Female stunt riders are not the norm in Nepal. Yet, there are some who are breaking barriers and performing amazing and dumbfounding stunts. Four riders are currently at the pinnacle of female stunt riding in Nepal. Exciting as well as inspirational, they are challenging every aspect of a patriarchal society that discourages women from taking part in manly pursuits. These hard headed ladies reveal to Living what made them challenge the norms:
Coming from a family of riders, Barsha Basnet grew up around bikes, riders and stunt riders. Drawing inspiration from such an environment, it was natural for her to follow in their footsteps. “I grew up in an environment that generated inspiration through the Honda Diva Cup 2013. I was in awe of female riders. I participated in the cup and was placed in the Top 3, which kick-started my journey into professional stunt riding and I have never looked back since,” says Barsha.
“I have been riding bikes and scooters from Grade 10, and it’s been 5 years since I started doing stunts,” informs Barsha. She currently rides a Crossfire 250 cc. When asked about her training regime, she says, “My stunt coordinator is Biker Suraj who has been in the Nepali stunt riding scene for quite a long time. Our training facility is in Bhaktapur and we practice there every Saturday.” Accidents and mishaps are a part of stunt riding but she does not let it faze her. With the help of coordinated stunts, protective gear and hours of practice, Barsha has adapted to the lifestyle of doing stunts and riding bikes. “Bikes may get damaged but because of the protective gear we use, even if we meet with an accident, we will be safe, which matters the most,” she explains.
Barsha is primarily a racer but after seeing her friend work so hard to perform stunts, she shifted her focus to stunts. “My friend has been my biggest source of inspiration. We are of the same age but he took up stunt riding while still very young. Seeing him do those stunts with such grace inspired me to follow in his footsteps,” she remarks. She also gets inspiration from family members and not just from her friends. “My family and relatives have always pushed me to do better. Although I’m a girl, they have never stopped me from doing what I want to do and have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and passion,” she says.
Having been offered numerous advertisements and movie deals and sponsorships, Barsha has made her passion her job. “Whatever I have achieved, I have achieved through this passion of mine,” she exclaims. Rather than worrying about getting international exposure, she wants to be the best. “When you are the best, regardless of what gender you are, there will be opportunities. Companies want to sponsor only the best and I want people to know that there is a platform for all Nepali riders internationally.” Barsha talks about opportunities that come their way when companies send riders to Thailand, Malaysia and other countries to participate in international competitions.
Calling herself a professional lady bike rider rather than a stunt rider, Basnet is pursuing her Master’s Degree from Tribhuvan University. She is busy with her studies but also has races and stunt performances coming up soon. “I have a part-time job as well and I am happy where I am. I will be graduating in three months after which I plan to work for an automobile company,” she informs. Being the only daughter, her family has always supported her. She laughs as she remarks, “My parents always tell me that I am more like their son.”
An inspiration to countless girls, Barsha says, “I am doing what not many girls do and being able to set an example for them is very rewarding. I want them to follow their dreams.” From her standpoint, dreams are dreams and boys and girls can choose to dream whatever they want. Nothing should limit their dreams. Be it riding/stunting or opening a business or studying and getting a really nice job, Barsha encourages young people to just do it and not let naysayers stop them from pursuing their dreams.
Speaking about choosing such a risky sport, Sujana Shrestha says that being a daughter of a brave Nepali, she has adventure infused in her blood. “The reason I chose this is because adventure is in my blood and stunting being an adventure sport, I was drawn towards it. I wanted to do something different and adventurous,” she says. Sujana started riding a motorcycle on the streets of Nepal from a young age, and has since adapted to the street on a whole different level. “I was in 8th grade when I started riding a bike and as far as doing stunts is concerned, I started racing and stunting professionally from 2015. Practicing takes place whenever she gets free time as she does not follow a regular schedule. For someone who practices only during her free time, Sujana is adept at the stunts she performs and is one of the best female stunt riders in Nepal.
Contrary to how most people feel about doing stunts she says, “Talking about stunts, I feel safer when doing stunts than when just riding a bike. It is because you never know what will happen while you are on the road. Even if you are cautious, there are others who are not. Doing stunts is very controlled and safety is the Number One priority, so chances of doing something wrong is very low.”
Inspiration plays a huge part for someone who has chosen a sport that is not considered normal for them. Speaking about inspiration, Sujana says, “My father and my sister have been a major source of inspiration.”Instructed by them on the basics of riding, she has come a long way since her first ride. “Motorsport is not big enough in Nepal to pursue it full time, so I run my own business; I have a restaurant in Tanahun. As far as stunting is concerned, it is my passion and I do not want to let go of that passion,” she informs. She considers herself an entertainer and wants to showcase her talent and skills and feels a need to improve on a daily basis. Like a free bird she does not have a set path to follow. “I have no fixed plans, the future is arbitrary. We do not know what the future holds so why worry?” she opines.
With a set path or not, Sujana is tearing the streets of Kathmandu with her incredible stunts and riding skills. A simple girl with extraordinary skills, she comes from a middle class family from Bimala Nagar, Tanahun. Sujana was also the winner of Miss Tanahun in 2015. To add to her repertoire of achievements, she has competed in two reality TV shows, Season 2 of Pulsar Dareventure and Season 1 of Himalayan Roadies. She placed in the Top 8 and Top 5 respectively. Her advice to women and girls who want to follow unconventional career paths: “Follow your dreams, be disciplined and inspire the world and be proud to be a daughter.”
“I was more interested in bikes than dolls since I was a little girl,” laughs Swikriti. Her interest in bikes developed as she got older and she constantly pestered her father to teach her how to ride one. “’I will teach you when you get older; you are too young right now’ is what he used to say,” remembers Swikriti. She rode her brother’s scooter quite often; she wanted a taste of riding a bike and feelthe wind while she rode it. Finally after completing 10th grade, her father started teaching her. “The feeling when you first ride a bike is like no other. It was one of the best feelings I have ever had. My father always advised me to ride cautiously, ‘Never get too excited or too overconfident and always be in control.’ He taught me that you control the bike, not the other way around,” says Swikriti.
After getting the gist of the controls and gaining confidence over time, Swikriti was given her first bike at the age of 16. “I was so excited to have my own ride, it was a dream come true,” Swikriti recalls. Five years after her first bike ride, at 21, she is as confident as ever and has never looked back.
Talking about stunts, she remembers her first attempt on a bicycle when she was in 11th grade. She suffered multiple gashes and wounds but that did not faze her. She reminisces, “I used to do stunts on a bicycle when I was younger and I also tried some on the scooter. Stunting is my hobby and I do not care if it’s a bike, scooter, cycle, I will try to do it.” Slowly and steadily, with regular practice every day, she built her confidence and skills. “I like to try new tricks every day. I practice and practice until I get it right. The sense of accomplishment you get from learning a new trick is awesome,” she gushes.
Bishwokarma had a really bad accident while riding a bike, but she has not let that stop her from doing what she loves doing. “I was riding on an empty road and while taking a sharp turn, I collided with another bike. Both of us fell down and I was pretty banged up,” she says. Scared and battered after such a harrowing incident, she did not ride her bike for a number of days to let her injuries heal. Riding and stunting is two different things and so is getting bruised and busted when you choose such a risky sport. “When I stunt I do not think about getting hurt, it is a part of the sport. I focus more on completing and perfecting the stunt,” she explains.
“Our society is filled with narrow minded people. They do not want to see women and girls follow their dreams. Fortunately for me, my father and the rest of the family have always pushed me to do better,” she says. Bishwokarma wants to prove to anyone who thinks that girls should not pursue their dreams that they actually can. And with her family supporting her, she has fulfilled every single mission she took on. Be it riding/stunting a bike, proving narrow minding people wrong or creating a platform and inspiring hundreds of people, she has done it all and by the looks of it, she has no intention of stopping anytime soon.
A management student at GS College, Swikriti is also working as a Brand Ambassador for an online shopping company. She wants to go abroad for further studies and while her passion is riding and stunts she also enjoys dancing and traveling. “I want a simple future with a happy and healthy family and of course ‘long bike rides’,” she concludes.