“It was June 2012 and we were on our way back from Madikeri, Coorg. It was pouring and the curves were weaving a tempestuous dance out of me. I leaned into another turn and everything blanked out. Everything was in flashes after that. Open eyes… faces around me. Open them again… Doctors talking. Open again… I am in a truck. Back to Bangalore, Office, colleagues, concern, flight back to Pune. It was all a blur.”
Urvashi Patole’s accident changed her life. Her entire brain had shifted with the impact, and if she took another hit to the head it would be an instant hemorrhage – she couldn’t ride again. Her choices were clear – she could live a “safe life” away from her bike, but be filled with regret and bitterness. Or, she could get back on her bike, and maybe she would live a short life – but at least it would be a happy one. She chose her love for motorcycles above all else. “Everything was instinctive, as soon as I was on the motorcycle I knew what I had to do. It was part of my functionality so I just set my worries and trusted the machine.” By September 2012, Urvashi had worked hard enough to ride through Madhya Pradesh, and has since paved the path towards living true to one’s dream. Her story is a testament to this truth.
She knew her love for motorcycles was real when she was only 5 years old. Her father would tell her tales of how she refused to sit behind him, choosing instead to stand in front and feel the wind in her face as she yelled “Faster papa! Faster!” At the age of 9, she sneaked out on her washerman’s bike and crashed it into the gate. At 14, she got her hands on her cousin’s bike – and there was no looking back. ‘Accelerate and cruise’ was what she knew to do best.
Her love has long translated into the backbone of a community of women riders who call themselves “Bikernis” – a facebook group created by Urvashi to celebrate their cause. “When I started off as an aspiring stunter, I realised that the community of women bikers could be counted on my fingers. I managed to meet and interact with a few, and got to know that we were labelled as wannabes, loose women, incapable and bad riders. I was part of a small women stunt group in Pune and we couldn’t even practise freely. It was awkward to be gawked at like prize cows,” Urvashi recounts. After she met track racer Chithra Priya in 2010, and heard of the struggles of the community she was a part of, Urvashi was motivated to gather all women riders across India. “Today that word has become a household term for women bikers. We have women who are cops, housewives, students, business women, from the corporates and IT industries ranging from the age of 18 to 64. All are welcome to The Bikerni on every kind of motorcycle” she tells us.
Today, the country is accepting of Indian Female bikers like never before and women are confidently competing in championships, track races, rallies and more. They are buying motorcycles to suit their riding styles and going on long distance road trips. “I see a lot more trophies and accolades coming in from the women riding community and we are just starting off. Proud of kickstarting the women’s motorcycling movement in India as The Bikerni,” Urvashi says when we asked her about the future of women’s riding in India.
As far as her biggest learning on the road, Urvashi recounts “You are not above anyone else. Respect others on the road, leave a trail of good thoughts and experiences for people you meet on the way. When you leave people smiling, any other traveler who’ll travel the same route will be treated well by the people around. Do good!” And with that, she leaves us on her bike a little worse from wear, a testament to the path she has created for herself and the hundreds who follow in her stead.
About Cruising Legends: This month on TheVibe we look at four motor-heads who have indulged in long distance biking. We focus on their relationship with their machine while they undertook such long challenging journeys and how they celebrated it , not to compete or compare but just to enjoy The Vibe that comes along with it.
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