Meet the Royal Enfield riders in Mumbai who happen to be women. They prefer tool box over a makeup box, petrol and diesel over perfumes and dirt and sweat over liptick. Women bike riders might not be as common as women car drivers in India. But definitely, their strength is growing in leaps and bounds. These riders come from various backgrounds; few are IT professionals, communication professionals, police force personnel, doctors, actors, even chefs and home makers.
In 2011, pune women Firdaus Sheikh and Urvashi Patole decided to form India’s first ever women biker group called – The Bikerni. They wanted to spearhead women empowerment through the medium of motorcycles and encourage women to go on adventures they would have never thought to go on before. Theirs is the first group registered with the International Women Bikers Association. They decided to reach out to women across India and within a few days, close to 200 women came up to join the group. Sheetal Bidaye, 36, one of the most active members in the group became the first female solo biker to reach the world’s highest motorable pass, Marsimik La, and won a place in India’s Limca book of records for her feat.
This group is not just plain faff, only meant for women pursuing a hobby in riding bikes; but a way to drive social cause specially related women and children. They have taken part in social causes such as the ‘International Girl Child Day’ with CRY-Child Rights and You and recently for Damini case. They organise events such as motorcycle trips, participate in the International Female Ride Day every year, associated with Royal Enfield for a television show, etc. Their 11 female motorcyclist’s set the record for the first and largest group of lady motorcyclist’s to have reached Khardung-La, the highest motorable road in the world on motorcycles. One of these 11 women is Dr Aparna Bandodkar, a dentist by profession who has formed REgals for women bikers in Mumbai. REgals stands for Royal Enfield – gals. Also, the name echoes the sentiment of women bikers in Mumbai. Of course, they are the queens of the roads.
Aparna’s love for bikes grew as a child when she accompanied her dad on bike rides. She affectionately calls her bike ‘Bijli’ which means lightning in Hindi. She gets weird looks when she rides Bijli to work. Men in India, usually find women bikers to be intimidating. “People say girls can’t kick-start bikes or put them on a stand without the help of a man; I just wanted to prove girls can do that too,” she says as she powers up Bijli to demonstrate. Dr Bandodkar keeps on participating in rides to support various causes. This group keeps on meeting at regular intervals for planning various rides in and around Mumbai. To be a part of this group, or contact the members please visit: https://www.facebook.com/#!/TheRegalsReGalsgirlsOfMumbai