Tales of an unlikely motorcycle traveler: Esha Gupta, India's Female Solo-Tourer
Back in 2012, India was rocked by the notorious Nirbhaya gang-rape case. In the wake of that terrible tragedy, commentators from India and around the world wondered just how safe it was to be a woman in India. Esha Gupta – an Indian woman who had recently quit her corporate job and taken up traveling full time – felt that her home country was being unfairly maligned in the press, so she set out alone on a tour of the country to prove otherwise.
So, with roughly two years of riding experience, Gupta loaded up her trusty Bajaj Avenger and set out on her adventure. Her first trip was a challenging one, a nearly four thousand mile ride around the Golden Quadrilateral, a massive highway that runs almost completely around India. During her trip she met countless tourists and locals, and experienced much of the good and the bad that the country has to offer.
“I met a lot of foreign tourists who were skeptical about travelling in India. All the brouhaha in social media had tarnished the country’s image and I wanted to send a message that was contrary to everybody’s belief. Today, I can definitely say India is not so bad a country for women,” Gupta told The Hindu. “My biggest strength is my fearlessness and I stayed at budgeted places like dingy lodges and guest houses and never faced any problem. People always advised me not to divulge that I was travelling alone. But I was upfront and that's how I developed confidence. My experience of trusting people has never gone wrong.”
“There are times when I get chased or stared at, but even male bikers are subjected to that. I understand that I am doing something that's not the norm of the society right now and there are downsides to it," said Gupta. "People always advised me not to divulge that I was traveling alone. But I was upfront and that's how I developed confidence. My experience of trusting people has never gone wrong.”
Since her first ride along the GC, Gupta has clocked thousands of miles criss-crossing India. She even secured numerous records, including on in the Golden Book of Records, for a solo ride she called "Beautiful India" wherein she rode nearly 20,000 miles across 16 Indian states in 110 days.
“I had planned the entire route and rode nearly 450 kilometers (280 miles) every day," Gupta said. "The idea was to highlight the positive experiences of India. I started from Tamil Nadu, the only State where I was hosted for the eight days I spent here. The State has amazing roads, helpful people and is close to my heart.”
When asked if she faced more challenges than male riders do on the road, Gupta said she didn't really think so.
“There are times when I get chased or stared at, but even male bikers are subjected to that. I understand that I am doing something that's not the norm of the society right now and there are downsides to it. Biking is stereotyped for men but when people realize that I am trying something different they encourage me. I get more thumbs up from women I meet. The girls take me as an inspiration which is heartening.”
Simply by doing it herself, she is capable of demonstrating to young girls but also to other women that it may be seldom practiced by females but it can – and I'd argue should – be done. Who knows, maybe Indian women are the solution to the motorcycle industries sales problems.