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Amanda: How I joined the Jaipur chain gang

February 13, 2011

I’ve been the helmutless passenger of a motorcycle journey over five times in the last week.  Mind you, compliments of my mother, I’m a cautious person. I love adventures as long as the risks are calculated and manageable. I’m the girl who wears a helmut around campus to bike to class. I’ve never ridden a motorcycle in the US and certainly wasn’t expecting my first ride to be in India where drivers honk as often as we Americans make turn signals and road signs are nothing more than mere suggestions.

Imagine my fear when, my host father met me recently with a motorcycle helmut in his hand.

“I take you home,” Jai Singhji said.
“Um…no really, it’s ok.  I’ll get a rickshaw.”
“No.  You ride with me, I take you back.”

Do you have any suggestions for questioning the safety of motorcycles on Indian roads with a fifty one year-old Indian man spitting commands in Hindi and broken English?  Me neither.  And thus, the journey began.  I made my way with my host father, dodged stares from the people, and finally arrived to the row of parked motorcycles outside the hospital’s gate.  Just as I was preparing to board the bike, I remembered I was wearing a skirt.

“Sit on one side,” Jai Singhji suggested.

You can only imagine my reaction.  If I had to face the risk of having my guts run over by rickshaws, cars, and motorcycles on the roads of Jaipur, I was going to reduce that risk as much as possible.  This, for me, was no moment to be ladylike. And so I hopped on the motorcycle, behind Jai Singhji, becoming not only the subject of Indian stares at every stoplight, but the provocative token white girl riding a motorcycle in a skirt, showing her knees to boot.  I can only describe the ride as Disney World’s Space Mountain without a seat belt.  Fast and scary, but equally invigorating.
Riding as the passenger of a motorcycle meant I could see parts of the city I’ve never seen before. Though I won’t necessarily go out of my way to pursue motorcycle rides in the future, now I’m much less hesitant to accept a ride.
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