[By Pintueli Gajjar]
Today, I am known as the biker woman who vrooms past the town of Rajkot in Gujarat. Some who don’t know me criticise me for letting go of my feminine side. But those who know me appreciate me for taking the challenge called life head on.
But few know, that I took to biking only a few years back and that it has been a long tedious journey before I decided to live life on my own terms.
Being a Taurean I think this quote by Dylan C. Low, fits me to the “T”:
“They say grab the bull by the horns. I say become the bull. Be relentless, Be vigorous. Be ferocious, Be wild. Be what they are frightened of. Be unstoppabull.”
That’s how my life has been – unstoppable!
Yes, I am a biker and yes, I hold a record in the Limca Book for being the only woman biker amongst 40 other men – the first largest number of bikers to complete the full length of Gujarat coastline – the longest in India.
My first passion was bikes, but it was only in 2011, when I was 52, that I got this opportunity. We completed the ride in five days, a total of 1930 kms.
The second opportunity came later the same year – the first all-women bike expedition to the highest motorable pass in the world, the Khardung La.
Sponsored by Royal Enfield – India and UTV Bindass, 10 women set out to make history on 500cc Classic bullets, vrooming on the high passes and fulfilling higher passions! I hold Limca Records for both and, my life was on a roll!
But that is not how my life began. I had my fair share of dues to pay before I could actually start living.
I was married at the tender age of 20, a love marriage, with stars in my eyes and a huge bubble of happiness. However, at 22, my bubble broke and I realised I had married the wrong man. But, marrying someone of your choice and against your parents’ best wishes, carries a heavy price of staying put, no matter what your choice was.
As a daughter who wanted to prove that her choice was right and a wife that wanted to give her marriage a second chance, I did my best to put up with difficulties at home. At 24, we were blessed with a daughter, and she brought much succour in my already troubled life. Like most women, I too thought everything will be fine.
But it wasn’t. I suffered for another four years until I delivered my second daughter. But by now, I knew that it will not last and at the age of 30, I was divorced, had two daughters to support and a long life ahead.
Not the one to sit back and suffer, I decided to move on. With no alimony, since I had walked out on him, I had the tough responsibility of being both, a mother at home and a father at work. There were times when I almost gave up, but my parents were a big support.
I was trained at NIFT and an alumnus of Sir JJ School of Art, but I decided to get into teaching. I had reasons for taking on a job in the same school where my kids went as I could keep a tab on their progress. Those days, in the 80s, teachers’ salaries were meagre and making ends meet was difficult. But inch by inch, I enhanced my skills and with great support from the school management, I quickly rose to hold the position as departmental head. This not only gave me back my self confidence and self worth, but also made life much easier financially.
When my daughters left home for further studies, I was once again in total despair – a case of empty nest syndrome! There was no more meaning in continuing my job as a teacher and that was when I started mulling over my life.
I realised, that as a woman, most of my life has been about ‘being there’ for someone else. When do I get to live as myself? And that was a turning point in my life. I decided to quit my job at 50!
Being a restless soul, I wanted to live life to the fullest and take all that it had to offer. I loved travelling, painting and wildlife as a kid and that’s what I wanted to do.
That is when I took to biking and have never looked back.
Trekking and Hiking are my favourite too, second to biking. I did a solo trek to the valley of flowers in 2005 and another to Har-Ki-Dun.
However, being an educationist, a naturalist, an environmentalist and an artist, I have a moral responsibility towards the community.
Hence, when not travelling, I conduct workshops on Nature Awareness and Wildlife Conservation.
I am an active member of the Teacher Training Workshops in Rajkot, conducted annually by the Gujarat Forest Department, the Rajkot Zoological Park and Wildlife Conservation Trust – Rajkot. I also spread awareness on protection of reptiles – especially snakes. I have been rescuing and releasing snakes from urban areas since the past 18 years.
I am also a Green Teacher from Centre for Environment Education, Ahmedabad.
I believe in the 4 R’s : Reuse, Reduce, Recycle and Refuse! And that makes me a junk freak – creating artistic and utility products from newspapers and cardboard. I paint a lot, write poetry and short stories, grow my own vegetables and just adore photography.
Today, at the ripe young age of 56, I live life as the river flows, uncharted, turbulent, quiet at times, but always flowing free.