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Vishakha Fulsunge has been living out her biking passion, challenging one gender stereotype at a time. She now holds two India Book of Records including the title of being the first female rider to cross Bay of Bengal and ride across Andaman Islands.
And she is rewriting the standards of the motovlogging industry with her unique take on solo female travelling across the subcontinent. From being the fastest girl on the KTM Circuit Race at Vroom 2016 to covering difficult terrains of Leh, Ladakh region, Vishakha recalls redefining her challenges at every step. She is on the road currently, but we managed to catch up with her for a quick chat.
Here are some excerpts:
You've transitioned from various professions to being an avid biker. When did it occur to you first that motorbiking was your calling?
Since childhood I was more inclined towards travelling, interacting with people and new experiences. Having said that, biking was a call with more thrilling experience. Looking at the surroundings while travel vlogging was mostly dominated by men and hence I decided to break the monotony.
You’re the first female rider to cross the Bay of Bengal and ride across Andaman Islands. How would you describe that journey?
When I got to know that I will be riding in Andaman, I was really excited. Within two days of that intimation, I had to prepare for the trip, and reach Vizag to ship my bike. That solo ride from Mumbai to Vigzag was awesome, and it was like a dream come true taking the bike on a ship and landing on an island for a ride. The 3-day ship journey had so much to offer. Riding in different parts of Port Blair was a different feeling.
Motorbiking sometimes may not be considered a ‘female sport’. Have you ever had to face the stigma while on a ride or otherwise? How did you tackle it?
That is what I am aiming at changing. We live in a social order where training and mental programming plays a very vital role. Since childhood, we are trained to "be like a girl", what we can do and can’t do as one. This is where RiderGirl Vishakha came into the picture: to advocate a life lived by your own choices. A life which you decide for yourself. Yes, I faced stigma, and I continue to face them. I do not get accommodation in a hotel just because I'm a single female on a ride, and that's just one example.
But being optimistic is the key. One needs to hold the temperament and focus on one's work, instead of beng negative. My suggestion to all girls here is, always develop a thick skin towards all negativity and focus on your life, like a horse's vision, stay with blinkers on and focused. The life you choose is for yourself only.
Can you describe to our readers the first solo journey you undertook?
Apart from a few small rides in different parts of Maharashtra, I would like consider my first solo ride as the one I undertook in Leh-Ladakh. Every biker's dream is to ride these beautiful mountain curves at least once in a lifetime, and I am not an exception.
It was hard to plan such a ride (solo) from Mumbai. However, as usual, I decided to move ahead and completed it. This ride was full of interesting experiences, like meeting fellow riders on the way, and riding together. Initially I was a little nervous, but as the ride progressed, my confidence level increased. When I returned back to Delhi after making the mighty Khardungla, it was like a lifetime achievement.
What’s the fondest memory you have from a particular ride?
Being on a mountain, travelling across the Bay of Bengal surrounded by blue skies and waters, these will remain etched in my memory. The ride I took recently, in 2020, was the Narmada Parikrama. It was one of the most beautiful rides I have ever been on. It was a mix of adventure plus spiritualism along with a social message.
It had a social message, “Let’s Not Pollute our Rivers, Save Rivers Save Nation”. I was happy to see the comments on my Vlog, when people started taking the pledge to not pollute rivers. Many people even began to understanding the role of rivers in our life. The 9-day ride gave me the feeling of being in Ma Narmada’s womb for nine months, and experiencing a rebirth. It was quite a rejuvenating.
Which is the most treacherous journey you’ve taken so far?
It has to be the ride to Spiti Valley. On the roads, you can find official signages declaring “You are travelling on the world’s most treacherous roads”. I also can’t rule out the experience of the Narmada Parikrama.
You are currently on a ride during the monsoons and the pandemic. How is your experience?
The situation is not in favour of travellers. This is a difficult time for moto-vloggers like me, who always needs to be outside to bring content for my viewers. After a long time under lockdown, I decided to do something different: visiting nearby non-crowded places locally. That’s how the monsoon ride came into being. It was a ride to Kondana Caves in Karjat which is around 35km from Lonavala. Safety and hygiene protocols was the first thing before I started on this ride. The comments and responses on my vlog have been quite overwhelming for this ride.
If we were to raid your travel bag, what is the most peculiar thing we’ll find?
I am neither a kid now, nor am I studying anywhere, but you will still find a big bottle of Bournvita in my bag!
What bike are you currently riding and why?
Currently I am riding a KTM Duke. I call it my Love 'Kashis'. It's a super-cool necked bike within a friendly budget range.
What should one look out for before buying a bike?
There are multiple things one needs to consider before buying a bike. For example your height and weight must synchronise with the bike. This plays a vital role in handling a bike on road. Your style of riding is another thing one should consider before putting money into a machine. Another important aspect is accessibility and availability of parts, service centres, and mechanics. Recurring maintenance cost is another factor one should consider.
You’ve come a long way since you started riding first. A piece of advice that you wish somebody had given you when you started out?
My mom, my philosopher, my guru, always advises me to explore more. Making a 500km stretch in a day is no use if you have just seen trucks and taxis on road. One must enjoy the ride.
Where is your next ride going to be?
In this pandemic phase, my plan is to explore local unseen places in Maharashtra. Something is cooking up and I will be travelling soon! Stay tuned to my Youtube Channel RiderGirl Vishakha!
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