India’s first female moto vlogger has a nice, inspirational ring to it, doesn’t it? So we can only imagine how Mumbai-based biker Vishakha Fulsunge a.k.a RiderGirl Vishakha must be feeling about this proud achievement, while she continues to break stereotypes every day. We caught up with the MBA graduate who holds two India Books Of Records for her extraordinary feats. She spoke to us about how she is paving the way for young girls in a male-dominated industry. By Amitha Ameen
1. Being India’s first female moto vlogger, what has the journey been like?
The journey so far has been a good mix of things, right from personal learnings and dealing with multiple emotions to social changes and outperforming odds in facing traditional obstacles and overcoming them. In totality, I can say that this is a journey that means life to me.
Being a girl and deciding to become a biker was not a normal decision. In our type of social order when you attempt to do such things, it is almost inevitable that all odds will turn against you. This is when you decide whether you want to pay heed to your inner calling and are prepared to face those odds or to turn the other direction. I decided to listen to my inner voice and my love for biking was there since childhood. However, when I used to see videos of bikers all of them were boys, which shook me a lot and that is where the journey of India’s First Female Moto-Vlogger started.
2. When did you first start taking road trips and what motivated you to do so?
As far as I can remember, taking road trips has been a generational habit in our family. My father used to take us somewhere every month. My passion for open roads and travelling was on an auto-pilot mode since childhood.
Our minds are always in search of mild challenges and this brings forth new experiences and learnings, and this is what keeps me motivated. Meeting new people and bringing back souvenirs for friends and family from my different travels is something that always excites me.
Doing these activities as a girl and setting a positive and encouraging example for many is something that keeps me moving. There are many girls in our country who wish to pursue their dreams, but find it difficult due to many different hurdles and this is where I hope to come in and create some kind of a change.
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3. You hold two India Book of Records, for being the first female rider to cross the Bay of Bengal and riding across the Andaman Islands. Tell us all about your experience.
I have been loving the journey, especially since riding in the mainland was becoming traditional and I was wondering how to bring something new and reinvent my riding experience. The idea to go to an island was suggested by my mom and on the very same day, a friend asked me to go on a ride to Andaman.
It’s true what they say about willing to do something and eventually manifesting it. We took off the next day and it was an entirely unplanned experience and within 24 hours I started my journey towards Andaman. It took me around 14 hours to reach Visakhapatnam for shipping my bike and we boarded around 04:00 pm the next day.
It was one of the most memorable experiences for me because it was like a complete digital detox due to zero network connectivity on the ship. My feelings on landing in Portblair were unmatched, and I leave the rest for you to watch in my vlog.
4. Which has been your most memorable road trip so far and why?
It would undoubtedly be my recent ride for Sampurna Narmada Parikrama. Once again, I was the first female biker to do Narmada Parikrama. There have been many special rides that I have done in the past, be it Andaman, Himachal or Spiti. But Narmada Parikrama is very close to my heart. For a very long time, I was looking for something in terms of giving back to society and this was very special.
It was a ride filled with emotion along the banks of river Narmada, and one that changed my perception towards life. To top it all was the fact that it was not just a ride, but for a social cause — ‘Let’s Not Pollute Our Rivers, Save Rivers Save Nation.’ It was a nine-day ride for a noble cause and I came out of it feeling like I had experienced a rebirth.
I decided to undertake Narmada Parikrama to spread a message. But this is not the last one, as I have many such projects lined up in the coming days. I plan to engage in more social impact rides.
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5. Where were you when the lockdown was announced and how did you cope with it?
I was at home when the first Janta Curfew was announced and when the month-long lockdown was announced my immediate thought was ‘what next?’ since my type of work involves outdoor activities. But I immediately realised that for a bigger change one needs to overcome temporary obstacles. I started thinking of my audience and about how the lockdown would impact them mentally.
I figured that right then my primary responsibility was to put out something which can bring a smile on my viewers’ faces. I started developing a lot of content from my past experiences with a new perspective, bringing old experiences in new forms. During this lockdown period, I also started a new type of informative Instagram series about dream destinations.
6. How have you been spending your lockdown days?
“Waqt hi toh hai, guzar jayega” — was the first thing that came to mind, but at the same time, I was thinking about my viewers. I set myself to interact more with my viewers through live sessions, bringing new concepts and videos on my handles.
7. How do you choose your road trip destinations? Where will you be heading to when travel bans are lifted?
I want to travel everywhere including the moon. If given a chance and if it is even remotely possible, I am ready to take my Kashis (bike) to the moon. Having said that, I would like to explore more of the Himalayas and experience the beautiful curves of the mountains while spending time with nature.
8. When on-the-road, how do you cope with unforeseen hurdles such as flat tires on the highway, or losing your way?
The real process of life is — “Everything that happens in life is a part of life itself.” One must accept the truth of hurdles on the road and be ready for the same. Facing obstacles are inevitable, but overcoming them is always a choice. There is a different aspect to it. If I had to explain in plain words, all hurdles can be divided into two broad categories — mechanical and emotional.
For mechanical hurdles, one must be ready with all the required equipment along with the knowledge of normal troubleshooting. However, to overcome emotional obstacles one must be mentally strong. Learning small repair techniques always helps one overcome small obstacles on the road.
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9. Any tips for road trip enthusiasts, especially female solo bikers such as yourself?
The first thing I would like to say is — develop a thick skin for all negativity and societal stereotypes. It is very important to be surrounded by positive people, so make sure to build a positive environment. Being nervous is always good as it helps you prepare more efficiently, but there is no point in letting fear take the forefront. Planning and execution hold the key. One must plan very carefully, especially as a girl it is better to avoid travelling at night. I would also recommend keeping some security measures like GPS tracking, which always prove to be helpful.
11. Your top recommendations for a road trip?
Being in the lap of Himalayas is always a great experience. I must say, the Leh, Ladakh and Spiti circuit trips brings lots of inner satisfaction. The coastal belt ride is another must-try, as standing on a seashore and talking to the ripples can teach you many things. If you are a heritage and culture buff, I would definitely recommend a road trip in Rajasthan.
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12. How do you think the world of travel will change post-COVID-19?
Many things are going to change for sure. Now, this is an opportunity to prepare our travels differently. Hygiene and safety are aspects that should come to the top of your priority list. I have been seeing group riders who have already started solo riding by taking all precautions and measures. I think the next popular stay option will be camping in our tents. People are going to turn more to disposable materials while travelling and I am optimistic that we will come out of this successfully.