to ride a scooter and that was such a nice feeling.
Q: How does your passion for bikes help you in other aspects of life — be it parenting or dealing with the mundanities of a busy work life?
A: I live in the moment when I ride. Only the moment…the rest can take care of itself. Riding makes me more mindful. It liberates me.
The way I sit on a bike — back straight, head erect, eyes focused — makes me feel majestic. I love the breeze which touches my body while riding. I believe it’s inspiring for my daughter to see her mom ride. I can show her we can do anything!
I have taught her never to compartmentalize anything based on gender. I teach her that God has created us in two different molds — that’s the only difference between genders. Each one of us is capable of doing anything and everything, if we set our minds to it.
Q: How often do you ride?
A: I go on social rides once or twice a month.
Q: Do you own a bike?
A: No, I don’t own a bike yet. I always rent bikes when I have to go on rides. I like to pick and choose different bikes.
Q: Tell us about the most challenging ride you have been on.
A: The most challenging ride has been to Avalabetta — about 100 kms from Bangalore. The road was very steep and rocky. Many of my fellow riders slipped from their bike, which was a bit scary to see.
Q: What did it teach you?
A: Experience and confidence are what keep you safe on roads.
Q: What are the best places you have ridden to?
A: I have ridden about 100 km around Bangalore, and each one of my trips has been special. If you ask me about my best trip, it was to Yercaud in Tamil Nadu because of the hair pin bends and the beauty of the mountains.
Q: There is a common perception that India is not the safest place to travel as a female. How do you stay safe during your trips?
A: We travel in groups so safety isn’t much of a concern. Besides, we also have a strict protocol to follow which we all do. Safety gears are a must for smaller rides even.
Q: What would you say to women who think motorbikes are for men?
A: I respect their views, but they have to ride a bike to know how it feels when we straddle one.
Q: Do you have a dream destination?
A: Yes. Northeastern India — it’s where I have never been. There are many beautiful places to explore there, especially Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. I would love to see those mountains and waterfalls and trees and snowcapped hills.
(Raised in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, Kavita Nambiar lives and works in Bengaluru.)
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