In conversation with Shilpa Balakrishnan
Shilpa Balakrishnan has traveled to all corners of the country in a mere 29 days. Due to her passion for travelling, Shilpa quit her job over a year ago to follow her dream of going around the world. She is also an entrepreneur who has started an adventure travel company.
How did it all start?
I am not sure when the idea of riding a motorbike came to me at all, but guess it took ground when I was in college. My sister one day said she had learnt to ride a bike. I too felt like learning it but then the dream was not realised till 2004 – 12 years later.
My friend with whom I used to go pillion riding suddenly asked me to start riding one fine day and offered to teach me too. I couldn’t decide what to do but after an argument that lasted nearly 2 hours, I gave in and started learning to ride. It took almost a month for me to start riding out all by myself. I bought my first bike in 2005 for commuting to work. I had the travel bug in me which didn’t allow me to stay put with just commuting to work.
Riding over long distances soon helped me build on endurance, tolerance to different climactic conditions while going through different terrain, and more importantly helped me gain the confidence to face the world. I have completed almost 300,000km till date on my motorcycle, going through different parts of India and few neighbouring countries. I recently created a record of being the first woman to visit all 4 corners of India – Kanyakumari, Khardung La, Kibithu and Koteshwar in a single trip, in 29 days, covering over 15,000km.
How do you feel as a woman biker?
When I am on the road, I don’t distinguish myself as a woman biker. This is because, the road knows no gender. I am just a human being like any other, riding my motorbike, going from one destination to another.
Being a woman biker has its own positives and negatives. There are quite a few who encourage me to do what I am doing, but there are many who try to suppress/discourage me by sharing their negative thoughts. I have been jeered, laughed at, challenged, booed and have faced quite a lot. So yes, it has not been an easy journey. Initially, I used to get quite conscious about all these things, but then I learnt to just ignore it and move ahead.
Things have changed over the years and now people appreciate me for my achievements and I am recognised thanks to all the support from DCB bank in my riding endeavours. I wish more women would come out and start living their lives on their terms rather than depend on someone else to be what they want to be.
Juggling riding and your profession
Initially, it was difficult to manage both my profession and riding due to work. The preference was obviously to my profession rather than riding. However, I never gave up on my passion. I did smaller rides over weekends mostly. Then when I changed my job, I got the chance to take leave for a longer duration – 15 days at once. I used to plan my rides well in advance and apply for the leaves too right in the beginning of the year. That way there was seldom any conflict between my work and passion. Over a period of time, I could juggle both pretty well, thus enjoying my passion and managing my profession too.
I quit my job over a year back to follow my dream of going around the world as and when I can. I have also started an adventure travel company to enable and encourage others to go on road trips to explore our country in the best possible way.
Favourite motorcycle yet?
I love the motorcycles I own and obviously, they are pretty close to my heart. But, my favourite one is yet to come. I hope to get that sooner than later, but only time will tell how soon it will be. A Honda Africa Twin? Or a BMW maybe? Well, I am not sure yet.
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Being an inspiration
It is quite motivating to hear people say that I am an inspiration to them. Plus, it makes me happy. It is not necessary that they should go biking around as I do. It’s more important for them to live for themselves. They should be happy and not give up on their dreams. That will satisfy and make me believe that I could inspire someone in the true sense. I can probably pull up a few interested people and take them on a ride of their life. However, it may or may not inspire them to do something on their own.
Message to girls
Being independent is very important, but don’t let ego get the better of you. Be wise when you are on the road. Follow all traffic rules, stay safe, be safe and surge ahead to live your dreams the best way you can.