What would you do if you didn’t agree with the perception that India’s not a safe place for women? Perhaps you would simply dismiss this sweeping observation being motivated or an unsubstantiated view of the unversed; or you could engage in a dialogue with such naysayers and make an effort to set the record straight by citing facts and statistical data. However, since such exchanges boil down to a ‘your-word-versus-mine’ discussion in which statistical data can be conveniently interpreted to buttress either point of view, nothing fruitful emerges.
So, when 24 year old Asha Malviya hailing from Nataram Village in Rajgarh district of Madhya Pradesh [India] realised that “Many people in foreign countries believe that India is unsafe for women,” she decided to dispel this false notion in a unique and convincing way by undertaking a solo trans-India cycling expedition. She admits, “I had been hearing from a lot of people, especially foreigners, that India is no longer a safe place for women. I did not like that. This is my way of proving otherwise and [to] make my fellow-citizens aware about women safety and empowerment.”
Extremely fond of outdoor activities [especially if they are challenging], it’s the combination of adversity and determination that has enabled Asha to excel. Having lost her father at the tender age of three, Asha grew up facing humongous odds as she struggled to pursue her passion for adventure sports and did her post-graduation in physical education from Bhopal. An avid mountaineer, she has scaled Tenzing Khang [19,545 feet] and Bisi Rai [20,500 feet] peaks which are located on the border of Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. No wonder Asha proudly admits that “I am not scared of anything. I am a sportsperson. You put me in any situation, I will face it.”
Having helped her elder sister get married, Asha says “Now I can focus on my life, my adventures.” On November 1, 2022, Asha set off on her ambitious 25,000 kilometres solo cycling expedition that would pass through all 28 states of India and conclude at New Delhi on Independence Day [August 15]. While the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Department has provided her with a GPS-equipped hybrid cycle Rom-2 and its basic kit, Asha doesn’t have any official sponsor for her expedition. However, Asha has never felt the need of sponsors as she proudly says that “India is a great country and I have got help from citizens all through my trip.” And she has good reasons to feel elated.
Asha’s efforts have been widely appreciated by the entire cross section of society and she has been warmly welcomed and felicitated by Governors, politicians, heads of the civil administration as well senior army and police officers. On August 1, while enroute to Srinagar she had an interaction with General officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi at Udhampur where she offered floral tributes to the bravehearts at the Dhruva War Memorial. Lt Gen Dwivedi complimented Asha on her extraordinary efforts to spread awareness on women safety and women empowerment across India through a solo cycle expedition and wished her all the best for the future.
By undertaking a gruelling eight and a half month long solo cycling odyssey, Asha has ably demonstrated her willingness to undergo strenuous physical and mental strain in order to dispel disinformation and convincingly prove a point. In fact, at a time when raising factually incorrect apprehensions regarding women safety in India has become commonplace, Asha’s determination to set the record straight by ‘walking the talk’ deserves due appreciation.
India needs more Ashas!