I am a woman biker. I rode for 135 days or 4.5 months covering 27000 km. Let me (Shilpa Balakrishnan) tell you this is just not enough distance to know our country – India.
A combination of modernization and traditional values is what met my eyes. The respect people have for travelers especially for a woman biker was motivation enough to continue my journey. The most amazing thing I heard: “We want India to come, see us – not just as tourists but be with us as one of us”. I could not agree more. It helped me connect with people who we would otherwise call strangers.
It made people happy to see a woman biker from their own country had set out to visit them, know them, know their culture, tradition, day-to-day lifestyle. They appreciated my courage to go solo on my motorcycle, touring the entire country. All I could say was – OMG INDIA
I covered all 29 States and 5 Union Territories and there’s a story in each of them I visited. Sharing a few of them that are very close to my heart.
Travel Tales of Indian Woman Biker Shilpa Balakrishnan
My travel tales are my personal experiences gathered as an Indian woman biker. I have never been so humbled, surprised, astonished, and in awe of the people I have met in this journey and thus the title “OMG India”.
On way to Palampur, Himachal Pradesh
Nearly a month into my Pan India Tour I entered Himachal Pradesh after completing the first state of Jammu & Kashmir. I bore the harsh, cold weather of the Himalayas but missed my favorite food like milk and buttermilk. It was getting difficult & I was getting a bit frustrated.
I started looking out for it once I reached Himachal but still no luck. Even shops announcing buttermilk/lassi is available never had any stock of it. Remember, I had traveled through narrow mountainous roads that were broken, bad, treacherous, and dangerous. I didn’t realize I was famished.
Finally, I stopped by a Dhaba which didn’t look very appealing. I asked for buttermilk and the reply was again negative.
Read More – 15 Day RoadTrip Across Himachal Pradesh
I asked if no one ever consumed buttermilk in this region. He replied that they do have, but in the form of kadi – a delicacy made out of buttermilk. I requested him to serve me some and he did so gladly. It was steaming hot very delicious. I drank a bowl full of it and asked for another bowl which is when I realized that I was famished. So, I asked him if he had some rotis and curry. He went inside without replying and came out with daal and rice on a plate with ghee in it and the 2nd bowl of kadi. As soon as I finished, he gave me sugar candy saying he didn’t have any other dessert to offer. A very sweet gesture indeed.
Then, I realized his wife had prepared the kadi for him and not really to serve the customers. I couldn’t thank him less for sharing it with me. Guess what, for all this, he charged me a meager 30 Rs.
He said it was quite unusual to see a woman biker on this route that too a solo biker. This route was not much frequented by travelers. He wished me luck for my journey and with a broad smile, bade goodbye.
With such care and love for a stranger, I was left speechless. So stunned and speechless I was, that I forgot to take a picture of him or his Dhaba. OMG India – isn’t it!
Accident on my way to Patiala, Punjab
Punjab was the 3rd State I was covering and Patiala was the last stop. My bike needed some repairs so I set out early morning from Moga to reach Bhatinda where technicians were waiting for me. After the bike was repaired late afternoon, I started my ride to Patiala and expected to reach there by 7 PM. At about 6.30 PM, the sun was setting and Patiala was about 45 km away.
Read More – Patiala Heritage Walk
I was riding on the left of the road when a car suddenly turned left without any signal and hit me. Before I could react, I had fallen down with the bike over me. As I tried to push it my hand got stuck in the chain. With great difficulty, I managed to call out to the onlookers who immediately came.
However, as soon as they realized it was a woman biker, they stopped. I was in sheer pain. My leg was hurt and I was unable to move it. The very thought of possible multiple fractures left me panicked and I started crying.
Just then a guy stepped forward, picked me up with the help of 3 other people, put me on a cot, had my bent leg straightened out. He introduced himself as an army person. They had seen me on the route and were discussing if I were a woman biker or a man. They had been lagging a bit behind me and saw the accident when they just crossed me. Took a U-turn to help me. They did not wait for an ambulance to come but just put me in their SUV and took me to the hospital in Patiala.
Read More – Drass War Memorial – Kargil
On the way, he told me that he was on his way to Chandigarh to meet his wife who was leaving for the USA the next day. I felt a pang of guilt. A lot of his precious time was wasted in getting me to the hospital. I again forgot to take his picture.
My heart salutes the Indian Armed Forces for being so selfless both on or off duty. Jai Hind!!! Another OMG India moment for me.
Due to the accident, the tissues on my right leg were damaged making it difficult for me to move. I was advised to complete bed rest. I didn’t want to cull my journey and return home as advised by the doctors. As I needed rest for at least 3 weeks to completely recover from the injury. Few bikers had come to see me at the hospital and the admin of the group decided that I would stay with one of the fellow biker’s family for the time being until a further decision is made.
So, I was taken to his home where I was received by his wife and 2 cute little girls who went on to become my sweethearts. His wife took great care of me and never once grumbled about anything.
It was Navratri time during which I generally fast. But since I was injured and on medication, I decided not to fast but would avoid onion and garlic in the food. My hosts did not much follow any such food habit in their house but they saw to it that I was not inconvenienced in any way. For all the 10 days that I stayed, they did not eat any non-vegetarian food nor did they add onion or garlic to food. I was completely unaware of this until the last day.
Read More – Things to do in Patiala City
They not only took excellent care of me but treated me like their family. They even bore the entire cost of my treatment and ensured I was able to get back on my bike comfortably to continue the rest of my planned journey. Now they are like my extended family. A HUGE OMG INDIA for the way they treated me all throughout my stay.
Kedarnath Temple Trip as Woman Biker – Shilpa Balakrishnan
I couldn’t trek up the whole of 24 odd km due to my injured leg. So, I decided to take a helicopter to the top. As luck would have it, I couldn’t withdraw money from any of the ATM’s as they were all out of cash. So here comes a guy from the staff and asks me to book a ticket. I told him about the money situation and he asked me to wait for a few minutes. He returned back with Rs.3000/- cash. Handing it to me, he asked me to pay the amount at the counter. He even gave me a discount of Rs. 500/- on the ticket and arranged for my return journey.
I repaid the amount of the tickets only once I returned home after completing my India trip. The trust he had in me was the most touching part. We were unknown to each other yet, it didn’t stop him from helping me in going ahead with my plan. Another OMG India moment for my unknown messiah.
Woman Biker Shilpa Balakrishnan somewhere in Arunachal Pradesh
I was on my way to Ziro Valley and got stuck on the way due to a landslide. It took the workers all of 4 hours to cut the fallen rocks and make a small path to get to the other side of the road. By the time, it was too dark to travel ahead.
Read More – Explore the beautiful Tenga Valley of Arunachal
A guy from one of the line hotels aka truckers’ den ensured I reached their place safely, offered me food and shelter free of cost, and took care of me as if I was a close relative. He cooked me some noodles while we were waiting for the roads to be cleared. I had not eaten anything for the whole day. This was a blessing. It was ever so kind of him and his family to have taken care of me and seen to it that I was safe and sound. As a woman biker, I was taken aback at how warm and helpful the hotelier and his family were.
Woman Biker Shilpa Balakrishnan at Khliehriat, Meghalaya
This incident still gives me goosebumps when I think about it!. I faced a major breakdown of my vehicle. There was a short circuit in the wires under the ignition key which made the bike stall. Luckily, it stalled in this small village near a BSF camp.
I was wondering whom I could ask for help when came along with 2 men who could speak Hindi & English and volunteered to find a mechanic for me. The mechanic came but he could not get to the root of the cause as he did not look under the ignition in spite of me insisting him to do so. Anyways, one thing was confirmed, the cause was the ignition gone bad.
Read More – Things to do in Shillong
In the meanwhile, I had reached out to a friend in Silchar to see if there were any possibilities of getting the spares from Guwahati or Silchar. I also needed some accommodation till my bike was fit to go. Luckily, one of his friends has a hardware shop in Khliehriat. His friend arranged for me to stay at their place for 2 days and saw to it that both, me and my bike were good to go on our journey ahead.
When you get so much kindness on the road, how do you not say OMG India?
Amaravati – Capital of Andhra Pradesh
It was 12.30 am when I reached the town of Amaravati. I could not find a place to stay put in the night. All guesthouses were full and there was no one in sight. Praying to God, I roamed the streets to find someplace. I almost gave up and decided to sleep in the temple premises, when I saw 2 guys on a bike. I stopped them to inquire about any hotels available in the vicinity.
Read More – Adventure over Krishna River at Amaravati
It was around 1.30 am by then and I could only hope that they were decent guys. The language was a problem, but we both managed to communicate enough for me to explain what I wanted. He offered me to come to his house for the night. You can imagine my confusion about accepting his invitation. I explained to him that I am a lone female traveler and I am not sure if I should accept his offer. He said he had a family and I can check out his place before deciding to stay the night.
With not much choice at hand, I decided to follow him. His family welcomed me with open hands, fed me well, gave me shelter for the night, saw to my comfort, and pampered me to the best of their ability. I am just floored by how deeply India still believes in ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’!!! OMG India – do you have some more things stored for me?
I happened to meet a group from Gondia in Darjeeling. They were on a study tour with the Minister for education there. When he came to know about my Pan India tour, he invited me to his town. When I reached Maharashtra, I got in touch. Unfortunately, the minister was unavailable. However, his colleagues and secretary welcomed me with a bouquet of flowers, tea, and refreshment. They arranged for my stay and dinner too.
When I met the secretary before leaving for the hotel, he looked a bit dejected. He said he had promised his mother that he would bring me home that evening to stay over but that was not going to happen now as my stay was arranged in the hotel by his seniors. I did not want to disappoint him, so promised to come to his house the next day before leaving for my next destination.
Welcome by Womenfolk to Shilpa Balakrishnan
His village was about 50kms from Gondia. Again, I felt right at home, which was a familiar thing by now. Womenfolk were pretty excited to know that I was a woman biker. His mother was overwhelmed to see me there and welcomed me with Aarti, Flowers, and Teeka. She then showed me around her house explaining how they carried on their day to day life and how demonetization (the highly flamed news at that time) did not affect them nor any of the villagers as they were more into barter system than money exchange.
I was well fed before I took leave. This is the real India.
Never believe the stories people tell about places you have never been to. Go there, experience, and write your own.
The love, affection, and care that I have received from many known and unknown people across India make me say just one thing – OMG India.
We all need to remember to be good tourists or travelers and thank the people living in these places. We can be there because they are there. Never forget that.
All I can say is I am a proud Indian and I love my country and its people.
OMG India – I LOVE YOU !!!
This is a guest post by Shilpa Balakrishnan.
A Woman Biker, full of dreams to travel across the globe. I used to work for an MNC and now a freelance tour consultant. I have been riding motorcycles since 2004. My main aim of traveling has always been to promote tourism of that place and thus, I have done quite a few tours within the country including a Pan India Tour covering all 29 States and 5 Union Territories. I did a ride to Bhutan in 2017. In 2018 I did ‘Road to the Mekong’. Follow me on my Facebook Page
glad 2 c that human values r very much intact in parts of india. the media projects things in a different way.time these kinds of tales and teravelogues ans stories r publicised in the media 2 restore the faith in indian ethos, good culture and homely gestures.
i have been through all the places except shillong and able 2 relate myself to many of the xperiences.
Right Dr. Karthik – India is safe and kind most of the times, unlike what media wants us to believe.
Absolutely, Dr. Karthik. At the time I started my journey, the media was full of news that women are unsafe in our country. It did give me jitters, but then, I knew my country and it’s people much better than the media ????
I am glad to have taken this journey and now live with beautiful memories I gathered on the way.
Thanks for your encouragement. I shall try to publish more of my experiences going forward.
You have had such an amazing and enriching experience biking through the numerous towns and meeting families that make India. Thanks for sharing it with us Shilpa!
Your lonly travel experiences are amazing and unbelivable! The act of kindness from unexpected people at the unexpected time is very touching. May God bless them.
The lesson we have to learn from this is never hesitate to help somebody when they are in need.
Thank you for sharing your experiences
Thanks for the encouragement. I shall definitely keep sharing many more experiences in the future.
This really motivates you to start traveling. Your descriptions of the kindness everyone showed you show how much traveling can really be worthwhile.
Yes. Travelling has changed the way I perceive many thinga in a big way
This is a great achievement Shilpa di and I the experience shared by you is amazing. It’s so sad that Indian media projects our country in such a bad light when the fact is our country is full of warm and helpful people. Thanks for sharing this experience of yours! Jai hind!
Thanks Sanjay. Yes. It is quite demotivating to hear anything bad about our country. It creates such an unpleasant perception to the world.
That’s why I insist people should travel to know the truth that believe everything that is said in media.
Great experience! Indian women are not less than anybody you proof it. Also, it made a really amazing trip on bikes as bike women. Thanks for sharing it with us Shilpa!
keep it up! Rise and Shine always god bless u.
Thanks v much for the encouragement and wishes. It means a lot 🙂
I’m sure you will have plenty of new “episodes” to share, Shilpa! This is a great and unbelievable adventure. Your travel tales is very inspiring.
That is very very encouraging and motivational. I really admire your work and your dream. especially that you ride solo but never leave anyone behind, you keep their memories with you in from of pictures and that is very appreciable. I wish you a best of luck to achieve your goals that you must have set for your future journeys. God Bless You…
wow, truly inspirational woman solo biker. keep sharing love to hear from you
Wow you are very convincing I had wrong information about the country but you made me admire to be there.
wow, women ride bicycles
very good article