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Sun, 19 Nov 2017

Northeast Today

Accelerators, Breaks & Clutches

Accelerators, Breaks & Clutches
September 11
13:32 2017

August Edition, Special Story, NET Bureau, Priyanka Paul, Shrabani Barman & Tanya Rose Rao

Riding motorbikes has always been popular in India, but it has usually been an ‘all-men-affair’ with women filling up the rear seat and acting as a trophy pillion. Now the trend is changing with the advent of a number of female-only bikers’ clubs and groups, which have overturned the widely held stereotypes. Northeast Today presents before you a few female riders (from the Northeast) who have taken the world by bhroom!

Cyclist to a Motorcyclist

Cyclist to Motorcyclist

She was an avid cyclist. With fond memories of cycling with her brother, Arunachal’s Tenzin Metoh stole bike keys of the guests who visited their house and enjoyed the gust of air that caressed her hair and face as she turned the accelerator while zooming past the beautiful locales of the valley.

NET: What does biking symbolize for you?

Tenzin: Biking gives me happiness; it makes me feel alive like never before. I tend to put aside all my work and join my friends (who happen to be my club members too) wherever they go.

NET: What messages do you spread with biking?

Tenzin: Watch that speed, wear the helmet and follow the rules of traffic. It doesn’t get as simpler than that.

NET: Immediate and future plans

Tenzin: I am currently working as a State Consultant for PHED, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh. I have no plans as of now. As they say, life happens when you’re busy making plans. I’m going to live in the moment and consume what comes my way.

NET: Girls riding bikes is definitely breaking a stereotype. What is your opinion about it?

Tenzin: Truly speaking, I feel a little disappointed. As women, we should have started bike riding a long ago. We shouldn’t allow societal roles to define us or restrict us. When people compliment me about as being one of the first in Arunachal Pradesh, I’m more surprised than flattered. It’s time that we alter our perception of things.

NET: What does feminism mean to you?

Tenzin: Feminism to me is working as hard as any other in-dividual. I believe in earning my rewards and not begging for it. It’s time to get out of this oppressed psychology. To answer your question, yes, I’m a feminist.

NET: Your family and friends’ reactions when you started this endeavour?

Tenzin: I’m happy to say that the reaction of my family and friends was definitely a positive one. Not one person discouraged me by saying that it was too dangerous or by reminding me of my assumed roles. In fact, it was my mother who had gifted me my bike.

NET: Brief us about the preparations put in behind every trip.

Tenzin: On my first trip, I remember shivering all night. Though I carried a tent with me, I forgot to bring my sleeping bag along. It was the dead of winter and the ground felt as if it was freezing. I felt very awkward going up to another rider and borrowing one of their sleeping bags in fear of my intentions being misunderstood. I vowed to be equipped from then on, so much so that I even carry face wipes with me now. I’m a member of the Royal Arunachal Riders. There, I’m treated like a princess since we’re just two women.

NET: Your take on highway massacres and hooliganisms?

Tenzin: It would be inhuman of me not to be affected by such news. But such news does make me more aware, allowing me to be more alert, allowing me to be capable of protecting myself.

Fearless Riders

Nirdhar

They love to call themselves as ‘Nirdhar’ meaning determination or one who hold water cloud. Assam’s Nirmali Nath and Dharitri Terangpi are two females on the wheels who believe in going the extra mile and aims to reach everywhere to where their Royal Enfield can take them to. Hills or plains, for them roads are their second home.

NET: Brief us about your initial biking days

Nirmali: I have always been interested in riding, though I initially used to ride a scooter. I was passionate about travelling and looking at other women riding bikes outside gave me the push that I needed. This decision that I made four years ago, is perhaps the best decisions that I’ve made thus far.

Dharitri: I too was always passionate about riding and looking at my senior, Nirmali, inspired me to buy a bike of my own.

NET: What does biking riding symbolize for you?

Nirdhar: For us, riding is symbolic to freedom, power and confidence to let go of our inhibitions and stigma. It has given us the confidence to brave out our passion.

NET: Why is that you both always ride Royal Enfield?

Nirdhar: Royal Enfield is the most comfortable of all machines and it is built for all types of terrains. If there’s any sort of problem during an expedition, servic-ing is easily available as well. But what we enjoy most is the brotherhood that exists in our group, the thick relation that we Royal Enfield riders share.

 NET: What messages do you spread with bike riding?

Nirdhar: We essentially aim to promote women empowerment. During one of our journeys from Guwahati to Ladakh, we rode through nine states, which gave us the opportunity to interact with a number of women- be it other bikers or home makers. We tell them our story, they tell us theirs. We also aim to spread awareness about saving Rhinos. Finally, our last message was to tie the Assamese gamusa in Khardong La, the mountain pass in Ladakh region, one of the highest motor able roads in the world.

NET: What are your immediate plans for the future?

Nirdhar: We plan to tour the entire Northeast at the earliest, if not together, than may be individually. We want to focus on Assam because our state is full of lovely places to see and we would love to attract some tourism here.

NET: Girls riding long distances is breaking a stereotype. Your take on it?

Nirdhar: We think that it isn’t unusual for men to ride bikes, but is so for women. Why do we allow such a distinction in roles and activities in the first place? Aren’t we all capable of the same things if we put our minds to it? Once we’re on the road, we feel invincible. It is these stereotypes that we want to get rid of.

NET: Would you say that you are feminists? If so, what does feminism mean to you?

Nirdhar: Yes, we are feminists. We simply think that there should be no discrimination between sexes. We’ve often been told that we spend most of our time travelling whereas we should be more committed to taking care of the household. We want to break away fromsuch stereotypical roles.

NET: Reactions of your family and friends when you began this endeavour

Nirdhar: Our parents were initially worried about our safety because places like UP, Bihar and Kashmir are very unsafe. We may be at the risk of anything, any time. You can now say that they’re more in sync with the idea, especially since they’ve realized that we’re unstoppable.

NET: Brief us about the preparations put in behind every trip.

Nirdhar: Before any trip, we make sure to get our bikes serviced. We take safety into high consideration, so there’s a lot that we take with us. Starting with riding gears, safety gears such as helmets, riding boots, jackets etc. The accident that I, Nirmali, had recently, if it wasn’t for the safety gear that I had on, the collision would have killed me. Besides such essentials, we also carry water bottles and sleeping bags with us. There have been times where we could not find hotels in the middle of the night, so we had to make do with sleeping in the fields nearby, as dangerous as that was. We set out early in the day with a target. We usually don’t stop until we reach our target destination.

NET: Your experiences of the highways, especially massacres and hooliganisms?

Nirdhar: News about Highway massacres and hooliganisms is rampant, but fortunately, we’ve never faced such problems yet. There was this one time though, when we were threatened by some locals in Kashmir. They stopped short when they assumed that more bikers were on the way.

NET: Which are the routes that you’ve taken?

Nirdhar: You can say that we’ve almost toured the entire North India. We plan to tour the Northeast, as mentioned earlier and South India soon. The two of us have also taken the initiative of promoting Assam by increasing tourism. It has come to our notice that most riders visit the Northeast and completely bypass Assam in attempts to visit Shillong. Assam is a beautiful place and it deserves some attention too.

NET: Which has been the longest so far?

Nirdhar: Longest routes we’ve taken are from Pathankot to Kashmir. As the duo gears up for the next adventure on road, Nirmali is busy with her new venture- www.axomeasyhomeshop.com through which she wants to reach out more.

Passionate Highway Trotter

Highway Trotter

Mizoram’s Rosalynn Lianhmingthangi love bikes and the endless highways is an affair that is born out of pure passion. She rides because she loves it. Riding sets her free and catalyses her mind to achieve what she desires to.

NET: How did you begin biking?

Rosalynn: I had always possessed great interest in bikes since I was young. It had always been a dream to own a bike of my own and explore places with it. I decided to turn this dream into reality by buying my own Royal Enfield Classic 350 with the money that I earned. This has brought me so much content.

NET: What does biking symbolize for you?

Rosalynn: Truly speaking, I do not associate anything to my bike riding. In my opinion, riding a bike is a strong enough experience. I ride because I’m passionate about it and it brings me joy.

NET: What messages do you spread with bike riding?

Rosalynn: I would say that it’s my way of promoting gender equality. Being a woman should not come in the way of doing things.

NET: What are your immediate plans for the future?

Rosalynn: I plan to attend the North East Riders’ Meet (NERM) which is going to be held this coming November in Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh.

NET: Girls riding bikes is definitely breaking a stereotype. What is your opinion about it?

Rosalynn: I do not care about the restrictions that are associated with being a woman. I wouldn’t want people to tell me what to do. What matters to me is that I enjoy riding and that I ride safely.

NET: What does feminism mean to you?

Rosalynn: I aim to be an individual who is comfortable in her own skin. To me, feminism signifies having the freedom to make my own choices, decisions and values to conduct my life without judgment.

NET: Your family and friends’ reactions when you started this endeavour?

Rosalynn: Initially, my parents were a little worried about how such an activity would be perceived by society. Now, though, they are positive and supportive of my decision and I couldn’t have asked for more. It’s a lovely feeling to receive my family’s blessings.

NET: Brief us about the preparations put in behind every trip.

Rosalynn: Besides my clothing and personal necessities, I never fail to carry my rain suit, first aid kit, tools and spare parts that can fit in my saddle bag. When I rode to Nepal recently, I had faced a minor breakdown, but was able manage to take control of the situation because I was equipped, both physically and mentally. It was one of the most satisfying trips that I have taken.

NET: Your experiences of the highways, especially massacres and hooliganisms?

Rosalynn: It’s a real shocker now and then to hear of such news. In my opinion, there’s nothing much that can be done besides riding safely, free from alcohol and illicit items and being aware and obeying the rules of traffic. Unforeseen circumstances may still prevail but one has got to be able to have the confidence to brave through it.

The Devout Rider

Devout Rider

Currently pursuing B Tech from Gauhati University, Anee Sharma happens to be the first female biker to have reached Bumla Pass (Indo-China border). A photography enthusiast who also loves to cook and sleep, Anee’s first love, however, always remains taking the wheels out and explore the unexplored vistas.

NET: How did you begin your biking?

Anee: Right from my childhood I have wanted to do something extraordinary which normally females don’t do. Riding a bike was always an inner call and my parents gave wings to this dream. I rode a gearless scooter when I was in Class VI and by the time I reached Class IX, biking became a part of my life.

NET: What does biking mean for you?

Anee: For me, biking is like worshipping. It has taught me that life can give you a second chance and most importantly the world around me is so much beautiful that I can’t die without seeing it. A road travelled has many stories to unfold, teaching me discipline, patience, and tolerance. Precisely, it has taught me about brotherhood.

NET: What messages do you spread with biking?

Anee: A woman is more powerful than anyone thinks or she herself thinks she is to be. Basically it is like breaking stereotypes.

NET: Why is that you always ride Royal Enfield?

Anee: My choice of riding a Royal Enfield is for one iconic reason- it is not a plastic bike and it can go through any worst conditioned roads and deadliest terrains and up hills or mountains of any height and at any temperature. And yeah, it does give a royal feeling.

NET: Do you think girls riding bike is breaking stereotypes? What is your opinion on this?

Anee: Yeah, riding a bike is basically breaking stereotype. For me, yes I have gone through all different types of humiliation. Saying worst, like once a middle aged man analysed me, whether I am a guy or a girl by just looking straight to my chest. That day I realised what it takes a female to ride on the city roads.

NET: Who inspired you to ride a bike?

Anee: My inspiration has been the ‘Bulls of Assam’ motorcycling club. Every member is highly supportive and motivating. Apart from the club, the only female rider who is forever an inspiration for me is Richa Devi Bajracharya- the first female rider who did the Khardung La expe-dition from Northeast back in 2014.

N ET: Your family and friends’ reactions when you started this endeavour?

Anee: My family has always been positive about my bike riding and they have motivated me throughout. The best part is that it was dad’s dream to ride aroun0d the globe and through me he is living his dream. Mymom is herself an Asian Power Lifter. They are proud of me.

NET: When did you start your first journey?

Anee: I embarked on my first journey on March 8, 2015, to Bumla Pass, which is the Indo China border, located at a height of 15,200ft. It was an 8-day trip. Interestingly, till then no female biker from the Northeast rode till there. The Bumla Pass route is considered as much more challenging than the Khardung La Pass.

DevoutRider

NET: Places that you have travelled so far

Anee: I have been to several places like Tezpur, Nameri, Karbi- Anglong, Cherrapunji, Jakrem and several other remote places. However, one of my most memorable trips has been a visit to Khardung La Pass.

NET: Brief us about the preparations put in behind every trip.

Anee: Whenever I start on a journey, the list of things needs to be carried depend on the length of the trip. If it’s for a month, things that I carry include toolkits for the bike in case of breakdown, spare parts, pump-kit, headlamps for nights, sharp objects like a cutter or a knife, first-aid box, ample amount of clothes, extra engine oil, tents for sudden accommodation on roads, water storage, ample amount of dry foods or fruits and definitely proper biking attire which includes a safety riding gear with arm guards, back and chest guards, knee guards and most importantly the headgears and raincoats.

NET: What are your immediate plans for the future?

Anee: There are no immediate plans as such. However, I would love to travel the entire northeast and may be few international trips. Sooner or later, but yes for sure!

Footnote

Women on motorcycles are powerful. And they’re teaching that if you can master your motorcycle, you can master anything. Transformation that begins with one inspires many more who are ready to make a change, with an established community waiting to welcome and provide support.

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