Urvashi Patole is a great inspiration to young women nowadays. Read about her empowering story that we want to celebrate this #InternationalWomensDay. When did you realise that biking was your calling and did you face any hurdles in the beginning when you adopted it as your passion?
The first time I rode a two-wheeler all on my own was when I was in 3rd grade. The local washerman had come over to our house on his luna and I decided to try and see if I could ride it. I managed to start it and ride it for a distance though turning the handle was a task I couldn't manage and I crashed his luna on our main gate. After that, I remained a good girl for a few years and took out my passion for wheels through cycling and skateboards. It was when I was 14 that I finally started riding a motorcycle, it was a Pulsar 180 cc and belonged to my cousin from Mizoram. I rode his bike and I was hooked for life. Since then and 13 years later I am still motorcycling. Getting on the roads wasn't the biggest challenge. The challenge was ignoring the catcalls, the chases and the doubts from people. I took it in my stride though, never bothered about what people had to say and kept riding. Started off a stunter, broke a couple of bones and now I race professionally on dirt and love touring across the countryside. You've been bestowed with numerous awards over the years, does all the recognition pressurize you or does it give you motivation to perform better?
It's great to be recognized for your passion and the changes brought about but I would honestly say that it was never for the awards. The only kind of recognition I was looking for primarily involved people realising that women CAN ride, we are equal, we ARE NOT meant for the kitchen (as I have heard quite often) and that women bikers are here to stay. I am a founder but still I participate in races and ensure that my riding skills are known so that some girl reads about it and goes, "Hey! I can do that too!". That's all I want from the awards and recognitions I get. It also motivates me to grow The Bikerni to a bigger level and touch the SAARC with chapters all across. You have a permanent job with a leading Baby Care brand - how do you manage to juggle between your passion and professional life?
When I joined FirstCry, the first request I made was that I be allowed to pursue my passion and go on road-trips whenever possible. They agreed which was actually quite motivating and admirable. So, my week goes in office work entirely, with occasional mid-night sojourns on motorbikes. Weekends are dedicated to touring and camping. Holidays go for road-trips and events. Leaves are booked for races and expeditions. I work as a Social Media Analyst so I get to follow two of my passions simultaneously. I aimed for such a life and when you put your mind to something, you get it for sure. Biking is a male dominated sport in India, yet you have managed to empower numerous women to get on a bike and break stereotypes. What were the biggest challenges you faced with context to this?
I think the biggest challenge was convincing women that there is nothing to fear or get worried about. That riding a bike is actually instinctive and liberating. That convincing parents and family can be worked out if you are determined. That those catcalls and name-callings are things to be laughed at and not cried over. That every path is open for women if they choose to walk on it. Steadily and surely, women have become more confident and now Bikernis head out on long trips on their own and we sparked a revolution of women breaking and making records which would have never happened before this revolution. You fought all odds and got back on your bike shortly after your life threatening accident - could you share with us the story of what happened and your motivation to keep riding?
I had a head injury in Madikeri, Coorg in June 2012. The monsoon had made the paths slippery. When I slipped and went sliding on a curve and then was still for sometime, my biking buddies though I was dead. The only thing that saved me was my complete riding gears and my helmet. I suffered concussion, temporary memory loss and a mid-line shift of my brain. The neurologist asked my parents to never let me near a bike again because I would never live through another impact on my head. By August, I was shakily riding my best friend's Activa and by September I was on a road-trip to Madhya Pradesh with another lady biker name Sheetal. My parents didn't or couldn't stop me because I had conveyed to them that this was my life, my passion and that I would wither away without it. I am still riding today and have won three dirt track championships. Mental strength encompasses everything else. What's the funniest advice someone has ever given you?
The funniest advice given to me was to cut my hair very short so that I look like a boy and to make my voice heavy while talking to villagers. This would apparently ensure my safety. For years, women have been expected to match everyone's idea of perfection, any flaws or failures aren't accepted, we at BBLUNT believe in imperfection and being who you are - what are your views on the concept of 'embracing imperfection'?
Our imperfections make us unique. It makes us stand out from the rest of the masses and stay in the mind of everyone who meets us. Our imperfections are our strength, our gifts to do something memorable and amazing. I am imperfect because I am not the right 'size' for the society, my hair flows wildly in the wind beneath my helmet, my body is covered with olds scars and silencer burns. My teeth are fractured and skin browned by the sun. These imperfections are my trophies. Memorabilia of countless places I have been to and situations I have faced. These imperfections are learnings which made me wiser as a person and better on my bike, in my work-life and on the roads. Embracing imperfections is the best thing you can ever do.