Sending out a strong message of empowerment, Commander Pooja Rajput, who undertook a 2,000-km solo coastal ride on her Harley Davidson, says women should travel without any pre-conceived notions.
The Indian Navy officer, who counts long-distance riding and photography among her passions, also undertook the solo journey to guage the safety of travellers like her in India.
“Women need to take up travel in India without pre-conceived notions,” said Rajput, who traveled from Goa, to Mangalore, Coorg, Muzhappilangad, Ooty, Coonoor, Calicut, Moodabidri, and Karwar from April 8 to 15 this year.
Asked if she faced any difficulties, Rajput said: “Being a naval officer, the training which you get for becoming one solves most of the issues on the road.”
But was she worried about her safety? The officer said she was prepared.
“When you are a woman riding on a 1600 cc superbike, it attracts lots of attention and there are lots of curious people on the road who try to stop you, of whom you should be aware. They can create a situation like an accident…,” she said.
In one such incident, Rajput said, she overtook a bus, and the driver started honking and recklessly overtook her.
“I was right behind the bus, the bus could not pull up and started slipping backwards. With great difficulty I managed to manoeuvre my bike to the left,” she said.
“Some people are very rowdy on the road. A woman on a bike sometimes attracts a lot of unwanted attention. On a smaller bike maybe people just pass by, but I get noticed more because of my superbike,” she said.
Her advice to women is not to be scared of venturing out on their own — and being prepared rather than afraid.
“You need to get out of the house, sitting in your home and thinking that something would go wrong should not be on your mind. Go out and assess yourself on the road,” Rajput said.
She also advised learning self-defence techniques.
“I have a knife with me all the time, I have an iron baton, and a pepper spray… All these things are in my jacket pocket, or my pants pocket. Women should also learn some self-defence techniques,” she said.
The route chosen by her comprised everything from beaches, coastal roads to majorly serpentine roads and hilly terrain with lots of hairpin bends that tested her abilities and her superbike.
“The hairpin bends one after the other put a lot of strain on an individual’s body, especially with the heavy weight of the superbike. Crossing the hills on the way to Ooty with five narrow and steep hairpin bends was a test of my riding abilities,” Rajput said.
She said that through her travels, she also met many people who encouraged her.
“There were a lot of people who were very happy to see me. At patrol pumps, families would ask to be photographed with me,” she said.
“Throughout the journey, the narrow roads and small bridges which made for picturesque images were breathtaking. Riding through the roads in the wildlife sanctuaries was an experience in its own and cannot be described in words,” Rajput concluded.