"You almost feel like you are in God's arms"
The rare feat lies light on Reena Kaushal, the first Indian woman to have skied to the bottom most point of the planet. For, she was part of the all-woman expedition that skied 915 km to the South Pole in December last year. It was her love for the mountains and the dream to promote women’s involvement in outdoor adventures that impelled her to take up the long journey.
In fact, the journey had begun long ago when she was in Darjeeling, where she would go for long hikes and treks with her father who was an army man. It was then she fell in love with the mountains and made up her mind on having a deep involvement with nature. So, after her graduation she joined the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, where she underwent a formal training in mountaineering. Since then she has been associated with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and has been on several expeditions such as those to Gangotri 1, the first ascent of Argan Kangri, Fluted Peak, Stock Kangri, Phawararang and so on.
|Reena Kaushal - in God's arms!|
But it was the idea of the all-women expedition to South Pole that made her jump. “I thought if I could successfully represent India in this expedition I could set an example for Indian women in my own little way.” Also the focus of the Antarctic expedition was on saving the environment – a cause close to Reena’s heart.
“So I was even more passionate at an ideological level about being a part of the expedition,” she adds. Reena had to compete with 116 other women from across the country to earn her entry ticket to the Kaspersky Commonwealth Expedition. This wasn’t all, in the absence of any private or state sponsorship, Reena had to take a loan on her own account to pay for the venture. Did she feel let down that the government showed no interest in sponsoring her but once the feat was achieved it was quick to celebrate her victory as that of an ‘Indian?’ “No,” says Reena, “because I don’t let myself get bothered by such things. I had to do what I had to and it only feels good later if everyone wants to join in the celebration.”
The eight women, who were a part of the expedition that marked 60 years of Commonwealth, had to ski for almost eight to nine hours a day. They battled with sub-zero temperatures, winds blowing at over 130 km/hr and tempestuous blizzards. Despite this, they carried all their excretory waste with them through the trip. The idea, informs Reena, was to tell the world that if they can ensure they don’t defile the planet in such relentless weather then so can those who are living in the comfort of their homes.
"It was so cold that we simply couldn't step out of our tents without the smallest of accessories. Caps, glasses, gloves all had to be in place." Once the expedition was complete, the team was obviously exhilarated. Reena says she derived more pleasure from the exquisite beauty at the South Pole rather than the achievement of the goal. "You almost feel like you are in God's arms," sums up Reena.