I am not a hero, says Anam Hashim, a 21-year-old motorcycle stunt rider who has been recently creating waves for being India’s first female stunt rider. She sets herself apart from, what she calls, ‘hooligans’, who stunt on the road without any training or safety gear. After an arduous journey of being bullied, cheated and fooled, Hashim has emerged strong and her focus lies solely on her work and on building her skills.
Carving her niche from a very young age, it was Hashim’s father who encouraged her and taught her how to ride a scooter first and later a motorcycle. “All my riding started in Lucknow, I was born and brought up there. My dad had motorcycles only and according to him, since the age of five, I used to run behind the handlebars and he said he used to confidently give them to me to control.
Her first stunt was a ‘Christ’ pose on a scooter that she tried when she was in class 10, “My friend made a video of that stunt and uploaded it. The video went viral. That’s how people came to know about me. It gave me a lot of encouragement and then I started researching about stunting professionally. I did not want to do it like the guys on the road.” Her first bike was a Honda Stunner when she was in class 11. Hashim moved to Pune to live with her aunt in 2013 after she had an accident during the rehearsals for her first show in Kanpur. “I had 13 stitches from the accident and I decided to stay back in Pune to recover. After that I just wanted to figure out what I wanted to do. I love riding! Though, my parents insisted that I get an engineering degree but I couldn’t invest four years without riding. Lots of things were happening. At that time there were about 25 to 30 women in America who were into professional stunt riding and they were growing. I realised that I had to take a stand and pursue it.”
Initially, this determined stuntwoman joined a team of other stuntmen to begin her journey in this field, “I was welcomed and it was very overwhelming. But later on, I was bullied because, at that point I was still learning and progressing slowly. I later left that team because I was being used and I decided to pave my own way. I decided to learn everything about a bike myself and I was very rigid on this decision.”
Garnering from all the various kinds of advertisements done by automobile industries, a woman riding a motorcycle is depicted in a highly sexualised manner while the man on the bike depicts a sense of machismo. “The world we live in, women aren’t really encouraged to ride a bike. My brother refuses to sit behind me when I’m riding because he feels that his friends will make fun of him for sitting behind a girl.” Hashim has been involved in several projects that encourage women to build the confidence to ride. She will be leading 250 men and women on a journey from Delhi to different parts around the Himalayas in June 2017, “I just want to break the stereotypes regarding this and I want everyone to think of men and women equally.”
Sarah Lezito, a French motorcycle rider, who effortlessly pulls off jaw dropping stunts and competes in several competitions alongside men, serves as Hashim’s inspiration. “She competes with men and stunt riding needs to be considered as a sport. I am not the first woman in India to get into this. There have been many before me but it’s about sustaining yourself in it. This is one of the hardest motorsports for both men and women.”
Hashim’s passion to ride was met with a lot of resistance in the beginning from conservative voices in her community. People continue to spew their disdain about a Muslim woman on a bike even on social media. Braving all of this, she says, “I believe in everything. I can read and write Urdu and I have read the Holy Quran several times. Wearing a burkha doesn’t make me a devout Muslim. It comes from the heart. I will look like Batman if I wear a burkha and ride!”
As the brand ambassador for TVS Scooty, Anam Hashim now prepares for a TEDx talk that she will be giving at IIM, Kashipur on December 10. Her dream is to open a stunt training academy in the future. And, to everyone looking for some guidance, she has some advice, “You just need to get on your ride and explore. Do not hesitate to get out, learn and explore!”
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