Dr. Aparna Bandodkar, who is part of Girgaon Padwa Shobha Yatra, rides her motorcycle every year along with other women in order to celebrate the Maharashtrian New Year
Dr. Aparna Bandodkar rides her bullet at the Girgaon Padwa Shobha yatra celebrations in Mumbai to ring in the Maharashtrian New Year. All Pictures/Aparna Bandodkar
In Mumbai and all over India, April 6 marks the traditional New Year for Maharashtrians which signifies the welcoming of the spring. As people welcome the New Year with much fervour and enthusiasm, thousands of men and women in Mumbai take to the streets and participate in Shobha Yatras. One such yatra is that of Girgaon Padwa Shobha Yatra, one of the biggest and oldest Shobha Yatras in Mumbai. Every year, the highlight of this Shobha yatra is Dr. Aparna Bandodkar, and her bike ‘Bijli; together they have become the face of the Girgaon Padwa Shobha Yatra. Since 2013, Bandodkar has been actively participating in the Girgaon Padwa Shobha yatra and riding her motorcycle with varied themes, thereby promoting the Maharashtrian culture and ringing in the New Year in style.
Just as the people welcome the New Year across Mumbai, Maharashtra, we had the opportunity to interact with Dr. Aparna Bandodkar who in a candid conversation talks about the Girgaon Padwa Shobha yatra and more.
Aparna Bandodkar and other women ride motorcycles during the Girgaon Padwa Shobha yatra
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Since how long have you been taking part in the Girgaon Padwa Shobha yatra. How has the journey been so far?
I have been taking part in the Girgaon Padwa Shobha Yatra since 2013. After I had my own bike, the very first thing that I wanted to do was ride inter-state and complete a part of my bucket list i.e. wearing a nine-yard sari and going to Girgaon. The Girgaon padava celebration started in 2002 and back then I used to see pictures of ladies who used to take part in the yatra. That’s how I went to girgaon and they wholeheartedly welcomed me with my bullet. Post that, it became a ritual and this will be my eight year at Girgaon padwa celebration.
I started riding bullet at the Girgaon Shobha yatra in 2013 but before me, there were other women with different types of scooters and bikes who took part in the rally. It was the media who hyped it as I was the first woman to ride a bullet at the Girgaon Shobha yatra. Back then, a woman on a bullet was something new and at the time there were very few women riders. Now, the number of women riders is ever increasing. Today women ride heavier and meaner machines.
How has the Girgaum Padwa Shobha yatra changed since the time you took part back in 2013?
At that time, the Girgaon padwa was not so glamorous as it is now. It was a very low key affair but today it is celebrated on a grander scale.
When I joined in 2013 there were about 15 women bikers and slowly and steadily the number has increased over the years. Today the majority of the women are on geared motorcycles and then there are scooters, vintage bikes and much more. Last year there were about 8-to 85 women taking part in the Shobha yatra on the bike. Women come far off from Vasai, Mulund, New Bombay to take part in the Gudi padwa celebrations. People are willing to travel and come and take part in the rally. There are a couple of women who even ride Harley Davidson bikes for the rally”, says Bandodkar when asked how the Girgaon Shobha yatra has evolved over the years.
Aparna Bandodkar dons biking shoes on her traditional attire during the Girgaon Shobha yatra
Can you share a funny incident that took place with you during one of the Shobha yatras?
The very first day I took part my slippers broke when I tried to kickstart the bike. I was left with no choice but to take out my biking shoes and wear them with the nine-yard sari.
What kind of impact do you feel the Girgaum Padava Shobha Yatra has created?
Once you take part in the Girgaon Padwa Shobha yatra, you get confidence and you are not the same person anymore. Many more women come to the rally and then they realise their potential. Taking part in the yatra also boosts your confidence as you see more women taking part and breaking stereotypes.
Such is the impact that, Aparna had seen a video where Indians who are staying abroad are seen celebrating Gudi padwa and had trained themselves in dhol Tasha Pathak and even replicated the whole parade in the western country.
What has been your fondest memory till of Girgaon Padwa Shobha yatra?
Recalling it quite vividly, Dr, Nandodkar says, “My fondest memory is that of a girl coming to me during the 2015 padwa rally and was all in tears. She started thanking me and said that ‘You don’t know what have you done’. She revealed that her parents never wanted her to ride a motorcycle but after the saw Dr. Aparna Bandodkar’s Shobha yatra video on National television, they allowed her to ride her motorcycle to her workplace and that she was really happy about it. While speaking to me she was in tears and this brought tears into my eyes as well.”
Behind-the-scenes fun with Cyrus Broacha and Kunal Vijayakar