Pournima runs a snack shop during weekdays, and on weekends you'll find her on the highway speeding along on her trusty motorcycle. She's a huge inspiration to many women in the Yezdi community, and is a true motorcycling legend.
Customers have to make their way down a small flight of steps to discover this little haven of snacks, which for all practical purposes is hidden away in the basement of the building. On a recent visit, Pournima served us hot samosas, home-made idlis and bespoke cups of steaming tea. But lest you miss the point, it’s not for the food that we had come here. It was to sink our teeth into a very unusual but inspiring motorcycling story.
We were there to meet Pournima Gadagkar, a veteran female motorcyclist, and more so one who’s in love with classic JAWAs and Yezdis. Pournima has crisscrossed the country on her 1972 JAWA for the last 15 years, on many solo and group rides. At first, Pournima was a bit surprised to meet us and was cagey with her responses, but meeting a group of fellow bikers helped her to get more comfortable, and she was soon chatting away like there was no tomorrow.
Biking runs in the Gadagkar family. Pournima's father was a two and four wheeler driving instructor by profession and is the proud owner a Bajaj M80. During the conversation, he pulled us to the side and took off the dusty cover to show us his well-maintained M80, which still starts on the first kick. Pune has always been a Bajaj stronghold due to the presence of their oldest factory in the region. Rumour has it that Yezdi wanted to set up their manufacturing facility in Pune many years back, but Bajaj managed to muscle them out of any land deals. So the Wodeyars offered Yezdi land to set up the factory in Mysore.
Pournima recounts her rides with deep nostalgia; specially her first one in 2014, from Pune to Hampi, covering the 650kms in a day. "This generated a lot of interest, specially amongst the local girls, who turned up to ask me many questions like: Was I married? (a deep blush here) Did my family allow me to ride with boys? Did I face discrimination or get special treatment?. She went on to add: “Of course, I didn’t tell them that my brother was also riding with the group. I was even interviewed by the local Kannada press, and had my share of celebrity fame. I have been interviewed many times by the local press in Pune, who find the whole issue of a woman riding a bike very fascinating.”
Gushing ebulliently about her precious 1972 JAWA, Pournima tells us abut her 10-day Pune-Manali-Pune, non-stop ride. "It was challenging, we rode over all kinds of terrain, in all kinds of weather, wind and traffic conditions, including snow and rain. I had a small incident on Manali-Solan highway. But fortunately, nothing serious happened to the bike or me. It was then that I really experienced the ‘Forever Bike, Forever Value’ significance of the JAWA brand”.
"I almost lost my life during one ride in Rajasthan. Blinding headlights caused me to fall onto a divider, within 1ft of a passing truck’s tires. The bike was damaged more than me. I was really shaken. But within a hour, with minor adjustments and fixes to the bike, we were back on the road."
"Being a lone female biker amidst a largely male dominated group, poses no issue” says the confident Pournima. “Whilst on the road, I don’t get any special treatment. I am expected to keep pace with the group. In fact, sometimes I have to allow them to catch up with me. In my riding gear, nobody even notices I am not a guy. The only issue during halts (we guess), is finding a clean ladies loo; which in India indeed a challenge.