In the 1990s, Mariam Mohammad Ali defied societal norms by pursuing her passion for motorcycles in Karachi, Pakistan, despite the disapproval of relatives and neighbours.
Mariam’s journey into biking began when she obtained her bike license, becoming one of the pioneering women in Karachi at the time to do so.
Her dedication to motorcycles, particularly her trusty 1960 Vespa, not only defied gender stereotypes but also served as a tribute to her late father’s legacy, showcasing the power of individuality and determination.
Back in the 1990s, at a time when it was still considered unconventional for women to venture into the world of motorcycles, Mariam Mohammad Ali decided to break the mould.
Growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, Ali had nurtured a deep-seated passion for bike riding from the tender age of 5. Despite the disapproval of her relatives and neighbours, she was determined not to let go of her childhood dream.
Her journey into the world of biking began with an act of defiance. Ali obtained her bike license, becoming one of the pioneering women in the 1990s to achieve this feat in Karachi.
It was a remarkable milestone, given the prevailing societal norms that frowned upon women embracing this daring pursuit.
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Ali’s fascination with motorcycles and her resolve to challenge gender stereotypes stemmed from her upbringing. Born in 1974 to a Bohra father named Mohammad Ali and a Roman Catholic mother named Victoria, she was exposed to the world of Vespas through her father’s work as a mechanic in Karachi’s bustling Saddar business district.
Little did she know that these early encounters with the Italian two-wheeler would shape her destiny.
Her passion for Vespas grew exponentially when, as a child, she was occasionally chauffeured to school by one of her father’s apprentices on his own Vespa.
During these rides, Ali couldn’t resist the allure of the bike’s accelerator, a foreshadowing of her future as a motorcycle enthusiast.
Ali’s daring spirit truly came to the fore when, at the age of 11, she borrowed a motorcycle from one of her male friends. Her impressive riding skills caught the attention of their mutual acquaintances, who promptly informed Ali’s father. He then presented her with a choice, one that would define her path – a car or a motorcycle.
Ali chose her passion over four wheels, a decision that marked the beginning of her remarkable journey. Today, at the age of 49, Ali, now a dedicated teacher by profession, continues to defy conventions. Her trusty 1960 Vespa, a cherished gift from her late father, serves as her faithful companion for daily commutes and errands.
“On my Vespa, I find immense satisfaction. I can carry a month’s worth of groceries with ease, and with my mother riding pillion, we relish our journeys together,” she enthusiastically shared.
Yet, Ali is quick to acknowledge that riding a Vespa comes with its own set of challenges, particularly due to its substantial weight and unique balance.
“The weight is a significant factor; the engine’s placement on one side makes it quite a heavy bike. It demands a certain strength to handle. It’s akin to manoeuvring a miniature rickshaw,” she explained.
Ali’s story is not just about defying societal norms; it’s a tribute to her late father’s legacy. She had inherited 1964 and 1965 Vespa models from him, which she later sold to the Italian consulate in Karachi. They expressed interest in her 1960 Vespa as well, but she respectfully declined, as it remained the last tangible connection to her beloved father, who passed away in 2006.
Her mother, Victoria, proudly recalls how their acquaintances used to voice concerns about Ali’s motorcycle adventures, but her late husband was unwavering in his support.
“My husband was an open-minded man. He used to say, ‘Let her pursue whatever she wishes to,'” Victoria fondly remembered.
Victoria admitted that when Ali was born, she had hoped for a son. Little did she know that her daughter would emerge as the guardian of their family, not only breaking gender stereotypes but also taking on household responsibilities with gusto. Ali enjoys cooking, cleaning, and spending quality time with her brother’s children.
Despite her bold choices in life, Ali did make efforts to explore the path of marriage. However, potential suitors often objected to her motorcycle or held interests that diverged from her own.
“I felt like they were encroaching on my freedom,” she reflected with a hint of determination in her voice. Mariam Mohammad Ali, the fearless woman who defied conventions and embraced her passion for motorcycles, stands as an inspiring testament to the power of individuality and determination.