This is the story of Nidhi Bhatia, one of India’s Top 3 Women Motorcycle Rider. Nidhi, is born and raised in traditional and orthodox Indian family with a humble background. Today she works as Manager- Operations with a leading fashion house in Mumbai, India. As a youngster she was a NCC Cadet and aspired to be Pilot, but that’s not what life wanted from her. Eventually she chose to ride bikes and fly them too. Till date she has won more than 50 races in various categories of Motorcycle Racing in India. For her life is all about healthy relationships, living on the edge and motorbikes.
In a personal interaction with her, I discovered the rider under the helmet which left me awestruck. On interviewing her, this chirpy girl was straight, confident and modest with her answers. Let’s find out what this “Biker Girl” has in store for us……
Being majorly a male dominated sport in India what made you choose to be a biker girl?
During my growing years, I used to see my uncle ride at dirt track events. I often asked him as a child if he would let me ride when I grew up, but there were many out there in the circuit who used to laugh at me for saying this. “You better focus on a sport which suits girls”, is what I was told as a child. Luckily my family did not demur, in fact they cheered me and even let me ride at times. Not to mention names yet, some of my relatives used to pass lame remarks and would go up to the extent of humiliating me publicly about how a girls should stay away from such a sport. They missed no opportunity trying to emphasize how women are the weaker sex. Every word from them would pierce me through and through. I made sure I defy them and prove them wrong. I took it head on and here i am.
They missed no opportunity trying to emphasize how women are the weaker sex. Every word from them would pierce me through and through. I made sure I defy them and prove them wrong. I took it head on and here i am.
What were the building blocks that led you to become the person that you are today?
Being born in an orthodox & conservative family, my childhood the same old grind as others, nothing different.
As a child I was treated alike the other children of the family, but as I grew up, I was expected to pay more attention towards house hold stuff. Strong values were inculcated in me and by following the tradition I was expected to learn everything that an Indian girl is supposed to do, that would eventually make a good wife and very good daughter -in-law. I did all that, yet thought differently. I always knew I wasn’t cut out for this. I aspired to be a Pilot then, and as the first step I enrolled with the National Cadet Corps which is the youth wing on the country’s armed forces and also started taking flying lessons. Here is where I learnt what physical & mental toughness is all about.
When did you decide you wanted to make your passion fall into reality?
In my early years, I used to watch my brother riding his motorcycle and wondered if I would be able to ride someday.
My dad observed that eagerness many a times and suddenly one night he sneaked me out, asked me if I would want to learn how to ride. This became a routine, every night we would get out and he would teach me and help me practice. Seeing my passion for riding, he encouraged me to ride. That’s how it all started, from riding in the bye-lanes of Mumbai to the racing tracks of India.
Is there an incident that took place over the years that was a turning point in your life?
It happened all of a sudden. Back in 2003, at a “Dirt Track Race” where my uncle was participating and my brother was attempting the Kid’s class as well.
Dad was a part of the pit crew so he took me along to watch this event. I was super excited since it was my first time at the tracks. At that event, there was a women’s category. My uncle saw this and asked me I wanted to give it a shot. Even after seeing that the riders were twice my age, I jumped with all fours on this opportunity and grabbed it. I asked my father if I could, he was okay with it. On request, we did a spot on registration. And, guess what… I won. Neither was I carrying riding gear nor had I ever participated in a Dirt Track Race, all I had with me was my passion and the confidence that took me past the checkered flag. I saw pride in their eyes. And that’s when the they decided train me completely for this sport.
Neither was I carrying riding gear nor had I ever participated in a Dirt Track Race, all I had with me was my passion and the confidence that took me past the checkered flag.Chrysalis- Transformation of Commoners, Nidhi Shukla – The Story a of a Biker Girl”
Now that your father and uncle were on your side, were there any hurdles that you had to jump over?
Just like most women in our society do, there were quite a few challenges that I faced when I started track racing and pursued it further.
Motorcycle racing in India, for a woman is not as easy as it looks and that is because you have to participate among men at most events. Let’s all agree, that most men are built physically stronger than women. That made me work a lot harder on my physical strength to be able to stand among them at the start line. But, as I mentioned before, I come from an orthodox background where women in the community aren’t allowed to do anything of this sort. It’s considered as rebellious. Initially it was difficult but became a smooth sail for me because I have a super strong and supportive mother. Along with values and virtues she prepared me to be mentally strong, that’s how I could deal with the mental pressure, though I faced a lot of demur from my extended family and the society at large.
Any such incident that Broke You Down completely?
Being an expensive sport for the middle class it was too much of a burden. At one end, my brother was training for the same sport and on the other hand it was me. I decided to take the back seat so that my brother could reap the all benefits and excel.
Secondly, when I was just budding into a full fledged professional in my sport, owing to some close ones, not to name any, I was advised to focus on my education with the thought process that a girl shouldn’t take this sport up as a career.
I took a break for some years. It was disheartening. I lost touch with my passion- riding. The books replaced my bike, college replaced the track and fear replaced my confidence. I graduated in the field of fashion designing with great grades, yet I was lost. My father couldn’t take it anymore, he got me back to riding. He said, “Beta, main hoon tere saath, hum dono saath mein milke tayaari karenge” I am with you, we’ll do it together.” It was immensely difficult for me to start all over again. I had to get back to basics. And that was time consuming.
“Beta, main hoon tere saath, hum dono saath mein milke tayaari karenge” (My child I am with you, we’ll practice together)Dinesh Shukla, Chrysalis- The Story of “Biker Girl”- Nidhi Shukla
What kept you going through all the low phases of your life?
Riding has always been a stress buster for me, whenever I feel low, I pick up my keys and zoom off. I have faced a lot of ups and downs, yet there is something about bikes that always makes me forget all problems. Sitting on a bike, has always fetched me the confidence that helps me surpass everything.
How different are you in your professional life and your personal life?
My passion and profession fall in line with each other. Professionally, I’m more disciplined, focused and a no nonsense person.
I like to be organised and well prepared. I’m more of a rational thinker, that helps me gauge situations as they are rather than the way I want to see them. This inherent quality has helped me in keeping the balance of mind over heart. On the other hand personally, I’m a bit laid back, relaxed and chilled out. I don’t really stress about small things and easily let go. In fact, at times I feel that I’m two different people when it comes to my professional life versus personal life.
What’s your relationship like with your siblings?
Oh, I have always a tom-boy since I was the only girl child among 7 cousins. I was always different from other girls. I loved playing their sport instead of the usual girly stuff. I loved challenging the boys of gang, ‘cos my brother always put me through the grind and I loved that.
Since childhood, Kshitij emphasised upon gender equality and imbibed the same in me. My brother has been my strongest contender yet he is my biggest strength. He has fought tooth and nail for me at every step, so that I get to where I am today. He pampers me, he loves watching me take on challenges and motivates me to win over them. I guess, this is a huge reason for me being the renegade that I am.
Being a married lady now, how does your spouse react to your adventures of motorbike racing.
Being married comes with a lot of expectations, from the family, society and relatives. You are expected to be this naive woman who has to do everything to keep the family happy.
But, in my case, I have been very lucky to have found Akshay Bhatia, my amazing husband. He is as crazy as I am and loves riding too. He is the one who encourages me to take on races and practices along with me. In fact he takes care of every little detail in an event.
Akshay is this really understanding man, who shares similar interests and stands by me in every thing I do.
And yeah, being a free girl to a married lady with responsibilities has been a roller coaster ride, which wouldn’t have been possible without him.
What does a typical day in your life look like? How do you take time out for practice?
On a regular day I have a work schedule from 10 to 7. My morning routine involves, working out for a while, cooking, a little chit chat with my family and then I leave straight for work. At work every single day is different. It’s a new experience every day. I am working with professionals from whom I can learn and they push me to take on new & challenging opportunities. It’s fun.
I, get back home, cook for the family and spend some time with them post dinner or get out and meet friends over coffee & desserts.
At the fag end of the day it is husband who keeps me alive . We go for our rides or practice as many may call it, over the weekends. But, the irony is that we have to travel for more than 30 kms away from Mumbai to have a good time riding, since there is no dedicated racing or practice track in the city.
But, the irony is that we have to travel for more than 30 kms away from Mumbai to have a good time riding, since there is no dedicated racing or practice track in the city.Chrysalis- The Story of “Biker Girl”- Nidhi Shukla
How do you maintain your fitness? What’s your fitness mantra? What are your guilty pleasures….
As the sanskrit saying goes, “sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niraamayah, sarve bhadrani pashyantu, ma kashchid duhkha -bhag-bhavet” Meaning, all should/must be happy, be healthy, see good; may no one have a sorrow in heart. In a sport like mine, which is very challenging mentally and physically,
being fit is quintessential. I work out for 45 mins for almost 5 days a week and then start my day. I am a huge foodie, and would hate altering my food habits. I watch what I eat but its not possible every time. I sweat it out during my workout so that it balances out. I truly believe that one should Sleep Well, Eat Well, Workout Well and all will be well…!
Do you believe in God? What is your relationship with God?
Shiva; is my ultimate savior from everything. I look at him as a friend, as my heavenly father and partner. He helps me get through toughest times. After having read about him, I want to imbibe the calmness that he has. I get all my positivity from him. Babulnath Temple (Mumbai) is like a second home and a place of solace for me.
In moments of stress or if I’m on a general low, I place all of it it in his hands and leave all the negativity back there. Since he is the Neelkantha, he takes away all my negative thoughts and gives me his positive ones. There is so much to learn from Lord Shiva, when I meditate, I connect with him. He is my ultimate source of energy I love the way he loves and validates his wife (Shakti) and all his bhakts.
Whom do you turn to in times of adversities? Why?
Akshay, my husband is my lifeline and my back bone. He has always stood rock solid behind me in times of trials. He watches my blind side, I dote on him and run to him for any advice when required. He gives me a tremendous amount of confidence and lifts me up when I am low. I needn’t worry ever, ‘cos I know for sure that he’s got my back.
And of course Dad & Mom. They know me inside out. There have been hardly any instances where I have had to spell out my issues or problems. It’s their love for me that they just know by looking at me. They give a lot of positive vibes that in turn give the strength of the world to sustain through any adversity. I would like to use your medium, to thank all three of them for being the pillars of my life.
What’s your take on the glass ceiling ?
Of course it exists, you just got to know how to break it. There is one instance that I would like to mention. I clearly remember a Super Cross Event at Nasik 2014, I was participating in the general category with the boys and the race had just begun.
Just round the corner of the 1st Lap, one of the male racers rammed into my bike from behind, making me skid off the track and fall. I got up, picked up the damaged bike and continued. Coming the 4th lap, the jump was approximately 15-20 feet. My bike was rattling and to make matters worse the throttle of my bike got stuck in mid air. Before I could realize I was thrown onto ground from that height. I fell unconscious and had to be moved from the track. To my luck due to technical reasons that round was cancelled and had to be restarted after a while. After gaining consciousness, I came to know bout it, despite of being stopped by many I was there at the starting line waiting for my next attempt. Unfortunately, my motorbike was badly damaged and I couldn’t attempt that one.
That’s when a National Level Rider walked up to me, smirked and said, “It’s better you ride in the girls category, when there is one. I’m sure it’s obvious to you that there is no place for you here.” I just smiled and walked away. The very next race-a Mini Super Cross, I bagged the Ashoka Trophy in Nasik, following that the Monsoon Scooter Rally at Navi mumbai (Road – Mountain Terrain Rally) & I confirmed the 1st Spot for 3 years consecutively i.e., 2014 to 2017. (Smiling) Guess this answers the question.
What do relationships mean to you? Your friends, colleagues, co- riders, acquaintances…. what is the role they play in your success story?
I consider myself lucky for being surrounded by people who love me so much. My Mother In Law just loves me for what I am. She is very proud of me and my achievements and at times boasts to her friends about me. I feel relationships are very important to survive in life and you only get love if you give.
It’s important to love and respect the ones who have stood by you. Always appreciate and value the effort they put into the relationship. Always be thankful for whatever you get in this life and you will keep getting more and more. Value their presence and you will never feel their absence. My friends have been a great support throughout my life and continue to be my partners in crime.
It’s important to love and respect the ones who have stood by you. Always appreciate and value the effort they make towards you. Value their presence and you will never feel their absence.Chrysalis- The Story of “Biker Girl”- Nidhi Shukla
What is your mantra for life?
My mantra for life is, “Do whatever makes you happy. No matter how difficult it is, just follow your passion and dreams because you have only one life, live it the fullest.”
The feeling of regret is really ugly. I wish nobody has to face it. You will have a lot of people around you to support emotionally but it’s you who has to fight the battle to overcome regret, so it’s better give it a try and fail, rather than regretting of not trying at all.
Is there something you would like to tell our readers?
Treat every challenge as an opportunity. Take them head on, you’ll either win or you’ll learn.
Life is a Race…. Keep practicing whatever you want to do in your life. Practice is what makes you perfect. Practice keeps you in touch with your passion & dreams, and dreams keep you alive.
Life is a Race… Keep practicing whatever you want to do in your life. Practice is what makes you perfect. Practice keeps you in touch with your passion & dreams, and dreams keep you alive.Chrysalis- Transformation of Commoners, Nidhi Shukla – The Story a of a Biker Girl”
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