Stories of power women at SheThePeople’s ‘Gurgaonwaali’
On 18th January 2018, SheThePeople hosted an event, “Gurgaonwaali’ at the Sodabottleopenerwala at Cyber Hub in Gurugram, Gurgaon. This was the first edition event to what is envisaged as successive series of events that highlight stories of powerful women. The concept behind Gurgaonwaali, as SheThePeople see it, is that, “There’s more to Gurgaon than being a corporate hub, excessive pollution and aggressive Jats…Let’s talk about the experiences and journeys… women have had…”
In the first edition of Gurgaonwaali, Mandy Merwah and Neharika Yadav, the two biker women were invited as speakers. “Mandy Merwah spearheads EagleRider Academy that trains women to ride motorcycles so that others like her may also fulfill their dreams of riding. She has spent over two decades in the Middle East, where it was illegal for women to ride motorcycles.” Neharika Yadav is a doctor (Dentist) by profession and Superbike Racer by passion. Dr. Yadav believes, “Core Strength training is a must for riders!! Get off that couch and push yourself to work on the best version of yourself. You Snooze You Lose.”
The best part about the event was that it was for one hour and hosted at the Sodabottleopenerwala. One hour is the ideal time length to hold and retain audience interest. If the event venue has amazing eats as Sodabottleopenerwala, it is awesome multiplied by 2. I heard the discussion while sipping a cup of steaming Irani tea and luscious cookies.
Usually when one imagines a biker, a very macho image comes leaping forth… even if it is a woman. Mandy and Neharika not only break the stereotypes in real life but also break the same in your head. Mandy loves crochet and knits to de-stress when she is not biking. Neharika rides when she is not wearing the Doctor’s hat. Mandy started riding at the age of 45 years and today she manages an academy that teaches people to ride bikes. Neharika started riding at the age of 16 years when she first met bike racers. She attributes her love for racing to genetic coding as her parents used to race cars in their prime. When Mandy was asked if she would teach riding to her teenage daughters, she confessed her apprehensions because she is first a mother and then a rider. “It is easy to teach others to ride. I can’t bring myself to do the same with my daughters.” Mandy cannot imagine herself as the riding coach to her daughters.
I asked them about public place safety for women bike riders. Mandy and Neharika both were of the opinion that a woman rider must be prudent and careful about the cultural context of the geography where she is riding. Neharika emphasized on the importance of wearing the complete riding gear for all bike riders. Since riding gear makes one look gender neutral, it becomes an added advantage to the women riders. Mandy suggested tucking the hair inside the helmet and riding in packs as opposed to riding solo. Neharika expressed that in India, girls and women anyway have to be careful. It is the same caution that a woman biker must exercise. However, upon further elaboration about their biking experiences, both of them expressed their satisfaction at having been successful at breaking stereotypes around bikes and riders to a large extent.