Roads Untravelled—Sitting Down with Priyanka Kochhar
The rumble of bike engines echoed around KMC Greens on the evening of 26th March, 2018—as motorcycle enthusiasts gathered to witness one of their icons. Sporting a leather jacket, a warm grin on her face, the esteemed motorcycle blogger and model, Priyanka Kochhar, appeared genuinely pleased about spending an intimate evening with like-minded people.
She began the conversation by quizzing each member of the audience around her on the safety equipment they wear, repeatedly emphasising that safety is not to be taken lightly. This was followed by intense discussions on the kind of motorcycle that everyone rides—inspiring those who were still in two minds about learning to ride—to take the first leap. After a photo-op and gift-giving session with her fans at Fortune Inn, Ms. Kochhar was kind enough to oblige us with an interview. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you venture into biking? Also, tell us more about “BikeWithGirl”.
It was just a bad phase, or rather, a bad breakup. I was left with no friends. Sometimes, we’re pushed to a point in our lives when we have no one around, and this forces us to think about ourselves. It literally was just a wave that hit me and I just happened to start biking.
Bikewithgirl is not a blog. It was supposed to be an album for me. When I started posting about it though, people really took to it. They wanted to know more and see different places through my eyes. Bikewithgirl was never about Priyanka Kochhar. It was about bikes and traveling. The girl is just an accessory with the bike.
Tell us more about the societal pressures. How difficult was it for you to choose bikes?
Being a girl in India comes with its own set of rules and regulations. I’ve seen women abroad who have so much more liberty and so many more opportunities. We are the same people, except that our cultures are different. So, yes, convincing your parents is tough. The pressure is high. Everyone is constantly waiting for you to slip up that one time, so that they can mock you for being a woman. If I put up one thing wrong- people will not leave that chance to take me down. So, yes, these are the pressures I face. However, I cannot let anyone’s poison enter my system.
With people in India largely following sports like cricket and football, what’s your take on the scope for motorcycle racing in this country?
I am addicted to motorcycle racing. My first season as a racer was last year. I literally wait for Moto GP to start and keep going to the track again and again. There are a lot of people like me who notice every minute detail about this sport. Even though cricket is a big thing in India, honestly, motorsports are a huge part, too. We have such talented racers in our country. I really hope that international brands start recognising them and supporting them financially.
How have your experiences helped you grow?
My accidents and crashes have taught me a lot. When I first fell down a valley in Ladakh, I felt I would never be able to ride a bike again, but it made me want to do so much more. Some people get hit by such incidents harshly and it takes them years to recover. I am very lucky to be surrounded by positive people, who are motorcyclists and crash all the time. Crashing is an inevitable part of motorcycling. At the end of the day, you will fall off your bike. I’m going out there prepared, head to toe, in the right gear. I accept this fact, and I believe motorcycling should be taken with a pinch of salt.
How did you enter into modelling? Was it always your plan?
Modelling was never my plan. I was scouted by an agency when they saw a photo of mine in a magazine. Apparently, according to this modelling agency, I had facial features that work very well for fashion. So, when I got discovered by them, I wanted to try modelling out. It was a new challenge for me. My parents were dead against this, but I did it anyway. Modelling life is not a bad life. However, it is sad that we are racist to our own people. This is something that outrages me.
You are an inspiration for thousands of women across the country. What is your message for all those women who aspire to do something different, and live life according to their will?
It’s amazing that every time I go to a village, I see women doing the exact same thing they’ve been doing for the past innumerable decades. They take care of the house constantly, and the kids, and make food and take water out of the well. Are you telling me a woman isn’t physically strong after all these things she does? If you say a woman can juggle all these things but still can’t have a job, then that simply isn’t true.
What are your plans for the future? Where is your next ride going to be?
I never have plans, because I keep making them and nothing ever ends up happening. I’m going to be riding this bike that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, called the Triumph Street Triple RS. It’s supposed to be a sweet ride, and very good on the race track. Then, I’ll be going to Croatia with Harley Davidson, which is something I’m really excited about. Other things just happen spontaneously, so I have no idea what else may transpire.
Can you tell us about the most difficult ride you’ve ever had?
My biggest problem with motorcycles is when they’re too heavy and I can’t even stand on my tiptoes. I need to be able to feel my foot so I can come to a stop if something comes in my way and I have to jam my brakes. If I can’t feel my feet, that still intimidates me. So a tall and heavy motorcycle has always been something that bothers me, but that’s never been an excuse for me to not ride it. It does intimidate me, but I ride it anyway so I can overcome my fear. Height is never something that prevents you from riding. It will take longer, but it is still possible for you to pull it off.