35-year old Shyni Rajkumar has traveled approximately 7,500 miles in just 42 days on a motorbike through India to speak on women’s issues. From July to September, she traveled from Kanyakumari to Leh and back on her Royal Enfield Himalayan Bullet that bears the slogan ‘Azadi,’ which means to stop violence against women. Her journey was supported by the Kerala Ministry of Tourism.
As a woman born and raised in Kerala, India, Rajkumar is aware of the societal pressures and gender bias she faces while she is on her brave mission to help the women of India. Women bikers are often joked about in a sexist manner and frowned upon because families do not take kindly to their daughters or wives riding motorbikes.
Rajkumar describes herself as not one to speak up, but she wants to be the voice that takes a stand against violence and discrimination that women deal with everyday. She wants to stand on her own two feet confidently and unapologetically. She discusses her path from childhood to the present and touches on what she hopes for for the future.
Her love for her motorbike came from her uncle, Thangarajan, who was a policeman. She remembers all of the stories about his life in the force he would tell her growing up. He had a passion for fast bikes, especially Bullets, like the one Shyni has. Her uncle encouraged her to join sports teams in school, where she participated in 100m, 200m, high jump, and long jump competitions, and winning trophies for the school.
Rajkumar says, “I was raised by my uncle and he introduced me to the Bullet… and it became my dream to buy one someday. I belong to a middle-class family and it seemed to be an impossible dream at that time, but then no one can stop you from dreaming, right?”
She then enrolled in All Saints College, located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. She continued to play sports like cricket and football. It was there that she learned to ride a bicycle and a scooterette, making her way to her ever-so-loved motorbike.
During her undergraduate course, Rajkumar moved to Gorakhpur, where she joined her sister’s school as a Physical Training instructor. It was here where she finally learned to ride an old model of the motorbike she loves so dearly.
She later followed in her uncle’s footsteps and joined the police force in Noida. However, this resulted in restricting her freedom to travel regularly. She left the force after three years and returned to Kerala in 2007. She had a job after that at Kotak Mahindra, but left in 2012 to concentrate on more riding experiences.
Rakjumar went on several solo trips and also took a trip with her husband. She went through several different kinds of bikes and has been riding on her Royal Enfield Himalayan Bullet since 2016. She also joined a biking club in 2016, called the Dauntless Royal Explorers, for women bike enthusiasts.
“The idea was not only to nurture passion but also to encourage women to stand on their own feet. Sometimes they need to take permission for even a one-day trip. So when they really come out and take up a challenge, they feel empowered,” she said, discussing what the bike club is all about.
One of the main reasons Rajkumar wanted to take on this mission was because of the rape and murder of a young girl named Soumya in Kerala, in 2011, who was thrown off a train in Kerala, shocking the country.
This was a turning point for Rajkumar and she felt compelled to do something to give women courage to face these types of situations. She is an inspiration to not only the women of India, but women around the world.
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