India’s first hearing impaired female biker: I may not hear it, but I feel the wind
“I was born deaf; I only have 40% hearing capacity. When I was in school, kids used to make fun of me because my voice sounded like I was stammering. It was hard, but I never let it get to me. Speech therapy over the last four years has made me more confident,” says Archana Timmaraju, a Bengaluru resident, who is India’s first hearing impaired female biker, and has been riding since 2006.
The 36-year-old arts and metal sculpture teacher at Mallya Aditi International School, Bengaluru, is now all set to take on a 650 day motorcycle tour around the world, and cover 94 countries across seven continents, to spread awareness about sign language, and the needs of hearing impaired in India. Timmaraju says, “There are no colleges for the hearing impaired in India. Children are stuck after completing their schooling, and there are hardly any interpreters in colleges. We need more efforts and other methods of communication, like sign language, to be taught at a larger scale to really integrate the community (in mainstream).”
Her journey of grit and determination has made many see her with awe and respect her with admiration. “People are amazed when I tell them I’m a rider. I got my first experience of riding when a friend gave me his Yamaha RX 100 bike to train, in 2006. I eventually started riding with other bikers in Bengaluru, and that gave me immense confidence,” she says, sharing how as a hearing impaired woman riding across India she has had her share of naysayers tell her how risky this hobby is.
Talking about the challenges she had to face as a hearing impaired female rider in India, she says, “Here it’s more about the problems one faces while applying for the license. I faced difficulties in getting my license since there is a lack of understanding of rules. But eventually, it worked out for me. During my rides, I put a sticker at the back of my bike that reads: ‘Rider is deaf. Failure to cooperate with verbal commands means I am not hearing you.’ Some people make an effort to understand my needs, but I make sure I ride safely, and often keep behind lorries when the terrain is hard.”
Timmaraju remains fearlessness, and it’s this attitude that prompted her to ride from Bengaluru to Leh in 2018, along with her colleague Daniel Sundaram. Once back to the city, she start her venture Silent Expedition, to help the hearing impaired in their travels. “I wanted to face my fears, and also make people aware about the problems faced by people in my community. Wherever I go, I meet other hearing impaired riders and try to inspire them to be brave in the face of obstacles. I want more people from the community, especially women, to go on these journeys. If I can do it, everyone can do it,” she concludes.
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika