Women in our society have progressed a lot, whether it be male-dominant politics or any other profession, they have proved they can do anything.
Unfortunately, most of us still find it difficult to digest a woman driving. The mere act of a woman riding a motorcycle is considered unacceptable in our patriarchal society.
There are few women who challenged this norm and drive a motorbike. One of them is Marina Syed. Owner of “Rowdy Riders”, Marina not only drives a heavy bike but also runs an academy where she trains other girls to ride a bike. She will debut in a movie releasing next month which highlights the recent motorway-rape incident.
MM News: Why did you decide to ride a bike in a country like Pakistan?
Marina Syed: When I studying at a university, I started an internship at that time. The place I used to work was far from my home and by the time I got off from work, there was no transport available by 11 pm. Even if I found a rickshaw, the driver would ask higher fare. Additionally, travelling in transport was time-consuming and at that time I realized I need to buy my own bike.
MM: What challenges did you face?
Marina Syed: When I decided to ride a bike, the biggest challenge was learning it on my own. I saved money and bought a scooter first. Then I started to learn from the people around me. I used to practice at night, I fell and got injured several times but never stopped practicing. When my parents came to know about it, they scolded me and did not support me, my scooty was even sold forcibly but I again bought it later from the same person.
MM: What is the worst incident as a female biker you have experienced until now?
Marina Syed: I went on a tour once, I was driving a bike somewhere in Sindh when two cars came and the drivers harassed me trying to sideline me in a way that if I stopped I might get injured severely. I was so scared that I did not ride for two days. But you learn by your mistake.
MM: How did you initiate ‘Rowdy Riders’? What is the concept behind it?
Marina Syed: I initiated ‘Rowdy Riders’ with three other friends of mine. The reason behind it was I never learned to ride a bike from a professional institute because there was no academy to teach girls how to ride a bike. This was my idea. I initiated with my friends but they left me later, so I asked my brother to assist me during classes and he agreed. A firm-sponsored my idea and helped me in building the academy. Now I teach girls on weekly basis and I also give lessons to working women on weekends.
MM: Do you think girls should travel in public transport owing it current situation?
Marina Syed: No not at all. Public transport is time-consuming, plus the money invested is a lot. There are chances that you can get harassed or looted as such vehicles like chingchi and buses don’t drop you at home, you are dropped at a bus point. It’s better to drive your own bike at least you can handle the situation on your own as the control is in your hands.
MM: What problems girls had faced who come to learn bikes from you?
Marina Syed: One of the girls I have trained one day called at night and shared that her uncle and aunt have threatened her and their family for riding a bike. She revealed that she will be kicked out of the house if she continues to ride.
I asked her to ask her family to provide the girl basic pick and drop, or car, or pocket money so she can find an alternate but she was denied that too as her relatives thought she is misleading other girls in the extended family.
MM: What role are you playing in your upcoming debut movie?
Marina Syed: I play a lead role in the movie ‘Sheenogai’. Its title is the Pashto word for the ‘girl with the green eyes’. I portray the role of an open-minded girl who loves to travel on a bike. Moreover, the firm has been inspired by a debate on social media following the Lahore-Sialkot motorway rape case in which some people blamed the victim.
MM: Does society not accept women riding bikes?
Marina Syed: It is, unfortunately, a mindset that lives within us. I trained a student who used to cover herself I could only recognise her through her colored eyes. Even she used to face humiliation on the road by people when she used to ride a bike. Such incidents discouraged her so much that she left riding.
MM: What tips you will give to beginners who want to ride a bike?
Marina Syed: First of all, check your petrol before starting your journey.
Always wear a helmet.
Start with a scooty if you’re learning then switch to bikes.
Always ignore people who taunt and try to distract you while driving.
Always keep your bike speed in your control.
MM: Have you ever initiated a rally for women empowerment?
Marina Syed: Yes, I have where my motive is to promote women empowerment and a message that women can ride a bike too. Next month, we will take out a rally from, Karachi to Gwadar, where girls will ride a bike. The rally will be free of cost and they can bring their family members too. Such a friendly rally has been initiated to promote women empowerment.