Marianne Faithfull rode the Bike to Glory and now an Indian Girl Veenu Paliwal has done it
There is a 1960 movie titled " Girl on a Motorcycle". This movie hit the screen before I was born, but I had a chance to witness it in a re-run in the eighties. It's a beautiful movie starring the English actress Marianne Faithfull( born 1946).She looks lovely in this movie and I remember seeing the movie in a morning run in Madras at Blue Diamond. The movie has the tag of a 'cult' movie and is considered an all time classic. The story delineates the love of a girl for a motorbike. It has some breathtaking shots of Marianne riding the bike on the roads of Europe. she rides her bike from Germany to France for a secret tryst with her lover played by Alan Delon( Sadly , I think he is no more).
I recollect I saw the movie 3 times and now have it as part of my collection. The movie brought in the revolutionary concept of a girl riding a monster bike, which at that time was almost taboo for women.She rides a Triumph, a 7500 cc motorbike. her love for the bike transcends everything and in the end carried away by her exuberance, the girl is killed in a motorbike accident on the highway. That is the end of the movie.
Reel life and real life can sometimes have an uncanny similarity. Recently when I read that an Indian girl named Veenu Paliwal from Jaipur was killed in a motorcycle accident at Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh riding a Harley- Davidson, I was shocked.Veenu died just a few days back. She was 44 and her love for motorcycles towered over everything else. She is the Indian " girl on a motorcycle" and her life has a remarkable similarity to the role of Marianne Faithfull in the French movie.Such similarity must be a coincidence, yet one cannot help feeling that the mystery of life remains unresolved.
Veenu Paliwal was born in 1972. she credits her love for motorcycles to her father who had a Royal Enfield. I also as a bachelor drove a 500cc Royal Enfield and riding that bike remains my cherished thought. Veenu Paliwal did something which in conservative India is frowned upon. She started riding bikes and soon graduated to riding a Harley-Davidson. The company was indebted to Veenu for the publicity and made her their brand ambassador. Veenu relished this role of brand ambassador and rode the Harley Davidson all over India. I understand she drove the bike from Jaipur to Bombay a distance of 1200 km in one day. She also touched speeds of 180 km an hour and I suppose she must be the only woman in Asia to have driven a bike at this speed.
Veenu's love for bikes transcended everything. She married but the marriage ended in divorce as her husband was not in favor of Veenu riding bikes. In Jaipur, she was a permanent fixture and people referred to her as the Harley Davidson girl. The Harley-Davidson is a powerful bike and comes with massive engines ranging from 600 cc to 1200 cc; almost more than the power of a car. it is a credit to Veenu that she handled this powerful bike. her divorce did not deter her and she continued riding bikes all over India.
She was commissioned by the Harley-Davidson company to drive the bike from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and in the process visit all the Harley Davidson showrooms and dealers on the way. It was a challenging task but Vennu accepted it with gusto. She was riding with another man companion who was on another bike when at a sharp turning on the highway her bike skidded and she was flung from the bike. She was rushed to a health center but died there. Later doctors discovered that she had suffered an internal injury and her liver had been ruptured. it was a sad end to a woman who had blazed a forbidden trail in a conservative country like India. She was a role model to other girls who were inspired by her and took to riding motorbikes.
Her death has shocked all sports enthusiasts. She leaves behind two children from her broken marriage, a son, and daughter. When in Jaipur Veenu ran a hip tea house called Chai Pani and it was a hit with the Avante Guard and the mod crowd. Veenu Paliwal has left an indelible mark on the Indian social scene, where women and girls are still discriminated against. In a nation that still practices female infanticide and hiding women in a burka( Like the Muslims), Veenu is like a breath of fresh air. She should be an example to all Indians.
I have driven a Harley- Davidson. It's a heavy bike and putting it on a stand requires effort. Handling raw power of nearly 70-80 BHP requires great acumen.All credit to Veenu Paliwal for this. Sadly her death at the age of 44 is a matter of great shock. After her death, I again saw the movie of Marianne Faithfull and the uncanny similarity was a matter of surprise to me. One can only conclude that sometimes real life duplicates what is a fantasy. All Indians must be proud of her
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