Yours is an inspiring story and there’s so much to learn from your spirit. What is your advice for the 21st-century learners of today?
Do not let ‘what will people say’ stop you from doing what you want for your life… build yourself, leave a legacy behind.
One day Vidhi picked up her Royal Enfield and embarked on a journey on the tough roads of Delhi to Leh and back. Little did she know that this journey would change her life forever. A voyager at heart, an entrepreneur and communications professional and dog lover, Vidhi has proved that when a woman sets her mind to do something nothing, no nothing, can stop her.
We at NutSpace are absolutely in awe of Vidhi’s grit and determination. She is indeed an inspiration for she proves the saying right ‘An empowered woman is powerful beyond measure and beautiful beyond description’. Read on and get inspired!
How did you decide to embark on the journey from Delhi to Leh on your bike? How did the idea come about?
It is every Indian biker’s dream to do the Leh terrain at least once in their lifetime and for me, this moment happened by chance. June is when the biking season to Leh starts and a chance conversation with a friend led me to embark on this incredible journey. While there were many people in my circuit who were doing this journey as a group, I simply wanted to test myself by doing it alone. I have always tried to push myself to the extreme when it comes to my passions and this was no different. I just wanted to experience this journey alone and try and do it on my own.
Who all are there in your family? Are they supportive of your adventurous spirit?
I am married, so I stay with my husband and my in-laws who are extremely supportive of my biking. Actually, I feel I have been blessed with a great partner, which has made my dream of following my passion extremely easy for me. Also, my parents, especially my father has played a crucial role in me being able to believe in myself and follow my heart. I think my family has got used to me being a bit eccentric. It has definitely taken some time for them to get used to me traveling and biking but as long as I prepare well and keep them informed about my whereabouts, they seem to have slowly accepted it as a part of me.
Tell us a little about how you developed an interest in biking? Why do you think riding a motorcycle is considered a ‘boy’s thing to do’?
I have always loved riding because it was definitely more challenging than driving a car. While I do not remember how I developed a passion for it, I do remember being told not to ride a bike and getting the usual ‘what if you break your arm’ spiel. Fortunately for me, I have been born a male-dominated family, surrounded by brothers, and they were all too pleased to teach me riding. As I grew older, I had male-friends who had bikes and were always too welcoming whenever I wanted to take their motorcycles for a spin. It is very interesting how our society compartmentalizes things. If you look at places like Punjab and Haryana, there are a number of girls who ride two-wheelers. However, while their families are ok with scooties and Vespas, the conversation changes when they talk about motorbikes. I think motorcycles are considered a ‘boys’ thing because some sections of the society feel that women are weaker to handle the bikes. I think it is about time we actually do a reality check considering we have women pilots and women truck drivers who are ruling the skies and the roads!
How was your experience? Did being a solo woman traveler on a motorcycle get a few eyeballs rolling? Is there any anecdote you would share? Did you feel safe on the go?
I had a brilliant experience and I have absolutely no regrets. If I had to time travel and do it again, I would change nothing about my journey, except praying to God that it should not snow and I could visit more places around Leh and Ladakh.Actually, the only rolling eyes were the bikers, because when you speak to them they know it is a woman wearing the helmet. Otherwise, when you are dressed in gear, no one can really make out the
difference. The one lesson I learnt is to trust yourself and your capabilities. You will be shocked as to how much you as an individual are capable of. Also, it is ok to be vulnerable and cry. When I was going towards Khardugla, which is the highest motorable road, my bike slipped around 10 times because of the snow covered terrain. That route broke me and for the first time, I cried. I cursed myself for taking this journey and questioned my decision of doing it alone. But that situation only lasted a couple of minutes because I knew I was alone and I had to help myself so I did. Slowly and
steadily I managed to reach the top. A journey that was merely 39 km. took me 4 hours but the feeling of reaching the destination was unbelievable. I just put everything that I had in me to complete the journey. Even though I was tired and frustrated of falling, not
even once did I think of going back!
I felt absolutely safe throughout my journey. I took the Srinagar way and against what I was advised, I had a fantastic stay and felt very safe in the state. Also, my interaction with the locals at all the places I have stayed at, including Leh has been a very positive one.
Tell us about your journey? How many days did the trip last?
While I wanted to spend 18 days traveling, my trip was cut short drastically because it was snowing in and around Leh when I reached and there was not much traveling that I could do. So, after staying in Leh for 2 days, I decided to head back home. Overall, I spent 10 days on my travel.
My Biking Itinerary:
Day 1 – Left from New Delhi and reached Ludhiana
Day 2 – Ludhiana to Patnitop
Day 3 – Patnitop to Srinagar
Day 4 – Srinagar to Sonmarg
Day 5 – Sonmarg to Kargil
Day 6 – Kargil to Leh
Day 7 – Leh
Day 8 – Leh
Day 9 – To Khardungla then back to Leh; then to Pang
Day 10 – Pang to Manali
Day 11 – Manali to New Delhi
What challenges did you face right from planning the trip to taking it and of course during it?
There is enough and more information available online on planning for Leh and I have some great friends who offered me their things like a saddle bag and sleeping bag which help me cut down my travel cost. I think my biggest challenge has been the negativity that surrounds such journeys. I had a lot of people telling me that I should not do it alone or I should wait for a year and do a lot of off-roading before I do it. While I do understand that it was out of concern that they were saying such things, their tonality and their negativity were a major concern to me. In fact, it is hilarious that someone in the biking community even told me that I might die of a heart-attack because a lot of people do, which was outrageous!
I think my challenges were linked to the situations I faced. For instance, I lost my phone and my SIM while on my way from Sonmarg to Kargil. And since Kargil is a sensitive area, one cannot get a new SIM without a local reference and a few more paper work which I was unable to provide and so my SIM application was rejected. This meant I was without a phone or any connectivity for two days. However, the military is amazingly helpful and there were many men in uniform who helped me update my family.
Unfortunately, even when I reached Leh, I was without a SIM, so I had to depend on the erratic internet connection of my hotel and their landline to connect with family, which was a bit challenging. Also, I had met with an accident in Leh and broke my bike’s brake support, leg guard, in addition to an already faulty side stand. While, a local mechanic helped by welding my leg-guard together, was unable to find any of the other parts in Leh and had to travel all the way back to Delhi on a broken bike.
How does it feel to kick the glass ceiling?
It’s a mixed feeling. While I know it is a big deal for women to travel solo to Leh and I have been rightly told so, I think the feeling is yet to sink in. For me, it was just another journey that I wanted to undertake for myself. Of course, I am extremely proud of being able to complete the journey and not giving up midway or turning back, only I know how difficult or easy it was and that is what it is all about for me. Knowing my limit and being able to push myself to the extreme has been an integral part of my journey.
Apart from your interest in biking, you are also a lover of dogs. Tell us more about your venture PawTales?
Pawtales was conceptualized and the foundations were laid down in 2013. However, it took two years for the dream to become a reality and finally in 2015, PawTales came into existence. I have always had pets and one of the major challenges we faced with them was the unavailability of trustworthy places or people who we could leave our pets with.
This meant that at least one family member had to be home to look after the canine kids. Also, even if we were blessed that some family member would keep the dogs, my parents would be constantly fretting over the decision and try and check on them. Even after so many years, I realised the situation was still the same. So, in 2013 I decided that I will be starting a centre where people could leave their canine kids without stress. It had to be a place which would have ample space and love for the canine kids to make them feel at home and provide them with the care they needed. At PawTales, we do not keep more than 8-9 canine children at any point in time and this ratio varies depending on the size of children that we have. The pets are constantly monitored and never tied.
We do not have the concept of cages and at maximum if we realise that a canine is not getting along with any other children, we use normal size rooms to house them. Even then, the kids are let out and allowed to roam in the garden and play on a rotational basis of 2 hours. PawTales aims to provide a safe haven for canine kids when they are away from home.
Tell us briefly about your journey as an entrepreneur.
It is scary! It is a huge responsibility, especially the segment I am in. I am responsible for someone’s canine child and their well-being and we cannot afford to make mistakes. Even from a business perspective, being an entrepreneur is not easy, there are people depending on you for their salaries and one cannot afford to not have money to pay. You have to actually work extra hard to ensure your employees are happy and have enough money to sustain their family. I have had many sleepless nights just thinking how I will manage the next month but by the Grace of God, we have been able to manage the boarding well even with the limited number of canine children we keep. There are many things that are in the pipeline for PawTales and I am hoping that eventually, the centre will be the thing that defines me.
You are now also heading the India chapter for Women International MotorcycleAssociation (WIMA). Tell us more about the organization and your role.
Women’s International Motorcycle Association Organisation is a worldwide association of women and motorcycles that embraces countries as far apart as Australia and New Zealand in the southern hemisphere to Sweden and Finland in the Arctic north, and from central Europe to Japan. WIMA India Chapter is the 24th chapter of WIMA World and was formed in June 2017 with the aim of providing an international engagement platform
to women riders in the country. WIMA International came into existence way back in the 1950s in the US.
As a representative of WIMA India and the President of the newly formed chapter, my role involves ensuring that WIMA India continues to thrive as a cohesive organization in which all individuals and state divisions act in accordance with the aims and objectives of the National Constitution. My aim is to build a community of women riders based on trust, freedom of thought and respect for each other.
What do you think about stereotypes so deeply ingrained in our society – Pink for girls, blue for boys, Toys for girls, toys for boys, books for girls and books for boys, and now even treats (like Kinderjoy) for girls and boys?
Yes, and it bothers me a lot at times. Like, why cannot the girls get to ride scooters and guys get to dress up dolls? I think the more straight-jacketed we are a society the more we limit ourselves. Personally, I think the platform should be open for children to play and chose whatever they want. Because of the set standards, children are often bullied and demoralized.
Were you ever called a ‘Tom Boy’ in your growing up years? What do you think about the term? Why do you think people tag individuals?
Yes, I was always teased by family and friends about the way I was and how I behaved. It is strange but back then I took pride in it because it meant that I was more like my brothers than the girls around me. Also, there was an added advantage to it which meant that I could skip doing the regular, learn to cook that most girls are expected to do and be more adventurous. (Nothing to be proud of but I still do not like cooking and it comes lowest in my
chores to do even now, whenever I do have to do it). I think there we as a society need a re-jig and change in the order of things is important. I mean, girls who play sports or lift weights are termed as manly, men who do ballets or dancing are termed as womanly. I believe people at large have just followed certain practices and notions to keep life simple but they have created these compartments which need to be reconstructed with materials that are more flexible. While it never bothered me to be a ‘tomboy’, I had other issues that I had to deal with. Like being an overweight kid who was de facto became the class clown. I worked hard to shed all the extra kilos but then I realized people were commenting on how thin I was, that is when I realized that people will talk because that is what makes them feel superior and good about themselves but the onus is on me to not let these talks bother me.
Also, I am blessed with a solid set of parents who have been my strength throughout some of the toughest decisions of my life. The credit goes to my dad, who never cared much about what people have to say and always told me to follow my heart, even when I quit my well-paying job to start my own business.