On April 26, Bengaluru-based biker Shruthi Naidu hit one more milestone in an already illustrious career. She took part in her first rally with her son by her side. 31-year-old Shruthi bought her first bike when she was 18 and in 2014, entered the Limca Book of Records as India's fastest woman rider. Two years later, she joined a group of 11 women who rode across the the world's highest motorable road, Khardung La in the Himalayas. She tells Aksheev Thakur about her journey as a biker and being a woman in a man's world, which was every bit as challenging as taking on the Himalayas
In 2016, a group of bikers scaled the Himalayas, a mighty feat. Among them was a biker from Bengaluru, Shruthi Naidu, the female rider who challenged patriarchy with the same zest that led her to take on the world's highest mountain range. Riding her trusty Scooty Zest 110, she was part of 11 riders selected from across the country to cross the world's highest motorable road - Khardung La. Together, the group of 11 women made history.
"TVS was looking for a group of women riders. Applicants were evaluated and shortlisted based on physical and mental fitness, after which we were trained. It was a group ride," says Shruthi. That's not all. Two years prior, in 2014, the 31-year-old rode 23 hours and 21 minutes at a stretch, covering a distance of 1,691 km and fetching herself a place in the Limca Book of Records as the fastest woman rider in India.
Shruthi's love for travel and bikes stems from her childhood, she grew up in a family that had a penchant for vintage cars. Shruthi's first teacher was her cousin, who owned a Jawa bike at the time. "After I finished my education in Hubbali and Belagavi," she recalls. Now, Shruthi works in Artificial Intelligence. "I got my license when I turned 18. I moved to Pune for my first job and bought the Royal Enfield Classic 350 with my first salary. It was a dream come true," she says.
She continues to juggle her job and her passion, smiling when she is asked if one impedes the others. "I have been part of many clubs and after office hours, bikes were the center of my conversations," she explains.
An experienced solo rider, Shruthi has ridden across Asia, in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Malaysia. She loves going solo but being part of a group has its own perks, she admits. "As a group, we are like a family and it's good to be part of a group, especially in mountainous terrain," she says. "In the Philippines, I wanted a group because there is something new at every turn." As she rode through the Philippines, a local overheard her speaking Hindi and asked if she was from India. "When I replied in the affirmative, he said he was my neighbour, a Pakistani. He treated me like a sister, I stayed at his home and made a friend for life. I hope to go to Pakistan someday," she smiles.
Her travels have taken her across the country, apart from the North East, which she hopes to cover very soon. And she's lucky, she says, to work for a company, Sprinklr, that gives her the space to follow her dreams. "The company has given me immense freedom to pursue my passion," she says. When she became pregnant, she discovered cars. "i was nine months pregnant when I went on a jeep rally," she recalls.
More women riders are stepping on to the tracks in India, a development Shruthi is happy to see. She has a list of Do's and Don'ts for young riders, though. "Confidence and preparation for the ride are very important. A clear itinerary and gears for the ride are a must." More difficult terrain, like the Himalayas, requires endurance. "one must become acclimatised to the terrain" explains Shruthi.