She started riding at a tender age of 16. Yezdi was her first bike, a legendary beginning for a legendary personality. Riding is her passion, adventure in her veins! An epitome of what a true “biker” should be. There she basks with the roar of her Harley Davidson Street 750, gifted by her son, and her helmet her crown. She’s none other than the 53 year old, Delhi based lady biker Shailja Gupta. Who has been to 5 states so far for her campaign “Bikers against women exploitation”. No no, don’t take her for a modern day feminazi, she’s a true feminist who believes in equality and balance between the two genders, rather than “empowering” the females, and shaming the males.
I thank all the seven gods that I got a chance to ride with her yesterday, with our group ARC (Ajmer riders club) And got a chance to interact with her for a few minutes. Even after being such a famous and brilliant personality, I can vouch that she’s one of the most down to earth person I’ve ever come across. She’s beautiful in her own way. I was a “nobody” to her, yet she didn’t back off from answering my weird questions. Here’s an excerpt from the words I had with her :
Q. How would you describe yourself?
A. I belong to a family of freedom fighters and social activists. My father though from a brahmin family, became an arya samaji because he didn’t like discrimination from other castes. He was educated in an angloindian school, learnt the culture of East and west and picked the best out of two. My husband was a businessman, India’s leading entrepreneur. I was just a normal housewife, until my husband died. Then I got to know the different world, the true and ugly face of the society when I stepped out of my home, that how a woman is exploited in today’s world, even in the corporate sector. The cause cannot be eradicated just by educational and financial empowerment. We need to bring harmony, peace, respect and balance between the two genders. And the passion for bikes was there from the start. So I thought of uniting the bikers through this campaign named “bikers against woman exploitation”. I’m trying to create an army out of bikers which covers buisiness men, lawyers, social activists to stand up in their support anywhere anytime.
Q. Did any incident inspire you to start this campaign or was it there from the start?
A. It was from the start. My mother was the president of Delhi’s mahila sangh. So I used to help her in my early days. And I’ve been doing this campaigning from the past 20-25 years or so. And there wasn’t any one incident, there were incidents.
Q. Any rough idea of how many girls you’ve helped so far, in some way or the other?
A. I don’t keep a count actually. Many many girls have benefited from this campaign. For example, we have rescued numerous girls, some as young as 12 year old, from the notorious GB road of Delhi by the help of NGOs. Girls who were illegally brought from Bangladesh through human trafficking were freed.
Q. At what age did you start riding? And which was your first bike?
A. I started riding when I was in 10th standard. I’d have been around 16 that time. And Yezdi was my first bike. I remember getting my calf injured while riding it.
Q. To how many states you’ve been so far?
A. I’ve been to five states. Which are Assam (Guwahati), Nagaland, Gujarat (Ahmedabad), Maharashtra (Pune) and now Rajasthan (Ajmer). Among which the people of Ajmer and Nagaland hold the top spot for their warmth.
Q. Biggest achievement so far?
A. There is nothing to “achieve”. It’s a social service, hence a service to God. There isn’t any one particular achievement. Still from my point of view, the biggest achievement for me is the participation of males in my campaign. I mean, we are campaigning against the exploitation of women, so they should be the one participating in big numbers, right? But here, it’s the other way around. Men are helping me with so much enthusiasm. I’m really grateful.
You’re an inspiration ma’am! You really are bringing a much needed change in our society. Keep inspiring, keep riding!