Panaji: "In a country where being a woman itself is a challenge, biking is just another challenge which women should not back out from," says 24-year-old Anam Hashim, India's youngest female stunt rider.
Hashim is one the thousands of bikers, who is participating in the ongoing India Bike Week in North Goa's Vagator beach village. The bike week also features a handful of women bikers, who have blazed a trail as bikers, conventionally considered a male domain.
Hashim made waves a few years ago, when she became the first woman to conquer Ladakh's treacherous Khardung La pass, the world's highest motorable road on a TVS Scooty Zest and the stunt rider, has never looked back ever since.
"Sometimes, when I look around I feel that being a woman in India is a challenge in itself and when you choose a sport like stunt riding like I did, many have no backing. Initially, I too faced resistance. Today I'm not only a biker, but also the youngest Indian female stunt rider at 24 years," she told IANS on the sidelines of the two-day event, which is billed as India's biggest motorbike festival.
Coming from a conservative Muslim family, stunt riding was not the easiest choice as a career, but the dogged lass, who started riding her father's motorcycle on the streets of her home-town, Shimla, at the age of 10, insisted on following her passion.
"One day, I overheard someone saying that women don't ride bikes; they either lean against them or the man riding it. That is when I decided to chart my own course as a stunt biker. Others should chart their own course in life too," she said.
Sonia Jain, a 33-year-old heavyweight woman biker is also attending the event. She entered the Limca Book of Records in 2017 for riding as many as 100 different models of motorcycles. Among the bikes, she rode her way into the record books ranged from the lightweight 63 kg Bajaj Sunny to the beast-like 360 kg Indian Road master, while also straddling vintage bikes like Ariel, BMW R69, Rajdoot GTS 175, Triumph, etc.
She claims, that the headcount of women bikers in India is seeing an upswing and that she chose to become an adventure biker to score a point for womanhood.
"I chose to become an adventure biker to prove the point that women, too, can own and ride a bike with elan. Biking is also about letting your hair down and just truly being yourself," said Sonia, whose love story with biking started when she passed out of college.
Karnataka-based Candida Louis (29) owes her passion to biking to her father and in her biking career, spanning just a bit more than a decade has ridden in 14 countries spread across five continents. Along the way, she also led 34 customised biking group tours across India and abroad.
Still the avid biker, Louis now also wants to focus on helping Indian bikers widen their horizon and invite them to life-changing journeys around the globe, just like her icon Australian Alistair Farland, a world renowned biker who died in an accident in North Carolina in 2014 during a world tour.
"I used to idolise Alistair Farland and his death shattered me. That's when I decided to bike all the way to Sydney and meet Alistair's family as a tribute to him and his journeys," she said, adding that the ride defined her as a biker and to see Alistair's mother meeting her during her ride Down Under was one of her most poignant moments in her biking career.
If women love biking, she urges, they should just hop on a bike and get going without wasting any precious time, hindrances irrespective.
"Go out there and start riding. There will always be hindrances, problems and situations that will make you feel like quitting is the better option, but only if you manage to remind yourself why you started in the first place, you will be able to achieve success and stand out from the crowd," Louis said.