Female Motorcyclist Makes Point For Women’s Rights
Here’s an interesting story of the first Pakistani woman ever to dare ride solo throughout Kashmir, a conservative region of India, on a motorcycle.
Only 20 years old and inspired by her deceased father’s dream of traveling the world on a bike, Zenith Irfan rode a Honda 125, a Honda CD -70, and a Suzuki GS-150 through the northern region of India. Her journey was not without its bumps, though.
Because her own country and Kashmir frowns upon women being motorcycle riders, she had to cover her long hair on the road and wear masculine clothes to make it appear that she was male, so as not to endanger her safety, She even went so far as, like she herself puts it, “to calculate my speech and body language.”
(On July 17, 2016, Pakistani celebrity Qandeel Baloch was murdered by her brother, who claimed she’d dishonoured her family’s traditional values for speaking in favor of women’s rights. It was in this cultural climate Zenith put herself in serious danger by taking this journey.)
Also, on the road, her experiences were not all pleasant. Keeping a blog of her adventures on her Facebook page on March 8th, she wrote,
Today, I witnessed a boy dying in front of me. His father got into a motorcycle accident and he was sitting behind. I saw his brain clustered all over the road with his eyes peacefully asleep. Such deaths are instant ones, and I hope the family recovers from this loss soon. I took a deep breath, gulped a thick ball of saliva and closed my eyes, trying to erase my memory. The father got into a fight with the other driver/rider. I cannot even imagine the state he must be in.
And on 19th of February,
I suffered mild traumatic brain injury. I slipped from my Suzuki GS-150 because of the rain and I lost memory of the entire day. Since, I was unconscious for around 60 minutes, I don’t recall how and where I crashed. I contacted the people who got me to the hospital, and they said I had a concussion when I hit my head on a footpath. My helmet’s strap was not tied up, which is why it got off. I suffered minor injuries, but learnt a valuable lesson to never give up and never take life for granted.
We asked Zenith about her travels, the valuable lessons that she learned from the experience, and how she hopes to inspire others to follow in her footsteps (and wheels).
Zenith, Can you please tell us about first learning how to ride. What struggles did you face in learning? What was the most difficult part for you, having no previous experience?
I was 12 when I first rode one. All I could remember saying was, “How do you stop this? How do you stop this?”
Riding is not difficult at all. Once you get the hang of balancing the motorcycle’s clutch and gear, everything is smooth and easy to manage. The only struggle I faced was doing a U-turn, which took me a few months to practice.
And what did you learn about yourself from learning how to ride with no previous experience?
I learnt how to be patient and open to a lot of things. Riding has made me a woman who is as free as a bird in her mind and strong at her heart.
With the twist of the throttle, the shift of the gear, I went to places carrying my father’s legacy. If I fall, I have to get up by myself. Dust the dirt caused by my own failure and face the raging road again.
There is no helping hand. You are the designer of your own catastrophe. We all try to find our escape routes. We all try to seclude in something or someone. For me, it was motorcycles.
Okay, let’s talk about the journey itself. What are some of the most important things that you have learned on your journeys?
You really need to be patient. Patience is the key. Since I was traveling with a group, it was very important for me to coordinate and understand the group’s psychology. Failure to do so may often lead to fights and arguments. Therefore, I learnt to remain responsible, vigilant and punctual.
When it comes to the physical and mental challenges you had to overcome on the road, can you discuss specifically several incidents where you had the most difficulty to overcome?
Suprisingly, I did not face any physical or emotional challenges. There were instances where I fell on the mountain and the only thing that made me ride further was the fact that I had made it so far; I can go further too.
Were there any specific incidents involving overcoming the prejudices of a woman riding? For us in the United States, we can’t quite understand how difficult it is…
I have to calculate my speech and body language. There was one instance when I was on my way to Khunjerab Pass, when a man at a security checkpoint said that I shouldn’t be on a motorcycle and should be home instead. I just rode across him and did not even give him any attention.
And was your family supportive, or were they against what you were doing?
No in fact, they encouraged me. My mother is a very liberal woman. In fact, she was the one who motivated and pushed me to ride a motorcycle, and my brother taught me to ride.
So now that you have this experience behind you, what have you learned about yourself through this journey?
I learned of my inner strength. Initially, I never knew I could cover such vast distances on a motorcycle, but after my journey, I realised that motorcycles have the tendency to prove even yourself wrong. I rode 3200 kilometres without any problems and was amazed to know the physical capacity I possessed.
And what advice would you give to someone who is faced with a similar challenge?
Believe in yourself and don’t let society tell you that you are wrong.
Most recently on her Facebook page, Zenith said, “This world is not filled with sunshine and rainbows. Your life will test you. It will knock you down on the floor, defeat you and make you suffer at every turn. It will demand every inch of your energy and will kill you again and again. There will be times that you’ll be left with nothing. No determination, no goal, no energy, no self-motivation. But this is the TIME. Every step you take, every decision you make will count. You have to hold yourself strong, held your head up high and mend the broken pieces of your soul with a strong string. Remember, there will never be a helping hand out there to support you. You have to fix yourself and look at fear eye to eye and say, “Come on now, try and defeat me.”.
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