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Meet Bandra’s ‘Helmet Girl’

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Mar 18, 2016 13:32 IST
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A Bandra (Mumbai) housewife has found one hell of a way to drive home the point on road safety

She’s gone around Bandra wearing a 777 Boeing helmet and riding a horse. She’s even gone around meeting celebrities and clicking photos with them. She’s attracted stares, some have thought she’s a lunatic. But she doesn’t care.

Lisa Sadanah aka Helmet Girl Bandra (who runs a blog with the same name), a 43-year-old Bandra resident says she doesn’t mind wearing a bikini and a helmet and going swimming even. But then wonders that her son — who swims at the same pool, Glenmark Aquatic Foundation, BKC — might be subject to mockery.

She has created a wave with her antics, wearing a helmet everywhere she goes, but for a cause — road safety. “People think I do this for attention... it’s true. If I don’t get the attention, nobody will listen to what I want to talk about.”

Lisa Sadanah goes swimming in Bandra Kurla Complex (Aalok Soni/HT; location: Glenmark Aquatic Foundation, BKC)

Sadanah, who rides her Suzuki and Activa bikes regularly, figured that the helmets available in India weren’t of a good quality. She’d get caught a lot for not wearing a helmet, and the one she wore was of no use. She knew that if she would meet with an accident, the helmet would kill her. And so, she would avoid wearing one and get past the police too. “When you live in Bandra, you know where cops stand and where they don’t. Then I went online in January and decided to finally get a good one.”

The Eureka moment

Helmet Girl Lisa Sadanah in Bandra (Aalok Soni/HT)

Having bought a new helmet Sadanah took a picture of her wearing it and sent it to her friends. They found the picture hysterical. “I realised I could make my friends smile with my silliness. That’s how it started.” She started thinking of what she could do with this idea. She aims to talk to the teenagers about road safety with her own personal experiences, through her blog and create awareness drives.

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And for her, personal experiences mean accidents where she has been thrown off a bridge in Pune while a car chased her, or when she decided to sneak out of her house at the age of 15 to get on a bike with a stranger, only to land up in a hospital. “My parents never knew that I did drugs, or rode rashly. I was brought up in a strict, middle class household. I was a rebel.” She never understood why she was not allowed to go anywhere after 9pm. “These issues are happening even now. I want to tell the teenagers about how certain decisions can affect the rest of your life. The helmet brings the attention to me. Otherwise I just sound like a mother of two kids giving advice, and we have enough of those uncle and aunties,” she laughs.

Caution: danger ahead

It took her daughter’s accident to make her realise about the worst that could happen with reckless driving. When she was driving her daughter, aged four then, to her class, Sadanah’s bike skid and her daughter fell off the bike, fracturing her hand. The greatest injuries during a bike accident are head injuries, Sadanah says. “You may not die, but you could be paralysed, and then what? What happens if you lose a friend?”

Going around with a helmet is bound to raise a few eyebrows. Some thought she went around with a helmet because she was balding, and some thought she had a head injury. Sadanah wonders how she’ll manage the heat with the helmet once the summer sets in, and has realised that swimming in a helmet is a tough act. “At an event once, I wore it an entire day and because the helmet is heavy, I had a headache the next day.”

Lisa Sadanah goes shopping (Instagram.com/helmetgirlbandra)

She plans to go around schools and talk to kids about these issues. “I can only do that once I become popular on social media. People only relate to celebrities these days. So, I go about with my helmet to events, take selfies with celebrities, tell them about road safety and the worst that can happen if you drive recklessly.” Actors Sonali Bendre, Elli Avram and Norah Fatehi have shown her great support so far.

Being a former make-up artist and a wife of a filmmaker (Kamal Sadanah) has helped her get invited to events. Her daughter didn’t like it initially when Sadanah would post their pictures on Instagram but has learnt to manage it now. “Many of my son’s friends follow me and they think I’m hysterical. I even get invited to some of their birthday parties.”

The road ahead

She will be a part of a cyclothon on March 19 as a safety ambassador, organised by Young Environmentalists, will run for Autism on April 3 and is also the captain of the Bandra women’s throw ball team, where she plans on spreading her initiative amongst parents too. “I also plan on meeting accident victims and tell everybody their stories.” Further, she has plans on getting her husband on board to create a fun web series about how not to drive a bike.