A few weeks ago when I read this post on Mariellen Ward’s blog, I began to wonder about women explorers and who were they for me. I idolised the very popular Amelia Earhart, probably one of the oldest and the most inspiring women I have read about. A few months ago, I came across Cindy Ross and her trails of adventure. Since then her famous words: ‘Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits’ have become a part of my life.
But how many of these inspirational women did I know were from my country? Bachendri Pal tops my list when I think of women adventurers from India. In 1985, Pal returned to Mount Everest (a year after she had scaled summit) to lead an all-women expedition to the peak. Since then her adventures have continued and so have her encouraging tales of introducing more women into journey. The young Malik twins, Tashi and Nungshi are equally motivating, who have set world records in climbing the Seven Summits across the world.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Ningthoujam Bidyapati a few years ago and was overthrown by how grounded she was about her achievement. She is the first woman to scale Mount Everest from the state of Manipur, in 2013. When I asked her about what she had learnt from this challenging experience, she politely told me that it was her childhood dream to conquer the Everest and if she didn’t push herself (against the bad weather, the winds, the lack of oxygen and the breach of the mind) to chase her dreams then all external factors were irrelevant.
In spring of 2014 when I met Tanaz Noble in Havelock, she told me she planned to kayak from Havelock to Port Blair by herself. Tanaz is a national level kayaker and she was the one to introduce me to kayaking, a sport I am in love with now. I remember asking her why she wanted to kayak to Port Blair all by herself (since it was a 10 hour journey, if I am not mistaken). She told me, ‘Can’t take the responsibility of another person!’ And we laughed together.
And somewhere in July last year, I met an elderly woman by the name of Rehana Ghadially, when I was working for a few months in Goa. She was on a holiday to the state from Pune. After a couple of days, she shared her stories of solo travel with me. She told me that she has travelled by herself extensively and has completed many international and national trips. It was refreshing speaking with her because it seemed like a mirror reflection of the comments or questions I face now as a solo traveller. She told me travelling unaccompanied came naturally to her and it is not different from what our male counterparts are doing. She added with a jest, ‘in fact, I think you children glamourize it a bit too much these days.’ And I surrendered with a smile.
While I know this is not even a quarter of all the women I’d like to write about, these are just some stories that have stayed with me. But I must warn you that adventure is not a limited word. It is individualist and diverse. Anyone who is curious enough to wear their heart on their sleeve and chase their dream or complete that goal in life is adventurous, according to me. I hope to keep meeting such motivators in my travels and see more of us follow our bliss.
Which women adventurers have inspired you?