Dr. Sarika Mehta of Biking Queens: An Inspiration to the women and a role model to her children
Hollywood actress, Reese Witherspoon, in her speech for Glamour Woman Of The Year, 2015 said this about her inspiration, “My mother told me, if you want something done, honey, do it yourself”. This led her to start one of the most successful production houses of Hollywood, supporting strong female characters in movies, a thing most production houses were unwilling to do at the time.
Maybe this is what sets successful woman apart, a strong role model in their own mothers. From a young age Sarika Mehta has watched her mother involved in a lot of social activities and she always made it a point to involve Sarika as well. Dr. Sarika Mehta remembers her mother’s advice, “My mother used to tell me, if you want to change something, take charge, don’t complain”. Today Dr. Sarika Mehta is a Psychologist; a Mountaineer; a Biker; founder of the famed Biking Queens of Surat; a wife; as well as a mother and role model to her two kids, Dhanshree and Janam, aged 9 & 12 respectively who have gone on to make their own marks in mountaineering. She has also climbed 3 of the 7 summits of the world.
The Starting Point
A proponent of social causes by heart, Sarika Mehta got into biking with a co-incidence. When some friends who owned sports bikes chided her about not being able to handle a big bike because she was a woman, she took it upon herself to prove them wrong. I thought to myself, “Climbing a mountain was much tougher, yet why were they assuming that I couldn’t handle a bike. I wanted to prove them wrong”. She started looking out for bike training schools and to her amazement discovered that there are no training schools for bikers. She eventually got her husband to teach her biking and started riding.
Promoting Awareness Through Biking
As a psychologist this mindset surrounding biking being a male dominated sport fascinated her and she started researching on the subject. In biking she found a means to inspire other women to explore their potential and to pursue a lot of other social causes that were close to her heart. “When people see women like me, from our socio-economic backgrounds, who have families and jobs and other pursuits, riding bikes, it makes them take notice. I realised there was no better way to raise awareness about the causes I believed in”.
Biking For Social Impact
In 2016 she along with 3 other women bikers went on a 10 country bike ride covering Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore. The mega journey was undertaken for a cause — to promote Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”. In fact, Mr Modi personally met them before their journey and even tweeted about the trip, while planning to receive them at their concluding “flag in” in New Delhi, on July 19th.
Last year she led the ‘All India All Women Bike Rally’ with 50 women bike riders from Surat, who rode over 10,000 km and covered more than 6000 villages in 15 Indian states to hoist the Indian flag at Khardung La pass, at an altitude of 18,380 ft. on August 15th, i.e., Independence Day. Spreading the message of women empowerment, these ‘Biking Queens’ tirelessly rode for 45 days in extreme weather conditions to promote three campaigns, ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao,’ ‘Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan’ and ‘Shashakt Nari, Shashakt Bharat.
Balancing All Roles
Many people who are inspired by her wonder how she balances all her roles so successfully. Sarika says, “There is a saying I believe in, that the four wheels of a car should be equally strong. I feel many a times these difficulties are all in your mind. One thing mountaineering and biking have taught me is to push the boundaries of the mind”.
Parenting - A Psychologist’s Perspective
As a psychologist, Sarika was always interested in child psychology and after the birth of her kids, she realised that often parents put a lot of pressure on kids, without setting the right example themselves. From her own childhood she knew how important it was to have a strong role model in a parent, to make children into successful, independent beings. “If I want my children to have dreams and successfully achieve them, then I have to set an example for them. I believe that you just have to give them a strong structure and create guidelines for them and they will fall into place. Parents are the best role models for kids”, she says.
Role Model To Her Kids
Dhanshree at the age of 9 was the youngest ever girl to climb Russia’s Mount Elbrus, one of the big 7 summits of the world. She was accompanied by her brother Janam and parents Sarika and Jignesh to the summit in support of the cause of ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’. Dhanshree who is 9 yrs old created the record of being the youngest girl to ever summit the mountain. To prepare for this climb the family underwent training for 6 months before the climb. Both kids would wake up at 4.30 a.m. for training in breathing, cardio & hill climb. They would then go to school followed by coaching classes. They would train once more in the evening and go for hill and rock climbing practice whenever they had the time. All the hard work paid off when the kids along with their parents Sarika and Jignesh Mehta climbed Mt Elbrus in June of 2017. Their achievement was acknowledged by PM Narendra Modi who met the kids and congratulated them on their achievement.
On Meeting PM Narendra Modi
Sarika who has met PM Narendra Modi multiple times, as one of the Biking Queens and later with her family after their summit, when he hosted them for lunch at his residence, says, “Meeting PM Modi was an out of the world experience. What shone through was how much care he takes. He was always informed about all the difficulties and hard work gone in, he guided us about things to do and we have grown by implementing those things”.
Sarika wants to continue her national and international rides. In India, the Biking Queens are focusing on certain areas like villages and coastal areas and spreading awareness about cleanliness and hygiene and other issues.
Sarika says, “I have travelled double the KMs in my mind than I have on the road. When you are on the road or on the mountains, facing all these difficulties and overcoming them, meeting people from all walks of life, going to places you never imagined, your perspective changes. Travel has pushed me to break out of my comfort zone and explore my boundaries. It’s been about knowing myself deeper and deeper, identifying my own abilities and powers, this is true empowerment, these are the life lessons I want my kids to have”.