Garima Avtar is an accomplished woman Rally Racing Driver in a traditionally male-dominated sport, donning many hats. She believes that we all heroes of our own stories. Ramdas has a zap-zoom conversation with Garima Avtar on Car Rally Racing and more.
Describe the journey of Garima from childhood, what kind of person you were, how was your childhood, what kind of learnings you had. Any incidents which created an impact on you?
I am an independent, adventurous, confident and fun-loving person with a mind of my own. I grew up in a small town, Bareilly and my father was my hero.
He used to always tell me the importance of having a ‘sense of purpose in life and how having compassion, empathy, humility will always stand me in good stead. I learnt from him that irrespective of the challenges in your life, one should never give up or lose hope.
They say, if life gives you a lemon, make a lemonade– how do you see life, you would have your share of personal and professional life challenges, what were those, how did you overcome your challenges? What was the motivation?
My life has been a big roller coaster ride. Married at an early age and a mother at 20 was not something I had planned or wanted. The marriage turned out to be pretty rocky and turbulent. If I had stayed on, I would have lost all my self-respect. So, with no professional degree, no financial independence and a daughter to protect and nurture, I walked out into a bleak uncertain future with countless challenges. This was definitely truly intimidating. But during difficult times, when your brain cannot even process coherently, it also brings out the oceans of strength which you do not know exists. During those trying times, my dad’s words reverberated—which were the biggest source of motivation for me. I also got immense support from my friends, who stood by me which gave me the courage to carry on and here I am, what I am today.
You have taken the path of most resistance, and getting into a sport which very few people would imagine to get into, what made you venture into the same?
As a child, I was always fascinated by cars and my father taught me to drive when I was still in school. I never had plans to take up motorsports as a profession. Getting into motorsports happened by the stroke of luck when one of my friends told me to take part in a car rally in 2010. I loved that experience and got hooked onto motorsports.
What are the different aspects of Rally Racing Driver– the investment, the challenges, the fear, the danger, the rewards, sponsorships, etc.?
Motorsports is still dominated by men, with very few women rally racing drivers. It is also not a sport that enjoys great public support and is hugely expensive with a weak sponsor or government support. Apart from this, the associated risks with high speed driving on a tough track are always there. We also don’t have world-class infrastructure and driving schools where one can learn the finer nuances of driving. Thus, it is hugely challenging to take up motorsports as a career, however, things have improved since the time I entered this field and I see a better future for motorsports in our country.
You led an expedition of 20 female drivers at an expedition, how was it when people look up to you?
With leadership role comes huge responsibility, it is challenging and also very empowering. My experience as a leader of an all-women expedition was very rewarding. My belief in my abilities to plan and execute an event flawlessly became stronger, also I earned great respect and friendships to last a lifetime.
What would be your advice to young girls who aspire to be a Rally Racing Driver?
Motorsports is a very challenging and demanding sport. My advice to our aspiring women drivers is that you must train and learn not only advanced driving skills but also the mechanics and the dynamics of cars. This will give you a tremendous edge. Secondly, however cliché it may sound, hard work pays. Be ready to slog and constantly improve your skills. Lastly, have the courage to take failures in your stride and never ever give up in the face of adversity.
Any major incident when the thought of giving up and what made you rise?
As I said earlier, motorsports is a hugely demanding and challenging sport and one has to be ready for failures and take them in your stride. The lack of sponsorship and huge financial strain did make me wonder whether I should continue or give up. I again chose not to quit and continued my journey on the racing track. My interest soon expanded to include various other aspects of the motorsports world, not just sticking to competitive rallying. I gave up my highly rewarding corporate job and focused all my energies on this and it also gave me recognition and earned me respect. What made me do this was my love for cars and driving, the support of my colleagues, friends, and family and most importantly my unshakeable faith in myself.
What is your Corporate assignment/ venture all about? How do you balance work, sports, and life?
I was the Vice President of a corporate company, Delton Cables Ltd. My job entailed managing the Marketing and HR aspects of the company. It was a great experience for me as it helped me understand the importance of team building and collaboration. I am a firm believer that if you manage your time well then everything falls in place. I follow a much-disciplined life. I avoid late nights and hectic social life. I believe in the power of planning and sticking to it. Thus it becomes easy for me.
If you are given a chance to relive your life, what would you like to change?
We all are heroes of our own stories. I would not like to be anything else but me. My adversities have made me what I am today.
Who has been your idol and support system?
My dad has been my idol and my hero. Though he is not there now his words, the memories greatly inspire me
You are one of the influencers to many people– what care you need to take as an influencer? Any of your fans, who got inspired looking at your story?
Being an influencer is a huge responsibility. Many people follow you blindly and look up to you and get motivated. Thus, I try to endorse products and brands which I myself use and like. Secondly, I share stories of courage, grit, goodness, compassion and those which have inspired me. I always put myself in the shoes of my followers and try to imagine how will I get inspired by a story and become better. Many of my followers do say that they have got inspired by my take on life and have also shared their stories with me.
What is Garima when you are not a sports person, a corporate profession?
I am a simple fun loving person who loves small things life has to offer. I am also a doting mother, a loyal friend, an avid reader and a passionate singer.
What is the hidden side of Garima?
My life is an open book and you get what you see. I would consider I am successful if people get motivated by my story.