“My grandfather is known to be the fastest horse rider in the village. And I guess that’s from where the blood flows.”
In the watershed year of 1984, a bike boomed on the unruffled roads of Bandipora to everyone’s amazement. In the willow-abutted thoroughfare of a calm countryside that would explode with competing conflict allegiances a decade later, Faheem Rafiqui’s father was the first person to own a Yezdi Classic 350.
Back then, recalls Faheem, there was only one filling station in town and a single service station in valley.
Almost four decades later, Rafique Jr has steered his father’s dream to an expert level. As the founder of Kashmir’s first riding club, he won the first dirt trail race of the valley in 2016.
“I fondly recall my first childhood memory of sitting on my father’s bike, which I believe marked the beginning of my journey as a biker,” Faheem says.
Watching his father drive—making those hand moves on the accelerator and pushing the breaks—increased his passion.
As he grew up, Faheem not only learned how to drive but enjoyed the view from the first row.
“My grandfather is known to be the fattest horse rider in the village,” the biker continues. “And I guess that’s from where the blood flows.”
Faheem’s ride as a biker was halted by his elder brother’s sudden death. And the last activity he did on that fateful day was bike riding.
The sibling’s untimely demise buried the family’s biking passion. They didn’t even know who took the bike because they no longer wanted it at their place.
The departed left behind a family of three whose responsibilities passed down to Faheem. His ailing father soon followed suit making the biker a woebegone headman. He eventually grounded his passion to focus on his family survival.
“I had to face my anxious mother whenever I would go for a ride,” he recalls. “My loss took away my freedom.”
But a banker by professional and a biker by passion, Faheem eventually bought his first bike in 2014—Royal Enfield Classic 370. And since then he has been going to places, capturing travel moments and sharing them on social media.
“I post my content and people react positively to it,” says Faheem, who runs a YouTube channel Adventures of Faheem. “This gives me strength and even encourages my mother and wife to support my passion.”
Faheem reckons that travelling connects a person to his culture and history, and gives him wings to explore and travel.
But unlike others, the Bandipora biker is not aspiring for a pan-India road trip. “My dream is to travel across Kashmir,” he says. “I want to explore or discover my homeland.”
Faheem has already explored places like Lolab, Tangdar-Teetwal, Gurez, Tutail, Warwan in Kishtawar, Uri Kaman Post and Buta Pathri Gulmarg.
But as the biker is nearing his fifty, he feels a sense of urgency. He wants to explore every tough off-road trail before celebrating his half a century.
“One of the most challenging trails for me was Datwas in Bandipora,” he says. “It took me three years and three attempts to complete the trail and the second toughest was Tromokha Top in Baramulla. The beauty of these trails is the human settlement with medieval shades and setting.”
A father of two daughters, Faheem often takes his second daughter, Yusra, 13, on short trips to cut her biking teeth.
“I want my girls to take on our legacy,” Faheem says with a father’s pride. “They’re born bikers. I see in them the passion that I had in my childhood. I’m sure Yusra will break all the stereotypes one day.”
As a parent, he wants his children discover their passion.
“Life is not just about getting an education, a job, a big house or having a family,” the biker says. “It’s about teaching our children to live happily while pursuing their dream.”