Sana Iqbal

Living the life

There came a point in Sana’s life where suicide seemed the only way out. That was yesterday. Today, she has covered 38,000 kms, 111 cities / towns, 135 educational institutions and 2 countries on her bike, spreading the message, “Suicide is NOT the solution”.

Eldest of 4 daughters, born in a semi orthodox semi liberal Muslim family where I, Sana Iqbal was raised with practical application of Islamic Laws and Guidelines. Where modest dressing was preferred over the burkha that has almost become identity of being a Muslim. Compassion was practiced by both parents and a clear demarcation of right and wrong was explained through various examples that my parents experienced while practicing as Advocates in the Civil & Criminal Courts of Hyderabad.

Life seemed pretty fine, growing up with cousins, some friends, traveling around the country periodically for vacations. It was stress-free where there was no obligation to be the class topper, getting a decent grade was good enough. Some criticisms here and there but far lesser when compared to what I have seen and what I still get to see. Cleared 12th without any big hassle, started working pretty early (Even before graduation - just for the heck of it). Clearing interviews and being a head turner at work also came with relative ease. Struggle was an absolute alien word, neither was I the one to be born with a silver spoon.

Not the first but I did meet the man of my dreams. Someone who appeared flawless and perfect to me. The courtship phase was absolutely hunky-dory movie like but not regularly, only periodically. With great difficulties, we got married. Then I realized post marriage, life has its own share of difficulties which sometimes goes beyond control. I soon conceived and thought that things might change for good, but it didn’t and it seemed that my marriage was falling apart.

While all of this was happening, my mind told me that I must love my son, and my heart seemed to be alienated with everything around me. I thought death is perhaps the answer to end all woes. Being a Muslim, I was raised with an idea that suicide means no entry in heaven, plus social trauma for my family. I still think the latter reason stopped me from taking an extreme step.

Taking care of my son was a checklist job and I was doing it marvellously well - The doctor told me this. He used the word ‘marvellously well’ because my son was not just premature but also weighed 1.1 kg at the time of birth. It was a critical case even for the doctor and he too did a good job in guiding me well. The day in September - my son was exactly 3 months old, the doctor declared that Ali is totally out of danger. I was relieved and felt strongly that I don't have another reason to hurt myself anymore.

Spending sleepless nights in love is wonderful but in pain is dreadful. There were mornings when I woke up and wasn't able to open my big eyes due to the swelling caused by tears. It was my fault and I had no clue what to do. Family and friends were supportive to make me feel comfortable and tell me things like not to worry - God will punish the unjust, I am better off, etc... That pushed me into a shell where I felt that the pain cannot be explained, nor was it important.

Plus, the pressure of my son's psychological growth left me in pain - in built pressure was hurting me. I stopped believing in the concept that Life must go on. That is when I decided that thinking is not the solution, planning and executing is the solution - I started planning my own suicide in a manner that it appears like an accident. Predominantly to save my family from embarrassment.

I had learnt riding a geared two-wheeler while in 7th grade, rode long distance with a motorcycle club to attend an event in Mahabalipuram from Hyderabad, and a few local rides made me a rider. Something I was passionate about as well -motivation was to die doing what one loved the most, riding was my 2nd passion and husband was first. I had to give a reason for leaving my 3 month old infant in the custody of my mom and go to a far off place to die. All my relatives and friends knew my condition, any wrong step would have created suspicion. I told my family that I want to relocate to Canada as India was not the place for me (Deep down I knew that I can never run from my internal ghosts). I applied for a PR and deliberately choose a place like Rajkot for IELTS exam. It was a place so far off from my house that train or flight was also hours away. I started my bike and told mom that it would be parked in a friend's house while I would go with other friends in a car. She agreed for the greater good - she thought.

First 100 kms - Hyderabad to Bidar - A biker from my club, who I call Bhaiyya (brother) accompanied me. Once we reached Bidar he told me with immense authority that he was testing my riding skills and had he not been convinced he would have urged me to go back. I was amused and thought why would anyone spend his time, fuel only to check how I am faring - It was an emotional thing. I didn't say a word and left after meeting another biker from the same club and having breakfast.

After that I started noticing a lot of things on the highway and most of it created an impact on me. Like a young boy - barely 7-8 years was jumping in joy and waving at me, he didn't even have proper footwear or clothing; I didn't stop; just zoomed across noticing his smile and waving at him. Next couple of kilometers were all about him, his family, his future - all questions and no answers, I rode on. Then there was another impact when a person going in a car drove past me, showing a thumbs up sign. That led to questions like would he do the same if it was a woman in his family, maybe mom, sister or wife…

Once again questions without answers. Observing such things, I kept moving ahead and crossed Sholapur. Ironically, the roads in Sholapur are bad, like really bad due to some construction work happening. Instead of falling in any pit, I was saving myself (I realized this much later in life). Very soon it started pouring so I stopped on the road side - just in front of a road side dhaba to put my phone in a safe place. When I had removed my helmet to get relaxed, the dhaba owner came out in a jiffy and started asking me questions like if I was alone and if I have done this before and how my parents react, etc... I almost panicked. The intention appeared to be clear but I was very scared because I was on this deserted highway with barely a soul around.

As I prepared to mount my bike he told me to wait and he ran inside the dhaba, I doubled my pace to escape but failed and in no time, that middle aged man was back in front of me with a camera phone in his hand and said "Kya hum apki ek foto nikaalein? Hamari beti 10vi me hai aur hum chahte hain woh apki tarah nidar bane". Can I click a picture of you? I have a daughter who is studying her 10th and I would like if she is bold like you. A bile stuck in my throat, I stared at his face without a word, without an expression. Was scared to even say yes - he clicked and smiled at me - I just left. Without a word or a good bye. Less than 15 seconds on my bike, while I was still on the first gear - My face was flushed with uncontrollable tears. I did not know how to feel about it - Good or Bad. I did not have the guts to tell that father that I was out on my suicide mission. I did not consider myself courageous the way he thought of me. I felt I was the most unwanted person and this man gave me so much without knowing anything about me.

This is where things began to change with every kilometre. The way people received me and made me feel important in every city I crossed - felt like a conspiracy by the Almighty. In Pune, the biker girls who hosted me, made a special plan to spend the day off-roading with me despite having a festival and ceremony at home, took me to a far off place which was pretty close to my imagination of heaven. They had no clue of my pain.

Then I halted in Mumbai for a day and my host invited their friends over dinner because they felt that I was traveling solo all the way from Hyderabad and they thought it was a big deal. Without a clue of what I was experiencing - I liked it.

When I reached Surat, a biker came to the highway - 25 kms out of the city just to receive me - Oh my God! Was I so important to a stranger? Then there was this cute young stunter who hosted me and in the evening, came along with 30 bikers just to meet me. I was like completely taken aback. I never thought that so many people who are absolute strangers would spend so much time on me - a person who was despised and made to feel utterly worthless.

Post Surat came Vadodara. There bikers came to meet me, one of them gifted my bike a fabulous wash while we all had coffee. It was amazing. I felt like crying but I didn't. I finally reached the destination city Rajkot - where I was supposed to write my test. As I reached the city, my host was still in her office so she gave me her home address. I asked one of the guys for direction and he asked me where I was from after taking a deep look at the number plate. I told him Hyderabad and he was evidently astonished with a raised eyebrow. Then he told me to follow him, he let me off in the area where I was supposed to go.

My Rajkot host invited all the bikers to meet me and I was wondering if it was a norm to call the bikers as I hadn't done a lot of such things earlier. Then the bikers who came, suggested that we all go for a ride to a place called Saasan - Night Ride. It was again fabulous.

Someone suggested that I must visit the Rann of Kutch so I went there and happened to meet a biker who till date has the most genuine nature that I have known of. He also introduced me to a mechanic who was physically challenged yet rode a diesel Bullet. I was impressed to the T. How I got lost in the jungles of Kutch is another story.

Then after experiencing the beauty of Kutch One of the Surat bikers had invited me for a party in Mount Abu - and I went there. My first ride into the mountains that too at night was very very scary. Certainly worth it, though. I danced and danced till they turned off the music. I loved it.

I went down the hill to Ahmedabad and was delighted to meet the bikers there. This experience was different because the most bikers came with their wives. One of the couple invited me to visit Akshardham with them the next day and I was flabbergasted with the VIP treatment I got. With all these fabulous memories when I went back home, I was a very different person. A happy person.

When I had held my son, I could feel love for the first time. That is the power of appreciation. I knew that i need to let go of the past and heal myself. I realized that the eligibility to become a good mother is to be a happy person first. I want my son to be happy and relaxed as an adult - I can't tell him that, I need to be that person and no one is good at faking in front of their own family members.

I planned to ride the country and spread the message "Suicide is NOT the Solution" with a motto to "Make happiness contagious".

I covered 38000 kms, 111 cities / towns, 135 educational institutions & 2 countries. I covered every state and union territory of India (Leaving the Islands and Including all the 7 NE states).

I counsel people through Facebook and help them understand their situation to overcome depression.

My ride has ended but I still pursue my mission. I have been awarded by many clubs, educational institutions & civil bodies. My favourite is the Badge given by Civil Defence, Patiala, it has the national emblem on it.

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