India’s ambassador to Thailand, Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi, welcomed the “Biking Queens”, four women motor bikers from Surat, as they stopped at Bangkok, nearing the end of a gruelling 10-nation tour, cov
India’s ambassador to Thailand, Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi, welcomed the “Biking Queens”, four women motor bikers from Surat, as they stopped at Bangkok, nearing the end of a gruelling 10-nation tour, covering 10,000 km. They drove through Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.
The mega journey was undertaken for a cause — to promote Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s slogan of “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”. In fact, Mr Modi personally met them before their journey and even tweeted about the trip, while planning to receive them at their concluding “flag in” in New Delhi, on July 19.
Anandiben Patel, chief minister of Gujarat, flagged off the Biking Queens on their 10-nation ttour on June 4. It was a mega event where nearly 1,50,000 bikers participated and rode alongside the Biking Queens, creating a Guinness World Record!
The journey was sponsored by enthusiastic entrepreneurs from Surat, Gujarat.
What was more impressive, these dynamic women had excellent careers with families and children to boot.
Queens’ leader Dr Sarika Mehta, a mother of two, is a top clinical psychologist, who, in addition to being a biker is also an acclaimed mountaineer. She has represented India at many international meets, for both these events. Dr Mehta was awarded the Mahila Ratna Award by the Gujarat government in 2015.
Khyati Desai, who has one child, is the head of HR, lives in a joint family and rides a Harley Davidson in Surat.
Durriya Tapia runs her own travel agency and has ridden nearly 30,000 km in her 20 years of biking.
Yugma Desai, the unmarried babe of the team, is an architect and head interior designer who plays many sports and has participated in numerous biking expeditions across India.
The four women admitted that this, their first international expedition, was easily the most difficult and gruelling ride they’d ever taken. The journey involved riding for nearly nine hours every day and covering about 400 km. Dr Mehta spoke about the heavy rains, terrible mountain roads of Bhutan, shaky bridges of Myanmar and the dangerous forest terrain of Nagaland.
These bikers were one of the first to use the new Asian Highway 1 (AH1) recently constructed between India and Myanmar. Dr Mehta informs that it had some bad patches and needed to be improved before it became fully navigable.
The Biking Queens also had their share of bureaucratic trouble. At the Thailand border, they were told they needed more documents due to a newly passed law. So the Indian embassy approached the land transport ministry for clearance. It was given immediately as a “goodwill gesture”, thanks to the Thai PM’s “very successful” recent trip to India recently.
To quote the Thai official: “These ladies have been sent to Thailand by Mr Modi. They will be our honoured guests. It is like Sona and Uttara who were sent by King Asoka!”
Food was another problem, as the Gujju ladies are pure vegetarians! But they were amazed by the warmth of the locals, some of whom offered their kitchens, so that they could cook basic rice and vegetables for themselves, when they ran out of instant noodles.
As for the bikes they used, Dr Mehta said it was not an Indian brand but the Austrian KTM Duke 390, which was ideal for the difficult terrains they covered, especially the mountainous ones.
“Indian bikes can’t handle such areas, besides the spare parts of the Austrian brand are easily available in every country.”
The Biking Queens began their journey in the Northeast, where they were escorted by the Army, until the Myanmar border. But, otherwise, they were mostly on their own, with only a car accompanying them, to carry the spare parts of their bikes.
The bikers said they were welcomed and supported by the Indian embassy in every country. They also got an opportunity to meet school children, NGOs, women activists, as also bureaucrats and ministers. In Bhutan, they met the Prime Minster and the country’s first woman minister. They met the President of Nepal. In Cambodia, they met the deputy Prime Minister and, in Vietnam, they met the chairperson of the women’s association.
The bikers discussed various women’s issues with them — from female infanticide to gender equality.
The talks were so heartwarming that the Biking Queens are now determined to visit the countries on an individual basis, so that they could understand each country better.
“This interaction with the locals has been one of the most important features of our journey” said Dr Mehta, adding “it was also what our PM wanted!”
She stated that Mr Modi had expressed his worry about their safety on this long journey.
“But with the good wishes and positive energies of so many people, we knew we would be safe!”, she exclaims.
The bikers admitted to having many moments of anxiety on the long and famously treacherous roads (“The GPS did not work in many places!”).
“But the whole purpose of this journey was to show our will power and endurance!” they said.
Group leader Sarika Mehta affirmed that was the main “cause” of their arduous journey.
“The honourable Prime Minister gave us the responsibility, to spread his message, and we feel very happy and honoured to have done it,” she signs off.