Indrani Dahal is a brave woman. She is neither afraid of the perils a woman travelling alone could face on a journey through the deceptively bucolic India of rapes and burnings nor the small towns and cities where she is easy prey. The 27-year-old service operator is not a novice at travel either; she works on a cruise-liner, though dry land has different kinds of sharks. Indrani is on the ride of a lifetime across India and the horse (power) of her choice is a Royal Enfield 500 CC bike.
An accountancy graduate, she chose to work on an ocean liner in 2016 so that she could travel the world. Now, she has already biked through 11 states and one Union Territory. She says she has never faced danger to her personal safety so far. She began her tour on November 24, 2020, from her home in Kharagpur, West Bengal. “I was bored staying at home during the lockdown. Since travelling abroad is restricted, I decided to explore my country. I was searching online for air tickets and my brother suggested why not take a bike instead,” says Dahal.
The daughter of a rifleman and a homemaker, Dahal was encouraged by her parents to pursue her dreams. In fact, her father and later her brother were her biking instructors. The trip had its moment. With her penchant for traveling to less-explored places, she recalls a frightening trip when she accidentally entered a Naxalite area.
“I was following a shortcut shown by Google Maps while biking through Jharkhand in the biting December cold. I rode 30 km into a forest before realising that it was a Naxalite area. An Army officer I met on the way suggested that I take the same route back rather than risk my life by riding on,” says Dahal, who claims to be the first woman biker from her native Kalimpong to set out on an all-India journey.
She plans to complete her trip by June 2021 on a budget of `2 lakh, cost-cutting wherever possible. What are the biggest problems she faces on her solo travel? “Accommodation and bad roads,” pat comes the reply. Dahal elaborates how at Rameswaram, she had to struggle to get a hotel room since none of the lodging facilities there would give a single person accommodation.
She had to insist and provide copies of all her documents, including her residential address and bike papers, to finally be let in by one of the hotels. “In places where I have friends, I stay with them. It saves me money on stay and food,” she admits candidly. On bad roads, Dahal is of the opinion that Bengaluru roads have been the worst so far. “The traffic is bad too but people are warm,” she says. That makes all the difference on the road.