The road that cannot be taken….


I have started reading this book which I wanted to read since ages called “The Motorcycle Diaries”. The cover page of the book says – “In Jan 1952, two young men from Buenos Aires set out to explore South America on a motorcycle named ‘La Poderosa’ ( meaning the ‘mighty one’). One of them was the twenty-three year old Che Guevara.

The book narrates this astounding journey across the Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela and how it helped him, in his daughter’s own words, to develop a growing sense of Latin American identity which makes him the precursor of a new history in America.

Somewhere in the middle of the read, a thought struck me, like a bolt of lightning, forcing me to keep down the book and ponder.. What if, instead of Che and his friend Alberto, it would have been two young women who would be making this journey? What perspective would a woman offer about the perilous landscapes? What insights would she gain that would enable her to take on the reigns of the brewing revolution in the near future?

Could the journey have ever been made? The most tumultuous task would have been to overcome

  • Pressures from family – The struggle with the families to allow two young girls to begin such an arduous tour would, in itself, be a near impossible feat to achieve. You see, women turning their backs to their homes to travel are still considered careless, irresponsible and unacceptable by many.

Okay, let’s just suppose the parents do approve. (Amrish Puri in our beloved DDLJ did allow his daughter to make the Euro trip with her gang of friends! So what if he packed her off to India to get her married later on?) Anyway coming to the point,

  • Would the girls be able to ward off the sexual predators on their way? Che and his friend were clearly not equipped to fight if, say five men attacked them on their way. But hell, the risk of the assault was minimal. Because one, they had nothing to be stolen from them. Most importantly, men travelling alone aren’t hounded by creeps looking for sexual gratification as much as women are.
  • Che and Alberto simply knocked the doors of anyone on the way for food and a night’s sleep. Now imagine the hospitality two young girls would receive, if they just rang a bell of a random house, saying- “No, no, it’s not emergency, we are loitering in this wilderness at this hour by choice, can we rest for the night here?”
  • Lastly, (remember this is 1952), were girls even taught how to ride a goddamn motorcycle? How many women you honestly see on the road driving cars and riding bikes even today? Maybe in metros like Mumbai, but there are countries which officially debar women from driving.

Yes, some women did climb the Everest, did make that trip to the space, did become freedom fighters, great politicians, teachers, doctors etc. by their sheer grit and mental strength. But what about the vast majority of us? How many of us would, in 21st century still be able to take the bike and hit the road without a care in the world and come back enriched? Are the untold rules of the society conducive to women taking such decisions? Why are there so many pull-backs when it comes to a woman?

Will you still call it a co-incidence that the majority of the great leaders are men?

Poornima Mandpe

A dreamer and a book worm, I believe in following the dictates of my heart. I intend to make a meaningful contribution to society in a small way through my writing! Currently a part of an NGO (Akshara) that works for women empowerment and gender justice.

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