Stalled in a snarl of Delhi traffic, an auto-rickshaw driver cranes his neck to gawp. Clad in tie-dye leggings, pot leaf earrings and a cherry-red motorcycle helmet, Leena Biswas zips her Avenger 220cc two-wheeler between two lines of drivers. At a red light, a car full of guys pulls up honking, their faces bunched into incredulous sneers.
Biswas shrugs. “I’m a rebel,” she says.
A rash of attacks in Indian cities on New Years’s Eve has reignited debates about women and public safety across the country. The targets were women out on the town – notably in Bangalore, where female revellers, massively outnumbered and some wielding stilettos in self-defence, were chased and groped by mobs of men. Many of the attackers were on motorbikes.
Within Delhi’s macho motorcycle culture, bubbly, stylish Biswas may make for an unlikely biker. But the 30-year-old doctor (who now owns three motorcycles) had an early start. At 15, she asked one of her cousins how to work the gears of his Yamaha. “He said, ‘First is down, rest is up.’ I said, ‘Dude, that’s so easy. Why don’t I give it a try?’”
What began as a hobby has now become part of a growing activist movement, built on rethinking the way women’s public safety concerns are addressed. In late November 2016, Biswas participated in a women’s motorbike ride through Delhi, organised by the human rights NGO Breakthrough India, to reclaim women’s rights on the streets.
Read more at The Guardian.