“Armed With A Can Of Pepper Spray…I began my solo-rides”: Vartika Sharma Lekhak, Author Of The Month, January 2018

Posted: January 25, 2018

An writer with a penchant for writing fiction that is rooted in reality but soars into the imagination, Vartika Sharma Lekhak brings her passion for equality to the digital space.

Every month, we recognise 3 among 2500+ contributors, as featured Author of the Month – for their writing that keeps readers engrossed and makes us all think afresh. This month, Vartika Sharma Lekhak is one of our 3 featured authors. Her short story, The Girl With The Sealed Vagina, was a bold and powerful piece of work that founds its way into the Women’s Web collection, When Women Speak Up. An avid trekker and biker, Vartika is an advocate for women occupying public spaces. You can find her work at Women’s Web here, and also at her own blog.

Why do you write?

I believe for any writer, writing is an emotion. The thoughts which flow out of their fingers are much stronger and more beautiful than the words falling from the mouth. Be it a memory from my past which I want to preserve in a memoir or the surge of emotions which flow out of my heart when I experience or witness any injustice, I have found Writing a more powerful and resonating tool than anything else.

What do you enjoy reading ? Does any of it helps your writing?

I have always enjoyed reading memoirs. They give one insight into human relations, the complexities of mind and at the same time, it stirs our own memories. And as most of my writings are based on women’s issues, I like reading about stories of inspiring women, news-articles. I also love to read mythological literature and the position of women in it. But above all what really benefits my writing is traveling and talking to people. One needs to have an open mind and sensitivity while interacting with people and understand the various cultural ethos.

When it comes to writing on/for/about women what questions and issues drive you the most?

I think the bases of all the women-related issues/problems today is – Inequality. And this is the thing which frustrates me the most. There is inequality in opportunity, lifestyle, choosing dreams, making travel plans, religion, almost everything. You see the connection here. For example, take the case of unsafe roads. Because most women don’t have equal access to the (safe) roads, they are not able to take the full benefits of education and employment. And in turn, they are forced to give-up their dreams, independence and thus, become an object of exploitation.

Often I am asked whether I am a feminist. Honestly, I am still not clear on the term. Only thing I know is that if feminism means asking for equality in genders, then yes I am a feminist.

Could you narrate an issue or incident in your life which you think was gender-related, and you handled it in a way that made you proud.

I have always been in love with cycling. From childhood, cycling for me was an expression of freedom. But upon my marriage, I had to give up this hobby, not because I was not permitted, but because of the circumstances. As my husband is an Army officer, often we are posted in remote areas where it is not safe and easy to venture out. And most of the times I was dependent upon the company of a male to go for a long-distance bike ride. But more than that it was a sort of a social pressure, to behave like a lady. Back then, there was hardly any married woman riding bikes in a normal routine. But one fine day, I decided to put aside all the misgivings and resume my passion. Armed with a can of pepper spray and the tips I had learned in martial arts classes, I began my solo-rides. And so easy it was, so full of fun and freedom. Though many times I meet curious onlookers who are either over-whelmed or disgusted to see a woman riding alone on the roads which were otherwise frequented by male-only drivers. I remember one incident when I was riding from Bhuj to Mandavi, about 65km, when a shopkeeper was so happy to see a woman biker that he asked me to write down a few lines in his diary, so that he can show it his daughter. Initially, I too experienced ridicule and disapproval because I was doing something which is not expected of a ‘lady’. But today I am so happy to see so many fellow women getting inspired and breakfree on the bikes.

‘Don’t you get scared riding alone, what if the bike is punctured’, I am often asked by people. ‘I will fix the puncture,’ I tell them.

‘Don’t you get tired of riding a hundred kilometres? They say.’ ‘No, even you can ride that far,’

The fears are endless and so are the excuses. And once we learn to overcome them, we are no less than ANYONE.

Name three other writers on Women’s Web whose work you admire.

Tanvi Sinha, Anupama Jain, and Rimli Bhattacharya

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  1. Rimli Bhattacharya
    Rimli Bhattacharya -

    Dear Vartika, thanks a ton for the kind mention, like Anupama I too wish more power to your divine pen. God bless you, may you reach the open SKY. Another moment to celebrate.

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