A Teacher Who Moonlights As Biker Is Our Inspiration Of The Day
Imagine a road trip to Ladakh or from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Now imagine this on a bike....and a woman taking it up solo! Yes, one of our community members at SHEROES is a personification of the slogan #TakeCharge! For her it is not just a hashtag...it has been the way of her life for the past 16 years!
Meet Dashmi Mohan, a Senior Secondary teacher at a public school at Nagarbhvi in Bengaluru, Karnataka, who is an avid biker by passion! So be it scaling the barren peaks of Ladakh or driving from Kashmir to Kanyakumari or scaling the mountainous terrain of Uttarakhand this year, she has done it all and much more since the age of 20! So how did it all begin?
I guess, Dashmi could visualize my eyes popping out in surprise when we were chatting over phone, because she laughed aloud at my question, "Why are you so surprised - because I am a woman? Or because you can't even balance a scooty Mahima, as you told me the other day?!" And we both burst into laughter.
I took my first solo trip to Sringeri in Karnataka my home state, at the age of 20. To-and-fro it was a 650 km ride. Why home state? Well, despite being from a middle-class family, my parents were backing my idea, although they were a little apprehensive about my safety. So I balanced it out to keep them happy.
“This trip changed my life!”
I met myself that day - I felt liberated and extremely independent. And since then there has been no looking back. I began with non-gear bikes and have graduated to the geared ones in past three years," recalls a nostalgic Dashmi.
16 years later, she drives the Avenger Street 150cc, which is 155kg - almost three times Dashmi's weight! Ah, guess she again sensed the awe in my voice and we had a good laugh once again, going through the details she gave.
My next question to her was, why a solo trip even now, when there are so many women bikers following in her footsteps.
"Ah, nothing like a solo or a group ride Mahima; nothing can guarantee you safety unless you are alert and take precautions yourself. Going solo - is what makes me feel independent. I have taken two-three trips with few fellow women bikers also, but my first choice will always remain driving solo," she asserts.
So what if the bike breaks down and that too in the middle of the night in an unknown terrain. "Well, with passing time I have learnt to mend my bike on my own. We all have wings, we just need to discover them like a bird chick, realize our potential, shun our fears and fly...isn't it?! I have scaled KhardungLa Pass, the highest motorable road, where you hardly find human habitation...and I have also travelled through the length and breadth of Rajasthan in peak summers at 47 degrees Celsius. Nothing is impossible alone, the fear is just in our brain, shun it," this time the lioness in Dashmi roars at me.
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I agree with her, but I do tell that I really care about her well being. So the next question had to be about the safety measures she takes. "I have trained myself in Martial Arts. I practice meditation to stay calm and focused. And I have learnt how to deal not just with the bike, but even nasty people...you see," she laughs again and details more in her next breath.
"So, every six months me and my darling (her bike) are out to unexplored terrains. And on weekends whenever I find time, I explore nearby unseen places. I have to balance out personal and professional. Though my husband Mohan is a great person who thoroughly supports my adventures, still it is my responsibility to balance it all," Dashmi chuckles. And I can suddenly imagine a woman jump out of a tomboy! And this time I laugh, but unperturbed Dashmi goes on, "I just did my first trip to Uttarakhand in October, despite your warning not to. Remember, you warned me that several highways have crashed due to landslides? But then that was a challenge again. So I did go there with all safety measures in place. But yes, I will ask no one to replicate me. It has taken me 16 years of training under various experts and on different treacherous terrains to reach this stage. DO NOT APE ME!"
Talking about balancing the bike and her life, I ask Dashmi as to what does a typical day look like in her life.
Why planning is important?
"Well, I wake up at 6 am and prepare breakfast and lunch for the family. And then rush off to work by 8 am. When I return, besides usual household chores, most of my time either goes in some social work which I take up voluntarily or in planning my road trips. A lot of reading and preparation goes into each trip, right from knowing the place through Google as well reading those people's blogs who have taken a certain ride ride before...to preparing the bike and backpack for the same...to charting out a route map...to studying what all I can explore in terms of people and culture there - a lot of this takes up my free time. So practically I have no free time," Dashmi details every bit of her planning process. And I am spellbound by now!
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Talking about people and culture, my next question to her was how do people en-route as well as those whom she meets at the destination, take her as a SOLO BIKER WOMAN, who has come to visit their land.
"You know once I decided to take a trip to West Bengal on my birthday that falls in October. It was my first toughest ride alone. Around that time a rape from the region was in news. And whoever heard about my plan, warned me not to travel to the region. But I strongly believe that every place has its share of people with good or bad intentions. We cannot hold ourselves from taking a good step for the fear of encountering the bad ones. So I took on this solo trip to Mayapur in West Bengal via Kolkata - a 2000-km journey alone. I do admit that I countered a lot of problems including reckless truck drivers, some of whom even passed nasty jibes at me. I admit that I did feel exhausted and even broke down a few times. But, as they say, success tastes sweet only after hardships, after reaching my destination I felt nothing short of scaling the Everest!
Why go through all this pain?
Whether my second tough trip from Kashmir to Kanyakumari or the third most treacherous one to Rameswaram - each ride gave me a different lesson on how to deal with different kind of people. And every time I just grew more mature, more calm, more sorted and more at peace - to deal with troubles." And without taking a pause Dashmi went on detailing," So when I took on my fourth toughest ride ever, that too in Uttarakhand in October 2018, my bike broke down. I was waiting at the hilltop for hours. And you know who came to help? A truck driver! So while I had met these reckless ones in the past, this one came like a messenger of God! Imagine! So there are both positive and negative people in this world. All we need to do is ignore the latter and move on to achieve our goal in life."
And then she also reveals a few jibes she has taken in her stride - jibes that will tighten the fists of any woman. But Dashmi seems to be made of pure steel, "People have gone to the extent to call me a divorcee or a woman left by her husband and family due to her free will. But Mahima, I neither need to explain anything to them, nor do I don't need a certificate from anyone. Biking gives me thrill, an adrenaline rush that soothes my soul. I am not doing it for medals or awards, but to reward my own being. I cannot change people's mindset, right? So why worry about them? Biking has just made me complete - it helped me discover my inner strengths. And the urge to explore the myriad and mystic culture of this wonderland India, just keeps pulling me to a new place all the time!"
So where are you travelling next Dashmi? "Ha ha ha, I have just come back last month Mahima. As I said a detailed planning is required, so let's see which place attracts me next. I will surely keep you posted. Right now my students at school need me."
So what are her tips for women who wish to travel solo, to start with. The ardent teacher inside the passionate biker details everything, point by point!
- Study about the place deeply, before you plan to visit it alone
- Before you become a solo traveller, take a basic training of martial arts. It just not makes you self-dependent for safety but also makes you go through mental training wherein you are taught how to ignore certain people and make your safe way out through a situation. And use martial arts only when there is no option out.
- Stay alert about not just strangers but also about your surroundings. For instance, I have to stay alert of wild animals and plan your trip well in advance and avoid staying back after dusk.
- Keep at least three people in the family informed about your whereabouts from time to time, so that in case of an emergency, help can reach you indirectly, if need be.
- And above all, think positive, believe in the Almighty and when you sense any kind of danger - DO NOT PANIC. Stay calm and plan your next move. A calm brain takes the right decision, the fastest.
A very determined Dashmi Mohan signs off saying, "If you want to fly, if you wish to conquer the world, stop fearing. Just don't sit at home, if you believe in your dream. Just go out and take small steps to achieve it, get started and get busy. FEAR either stands for Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours. Be an example, be a role model!"
So what are you choosing, do write to us in the comments. And don't forget to share Dashmi's life story, since I know it has surely struck a chord with you, as it did with me!