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Even though Neetu Chopra rides a scooter, she is a bullet when it comes to spreading awareness about her mission on women's safety and empowerment. When she read about the nation shaking, Hyderabad Veterinary Doctor rape incident, Neetu Chopra's fire to do something about women safety was lit. who had always the fire inside was lit by the incident. This spark culminated into a scooter ride from Ramban in Jammu to Kanyakumari in TamilNadu which spans over 4000 kilometres, kickstarted last year December 15.
We chanced upon her in Madurai on the 18th day of her travel last Thursday. Neetu is meeting people and government officials all through her way to convey her message on freedom of girl children and women empowerment. The theme of her travel is, ‘Ride for Revolution and people’ while Neetu during her travel interacts with people and wants girls to come out of their house at anytime and use the public place. She also demonstrates some basic self-defence techniques that she has learnt and in the long run she wants to start an academy for girls on self-defence while she herself wants to join the Indian Army.
Neetu hails from a Jain family while her two sisters have attained the status of Bhikkuni (female monastics). Having lost her mother when she was nine, Neetu grew up as a tomboy, with an innate instinct to question the attrocities in the society. After graduating from the College of Home Science, MPUAT, Udaipur and went on to pursue an MBA in Human Resources. During her graduation, she enrolled in NCC (National Cadet Corps), was top rank and went on to become a GCI( Girl Cadet Instructor). "I always wanted to serve the community, so I left the job in 11 months and came back to follow my passion and started an event organising firm in which she handles project aboutof conservation of nature and women empowerment. I never ask my fathr anything, I just keep him informed," says Neetu.
I choose scooter as my means of transport because most of the women in the country are riding it and even the Hyderabad vet was riding one and I wanted this scooter to be a symbol of my ride quips Neetu. Wnd how she mannages to ride through different terrains? “ We have to believe our vehicle, and I believe my vehicle is my Chetak(the legendary horse of Maharana Pratap).”
The 29-year-old rider carries a knife and taser with her for self-defence while a GPS tracker is attached to her helmet. Interestingly, she hasn’t even changed the tyres of her vehicle all through her journey as she is riding at a very slow pace-an average of 200 kilometres per day. "When my father asked me what he can do when something happens to me during the journey, I told him to treat me like a martyr who has gone down for a noble cause. Even though my statement seems exaggerated, really a woman doing a solo ride in a scooter in a highway is becoming highly unsafe these days! We need to break these shackles to bring our women out," she says.
“Riding has always been my passion and in a way, it is an opportunity to collect fascinating stories,” she talks of her experiecne on the road till Madurai. "I started my ride from Jammu; many said the state is unsafe for solo rides, but I felt a great camaraderie with the people there and they received me with care after knowing my intentions. They served me a dish called Kalari, a traditional ripened cheese, my favourite in the whole journey. Apart from enjoying different cuisines throughout my journey, I met people from all walks of life because I never stayed in a Hotel," says Neetu who informs the total budget of the journey is around 1.85-2.00 lakhs."From a conservative family to a professional women solo rider, that kind of courage I want all the girls to have; the courage to defy the illogical laws of the society that stop them back from becoming what they want," says Neetu before getting on way to Kanyakumari.