road less travelled
Sangeetha’s father, C.N. Jairam, affectionately known as Jerry, was an avid motorcycle rider and enthusiast throughout his life. When he graduated college in 1964 and was backpacking through Europe, he decided to buy a second hand BMW R/25 and ride back home, to Coorg in South India. His journey took him through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and into India. The trip took almost a year to complete. Since the day he arrived back to his worried yet completely enthralled family, bikes have had a place of honor in their lives. Nearly 68 years later, that very same bike is still with them, and has seen many miles since that day that it was picked up by Jerry.
Her brothers and she grew up on that motorcycle, the very same one that they all learned to ride on. The bike was restored in 2014 and running in perfect condition. For the bike’s 60th birthday, Sangeetha had the bike completely restored with parts from BMW. Being a classic, the R/25’s parts are still available at BMW. Despite growing up on their plantation, Jerry always found time to maintain his vehicles himself and his kids were always his assistants. “We grew up with grease under our nails, working on bikes and car engines. That’s where my journey began and our whole life revolved around cars and bikes.”, says Sangeetha.
Perhaps it was the upbringing she received, or perhaps a longing for adrenaline, but regardless of the motive, there would be only a handful of times that she could bear to be parted from her bikes. From simple rides across the nearby roads to inter-city travel to racing with other enthusiasts, step by step, today, Sangeetha regularly tours the country, in whatever weather. “I can’t even remember when I started touring or when I started going to the racetrack. I just did it as part of life”, says Sangeetha when asked about her earliest memories of touring. She currently owns a Hero Impulse and a Royal Enfield Himalayan for touring. Of all the bikes in the Indian market, she loves the Himalayan’s styling and handling the most.
Even today at fifty years old, Sangeetha’s zest for life, adrenaline and travels remains at its zenith. When she’s not biking around the world, Sangeetha teaches yoga and trashonomics to the students at her alma mater, The Lawrence School, in Ooty.
She has ridden all over the world including places like Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Australia, Vietnam, Africa, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Finland, and Norway. While she loves solo rides, she has also led groups on memorable journeys to the snow-capped peaks of Ladakh, to Rajasthan, and the North East.
Over the years, Sangeetha has been the proud owner of a Suzuki Shogun, a Pulsar 180, a Duke 200 and a BMW F650. While the bikes in her garage now are a Yamaha RD350, a Hero Impulse, a Royal Enfield Himalayan and of course her dad’s BMW R/25 – a real treat for gear-heads. For the longest time, she had dreamed of riding a Ducati Multistrada 1200, which she had fallen in love with, when she rode it for the first time. However, when she rode the Triumph Tiger 800 – the balance and handling of the bike completely won her over and she believes it to be one of the best machines existing today.
Sangeetha has done a TEDx talk and several other talks about her experiences on biking and touring the country. An interesting incident she recollects is that after one of her talks, a guy in the audience approached her, requesting her to speak to his girlfriend to encourage her to take up riding. Despite his girlfriend’s passion for motorcycles, she was apprehensive about actually riding the bike herself.
“Fitness is a really important for life in general, but especially so for anyone who wants to ride motorcycles. In addition to needing stamina and some physical ability to sit for long hours on a ride, you also need some strength to pick up the motorcycle when we fall, which is part of riding. So fitness is really important. That’s something I always tell the groups I take.”, says Sangeetha when asked about the importance of fitness while riding.
Exceptional drive. Most commendable.