For Lalith Kumar Nataraj, life took a turn for the worst the day he lost sensation in both his feet when he was in Class 6. “It all happened over the course of an hour. Then, I lost all feeling in my hip. Soon, I was completely paralysed from the waist down,” he recalled. Natarajan was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis and has been using a wheelchair ever since. “It was very difficult for me initially. All the simple joys of independent living – from getting some water to using the washroom – became something I needed assistance for. At the time, I was deeply affected by it,” the 39-year-old said.
As an adolescent, Natarajan would hear his family and neighbours roaring past his house on their Royal Enfield Bullets, and for just a few moments, he’d imagine himself doing the same. Determined to fulfil his dream, Natarajan approached bike manufacturers and asked them to make him a special motorcycle. Soon, he bought his bike, which he called Nandi, and the side-car, which he named warhorse.
“It changed me. People no longer saw me as a person with a disability. My identity wasn’t tied to that anymore. I began meeting new people. Over the many long rides, people would sit on warhorse and we would bond and become friends. I finally felt free,” he recalled. Elakiya Mathimaran, another local rider, found her purpose through riding. After a break-up, professional issues, and family troubles in 2016, the 29-year-old was left doubting herself and that’s when she chose biking.
“The break-up left me feeling very low. I kept asking myself if this is what I want to do,” she said. Having taken up riding in 2012, Elakiya didn’t understand its significance till she took a trip to Leh from Delhi at the end of the year. “You can see the Milky Way at Leh and that experience changed me. By the end of the trip, I had managed to refocus and got a clear idea of what I wanted in life,” she said.