Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true

“Against the wind

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We were runnin’ against the wind

We were young and strong, we were runnin’ Against the wind..”

This Bob Segar classic song was still fresh in my mind when I met Tharun, a rider from Thiruvananthapuram, the small capital city of Kerala. We both have been riding in our own ways. While I was exploring the world with my half-cooked motorcycle skills, Tharun, a seasoned rider had already explored most parts of God’s own country, Kerala. The curvy and scenic roads have never let him miss the outside world or should I say outside roads. Although I had several rides with Tharun exploring south of India, we were still itching to ride with a big group.

Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true
Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true

In one of such plan-talks, he said “Buddy, we are going for a hill station ride! The Southern Brothers Motorcycle Club is arranging the trip and we are staying over in a hillside villa for few days!”.

“Really”!? I couldn’t control my excitement, “Really? Are you sure the plan is on?”

“ Yes! Buddy!’’, he responded.

“Wow, how big is the club?” I asked him.

“Around 90 buddy! The numbers are growing”.  “Count me in!”. It was my shortest answer so that I could take a break from talking and indulge in my excitement to ride with a biker club.

One day, my mom said: “How can you be a part of a motorcycle club?”
I was slightly taken aback. “What do you mean mom? I am a good enough rider”, I objected.
“Ya, but you are neither that huge nor you have those full sleeve tattoos, long hairs, and pierced ears. You don’t even wear those saggy jeans”, she replied.

Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true
Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true

My mom’s impression about riders are probably not too different than many of the ladies I know.  For them, all riders are part of some secret club with the likes of The Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, formed in the 60s by Vietnam war veterans. The club members are known to shout “Ride Free or Die”. So naturally, the moment they hear their son is part of a Motorcycle Club, all they see is the badass son with a shotgun in one hand and riding a motorcycle that is set on fire! As if there wasn’t enough drama in my life, I didn’t want to go on with this argument, which usually ends nowhere.
I often wondered, why there are so many stereotypes attached to bikers? Is it because bikers are generally rebels? The square peg in the round hole or there is much more to it? Biking is not about fighting on the street, it’s fighting your own demons..fighting the mindset.

Prabhu has been riding for close to 30 years! And he often talks about what it feels to be a biker.
“Unforeseen dangers, unknown elements, alien terrains, mysterious corners, if that wasn’t enough, you are far from the safety of any enclosure! That’s biking… it’s you and your iron steed. The fun, fear and the rush and yeah the feeling that I am in control of my wildness, I ain’t trading it for the world! I get over my imperfections. I fight with my own demons. Cause there ain’t any wilderness, the impending danger more than my fears”, he says while having a philosophical expression on his face.

Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true
Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true

Unlike Prabhu, Vijayan hasn’t continued his riding. As a doctor, it is becoming tough to complete both roles. It is polar opposites. One is perceived close to God and the other to the Devil. The social stigma was almost impossible to overcome. He was swallowed, but deep down inside, he knew that he was a born biker. As he celebrated more birthdays, the inner voice was becoming more louder. One fine day he got up, walked to the Harley Davidson showroom and gifted himself a bike!

He says  “Am I crazy about bikes!?  YES, I am. It all started during my vacation when I was in 8th grade. When I learned to ride a scooter- A Bajaj Chetak and soon graduated to a Yamaha RX 100! the heartthrob of many bikers those days and there begins my journey to rash riding, wheelies, scrambling and whatnot.

Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true
Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true

I escaped most of the side effects of these stunts or I thought so. After I got married, my mother revealed my misadventure to the wife and my dream of continuously riding the bike vanished into the long horizon and almost to a point of no return.

You can imagine the resistance I had to face from my wife and daughter when at the ripe old age of 45 I told them I was interested in buying a Harley. It brought the best out of the actor in me! I could manage to convince both to allow me to get myself a Harley Davidson albeit with many conditions, needless to say including stunts, long riders, overspend etc.

I have agreed to all these conditions and also managed to extend the goal post. The long rides have extended up to 120 km away from home and I am covering a lot of grounds.

Riding is part of my soul, so as my profession and my family. I have managed to hold on to all of them without sacrificing the major part of anything. I would say, that is a definition of success for me. That is pure freedom”.

Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true
Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true

I wasn’t sure if it was beautiful hill station  Manjumala with its lush green tiger forest, freshest air,  clear blue sky or it was a presence of these bikers with the unique perspective to life, was making every conversation feel as if it was out of the philosophy books. Does nature make you emotional? Does it make you speak your heart out as if it encourages you to blurt out everything you have been storing for ages?
“Hey buddy, coming down for a spicy tea”?  It was Anup who was calling me. As if he broke the silence of the valley and the river like thoughts flowing through me. Dr. Anup, with tattoos covering all over his body, long thick beard, the clean shaved head looks more like a badass movie star than a doctor. In one of the biking trip with friends, He loses control of his bike and faces a life-threatening accident. With a broken hand and bruises all over his body, he was more concerned about him spoiling the trip than his injuries! Many of his friends and family members thought this accident would end his biking life and he will be focussing on his profession.  Barely few days after they opened his stitches Anup gifts himself a Harley Davidson !! For many, it may seem to be a rash decision but for him, it was the soul of his biking spirit. The one which never gives up, the one which rises from the ashes, the one which refuses to die. I got up quickly to have a hot cup of spicy tea with my biker friends. Praveen and his brother too were excited to be part of this biker gang discussion on the table.

My story will be definitely incomplete if I don’t talk about Praveen and his brother. Praveen usually prefers to ride and his brother accompanies him to all his rides, mostly from the comfort of his car. In the modern times, where most relationships are self-centric, their relationship as if is stuck in the old times. Riding for both brothers are about fulfilling each other’s inner desire. One wants to ride and the other wants to see his brother enjoying the ride. Can love be simpler than that?

Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true
Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true

Pradeep who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth,  shares another logic behind his love for biking, “I usually don’t like to wake up early. I hate mornings, but I look forward to our breakfast ride. Biking is perhaps just an excuse. The love for machine gets doubled when you meet wonderful fellow bikers who become brothers. My real brothers! I would do anything for them, as much as I would do anything for my real brother. I would love this brotherhood to spread, I want more people to be part of this” he says…
Bikers are not ruthless as it is usually shown, within that hard shell there is a soft heart. Their caring nature shows. It reflects when they meet each other. The hugs are longer, the pats are constant, the cheers are loud and the drinks are never-ending…

Amal has more of an emotional connection with the fellow bikers. “Being a new rider, I was initially hesitant to join the group as some of them are riding for 25 to 30 years. Strange thing is, I was never made to feel like that. My elder bikers have taken me as a baby brother. They shield me from danger. When I take a corner, I can see anxious faces of my fellow riders. They want me to succeed in every way. That’s what I love about them. I don’t think I can ever repay”, he says…
Riding to Manjumala, on those curvy hill roads would bring excitement to any biker. I was no exception. Meeting these riders and talking about life was more of lessons than just polite inquiries.

Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true
Yog Talks: Beating biker stereotypes everyone thinks is true

We were riding.. not escaping from life but rather accepting it. As Hari would say, “Freedom is such an overused word. I sometimes question whether anyone really knows what it means. The freedom you gain from riding a motorcycle helps you appreciate the things in your life because you’ll know you are free to be a part of them—not obligated. The people (Biker) and things you care about are things you’ve chosen to care about. But beyond that, you will find an even greater connection to your surroundings, one that can be difficult to articulate.” That is the freedom, we have always wanted. There was no competition, no black or white, no rich or poor. All of us had only one thing in common, we were just bikers, the so-called rebels, square pegs in the round hole, the outcasts, whatever you call. We were completely different individuals from different walks of life and with nowhere close to the character stereotypes society would usually associate with.

I only felt that this riding trip was a performance stage, where brotherhood and love were flaunted with a touch of grace and toughness. After spending a couple of days together in that beautiful hillside villa, we were getting ready to ride back. The usually excited feet were not moving forward. We had to return, but the mind was asking us to stay for few more days. There was an unusual silence, the usual life was calling us back, the bikes were making their presence felt, their loud exhausts were as if not agreeing to return and Tharun was playing my favorite song…

“Against the wind

We were runnin’ against the wind

We were young and strong, we were runnin’ Against the wind..”

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Yog Shrusti
Yog is a nomad biker, exploring across the world, with very few complaints from the life, other than perhaps that bikes should be able to run on water too!! (Well, one of his wish he would ask a Jinny). Learning isn't a zero-sum activity. Being a jack of all trades doesn't mean you're a master of none. Yog perhaps lives his life with that principle. Although he hates multi tasking, he loves to switch between his day job of a Tech co-founder, startup adviser, speaker to more passionate job of a biker, traveler, hiker, occasional chef and a certified bartender!!

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