“Create a life that is uniquely yours.”
Meet GARIMA AVTAR, a woman who opted for a road less taken and marked her identity as one of the most successful female racing champions of India. She let her passion in life blaze a trail, breaking the stereotypes and fearlessly forging ahead to fulfil her dreams.
Garima is counted among India’s top rally drivers, a circuit which is traditionally male dominated. She’s the first female driver to be associated with Mercedes Benz Luxe drive. She’s also a Ted speaker, an avid golfer and a Sufi singer.
For Garima, kicking up dust on the rally circuit was not out of the ordinary, considering she has been rejecting gender stereotypes from a young age. She says “when my peers were playing with dolls, I was more fascinated by toy cars”.
She participated in first rally in 2011 when she was 30 and for her it was pretty late in life. She never knew at that time that just a fun participation would become her calling and career. Though her dad inculcated in her a spirit of adventure when he taught her driving at a young age. He was very progressive in his thinking and encouraged her to take up challenges head on. With this kind of upbringing it was hardly surprising that she took to motorsports.
She believes “The power to change your destiny and course of life lies within you.”
Inspite of the thrill and excitement of getting into motorsports, she was initially very apprehensive because this was a completely unexplored territory for her. Nobody from her family or friends are remotely associated with motorsports. Her father also had passed away by that time. Role models and mentors in this line of career were hard to find as women in motorsports were almost negligible at that time. Regardless of not having a clearly defined and an easy path, she realised that she was consumed by the passion to carve out a life that was uniquely her own and felt right for her. So she just followed her heart, took one step at a time and didn’t give up on her dreams.
She says, “Real inspiration and growth comes from stepping away from what’s comfortable and familiar and stepping into the unknown, if only we could sum up the courage.”
Motorsports has been a male dominated sport. So, as women, we have to really prove ourselves on the race track. She thinks if one sincerely works hard towards honing ones skills and invest in professional training then the quality of performance increases. She has spent countless early mornings, hot & dusty hours, sweating inside a racing suit, learning the nuances of rallying and followed an extremely strict & well planned fitness regime. Besides that she was also passionate about how the rally cars were built and spent time in garages to understand the engineering behind it. This not only helped her gain more confidence but also earn more respect from her peers. And gave a tremendous sense of achievement when she won all the accolades. While the rigorous training strengthened her physically, meditation helped her in calming the mind and increasing focus and concentration which is very important during the race.
Her first big break happened with Team Mahindra, driving professionally for their Time Speed Distance format rallies. This was the beginning of intensive racing action, winning the first few laurels and making her name in the rally circuit. Rather than resting on her laurels, she was gearing to move forward to venture into more challenging high speed extreme rallying, which was the real stuff, where the guts, grit and skills of a rally driver were truly tested. This was also a glass ceiling of stereotypes, orthodox beliefs and societal roles which she had to soon break. So, she got trained under the Asia Pacific Rally Champion, and got into extreme rallying and started participating in the Indian National Rally Championship. She also learnt drifting from Dubai and the thrill of driving sideways was a truly exhilarating experience. Her interest soon expanded to include various other aspects of the motorsports world, not just sticking to competitive rallying. She is into automotive journalism & also organises rallies & self drive expeditions.
“Humility is hallmark of a champion.”
Garima feels engaging in random acts of kindness make her happy and add meaning and purpose to her life. She says “I volunteer my time and resources to good causes and also dedicatedly to a charitable organisation that i feel closest to my heart." She wishes to be a brand ambassador for a cause.
She adds “I know positive and supportive relationships are foundational building blocks to anything and everything one wants to achieve. So I want to be a role model to young girls & boys and motivate them to have the courage to take up unconventional careers and follow their dreams by discussing constructive solutions and efficient habits.” She understands her special role in being a role model & mentor to those who aspire to be in motorsports and accepts it with grace, compassion and care.
Trailblazers like Garima Avtar show the society how success can be achieved when fuelled by their passion.