As part of the 90Caps series on Women of Substance, we feature Anjaly Rajan, the founder of Riderni, a group which offers motorcycle enthusiasts a platform to learn everything there is to know about bike riding.
Wind in her hair, the racing speedometer and her powerful metallic beast, Anjaly Rajan is the envy of many a young woman who wants to break free from the shackles of a patriarchal milieu in search of her identity, her mojo.
The founder of Riderni, a motorcycle group which offers motorcycle enthusiasts, (read young girls and middle-aged women) a platform where they can learn everything there is to know about bike riding, Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance (pun intended), Rajan has come a long way. From traversing the lanes and by-lanes of her Kerala home town on a men’s cycle to powering ahead confidently on every young man’s lust have – a Bullet – Rajan admits that it was not just challenging to break the stereotype and prove herself in a male dominated arena but, more importantly, it was also about discovering herself and her passion for riding.
“It is tough and challenging to prove yourself, especially in a sphere where a woman driving around on a motorcycle is a rare sight. But if you have the right attitude and confidence, you can break through any challenge, any impediment,” she adds.
An incorrigible optimist, Rajan owes her dreams to her parents, especially her mother who inspired and pushed her to pursue her ambition and carve a niche for herself.
“Mom taught me how to ride a cycle when I was eight years old. Her confidence in my abilities inspired me to pursue it. She taught me to be independent and to follow my heart,” says Rajan, who initially “wanted to drive a truck” but settled for a bike instead!
She got hooked to biking when in Class 12, driving around in a Suzuki Fiero 150 CC and bought her first mobike, Super Splendour 125 CC, while she was still studying and working simultaneously.
“I loved zooming around on my bike and this love pushed me into learning more about the mechanism, about knowing the bike. So, I learned to fix punctures, clutch wire, change tyres, repair the bike and attend to its general maintenance…everything you wouldn’t catch a girl doing!”
With the passion for motorcycling came the interest in owning the paraphernalia associated with it, especially helmets. “Mom made me conscious of the safety aspect. I never drive without a helmet and have even my name and number inscribed on my helmet,” Rajan tells us with some pride, wrinkling her nose at those who think it’s ‘so cool to ride without a helmet’.
A Royal Enfield dealer introduced her to the Bullet, the ultimate dream of any motorcycle enthusiast. For the diminutive 5 ft 1” Rajan, managing the heavy beast was an “intimidating experience” that was successfully overcome, thanks to the patient guidance and encouragement of her mentor and guide, Kaustubh Mishra.
“He instilled in me the confidence to pursue and since then there has been no looking back.”
Having worked closely with Harley Davidson, Triumph and other brands, Rajan who has mapped the whole of Kerala by road, beams with happiness over her decision to choose her hobby over marriage, “where the expectations like most Indian households, would have been to take care of the home and family.”
Quite used to stares of disbelief and fielding chauvinistic comments, Rajan says that for every censuring note there is an enthusiastic thumbs up and appreciation to boost the morale. “People have this disdainful attitude. They say, ‘how can a woman ride a motorcycle?’ And heaven forbid if she does the unthinkable then ‘she must be from a suspect background. Girls from respectable families do not go around speeding on motorcycles’!”
“A lot of young women and girls I know have a tough time convincing their parents/families that motorcycling is not really such a bad thing. I know there is a major disconnect and to break this I decided to launch Riderni, a platform for women to learn motorcycling.”
“We have a fairly impressive gang of women motorcyclists now, young women, housewives, middle-aged women who love to flaunt their freedom and their passion for motorcycling,” Rajan adds beaming with justifiable pride.
Truly, as writer Robert M. Pirsig of the well-known ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values’, profoundly observed, “The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.” And Rajan seems to be doing this pretty well.
“I learned to take responsibility for my decisions, learned to avoid the negatives and to focus on my positives. I never lost faith in me and my dreams and that’s what’s kept me going.”