Women’s International Motorcycle Association (WIMA) is a motorcycling club that was established in the 1950s by Louise Scherbyn, and now has chapters in over 25 countries – Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Curacao, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Thailand and the United States. The latest additions to WIMA are India and Romania. Earlier this month, I met the India team of WIMA as they wrapped up a short weekend ride to the outskirts of New Delhi.
Iyishha, Pallavi, Vidhi, Niharika and Antra constitute some of the team members of WIMA in India. Biking binds the team as they live their individual lives alongside their passion. Jobs, families and residences spread across New Delhi; the team finds their calling in biking and a sorority in the community of bikers.
Since WIMA is a global organization, the riders find the WIMA support system if they happen to ride in countries where it exists. If a WIMA rider is in trouble, all she has to do is get in touch with the chapter members in the country. Help always arrives.
Some key takeaways from my interaction with them:
Women bikers have unique concerns that men bikers don’t understand. Which hotel or places are safe? Where to buy gloves? The biker accessories are freely available for men. It is the women who need to scout something that answers their anatomical needs while riding.
As compared to men, women riders or drivers are judged harshly for road etiquette. If a man does the same mistake as a woman, people don’t react as much.
When you learn riding, be prepared to fall and get hurt. Don’t let that deter you from learning how to bike. The joy of riding is unparalleled.
If you know that a rider has taken on an ambitious route that is topographically challenging and she does not realise how challenging it really is; please don’t tell her ‘in good interest’. Let her go ahead. Once she survives, she will not only be proud and have a great riding experience in her kitty; but she will be thankful to you for not saying that before the ride. Don’t scare riders.
The thing about biker sorority is that we are the 2 a.m. friends to each other. No matter what time and where we have to go, we do. Every biker has needed that kind of help and hence in helping, we pay back or pay forward.
Iyishha of WIMA India learnt biking at the motorcycling academy. Pallavi has been riding two wheelers since the age of 10 years. Her husband taught her how to ride a Royal Enfield. Vidhi (President of WIMA India) learnt biking to empower herself. Growing up in a family that predominantly has men; she saw her brother ride bikes and realized that mobility can feel liberating. Quite befitting for the President, Vidhi’s riding has been self-taught. Antra learnt riding on a Hero Puch. When people made fun of her, she asked them, “What bike looks cool?” When people replied, “Royal Enfield”, she decided, “Okay, that is what I will ride.” She rose up to the challenge and succeeded with élan. Niharika, like Iyishha learnt riding from an academy. However, she trained under the motorcycling legend, Trigun Pathania, a fantastic teacher and well known motorcyclist. Before going to the academy, Niharika’s father taught her to ride a Yezdi.
We have names for our bikes. Iyishha’s bike is ‘Baby’and ‘Darling’, Pallavi’s is ‘Baba’, Antra’s is ‘Binky’ and Niharika’s bike is called ‘Janice’ and Vidhi’s ‘Leo’, which is named in memory of her first dog. We talk to our bikes and are emotionally attached to it. It never lets us down. It has not broken down in places where we can’t fix it.
'A message for non-bikers is there 's nothing in this world we cannot do. Let us just do it. Once you will, you will realise the value of independence and what it gives you and what your own worth is, you totally love it.' – Iyishha of #WIMAIndia. https://t.co/bkZqfKU38m pic.twitter.com/JstrQ575Y2
— CSR (@CSR_India) March 26, 2018
Antra – “My only message is to have a little faith in yourself and in your abilities.”
Niharika – “My only message is that be fearless. Don’t be afraid of trying something new. If something goes wrong, stand up, get up and get going.”
Vidhi – “My message to those who are not riding yet is ‘Please ride’. There is so much to do and see. Don’t get stuck in those four metal walls of your car. When you ride, the perspective changes completely. Join WIMA! We are there on Facebook. For those who are already riding, ‘Respect others’. Please look after each other. Let us not make it into a fight where we are all trying to get ahead of each other. We see that challenge in women bikers and that is why we got WIMA here. We want to build a community where women support each other. Support each other. We all are here. The community is here to support you. The single purpose that combines and joins us is motorcycling. Let us focus on that.”
Iyishha – “A message for non-bikers is ‘There is nothing in this world we cannot do’. Let us just do it. Once you will, you will realise the value of independence and what it gives you and what your own worth is… you totally love it. For riders, I would say that be it men or women, ‘When you are riding, just wear your gear.’ Please keep your fashion aside. People who are into stunting must wear a gear. Ride safe. Be safe.”
Pallavi – My only message is “Girls please don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t do this. Just get up and start doing what you actually love and live in the moment.”
At the Centre for Social Research, we have always explored avenues of women empowerment and have encouraged girls in sports, politics, decision making and activism. For us, women bikers are yet another stellar example of inner strength and breaking through a male dominated space. When we talk about claiming the night and claiming the spaces, it starts with empowering oneself with the means to do the same. We wish WIMA all the best in their endeavor. May their tribe increase!
If you wish to blog about gender in India, do email us your entries at WriteWithUs@csrindia.org.