PUBLISHED in BIKERS CLUB ® MAGAZINE October 2020, issue no 22.
Written by Mala Kaur (Rider).
"You are our Hero, Didi! We want to be like you." These words from young teenage girls in a program on 26th January gave me unimaginable satisfaction and inspiration. 'My Riding, My decision to become a RIDER' motivated them to break the girls' stereotype image.
Before I start, I must admit I am not very good at 'Writing.' I believe in Journey and its experiences more than its facts and destination. I am the first Lady rider who represented Karbi Anglong District. I belong to Diphu, a small-town- district headquarters of Karbi Anglong, Assam, a beautiful hilly place with its utmost cultural values. It lures all beauty lovers for merriment in a safe environment. Outdoor sports and riding scooty, father's Bajaj scooter were my childhood likings, But Professional riding on RE Bullet was nowhere in mind as my conservative Punjabi family didn't have any space for such thoughts in girls' lives. I wanted to be a sportswoman and had won many trophies, medals, etc. in many outdoor sports, but Girls were not allowed to wear manly clothes and even make friends of another gender. Generally, at the age when athletes retire, I, a single mother of two children, did my debut in the riding world. When I would see neighbouring riders on the streets, I enjoyed it. My inclination took me to them but found discouragement most of the time. Comments like "Why are you inquiring? A salwar-suit wali lady and Riding?!! You are not meant for BULLET RIDING, Use Scooty you are a female, A mother of 2 kids can't do this, It is a boys' world" these were words became my foundation of becoming a rider, and took a bold decision. Initially, I started riding for shorter distances on borrowed bikes of friends. It worked like meditation for me. I wanted to have a RE bullet on my name, but I got bitter rejection as the loan-company refused to loan Bullet on a woman's name. I slapped their condition with a cash purchase. My True partner of all the ups and downs of life, my Bike, came with me at home.
MY FIRST RIDE ON MY OWN BULLET- In the monsoon season, a group including three boys and I marched to explore India's North Eastern lands. The all-time best riding experience was waiting for me. Starting from Diphu to the Myanmar border via Kohima and Imphal was our route. We encountered an interesting blocked road accident because of a typical landslide in those hilly places, and the Army people were making it clear. We were quite impatient but then collected my strength to talk to soldiers. Surprisingly, I could convince them to give us a passage. Many then-unknown rider buddies from Manipur Yaiphaba, Rebecca, Koko, and Henry welcomed us very affectionately that can’t be forgotten ever. Koko gave me a piece of life-time advice that not to Overspeed to match other riders' speed or compete with somebody else but be in your speed comfort.
First time in my life, I stayed in the middle of a jungle in a tent, and there was no other woman to accompany me. The group behaved with me as a human, and that genderless behaviour was the need of the hour. Moreh, the zero point at the India-Myanmar border was our final destination. The thought of going to another country was making me excited. The first time, I had an experience of currency change, shopping there. We had to enter India the same as many of us didn’t carry passports. This ride taught me how to be adjustable in odd situations in life. Our 7-day ride ended happily.
With the fresh air of riding, life was becoming beautiful. But one day, suddenly, in May 2018, I saw an FB post of one of my known rider's plans of Ladakh. My casual comment to not have invited me turned into an insisting plan to join them at Kolkata the next day. The trio Tapan Das, Rajiv Sen, and Sandeep broad heartedly delayed the start by one day. Being puzzled whether to go or not, I asked my mother if she gets a chance to go to a Gurudwara; she wanted to visit for a long time what she will do, her reply, “I will go immediately.” Consent with a full heart was also given by my kids Neelam and Yuvi, at that lucky summer break. “You must go, Mumma.”
Within no time, I took the help of Seggy in Diphu because I didn't know what to carry in such a long journey. So I began on 22nd May, early morning, a real first solo ride of 1300Kms from Diphu to Kolkata via New Jalpaiguri. I clearly remember when I took my RE out of my gate in full-fledged riding gears, and acquaint engineer lady with her sister inquired about my going, I said “Ladakh” they were amazingly shocked and took selfies like I was a celebrity and gave well-wishes, that was a positive sign of my journey. The Kolkata team did the full groundwork; they were tracking my live location to avoid any difficulty. I spent a night in NJP at a rider’s place and resumed the next morning. On the way, I was feeling exhausted and drowsy. Most of the road was desolate in the middle of the deep forest. I had to take small breaks to avoid any accident, but I stopped only where there were people and a mobile network. A truck was chasing me intentionally because I was cautious. I stopped at a small cabin and asked for tea to freshen myself. That truck too stopped, two men, got down, started staring at me, perhaps my look was indigestible for them or might have something dirty in mind. Anyhow, I controlled my nervousness and said confidently, “Aise kya dekh rahe ho? Kya Kabhi koi ladki nahi dekhi?” My tone compelled them to change their mind. By the grace of God, I reached Kolkata late at night safely.
The next day my bike put on Riders’-bike look. My body was crying for sleep, but I got reminded of these words
“The woods are lovely, dark & deep, But I have promises to keep
& miles to go before I sleep.”
We started at 11:30 PM on 24th May with blessings of all near and dear ones. When most of the world was sleeping, we were riding to live our dream. From Kolkata to Varanasi, Kanpur, Delhi, Jalandhar, Jammu, Sonmarg, Kargil, and Leh was a roadmap. I kept wondering at different places by the welcome of riders, and I realized how big our network is. Before entering Sri Nagar, a group of local bikers misbehaved with us; they blocked my way and showed dirty signs, luckily an army check post came, and they slipped away. Another eye-opening incident happened with us at Dal lake, Sri Nagar. Some people came and rudely asked to remove our proud Tiranga from our bikes' flag sticks, helplessly we did. Due to a red alert in that area, we decided to reach Sonmarg before night. It was too chilly and dark; some angry locals threw plastic bottles at us; fortunately, nothing troublesome happened, and we managed to reach Sonmarg. I strongly condemn the act of local bikers, Shameful.
In the morning, when we were out of the hotel, we saw hotel staff tying the flags stick with bikes; we asked, “What are you guys doing? Removing it?” they smiled and showed us a very big tricolour from some distance. They clarified it is only in Jammu where some people don’t like our national flag. We headed towards our dream through Kargil and Zojila. We had made our minds about riding until we reach Khardungla. A different level of attraction and magic was there in those mountains. We decided to stop at a small cafeteria for refreshments thinking that we might not get any other cafe until Khardungla. We asked the owner how distant Khardungla was from there? Our jaws dropped when he said, “IT IS KHARDUNGLA ITSELF!!” you can easily guess how smooth our journey would have been that we had climbed the height of 18380ft effortlessly. Though the temperature was in minus and nature was at its best before my eyes. After KhardungLa, we marched to Nubra Valley and then Pangong Lake.
Have you ever seen a BED-SHEET hotel? Yes, the hotel made from Bed Sheets, which was in Dabring on the way to Manali. We spent a night there with a soothing feeling. The easier was our climbing; the tougher was our return down. Near Manali, I was an average speed, Rajiv was behind me, and it was he who filmed most of the journey through his GoPro. A car parked at the highway imbalanced my bike, and a sudden opening of its door dragged me many meters on the road. Riding gears saved my life, so I request, “All bikers must wear safety gear” When I was asked my condition, the first thing I said “Rajiv, have you shot my accident?” you may call it crazy because I didn’t feel any sensation of pain. However, my pants were torn with wounded thigh and one knee badly hurt. Fortunately, my bike didn't damage much, and the luggage was fine.
I couldn’t hit that driver because of his age. When we were doing first aid at a Dhaba, a crowd was there to see how I survived in this significant accident. Perhaps because of my loving papa, Lt. Rebel Singh. I always felt his presence whenever I found myself in trouble; that's why I call myself a REBEL’S GIRL; no other name worths it. I can’t thank much to that sweet boy of my Yubi’s age who dispersed the crowd and created a private space with a curtain and allowed access to their personal washroom too. His maturity and actions won my heart. All three partners cared for each other more than a family and grew to bond forever.
Doctors advised me not to walk for a few days and forget about riding for a while. All told me to take a flight and go back home. But I was adamant, “I already had travelled seven thousand km, and how can I quit for another just three thousand km?” A rider can only understand another rider's feelings, so my decision to continue the ride was appreciated and accepted by my fellow riders. RE’s quick service repaired my bullet. ‘Bhaag Mala Bhaag’ was my inspiring phrase afterwards, as I wanted to complete my journey soon. From Sasaram Bihar, Tapan Da, and Rajiv took a right for Kolkata, Sandeep, and I came straight to Guwahati. In Bihar, at a motel, many villagers gathered to see me from near like a showpiece. At Diphu, all riders received me well, and my 25-day journey ended happily.
SIKKIM NERM (North East Riders’ Meet) Nov 2018: Hosts welcomed me, the first lady rider in the meet with special drink and hooting was overwhelming for a lady rider like me. I could see the respect for me. ‘ Ladakh Return’ tag changed my identity from NOTHING to SOMETHING. In my first NERM at Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh, Oct. 2017, I was an alien. First time I learned how deep this ocean of Riding is. In Sikkim, many people wanted to meet me like someone special. I could meet a lady rider whom I respected a lot. She has been my inspiration as she proved that a woman could be a good wife, cook, mother, daughter, professional, and a good rider parallelly. Next, NERM happened in Nov. 2019 at Aizawl, Mizoram. I got the sharpest cuts I have ever seen on this tour. Roads were so narrow there that if a four-wheel comes, you can’t cross. The same thing happened to me; a local driver in Maruti 800 scratched my bike; I was just on the edge of the road. If I had imbalanced, I would have died for sure. I cried; how could I manage that. After that, the event took place in full swing.
MUSTANG (NEPAL): Next big ride after Ladakh was Mustang in April 2019. This time Rajiv accompanied me. It was a challenging tour. Our paths were through rivers of pebbles with extreme off-roading. You may get an idea of the road's condition because it took us 12 hours to cover 173 KMs from Pokhara to Muktinath, Mustang. We took our bikes to the very high point where no one can even dare to think; generally, visitors use either mules, Pitthu, or go on foot. From Pokhara, we moved to Kathmandu. After this, riding on a type of silk road, Sindhuli Highway having beautiful curves was Dil Garden type moments. Worth mentioning experience was riding on one of the world’s highest suspension bridges ‘Kushma Parvat Gari bridge’ with 135m tall and 344m long dimensions. It was daring to be there. A rider must visit this in life.
Besides all these professional rides, I have had some only for my children as a Mother-rider. I thought to visit Gurudwara in Dhubri; my ten-year-old son was my pillion, and out of fear of him getting sleepy on the way, I tied him with me as Jhansi Ki Rani. I got the compliment of ‘Jhansi Ki Rani’ there in a Gurudwara.
Last year in Nov-Dec, during the burning protests against CAB in Assam and West Bengal, I had to keep the promise of meeting my 4th-year medical student daughter Neelam in Olatpur Bhubneshwar; I kept my promise and undertook an entirely solo journey to explore almost the whole Odisha. Entire college staff professors, doctors, and students showed respect, and my daughter felt proud of me because of my riding. Spending some time on hostel life with her was a very precious moment for me. I have seen many fellows chase long distances and milestones in terms of KMs, but I find myself at my best during the ride and in the lap of divine nature for the ultimate PEACE milestone.
Being a true nature lover, I invite all the bikers to visit North East as it is equally adventurous as Ladakh or any other place of riding. North East is the living paradise for riders and all others. It has whatnot that riders want, Be it off-roading, muddy roads, sharpest turns, roads on heights, wildlife, waterfalls, in short, everything. One can come across different cultures, different tribes, and their lifestyles. My town Diphu, Karbi Anglong, carries all these adventures in its lap. I have ridden in all the North East's seven sisters, and I claim, it is not less than any heaven on earth. So I insist you all come here once and explore the raw beauty.
Riding is not just a sport for fun; it is my new life with dignity and honour. Many challenges always surround a woman’s life, but this made everything wonderful for me. Riding made me live my other dream of playing different games through sports segments in riding events. I not only participated but also won many trophies, cups, and medals in those games. Apart from these significant incidents, I have seen numerous places and have various experiences during the ride. So many things are there that can’t be sum up in a short writing piece. I will do share if I get a chance. I will be delighted to render my services in any help for all rider family.
THANKS FOR READING
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