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Scaling the Summits: The Inspiring Story of Pallavi Fauzdar Who Defied the Mountains and Patriarchy

Achieving a goal is an arduous task. But achieving a goal which puts you at risk of going against the societal norms can be tougher. And what if it’s a woman who makes the move against the society and patriarchy?  Pallavi Fauzdar is one such woman who turned out not just a brave heart but a dauntless being who fears nothing, whatever come may.

“Don’t be a gama in the land of Lama.” A saying you will usually find in the signboards along the spiraling route to Ladakh. In the Tibetan language, Gama means a woman or a wife and Lama is a religious leader. Thus, the saying warns the women not to stay in the same place as the lamas as the former can distract the latter from their spiritual quest. Very sexist, isn’t? Nevertheless, we are here to narrate the saga of a woman from the plains who decided to invalidate this saying with her escapades into the mountainous regions of the country.

Conquering the Passes

A female bike rider and a mother of two sons from Delhi, Pallavi Fauzdar set out for a solo bike ride to Ladakh on 7th July 2015. Fauzdar was successful in conquering all the sixteen passes in the region including the eight passes that were above 5000 meters. This feat registered her name into the Limca Book of Records as the first woman to ride eight mountain passes above 5,000 m (above sea level) in a single trip. The forces that were behind this feat were her unrelenting spirit and also the deep urge to debunk the saying mentioned earlier. Like all the brave tales of the past, this journey undertaken by Fauzdar was obviously not without hurdles.  On her quest to discover her identity as well as unveil the hollowness of the male-dominated society, Fauzdar had tasted her share of bitterness.

The seed of this momentous journey germinated after many short trips when she determined to undertake her first solo ride. She had recollected

“My decision was purely an outcome of anger, perhaps due to continuous underestimation from the male-dominated society. I decided to prove them all wrong in my own different way.”

Pallavi Fauzdar expressed that her determination and anger against gender bias acted as a stimulant and this is what helped maintain her morale throughout the journey.

She said, “Prior to my trip, only five passes above 5,000 m—Khardung La, Lachung La, Taglang La, Marsimik La, and Chang La—had been covered in a single trip by motorcyclists, but I went ahead to discover three more—Satatho La, Kaksang La, and Hor La.”

She feels that she was fortunate as she could return alive from one of the toughest motorable mountain passes referring to the dreadful examples of more than 30 riders who had lost their lives the same year on the same route owing to bad weather conditions.

It took her around 20 days to complete the ride.

She further added, “I was a different Pallavi by then and the biggest change I noticed after returning was in society’s approach towards women. It further pushed me to touch other heights and to motivate other women to cherish their dreams.”

First Woman to Ride Mana Pass

Subsequently, she made another record for being the first woman solo motorcyclist to ride to Mana Pass, at an altitude of 5638 meters (above sea level), located in Uttarakhand. One attempt led to another and soon Pallavi conquered some tough terrains of North-East, proving her mettle and putting another feather onto her hat at the same time.

An inspiration not just for women bike riders, but for every woman, Pallavi Fauzdar is the proud owner of an old cast iron Bullet, a Triumph, a Ducati Scrambler, and an Avenger. She was born and raised in Agra.  She also assumes the role of a social activist from time to time and was awarded the Nari Shakti Award by the President of India in 2017. Moreover, she was given the Outstanding Global Woman of UP in 2016.

She had said, “I want women to come out of their shells, live their dreams to prove their mettle. There is nothing which a woman can’t do. If I can do it, you also can.”

She pays gratitude to her family, especially her husband Parikshit Mishra who is an army officer and her two sons who has been her constant support system throughout her journey.

She reveals her future plans expressing that she was planning extensive social work, especially in the field of women and child development.

She said, “I personally want to carry out extensive social work across the country, especially in the North-East that is in dire need of help. I want to motivate all women so that they may not undergo the situations that I confronted in the past.”

Pallavi Fauzdar’s story tells that she had undertaken parallel journeys. Her attempt was not just to conquer the summits of the mountains but also the summit which was lying within her. It was a summit which consistently grew on the basis of hurdles and insecurities posed by the patriarchal society.  But Fauzdar showed the courage which most of us failed to do. Of all the summits that she scaled, she at least managed to conquer the toughest of all which was the summit lying within.

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