Veenu Paliwal’s love for motorcycles started in 1990 when she got her college friends to teach her how to ride. But, work and then marriage made the road bumpy.
“Travelling was one of my passions. But back then, it was against my husband’s social status to have his wife driving a bike. So I stuck to a car,” she told Hindustan Times during an interview earlier this year.
Forty four-year-old Paliwal, one of the leading woman bikers in the country, was doing what she loved when she was killed in a road accident in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha district on Monday evening. She was on a countrywide tour on her Harley Davidson along with fellow biker Deepesh Tanwar when her motorcycle skidded off the road.
After her divorce came through last year, the restaurateur decided she needed to go back to riding.
“Once I took time to settle down after my divorce, I realised I needed to do something for myself. My passion for biking was always there - it was hidden inside me,” she had said.
Paliwal bought the Harley Davidson and soon she and her motorcycle became a familiar sight in the narrow bylanes of Jaipur.
“I always travel in full gear so most people don’t recognise me initially. It is only after I remove my helmet that people realise I’m a woman. It still shocks them. Women may have progressed in many fields but people still get surprised to see one on such a powerful machine,” she had said.
“Once people overcame the initial shock, I would get a lot of questions - isn’t it heavy, how much does it cost, aren’t you scared, etc.”
For Paliwal, being a biker automatically meant she was changing stereotypes about women. She always followed one motto - “If men can do it so can we”. That is why she also started her own bar and lounge called Chah Bar in Jaipur’s Diggi Palace.
“There are constant challenges for women in today’s male-dominated world. It is up to us to break out and prove that we are capable of anything. Biking was one such way of telling both men and women that, ‘hey, we women can ride too’,” she had said.
Paliwal had clocked 17,000 km since November and aimed to hit 50,000 km in a year, before upgrading to Harley’s touring bike Road King.
Riding a bike gave her a sense of accomplishment and an increased awareness of road safety. “When you’re on a bike, all your senses are aware and on overdrive. You have to be alert because you’re on your own, and if anything happens, you have to take control,” she said.
This summer, Paliwal wanted to teach her teenaged daughter to ride so that she could follow her footsteps. She was also planning to make a documentary on her motorbike journey across the country.