Indian woman aims to break stereotypes by motorbiking around the world in a sari

28-year-old Ramabai Latpate, a trained pilot from Pune, will ride 80,000km and cover 40 countries during a span of a year

Ramabai Latpate has set out on a solo bike ride around the world wearing a nauvari saree, a traditional attire of Maharashtra. Photo: Ramabai Latpate
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An Indian woman is challenging conventions by undertaking a solo expedition across six continents on a motorbike while wearing a nine-yard sari.

Ramabai Latpate, from Pune, India, set off on her Honda 350CC bike in March to cover a staggering 80,000km, passing through 40 countries, in a journey that is scheduled to last a year.

“I want to break the stereotypes and show that a woman can be both graceful and fearless at the same time,” the 28-year-old told The National during her brief stopover in Dubai from August 14 to September 5.

She flew to India on Tuesday and will resume her journey from London.

I wanted to show that a fearless woman can drape a nine-yard sari gracefully while riding a motorbike around the world
Ramabai Latpate, 28

“Wearing a sari is a symbol of grace and beauty in India, and riding a motorbike was always meant for boys or tomboys, or so I was told,” she said.

“I wanted to take on both and show that a fearless woman can drape a nine-yard sari gracefully while riding a motorbike around the world.”

Ms Latpate wears the Nauvari sari, the traditional attire of women from her home state of Maharashtra, India, that is draped in dhoti-style and is different from other traditional saris.

Riding solo

A trained pilot and entrepreneur, Ms Latpate began her solo trek from Mumbai's Gateway of India on International Women's Day on March 8.

Ms Latpate travelled 13,000 kilometres across India, Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand and Malaysia before reaching Singapore.

Her bike was then airlifted to Bangkok as she could not ride through Myanmar due to the civil war.

She has already covered 23,000km through Asia and Australia.

In Australia, her daring ride led her across the vast and challenging Australian outback, covering a daunting 1,600 kilometres from Perth to Sydney, where she faced a lack of human interaction and mobile connectivity.

Yet, she persevered, camping solo in the wild, she said.

She then shipped her bike to London and flew to Dubai on August 14 where she spent two weeks before flying to India on September 5.

“From India, I will fly to London and cover the whole of Europe, Africa and the Middle East,” she said.

After covering Europe, she will ride from Portugal to Morocco, then Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then on to Muscat in Oman before reaching the UAE by February next year.

She will then travel to Jamnagar in Gujarat by sea before heading back to the Gateway of India in Mumbai on March 8 next year.

One of the highlights of her trip was meeting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi.

“I was inspired by his Independence Day speech that women in India are achieving remarkable milestones,” she said.

“He told me that the whole world belongs to women like me.”

Spirit of adventure

Ms Latpate has been passionate about pushing the boundaries during her school and college days.

“Luckily, my parents always supported me in whatever I did and they never forced me to stick to the conventional norms of morality,” she said.

After completing her studies, Ms Latpate began her career as an entrepreneur (she owns a lifestyle brand called Stattya which sells clothing and jewellery), after which she followed her passion for flying and took a commercial pilot license at the age of 24.

She said she wants the world to see her as “Bharat ke Beti” (daughter of India) and promote women's empowerment.

Ms Latpate also plans to launch a brand called “Renaissance” to promote cultural outfits that are more functional.

“I am going to launch a denim sari that we can wear anytime and do any tasks in,” she said.

In her bid to emphasise sustainability and minimalism, she has packed only seven saris for her entire journey, washing and reusing them along the way.

“We often buy too much and get confused what to wear. I strongly believe that embracing sustainable fashion is important to save the planet from climate change.”

Strong instincts

Speaking about her challenges while riding solo as a woman, she said she follows her instinct when it comes to choosing a place to stay or pitch a tent.

“I think a woman has strong instincts. It has helped me so far and I find people friendly and welcoming wherever I go,” she said.

Ms Latpate rides 16 hours a day and takes a day or two to rest before she continues her ride. “As a pilot, my map-reading and technical skills help me navigate the roads and also look at weather patterns to decide my trip.”

She said apart from her clothes she carries some utensils and a tent.

“I also have a tool kit for the upkeep of the bike. I also stop at service stations in between to make sure the bike is in good condition.”

Her biggest challenge is finding the funds. She claims the entire trip is self-funded.

“I sold my jewellery and my SUV to fund this trip. The whole trip will cost me around Indian rupees 3 crores (Approx $360,000). So, I am appealing to those who I meet to contribute 1 rupee each,” she said, adding that she is guided and supported by Indian spiritual leader and founder of Isha Foundation, Sadhguru, and his volunteers throughout her trip.

“He is a true inspiration and I spread his ‘Save Soil’ message wherever I go,” she said.

Jaggi Vasudev, or Sadhguru as he is popularly known, went on a 100-day, 30,000-km solo bike journey from London to India last year to raise awareness about the need to protect soil.

He stopped in the UAE in May last year and urged his followers to join him in protecting the planet’s soil for future generations.

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Updated: September 07, 2023, 10:49 AM