The death of Veenu Paliwal came as a rude shock for the rider community. With many firsts to her name, riding for Paliwal came with freedom accompanied with huge responsibility. On the death of a fellow-rider, women bike riders in India enlist the issues they face and highlight that wearing all riding armour is not enough for them.
“The challenges faced by woman riders is not just familial tussles, eve teasing and stalking. Hoodlums have often gone to the extent to push us off our bikes. Questions on character, insults and belittling is also present. Women riders seem to offend the patriarchal structure of India and the so called ‘macho-ism’ of men,” says Pune-based rider Urvashi Patole, founder of Bikerni, a women biking group.
Kick-started in 2011, Bikerni has since then challenged and broken gender stereotypes and has also inspired many women to start their own groups.
Patole adds, “This incident should not be a demotivating factor and instead more women should take up riding in order to pay homage to Veenu’s soul. Bike riding is accompanied with a sense of ecstasy, joy and freedom. However, the key is to ride responsibly. The road is rowdy and thus good protective gear is necessary.”
Anjaly Rajan, one of the Bikerni riders never thought Paliwal would meet such an end. “She was particular about all the gear and she inspired people with her ‘riding responsibly’ policy,” she says.
Sarah Kashyap, assistant manager, rides and community, Royal Enfield, says, “Veenu was all armed up, but it was a bad day for her. But for others I would say, don’t take your lives for granted. Wear a helmet even if it is a ride to the grocery shop. Moreover, helmets for women should not be just about protecting their hair.”
A Harley rider like Paliwal, Arti Bhatia reminisces her friend and says, “Veenu held various awareness programs to educate bikers about road safety. The amazing rider that she was, will be dearly missed.”
(With inputs from Anamta Saltanat)