How often have you been warned not to travel alone? As a man; probably not all too much, but as a woman? Every single time. Some listen, others beg to differ. Rachana from Livingit contacted Anahita Sriprasad, the 22-year-old who decided to lead by example and show women across India that we can travel alone. Post graduating from Manipal University in Bangalore, as a Visual Communications student Anahita took a gap year to indulge in her love for the outdoors, taking a solo trip to Kashmir to learn how to Ski. As a young woman in India, people were shocked to find her travelling alone, warning her that it isn’t safe. Inspired by the controversy and wanting to go against the stigma that women can’t travel alone, she decided to pick up a forgotten hobby, and embark on an adventure; from Leh to Kanyakumari, on just a bicycle.
As a part of the #IamLivingit series, Team Livingit presents Anahita Sriprasad, the girl who proved that women can travel alone!
RJ: When and how did you start Riding? Tell us something about your journey?
Anahita: Cycling wasn’t something that happened to happen to me. I wasn’t into cycling before the idea of doing my Leh to Kanyakumari ride popped up. I owned two cycles as a kid, but the whole idea of cycling never carried on into my ‘young adult’ life. When I realized that I was determined to ride the length of the country, I knew it was time to get back to cycling – and so I picked up a second-hand Hercules non-geared bicycle, which I started my training on.
RJ: What struggles did you encounter when you started? How come cycling as a passion?
Anahita: To begin with, there was a huge question of preparing for the ride – physically, mentally and financially. I knew the basic route I wanted to take, but going into further details was confusing at the start. For instance, knowing what I wanted to do but being at a loss in terms of where to start. As I mentioned earlier, cycling wasn’t ever something I’d been into regularly, however, once I got back onto the saddle, I realized that it was something I felt passionate about. It did grow on me – undoubtedly. In addition to loving being able to pick my bike up and ride just about anywhere, I also realized the humongous presence the cycling community had – after joining a prominent cycling club (WCCG) in Chennai (where I was when I was training and preparing for the ride).
RJ: How adventurous has the journey been till now?
Anahita: If we talk about my Leh to Kanyakumari (K2K) ride, that’s been one mad and I won’t mind repeating – a complete mad adventure. I’d never have imagined doing something as such, at such an early stage in life. Now, when I think of it – it was outstanding. Definitely, something that I’d love to do as often as possible. And, when it comes to cycling, well it’s something that has become a part of life now. I use my cycle as much, and as often as possible – not only on morning rides or as a form of exercise, but also as a means of commuting, whenever I can.
RJ: That’s amazing! So, what keeps you busy other than cycling?
Anahita: I work as a content writer, and bicycle reviewer, with choosemybicycle.com.
RJ: Tell us something about the K2K ride – your Leh to Kanyakumari trip?
Anahita: I traveled from Leh to Kanyakumari, on my bicycle, to try to overcome what I consider a faulty notion – that India is unsafe for women travelers. The journey took me two months to complete. I took my time to cover the length of the country and interacted with several people on my route. I rode a total of nearly 5000kms. On the ride, I saw a whole new aspect of traveling, and the country itself. It was an experience to cherish, and something I would do again – and, recommend to others!
RJ: Tell us about the message you wanted to give by riding solo?
Anahita: I had two aim for my solo ride, one- to promote women empowerment and prove that women too are capable of success when it comes to undertaking such large-scale tasks. And secondly, it was to challenge the notion that India is an unsafe country for women to travel solo.
RJ: Why did you choose cycling as a means to contribute to this cause?
Anahita: I felt that cycling is a strong medium to use to spread awareness about women’s safety. There is nothing much more vulnerable as a solo woman cyclist on a highway and if she gets by safely, that speaks volumes for itself. I felt that my cycling – alone – and completing the entire journey from Leh to Kanyakumari, is something that would be taken seriously and help make a difference. Or the start of making a difference. I had actually carried 2 pepper spray cans with me, and I am glad that I didn’t have to use them.
RJ: That’s really incredible. How did you prepare for the ride?
Anahita: For the ride, I had to prepare myself, plan out the ride and get the necessities. When it came to planning, I charted out a route using google maps and inputs from a few friends and acquaintances who’ve done something similar, and who were familiar with the places I was to cover. I spent long hours in front of the computer, plotting a general route and then a more detailed route – with the ideal stay over stops etc. I also had a crowdfunding campaign up – to meet some of the financial requirements for the ride. I was fortunate to have Montra (TI Cycles of India), support my ride by giving me a bicycle (Montra Blues) and some of the gear required for my ride. They also were extremely helpful by extending their support while I was on the ride.
And then, finally, preparing myself – physically and mentally. Mentally, there was not much to prepare beforehand.. either I would be strong enough to handle anything thrown my way on the ride, or I wouldn’t. Physically, however, I set up a training schedule that I followed (quite) regularly. It included cycling, swimming and weight training at a gym – every day (almost).
RJ: Tell us something that will always bring fond memories from the trip?
Anahita: Everything about the trip is associated with something or the other, which constantly reminds me of my days on the road. Sometimes, a certain kind of food I come across reminds me of the trip. For instance, when I come across Rajma Rice – I am reminded of this small, open road-side dhaaba where I had a plate (read huge serving) of locally cooked rajma, rice, and salad while sitting at a table right by the highway. It’s amazing how the smallest of things etch their way into one’s memory!
RJ: As a cycling enthusiast what are some of the interesting rides you have been on?
Anahita: My entire experience of cycling in Kashmir has been by far the most interesting. I say that because the route I covered between Leh and Srinagar shows the sheer diversity of the state, which only points to the diversity of India as a country. The diversity exemplifies itself in terms of landscapes, terrain and the general overall feel of the place. From lonely deserted roads to roads bustling with trucks and other vehicles.
RJ: How do you deal with training fatigue? Do you ever have the “I don’t want to ride today” feeling?
Anahita: I realized that proper food and adequate rest is the best way to deal with fatigue felt from training/riding. In addition, water consumption. These are the most basic, yet most essential requirements.
RJ: What did your inner voice tell you as the ride got tough?
Anahita: There were days when cycling 10kms felt like I’d cycled at least 25. This was probably the only aspect where I felt that the ride got tough. But even on these days, the want to move on and get to a new place was strong and outweighed the sense of general fatigue and despair. When I felt overwhelmed by some kind of trouble, I would take a break. Either find a shady place on the highway to get off the saddle and rest for a while or if it was nearing a meal time, I’d find a dhaaba by the road where I could rest up, wash up and relax – before getting back on the saddle. I feel like I had a strong sense of motivation to get from one place to another, no matter what.
RJ: That’s a great mantra for sure. Is there anything that you’d like to see changed about your passion – cycling that would make it better?
Anahita: Cycling friendly roads / proper cycling lanes in the country. And when I say that I would want that strictly implemented so as to not being taken over by other vehicles.
RJ: If you could cycle any route in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
Anahita: The world, itself. Start from home and pedal my way around the country, back home. ?
RJ: What message would you have for the Indian cyclists and those who are looking to get into the habit of cycling?
Anahita: Cycling is something that can be life changing. I KNOW this sounds dramatic. But to me it was. Not because I cycled the length of the country. But because of what I feel while I’m on the saddle. I think cycling as a hobby, really tends to grow on you, and one’s liking for it/passion for it really starts to grow and get stronger with each ride.
RJ: What are top 3 things on your bucket list?
Anahita: Nothing in a particular order, but as of now:
– Cycle around the world
– Help make India a more cycling-friendly country
– Make a difference.
Wishing Anahita a life full of adventures and cycling. Keep #Livingit!
Want to embark on your own trip across India? Read 5 Incredible Trips Cyclists Can Plan !