"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.
She was one among thousands of bikers who participated in the India Bike Week in North Goa's Vagator beach village recently. It is considered India's biggest motorbike festival.
Biking in India is traditionally considered a male domain. Ms 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. The stunt rider has not looked back 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, many have no backing," she said. "Initially, I too faced resistance. Today I'm not only a biker, but also the youngest Indian female stunt rider at 24 years."
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 hometown 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," she said. "Others should chart their own course in life too."
Ms Sonia Jain, a 33-year-old heavyweight woman biker, also took part in the India Bike Week.
She entered the Limca Book of Records in 2017 for riding as many as 100 different models of motorcycles.
The bikes she rode ranged from the lightweight 63kg Bajaj Sunny to the beast-like 360kg Indian Road master. She has also straddled vintage bikes such as Ariel, BMW R69, Rajdoot GTS 175 and Triumph.
She claims the headcount of women bikers in India is on the rise 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," she said. "Biking is also about letting your hair down and just truly being yourself."
Ms Sonia's love story with biking started when she passed out of college.
Karnataka-based Candida Louis, 29, owes her passion for biking to her father. Her biking career, spanning over a decade, has seen her ride in 14 countries spread across five continents. She has also led 34 customised biking group tours across India and abroad.
Ms Louis now a wants to focus on helping Indian bikers widen their horizon and invite them to life-changing journeys around the globe.
She idolises Australian Alistair Farland, a renowned biker who died in an accident in North Carolina in 2014 during a world tour.
"His death shattered me," said Ms Louis. "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 the ride defined her as a biker and to meet Alistair's mother was one of the most poignant moments in her biking career. She urges women who love biking to hop on a bike and get going without wasting precious time.
"Go out there and start riding," she said. "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, will you be able to achieve success and stand out from the crowd."
Indo-Asian News Service