Royal Enfield has grown to be one of the most popular motorcycle brands in India – a kind most of us relate to in one way or the other. RE is one of the very few brands that are responsible for giving rise to the motorcyclists in India. A lot of us have memories of our grandparents riding a Royal Enfield motorcycle or we keep close to our hearts the stories our parents tell us about their riding adventures on, say a Bullet. I, too, have been on a quest to get my hands on my father's second motorcycle – a Royal Enfield Bullet.
In my career as a motoring journalist, I have the privilege of meeting a lot of interesting people. And, the two highlights of these meetings are the two Indian Army personnel – Major K Renuka and Major Ritu Tanwar.
It is widely believed that if you want to know someone truly – travel with them. Not just an idiom or an urban legend, travelling really is the most potent way of knowing someone. And as my luck would have it, I got the opportunity to ride with Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey Women 2018.
We'd had a formal conversation over the phone before the ride began. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. But I could ask the two a very important question during that telephonic interview:
If you had to pick one thing that is common between Royal Enfield motorcycles and the Indian Army, what would it be?
Major K Renuka and Major Ritu Tanwar had a one-word answer to it, which pretty much was said in quite a sync - “toughness”. “The Indian Army is tough - ready and capable to take on any challenge. Royal Enfield motorcycles too have a similar character - they're tough.”
Renuka then went on to talk about her most memorable ride. It was about a 250 km ride from Delhi to Chandigarh, which she did solo. To this, I had an inevitable question:
There are so many girls out there who want to ride solo but are afraid. What would be the one advice you'd give to them?
“Just stay confident, have faith and think positive. Once you do that, you'll realise how your motorcycle can help you connect with yourself.”
To be honest, all these talks of being tough made me a little nervous when I was first about to meet Renuka. (What if her stern Army hormones order me to do 30 push-ups!) But when I did meet her, she was so welcoming and kind and helpful. I emptied the little water bottle she carried in her pocket two-three times because I wasn't carrying water or was out of it.
This was the first ride experience of the Royal Enfield Himalayan for Renuka. Her strength and endurance reflected in her riding style. It didn't seem like it was her first time on an adventure motorcycle.
There was one incident where I was a bit too confident while riding through a small water crossing and ended up losing balance so I had to put my feet down and have my riding boots almost submerged in water. This is when I was trolled by Renuka who did that water crossing casually standing on the footpegs. Burn! But fond memories.
Major Renuka had another very impressive side to her. During my conversations with her in Leh, she showed me a picture of a Yamaha RX100 that she owns. She said she spends a substantial amount every month on its upkeep. Looking at the state of the motorcycle, all I have to say is 'RESPECT!'
I'd been waiting to start writing about Major Ritu Tanwar. Currently stationed in Dibrugarh, Assam, Ritu tells me that her husband was highly instrumental in encouraging her to register for the Himalayan Odyssey.
It may not be a very formal or professional sounding word, but Ritu was by far the cutest of us lot. And all of the other 10 riders will agree with me, as they very fondly called her 'Panda'. This is an incredible thing about these two women. At their job front, they're as tough as they want them to be. But out of the uniform and into their rider gear, they had warm and loving personalities.
It was the first time for Ritu riding an adventure motorcycle as well, and the distance and terrain that was to be covered was a lot more than what she'd done so far. Before the start of the ride, I had the chance to ask Ritu:
Himalayan Odyssey will be a whole new experience for you. Are you nervous?
Turns out, Army Majors don't have nervousness as a possible reaction in their dictionaries. “I'll take whatever the journey throws at me.” And, there was a sense of relaxation and calm in her voice when she said this. The word that I'm actually looking for is 'chill'.
And the confidence stands true to her experience at the Himalayan Odyssey. Ritu, in fact, displayed a lot more endurance. While the rest of us would take long breaks, Ritu would just keep riding.
While the two were loving and compassionate with us, we were also glad to have Renuka knock some sense into restaurant waiters whenever they started to muck about. Major Renuka and Major Ritu would also shine through at those Army or Police check posts, while we all stared at the two talking to the guards like a long lost friend.
The two are now pro riders. They've both done one of the most difficult rides in the world. The bar has been set higher up and considering their guts and endurance, things will only get better. I will be following the future riding adventures of the two and hopefully ride with them again. Until then...