We heard the unfortunate news of the passing of Sana Iqbal in a road incident. We had met her last year when she was riding around the country to help fight the battle against depression. She was out on the road going to schools and colleges and helping out youngsters to understand and fight depression. Along the way she inspired many, touched the lives of one and all and is an inspiration to a lot of bikers around the country. We had interviewed her whilst she was doing this ride in 2016, which we have reproduced below. We should remember her in life where she spent countless hours counselling people and may she continue to inspire with the work she did. Rest in peace Sana.
In the midst of our recent northeast sojourn, we came across a white Bullet, with a big placard affixed to the rear. “Solo ride across India by a woman on a Bullet to raise awareness against suicide and depression” it stated. An interesting line which immediately grabbed our attention, not just because it was a lady riding across the country alone, but also the reason behind doing so was unusual.
Sana Iqbal, an enterprising young woman from Hyderabad, has the most interesting story to tell. She started riding in November 2015, and has already been on the road for 6 months and hopes to conclude her ride sometime in June. With little or no prior experience of touring on motorcycles, she has been riding a steep learning curve. But it isn’t a one-way street, as she has been visiting colleges in various cities to help out youngsters with battling depression. A student of psychology, she has been training/ assisting people for the past 8 years.
The reason for her taking up this fight against depression was her personal life experiences.She got married of her own accord at 26, but within a year she faced a difficult separation, which left her shattered and depressed. With the intention of ending her life, she got an insurance policy and set out on her motorcycle. While in the worst frame of mind that one could possibly be, she encountered the strength of the human spirit. A young child waved out to her and another passer-by gave her the thumbs up, this momentary distraction was enough to get her to the next restaurant. There another traveller said, “It’s a big deal that you are travelling alone on a bike like this”. That statement made Sana change the way she saw herself and the world around her. She continued her journey and landed up in Surat, where the bikers of the city showered her with love and appreciation. The entire episode made her realize what she wanted to do for the rest of her life, she saw multiple ‘Sanas’ where she went. People going through a difficult time in life with no solution in sight. She knew she had to help them. And that is how this journey began.
Sana has been on the road for a few months now and we had a quick chat about her ride so far:
xBhp: Did you receive support from family, friends and the motorcycling community when you first decided to ride?
Sana: At first there was very limited support. My family did not want me to pursue this as my mom thought it is for men and not women. Friends, some supported and some strongly opposed. Motorcycling community— well very few supported initially, a lot had told me that this ride would be an utter failure and I must not even attempt it. The bikers who did not have much exposure to riding helped and supported the most.
xBhp: Did you have any prior experience of touring on a motorcycle?
Sana: Well, I learnt riding when I was in 7th grade and have ridden off and on. Never rode a Bullet, not until I met #Wanderers! There are a lot of Biker Events that happen across the country during different months, one such very popular event is, “BOBMC Rider Mania”.Which basically represents brotherhood amongst Bikers. That year, it happened in Mahabalipuram and all the members of the group called #Wanderers from Hyderabad were very excited about it. On 16th of January in 2014, about 60 bikes rode from Hyderabad and rode all the way till Mahabalipuram! Around 800km one way. I was one of those bikers.
I was such an amateur at that time, I had no clue how to kick start my bike! Each time the bike had to be started, any biker brother who would be around would come and kick start it for me and I would just ride. That is how I started. Without the support and understanding of #Wanderers, it would have been impossible for me to be where I am today. My determination was not so strong to move ahead alone! After that also, I did not ride much, attended some short rides around Hyderabad and that was all! Though I felt good but did not take it to the next level.
I am probably the youngest in terms of actual riding days. About 7 months ago, I started my first ride. Then this ride has been going on for 6 months now!
xBhp: How easy/ difficult is it to arrange your sessions in educational institutions in unknown cities?
Sana: It is a bit of a challenge. I need to first go and get an appointment and later have the session scheduled for the next day. In some cities, I had to visit 4-5 institutions to get one appointment. It is due to exams or vacations or unavailability of the authorized person. Very rarely do people not realize the importance of such awareness.
xBhp: From where did you start your ride and for how long have you been on the road. Also, the broad route that you have covered so far.
Sana: I started this ride from Goa on 23rd Nov 2015 after Rider Mania. I went to central India while covering Maharashtra then up north, later west and continued down south. I then took a right to goto the east, before venturing into the Northeast. I paid a visit to Nepal on an invitation as a guest to be a part of Poker Run and conducted one international session in the best college of Kathmandu!
xBhp: How has the response been from your audience so far?
Sana: It’s my motivation and the reason I am still going strong after 28500+ km! It’s great. They reach out for guidance.I have saved people from committing suicide.
xBhp: Typically, what does your session consist of?
Sana: Self-realization! Identifying depression and curing it before it penetrates deeper. How gossip and criticism can lead to depression and suicide. How to help oneself and others in depression or when suicidal.How to find solutions to smallest of problems and stay away from getting victimised.Spreading happiness
The most important- How happiness and suicides are interconnected with each other. There is loads more to this of course!
xBhp: How safe is it to travel alone on a motorcycle in India for a woman? Any bad experiences?
Sana: I think India is the safest and best place for women to travel. Absolutely nothing at all! People appreciate, admire. Uncountable instances where people wanted me to meet their families and their daughters/sisters/wives/ girlfriends to become like me. Women are safe outside their home in comparison – based on facts and figures.
xBhp: Are you a trained professional in helping people combat depression?
Sana: I have been a trainer/coach for 8 yrs.
xBhp: Does motorcycling help in alleviating depression?
Sana: It postpones depression but is not a cure. Depends on one’s spirit. Some people travel to see places, go back and share memories while some ride to meet people and make memories at the same time friends, while some do it for both. In the end, people go home to their problems. Most times they find solutions and other times they want another ride to run away. Motorcycling helps but does not cure. The key is interaction and learning. There is so much more to say here!
xBhp: Tell us about one of your best memories from this trip.
Sana: Have about 5000 pictures and each one comes with a story of 10 minutes! Every state and city has so much to give! So much love, care, brotherhood! Being the first solo woman biker to ride all through Nepal and conduct an international session without any known people around, without any phone or access to Whatsapp – was an epic memory in itself.
Being given a badge by Civil Defence Patiala which has Ashoka Chakra in it is an accomplishment I can never forget. In addition, have been honoured by so many institutions and private bodies that I have almost lost count. Every day is an inspiration to take the next leap.
xBhp: What next? Till where and when you plan to ride. And after your ride ends, do you plan to continue helping people battle depression?
Sana: Ride would end in June. By then I hope to complete every state of India, have already completed 5 motorable union territories. Yes, my page will continue to operate and I would want to implement the logic in my agenda “teach how to fish instead of giving a fish”. “Teach how to be happy instead of making someone happy”.
xBhp: Does people staring, affect you?
Sana: Wherever I go, whether I stop for a coffee or a meal or just ride, from East to West, North to South or North East – people just stare. Right from those driving big luxury cars to the labour class. All of them stare, many come forward to talk and while on the go, they just show a thumbs up sign or a salute.
They find it weird to see someone riding alone, especially a female! And they wonder “what’s going on!” It’s nothing absurd; it’s just normal for anyone to wonder “how someone can ride like this”. Maybe my riding gear or the badges on my jacket. People wonder and hence they stare.So next time you do something different and get those looks, remember it’s nothing negative but curiosity!
xBhp: Most touching experience?
Sana: A couple of them! Sometimes, after the session, some participants get very emotional and share their experience with tears. It gets a little tough to handle such issues, I feel bad as well because of all the time, it is due to suppression and ignorance from their immediate peers. Some other times, it is also due to destructive criticism.
Different types of cases actually:
A lady attempted suicide despite having a lot of love and care from her husband due to nagging from distant relatives for not being able to conceive in 8 years of marriage.
Another case was that of a girl who was sexually molested by her own father and after the father died, she confessed to her mother which resulted in her departure to a mental asylum. She lived in that asylum for 6 months and now is struggling to even establish eye contact with people.
Another guy who was again subjected to sexual assault by his own uncle now faces an identity crisis.