Let me be ME

Archive for the ‘HumanMind’ Category

A Podium Mother- Smithaa Kajale

Smitha Kajale

A civil engineer by profession, winner of several cycling races, 3rd rank holder at Kolhapur triathlon 2019, 2nd rank holder at Nagpur Triathlon 2020, National qualifier at Nashik association championship 2020, a struggler in all the races due to her menopause stage, yet a winner at many, married at 18 and first child at 19 years of age, here is 45 years old Smitha Kajale from Thane.

Air force background and marriage at 18

I was born in Kolkata, and my father was in the Indian Air Force. My father had his last posting at Nashik, and he took a retirement there and joined HAL. I got into Chemical Engineering when my parents decided to get me married as they did not want to let go a suitable and desirable match. 

I got married at 18 and had my first child at 19. 

I continued with my education and completed my bachelor’s in civil engineering.

My second child was born when I was 26 years old. I never walked leave aside, exercising. Being young and occupied with children and work, I never felt the need for any physical workout. 

After my second child, I started with short walks. Even walking a kilometer was a colossal task. My husband and I decided to start with regular morning brisk walks. It was refreshing to walk and talk amidst all the duties and busy schedules.

The casual fitness journey

Going fast forward, when my elder son turned 19, he started going to a nearby gym, and I followed his footsteps. I got into a habit of regular workout and weight training. 

My younger son winning a Gold at time-trial, Guwahati

When my younger son turned 17, he started outdoor cycling and gradually cycling became his passion. His passion did not remain confined to casual cycling, but he started participating in the races. He did MTB Nashik, thane cycling championship, and in December 2017, he won the gold medal at the national time trial.

He then suggested me to start riding. He was sure that I would enjoy riding. 

I was getting bored with the gym. I get bored by the mundane routine; hence I bought a basic cycle and started cycling in December 2018.

In February 2019, I won the First Prize at Navi Mumbai maha cyclothon and a 10k cash prize

In March 2019, I won the 3rd Prize in the open category at Pedal cyclothon

In April 2019, I won the 3rd Prize in the open category at Borivili Cycling association Time Trial

I started loving my finishes and the joy of winning.

It is said that a child gives birth to a mother, and truly my children gave birth to a new me.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

-Anonymous

How Triathlon?

Someone in the cycling group suggested about Triathlon. Triathlon was attractive, and the excitement to do three sports was gripping, but the issue was- I had never run until now!

I then thought and considered the upcoming episodes when my elder was already working in the U.S., and the younger one would leave soon, I would be free from their day to day responsibility.

Our life revolves around our children in motherhood, and they become our first and topmost priority. I was no different. The empty nest syndrome was daunting, and I needed to distract myself.

I decided to take the plunge and try out this new breed of excitement in my life-Triathlon.

3rd Position at Kolhapur Tri

Under the guidance of Viv Menon for triathlon plans and Nimesh for swimming, I participated in the Kolhapur triathlon (Olympic distance) and stood 3rd.

My first experience of open water swim at Kolhapur, and I was kicked, smashed, punched all over due to the massive number of participants.

After Kolhapur, I thought enough of Triathlon, let me now go back to cycling.

Meanwhile, someone mentioned about Tigerman Tri, Nagpur in Feb 2020. My previous doubts vanished, and I registered for the event.

“Sometimes we have one chance, to ride that wave, one opportunity to jump on, take a deep breath and feel the rush of adrenaline. . . don’t miss your chance.”

― Heidi Reagan

A week before the Tigerman event, I came across the Nashik Tri association championship. The championship was attractive, and with a discussion with my coach Viv, I registered for the event.

In February, I knew that Nashik would be cold, and I didn’t have the wetsuit for the race. Hence I started going for early morning swims and bathing in cold water to acclimatize my body.

The race mentioned that the swim would be in the pool, and I took a sigh of relief.

When I collected my bib, I was informed that the swim would take place in a dam(water reservoir). I couldn’t sleep for the entire night.

The race morning was horrifying than the revelation of the previous eve.

To my amazement, there were no ropes, buoys, or any emergency evacuation.

4th position in Nashik district triathlon

Upon questioning, the officials made it clear that the race was a time trial for the national qualifier and is a self-supported race.

I took a while to register this fact. My throat went dry. In already cold weather, I stood there, shivering in a swimsuit.

I prayed and chanted what I could remember and asked my husband to wait for me until I completed my swim and jumped in the water.

2nd position in Tigerman Triathlon

I finished 1500 meters of swim course in 35 mins. After completing the bike course, which was an undulating path and run that happened in scoring heat, I stood 4th

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

–Dale Carnegie

A week after I participated in Tigerman Triathlon, Nagpur and stood  2nd.

Menopause and training

For the event in November, I started training in June 2019. At the same time, I had to travel to Pennysylvania to my elder son. There the issue of menopause started. I was continuously bleeding heavily for week-10 days and changing menstrual cups every hour. Without a country-specific prescription, I could not take any medications in the U.S. hence. I continued in the same state until I returned to India.

I felt weak and lacked stamina. I consulted my physician as the race was nearing, and I had to get into vigorous training.

My blood test reports were not at all satisfying. My hemoglobin was at 8. My physician strictly advised me not to attempt any race, which was just two months away.

“Do not attempt doesn’t fit in my psyche” hence I asked for a solution. He advised for an Intravenous blood transfusion. I readily agreed and went to his clinic after work and got the I.V.

Races during my menopause phase

It is common to get a fever after the I.V., and I got it too.

My husband was concerned for me; he was always intrigued by this training idea and kept asking me,” Kyun Kar Rahi ho?”(why are you doing?)

I recovered the hemoglobin level, but my bleeding didn’t stop.

Thankfully just ten days before the race day, God showed mercy on me, and I wasn’t bleeding any more.

I could say one thing,”der aae durust aae”

Nashik and Tigerman, two consecutive races

On the eve of the Kolahour tri, I went for the bike route recce with my husband, exhausted in just 2-3 kms. I was anxious about the race the next day.

I believe that the mind conspires what you start thinking, I had made up my mind to finish the race, and I did.

From my menopause episode I can only conclude that,

“Leaders bleed, period.”

― Silvia Young, My FemTruth: Scandalous Survival Stories

The family bond

My boys are my pillars of strength. There has been no race when my husband has not been there to cheer, support, and encourage me. My two boys were my initial coach, guides, and mentor. I followed their footsteps in my workout/fitness journey as well as cycling.

What’s next?

I enrolled for Ironman 70.3 in Boulder, USA, but due to COVID, all the races got canceled. I will attempt the race whenever the racing season opens.

I aim to continue on my fitness journey and emerge as a more vital human being mentally and physically.

“A woman’s health is her capital.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Dabang Maa: Sunita Dhote

Sunita Dhote

Mother of two boys, a Fauji kid, Asia book of records holder, represented India in Canada for somersault competition, a college professor by profession, thrice failed attempts for Ironman to a successful finisher, a woman who stood for her passion in a family where the only job of a bahu(bride) was to do household chores. Rendevous with 48 years old, Sunita Dhote from Nagpur.

Fauji childhood

My father was in the Indian Airforce, and I’ve been born and bought up all over India. I call myself as Bharat ki Beti.
My childhood was disciplined and strict. My father used to wake us up (myself and my younger brother) at 5 am, and we were then supposed to take four rounds of the park in the vicinity. Any mischievous act or cheating would result in additional drills.
We learned cycling on hired bikes for a rent of 10 paise per hour. Mistakes would result in thappads (tight slaps).
I was annoyed at that time, but now I understand the significance of discipline that my father instilled in us.
I was into sports right from the very beginning. I got selected for state high jump when Papa was posted in Guwahati. I wasn’t allowed to participate in nationals with the fear that high jump would make me taller, and I won’t get a desirable match.
By the time I reached my tenth grade, sports were just a memory, and the entire focus shifted towards studies.
I did my B.com, M.com, MBA, and Ph.D
I was an obedient daughter.

Marriage and the grind

I got married in a business family, and no sooner I entered my in-law’s place, all maids at home were given permanent off from their duties.
I was a full-time maid now. Right from washing the clothes, utensils, cooking, and every little chore was my responsibility.
I have no regret; instead, I am grateful to my mother-in-law for teaching me patience.

She cribbed and I listened.

This habit taught me how not to react unnecessarily and carry on with your task. She made me physiologically strong- a much-needed trait of an athlete.
It was during my honeymoon to Nepal that I had a glimpse of the golden pagodas. I wanted to run to the top and shared the desire with my husband. He gladly agreed, and within no time, I saw myself running on the trail towards the pagoda. The hidden sports person was still alive. When I reached the top, a stranger shared a message; my husband was waiting for me.

He didn’t climb.

At this point, I resolve that come what may, my children will not be the ones waiting down but the ones who would climb the fastest.

I finished my Ph.D. in 2011 and settled for a job. I understood that it was essential to be financially independent.

Having been traveled all across India with my father, I was a keen traveler but never got an opportunity post-marriage.

During one of the exchange programs, I got an opportunity to travel to Seattle and stay at the Microsoft research center. I loved the experience of being on my own and interact with people across the globe. I was impressed by their discipline, eating habits, and zing for life.
I came back with a determination – I have to take charge of my life. I will not fall into this rut.

The beginning

The group study exchange program to Seattle was a game-changer. Another episode that triggered my thought process was when I was an entrepreneurship faculty, and I talked to the students about passion. I read many autobiographies in this process, and each story had primary learning- follow your passion.

Rotary group exchange program

It filled me with energy and determination.

After my first son was born, I started to learn swimming. I wasn’t allowed to swim in childhood owing to a reason that if I turn dark, then I won’t get a suitable match!

I used to go to the pool nearby, considering all the eyes watching me or even following. I used to hide my swimming costume in a towel, dry my hair, and dress up “appropriately” for this adventure.

“learning and achieving smaller things make you happy.”

chirps Sunita

In 2012, I stood first in 100 meters butterfly championship.

I now wanted to learn more. So, I went ahead and learned about diving.
I was allowed to carry on with whatever I wish to with the condition that children should not be neglected and the house well attended. So, I used to take my children along to the pool. In this process, they also learned swimming (win-win situation).

When life gives you restrictions, don’t flutter in a cage; instead, look for that one little opportunity to fly out.

believes Sunita

Within five to six years, I was a diving champion.

Even now, I was struggling at somersault. I pleaded a child in the pool to teach me. I was 41 years at this point. That child made me do 100 meters of front and roll and said confidently, “you are ready.” I could now do front and reverse somersaults.

I represented India in 2014 in Canada for somersault championships. I was an enthralling moment when my name heard my name, Sunita Dhote, India.

I was beginning to enjoy my life my filled with confidence and joy.

To add to my newly discovered joy, I did solo cycling from Nagpur to Pondicherry of a total distance of 1412 km in 6 days and registered my name in the Asia book of records.

Multiple failures and finally a successful Ironman finish

In 2017 a friend introduced the word Triathlon. With an assumption that it’s just swimming, cycle, and run, I enrolled for Pune triathlon, sprint distance. To my dismay, after the swim and the bike, I couldn’t manage to run.

Being a total novice, I participated in the race empty stomach.
I was unaware of the word nutrition.

The same year I enrolled for the Hyderabad triathlon, and it was a DNF. I attempted thrice and failed.

Three failed attempts at Hyderabad Tri

I kept trying.

Life is all about trying.

says Sunita

The “chipko andollan” movement is imbibed in me; hence I don’t leave until done.

In 2018, finally, I could finish the race in 9hrs 15 mins.

A friend told me about systematic training, planning, and nutrition. I then took proper coaching and participated in the Dubai ironman.

Ten days before the race, I had two bad falls, and my training came to a standstill. But I am a stubborn soul, and I was determined to fly to Dubai for the race.

I swam for the first time in a wetsuit, and the clear water gave a feeling of “patal lok” I clocked my PB in the swim. Cycling was comfortable, and during the run, I followed a strategy to run pole to pole.
Dubai IM finish was blissfully satisfying.

I became the first woman from the Vidarbha region to have completed the Ironman race.

When I came back and showed the medal to my family, my husband had a blank expression, and he could only ask me,” iske liye itni mehnat?(so much of effort just for this medal?)”

Sunita at the finish line

It is difficult to explain your desires and passion, so it’s better to keep the hustle on and move forward.

The training was a tricky part. I used to put a cycle in my car, wear the cycling gear, and cover it with a salwar suit (formal dress).
Once the college used to get over, I drove to the highway, parked my car, and did a three-hour cycle, and returned home.
There were several episodes where I had to manage the timing and surroundings efficiently.

You have to decide what you have to do, then be on it, come what may”

says determined Sunita

Life is about how you face it.

When I did my solo cycling, my elder son was in grade 10. I had a lot of “Gyan” for everyone around that I was an irresponsible mother who has left her son behind in the crucial year.
During a press conference for the Asia book of records, a media person had serious doubt on my grit and daring to do a solo ride. I wanted to reply,”are you scared of a woman being on her own or are you feeling insecure”(pun intended)

Sunita, with her sons


I didn’t allow life to churn me, but I did the other way round.


I sponsor the races on my own. I ensured that I bought up boys with discipline and integrity.
Work colleagues who once questioned my caliber now have the utmost respect for me.
My son does 200 crunches, and we are quite competitive about it(in all humor). He also cooks a fantastic meal.


My nickname is Sona(means gold), and one property of gold is that it glitters the most when it is rubbed hard and rough.

grins Sunita

It is my time to glow, and I’ll ensure that I shine the brightest.

that’s sunita’s promise to herself

Crash queen : Chandani Desai

Chandani Desai

Someone who has never been a sports enthusiast, where mere participation in any of the school sports event was a significant accomplishment, a thyroid patient, “slow performer” as she calls herself, mother of a nine-year-old, a textile designer by profession here is our Crash Queen- Chandani Desai

Why a crash queen?

Forever bleeding knees

Well, there has been no race where I’ve not fallen off my bike. My knees are forever bleeding, injured, bandaged, and bruised. 

After the race, I look nothing less than a wounded soldier who has just returned from the battlefield. 

Now, I’ve come to a consensus that crashing is a good omen for me.

Mumbai express

I come from a family where outdoor explorations like treks, hikes, and long walks were regular affairs.

Pregnancy

While my family post-marriage was the opposite, my husband would not prefer going out at all, gradually, I also got soaked into all married life responsibilities. I was never a high adrenaline person, but I was fit and agile. I was juggling multiple things in one go. There came a moment post-delivery when I could not get off the floor without support. It was demeaning. I didn’t like my state. But what do I do? How do I manage my time? By now, my son started his play-school in the afternoon shift (11 am-1 pm), so in between the drop and pick up I precisely had 45 minutes. I used this time to run at 12noon (rain, shine, or wind), go home shower, prepare his tiffin, and pick him up. Whenever I missed the run, I would climb the stairs.

Satara half-marathon

My building residents thought that I am crazy. Well! I was mad to get back into my fit form and not remain a slug.

I was synonymous with Mumbai express, on time, can’t get slow, will never stop.

I could now run around 10kms, but the city-run was boring. Someone mentioned about Satara run and within no time registered and finished my first half marathon.

This Mumbai express was not stopping at all now!

Crib or join the madness – what do I choose?

In 2013, Pratik (my husband) did his first Comrades. Due to several reasons, he broke his spine and was on complete bed rest. His first question to the doctor was – will I be able to run?

Running is his life, and he was slipping into depression due to his injury.

I was ok with a physically injured husband but not a mentally unstable one.

I had to take a call here to crib about his state or join him in his madness; I chose the latter, and that is how my events journey started.

We started sharing a lot of things in common. I could now relate to the jargon used in training. As I juggled between a kid, work, home, and much more, he understood my pain points and started supporting me even more.

I could now extract time from my Mumbai express schedule and devote sincere efforts towards the training.

The Tri-bug

In 2016 I got to know about Pune Triathlon. Running was getting boring, and the combination of three sports was attractive. I registered for the event and started training.

My schedule was something like this:

  • 5 am get up and go for training 
  • cook breakfast, lunch for the whole family(including extended family)
  • Get Rivaan ready for school
  • board the train to work(missing a local in Mumbai is like, missing your work)
  • leave on time from work
  • pick up Rivaan, drop him to classes
  • cook dinner 
  • train once everyone in the house is asleep.

I was running on a reserve battery. I used to be super tired, drained, but I found myself more energetic than I was earlier because first, I was enjoying the pain, and second it was a feel-good factor.

Pratik came forward to take care of Rivaan and encouraged me to train harder for my first triathlon, which later got him hooked as well.

I came to know about my naive state when during one cycle training session, I tried hard to catch up on my co-trainee, but my cycle wouldn’t move forward at all, no matter how hard I tried. He then offered his bike, and I realised the difference between an autorickshaw and a Ferrari.

Race day was also disastrous. I lost my way during the swim course and swam a half ironman distance(1.9kms) compared to the Olympic(1.5kms). I was screaming mid-way to guide me for the direction. Some kind soul heard me and shouted back to swim 45 degrees right.

I swam in my swimming costume and just wore a cycling tee over it for the bike course. The concept of wet suit or any other gear was unknown until then.

The bike course was not just tough but grueling. The bike course was all on the ghats, and I had trained only on plains. Anyhow, I patted myself that I completed the course without a fall. But this happiness was short-lived, and I crashed yet again.

The last running course was the toughest. I had cramps in my legs right from the start. Someone said, have salt at the station, someone said have gel, I did what I could, and dragged myself.

In the last 200 meters where I was still pushing myself, Pratik cheered me loudly, “go run, the medal is yours. You have only two minutes left”.

I composed myself, pushed as hard as I could, and crossed the finish line.

I sat there and cried my heart out.

Those were the tears of my hard work, discipline, my express routine, Pratik’s injury, my child who saw me training hard, my effort. 

I deserved this medal, yes, the medal was mine!

What led to 70.3?

In 2017 Pratik and I did the Pune International Triathlon together (his 1st and my 2nd triathlon), and the same year we shifted to Dubai.

Fast forward to 2018, while I was still adjusting to the new country, work, and Rivaan’s school, Pratik completed his first 70.3 and went to do his first full @ IM Hamburg. 

It is here where while cheering for him and seeing him cross the red carpet that I got goosebumps and a thought flashed in my mind to do Dubai 70.3 along with him.

This thought came into reality when in India, we went to meet the only Iron couple Kaushik and Vineeta casually over a weekend drink. Within a blink of sharing my thought about doing an Ironman race, they registered me for Dubai 70.3, and then there was no looking back!

Mis(s)-adventures

With the event approaching, I had lots to catch up and get into aggressive training. The training period was strenuous. Being a slow racer and also a thyroid patient, my recovery rate is more time-consuming. 

My legs would ache to give me sleepless nights. Rivaan used to sit on my legs to comfort me, but every single day I would get up with the same zeal and train much harder than the previous day. 

On my first-century training ride(100kms) after 18 odd km, I had a crash (what new?), but this time my cycle wouldn’t/t move no matter how hard I peddled. I kept going and finished the ride. 

I then called up Pratik to pick me up as I was almost immobile. I started worrying about my capability to finish the bike course in the race. When Pratik came to pick me up and had a look at the bike and me, he sensed my worry. 

With a smile on his face, he assured me that I was more than ready for the race. I was puzzled. He told me that the brakes jammed after the crash, and even then, I completed the ride. This effort talked a lot about my stamina and strength.

I was confident about biking now.

Now comes the swim struggle.

I was excellent at breaststroke, but it wasn’t easy in a wetsuit. I changed to freestyle just three weeks before the race. Also developed severe bronchitis.

On the race day, I entered the water with bruised knees and cuts so deep that the flesh was visible—Courtesy-all the falls during the training.

The water was choppy, but I managed to finish the swim course. My Garmin malfunctioned on the event day, and I was unwary of the time. I got on the bike, and as ever a fall had to happen. I got back on the bike and completed the bike course as well. Run was draining.

I panicked about the timing. 

Pratik passed on the message that I had time to finish. Even though I was relieved of listening to this, but I was exhausted.

I saw people older than me running to the finish line, and I silently muttered to myself- you will not give up Chandani, run, go, run to the finish line.

As soon as I saw the red carpet, I sprinted and finished well before time.

Firm your mind, and the universe will conspire to make it happen.

believes , Chandani

Setbacks? Or Sit-back?

I had to come over challenging circumstances for all my races, but I was a tougher challenge. 

Crash during Lockdown

I was determined, and one after the other, things kept falling in place to train systematically.

Crashing is my second name, but I never gave up and carried on with bleeding knees in all the races even then. Just recently, Entirely, out of nowhere, I had a massive crash in a casual bike ride during the lockdown. I had to undergo facial surgery with multiple fractures. It was a tough time to manage in a foreign country and a child back home. He was petrified to see my injured face. 

Back to saddle after the accident

Two months post-surgery, I am back on the saddle again.

There will be challenges and setbacks in some way or the other; the choice is yours to sit back or get going?

To all the women

We, women, are crash queens in our ways.

Stereotypes crash us

Heaps of responsibilities crash us

Guilt crash us

But we have to rise and shine for we are the queens

says, Chandani

Epiphany#1

The other day a piece of news popped up in TimeHop (an app that shows nostalgic pics/videos). The story was about Sid’s climb to the ThotongLa Pass. It was back in 2018 when we completed the summit. Read a detailed blog here https://momthyname.blog/2018/06/13/annapurna-circuit-5th-19th-march-2018-hiking-with-sid-to-thorong-la-pass5417mts/ Sid was 12- years old and slightly shorter to me in height.

Sid in “My Powai” magazine

We were climbing towards the base of the summit after an acclimatization day. Sid is a natural climber and runner, and he was so thrilled to be climbing higher that he vanished out of my sight within no time. I was having trouble breathing; hence I was climbing slowly but steadily. When I could not spot him for a long time and the “motherhood-syndrome” activated. I was anxious. I kept asking each passer-by(although there were very few) about Sid, mentioning his looks and clothes he was wearing.
Finally, after a long walk, someone told me that he had seen a boy with a similar description upon a rock.

Sid on the way to ThorngLa Pass
Sid merrily balancing between the rocks

I had my stomach churning and suddenly I could feel the bile rising into my mouth. I was fuming in anger now. I speed up my walk and saw Sid balancing himself between two rocks. His palms tightly gripped on one side while feet on the other. He didn’t even bother to acknowledge my presence, nor was he aware that he has committed a “mistake.” As soon as I reached closer to him, he was excited to share his “discovery”. I reluctantly asked him about it. I was still fuming. He went ahead and showed two giant lizards on the rock and told me that he observed them climbing up the cliff.

Sid’s “DISCOVERY”

At that moment, I had no interest in his discovery or observation; I was obvious to make him realize that he has committed a “mistake.”
He could sense my rage but didn’t pay much heed. He said, “mom, I knew you are behind, and I wanted to run ahead. Above all, I know that this is a linear track, so where would I go? You could have worried lesser.”
I wouldn’t say I liked his comment at that moment. But, now, when I sit and think of it, he was correct, and I was getting hyper.


Last year a similar episode happened on our hike in Sahaydris too during monsoons.. He climbed up the slippery rain-drenched hills, and I lost my breath out of fear.

Epiphany #1: Don’t pass on your emotions to your children. They will learn and grow with the right exposure and experience.

Children are born explorers. They have their wild imagination. They are a gift of nature, and nature makes them learn the most critical life-lessons that no textbook ever can. They have a curious mind, which sadly gets tamed and influenced by us.

Sid wanted to be on his own; he knew where it was heading, he knew I was behind him and was confident that he would not wander anywhere, but I tried to instill fear in him out of my insecurity.


Let your children wander
for nature will teach them
Let them explore and feel
and you’ll see them turning into a gem

ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT (5TH-19TH MARCH 2018) HIKING WITH SID TO THORONG-LA PASS(5417MTS)

4TH MARCH 2018(DAY BEFORE THE HIKE)

GOOD-BYES AND PARTING

I had this hike in mind for a very long time. After a lot of surveys and input from mountaineering friends, I booked the trek with Himalayan Glaciers ( a hiking company in Nepal) in August 2017 to hike in November 2017. But, I fractured my foot in September 2017 and then it was a definite “NO” my orthopedic doctor. I waited for my foot to heal (which took too long). I could not wait for any further and decided to hike in March 2018 along with my elder son Siddhanth aka Sid. We dedicated this trek to raise funds towards library creation in a municipal school in Faridabad, in association with Sledgehammer Foundation and Pratham Books,
We managed to get 15 days off from school for the trek. Well, this hurdle was very minimal as compared to leaving my younger one behind. We hugged and cried, and then hugged and cried more the night before we left for the trek.

5TH MARCH 2018- DAY ONE, MUMBAI TO KATHMANDU,4264FT

TAKE OFF

We were all set for our travel and Sid was excited about his new adventure.
We took the flight to Kathmandu, and the hotel staff welcomed us by holding a placard with Sid’s name ( little perks to make him feel important)

IMG_8069

Welcome with Sid’s name at Kathmandu Airport

We had a great day where we roamed the streets, had a meeting with our tour operator, checking local stuff.
It was a half-past at night when Sid woke up to use the washroom, but I sensed something not so good and followed him. He then complained of giddiness and vomiting. As I stepped to help him, he fainted in the washroom. I lifted and brought him to the bed in haste. After few seconds he was okay.
I knew the reason ( I am a mom after all !)
Me: Sid ,you’re worried about the hike?
Sid: Yes mom
Me: Don’t listen to people, they talk nonsense (everyone I met scared him about the elevation ). If you have trust in your mom then we’ll go ahead tomorrow else no worries
Sid: I do trust you mom
Me: then sleep well, and we’ll have a great time.
Sid slept off, but I didn’t.
Day one of a sleepless night.

9A72B48E-0681-4105-8349-3F2D12856DF8

Some good meal

IMG_8067

Landing in Kathmandu

6TH MARCH 2018- DAY TWO, KATHMANDU TO SYANGE,3608 FT

FIRST SIGHT OF MOUNTAINS

We started our day early to get to the bus stop from the hotel.
I withdrew money from the ATM (Nepal has a limit of withdrawing 45k per day, so it is advisable to withdraw the maximum in a day ). Also, the ATM charges 4% on the withdrawal amount.
We took a cab from our hotel to the bus stop accompanied by our Sherpa to reach Besi shehar. After wasting a lot of time in the traffic jam on the ghat, we reached Besi Shehar at lunchtime.
From there we took a jeep to Syange, which was nothing more than a spine and neck jerking drive 😬
We reached Syange by 3 pm and had the first view of snow clad mountains which we were supposed to climb.
Sid, being a dog lover instantly had friends all over, and he was happily feeding them biscuits 🍪
At night he again asked me, “mamma, I’ll be able to do it ?”
My one answer to this was, “Sid, क़दम बढ़े हैं तो रूकेंगे नहीं ” ( Sid, if you’ve taken a step forward then there is no looking back )
And this became our mantra on the entire Trek.
He slept well, and I didn’t.
Regularly checking on him, Being mother 🙂
Day two of the sleepless night.

7TH MARCH 2018- DAY THREE, SYANGE TO DHARAPNI,6430 FT

A LONG WALK

We started our walk with all zeal after a customary breakfast of boiled eggs, hot chocolate for Sid and a black coffee for myself
During the hike, Sid asked me about what I wanted to be when I grow up because everyone grows up to be something?
It was kind of funny, but I replied that I would like to be good human being and rest I will figure out.
Then we had a great, excellent discussion on “growing up.”
It’s important to let the kids have a brain of their own and let them ask as many questions as they wish to, no matter how stupid they sound.
Having a conversation with your child is essential.
It was a long walk of around 24kms, and we gained some great elevation as well as insight too 🙂
We walked from Syange to Dharapni with a halt for lunch at Taal. Sid walked much ahead and faster, and at one point I lost him from my view. When I met him at Taal, the mother in me gave him a good scolding and the son in him obeyed the instructions.
It was cold and rained as well at night. Sid was wearing his day hike shoes till now which we use for our hikes in Sahyadri ranges. During the hike, I realized that he needs better shoes. The tea stall where we were resting had a shop nearby, and I saw some hiking boots there.
Without wasting any time, I got a brand new pair for Sid.
I was little skeptical on the fit and shoe bite, but it turned out to be the best decision. Sid slept off after slight anxiousness. I didn’t.
Day three of the sleepless night.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1440562757/embed/bdb0667d13ab5bce6e6f6512ce67a497c33be761” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Syange to Dharapani on Strava

8TH MARCH 2018- DAY FOUR,DHARAPANI TO CHAME,8891 FT

ANXIOUS YET AGAIN

We started our walk to Chame which is a lovely small village.
It was again an enjoyable walk. Fantastic scenery, snow-clad mountains, good climb and most beautiful mountains to watch
Sid was anxious still at night but with a good cuddle and comforting he slept fine.
It rained and snowed at night.
He woke up with a start around midnight, screaming “mamma …mamma”. I knew the reason.
Just a little assurance and he slept back; I didn’t.
Fourth sleepless night 🙂

Strava:https://www.strava.com/activities/1442138433/embed/a22961abe0b94758bdfa8b030dad54374ffbb92a” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Dharapani to Chame Part 1   https://www.strava.com/activities/1442138770/embed/47cebf1ca769ee0a945e67f38321811053479c96” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Dharapani to Chame Part 2

9TH MARCH 2018- DAY FIVE, CHAME TO PISANG,10,824FT

FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH SNOW

As we headed towards Lower Pisang, it started getting colder, with a stiff breeze and also snow on the way.
Sid was mighty excited about seeing, feeling and playing in the snow – what more can a Mumbaikar do 😜 (Mumbai sees summer season all through the year)
It was a lovely long walk, and we stopped in between for our snickers, honey ginger lemon, and just casual breaks.
We decided to stay in Lower Pisang than Upper to save time for the next day hike.
We stayed in a beautiful tea house with comfy bed and warm quilt
I took a hot shower (charged at 100 Nepali rupees)here which runs on gas, and even Sid was happy to be under the shower after five long days
We also had a heater in the dining area where we spent our maximum time until bedtime.
Although it snowed in the eve, it was a very comfortable stay. Food was good here but surely getting expensive. We even paid for charging our phones.
I could connect home as we had mild mobile connectivity in Pisang.
I slept for a while this time 🙂

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1443601459/embed/e084affed8e1221f38947ca755b0012f864194d3” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Chame to Pisang

10TH MARCH 2018- DAY SIX,PISANG TO MANANG,11,482FT

RIGHT ON THE FOOTHILL OF SNOWCLAD MOUNTAINS

It was a long but beautiful walk to Manang
We were reaching a higher altitude, and there was snow on and off the trails.
The weather was now getting colder and windy.
Hot honey ginger lemon tea and garlic soup were an integral part of our diet now.
Manang is a small village with beautiful tea houses.
Our tea house had a massive bunch of bag packers from Israel. The dining hall was bustling with all the chatter. We had electricity on the day we arrived, so I charged my power banks and phone here. We were now in the zone of no mobile connectivity. Although TV had some signal and Sid managed to watch a football match there. He was happy.
It was freezing by night and all the occupants of the tea stall bundled up in the hall next to the room heater, chatting, reading, playing cards or just sitting casually.
Everyone in the room was amazed to see Sid attempting the Pass and wondered on his capability. Touchwood.
As people said so, Sid was again in the same mood, ” mamma, will I be able to make it ?”
And my reply was same,” क़दम बढ़े हैं तो रूकेंगे नहीं,” (“once you’ve taken a step ahead, then there is no looking back “)
He slept very well and so did I
First, ever full night sleep!

Strava:https://www.strava.com/activities/1454173125/embed/0d8a309e370e5de9695ac24c0e0e59cea009d68c” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Pisang to Manag

11TH MARCH 2018- DAY SEVEN, ACCLIMATIZATION DAY IN MANANG

“OH! I AM THIS CLOSE,MAMMA"

After a great sleep, we intentionally woke up late the next day because it was our acclimatization day. The mommy in me came into action, and I rinsed almost all the dirty clothes in icy cold water. It was a bright day but extremely windy. We had an elaborate and lazy breakfast. We then headed for a small hike to reach a higher level. It was a steep but beautiful walk up the mountain. Once we were at the top Sid looked around and saw all snow clad mountains right next to where he was standing. He had the brightest eyes at this moment, and he couldn’t stop beaming with joy on his accomplishment. We jumped in joy, clicked pictures, played with snow and descended after a while to our base. Sid had a question for me here again, “ mamma, why don’t I feel confident? why do I feel anxious?”
I replied, “Sid, pray and firm up your mind “
Sid was clueless on what and how to pray.
Although back home we perform an essential prayer before we go to bed. Me being an atheist I chant and mutter a small prayer with boys, “Thank you god for the world so sweet, Thank you god for the food we eat. Thank you God for birds that sing, thank you God for everything.”
But this time the prayer had to be intense. I carry a beaded mala to count my chant; I gave sid that mala and asked him to chant and pray for strength. Sid wore the mala around his wrist as if it was a source of some extra energy. I let it happen because he was calmer after chanting.
We slept well.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1454173417/embed/bffd929cab19000fa6fea17b086b5864d03fedc7” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Acclimatisation climb in Manang

12TH MARCH 2018- DAY EIGHT – MANANG TO YAK KHARKA,13,484FT

Rest did wonders to our body, and we started our day fully charged up. It was a short and beautiful walk. We were excited as we were just a day short to our summit. We walked slow, spotting mountain goats, climbing small hills, playing snow throw ball, chatting, munching our snickers and sipping hot honey ginger lemon tea. As we reached closer, the winds started picking up, and it was now getting freezing. We hurriedly reached the destination and pampered ourselves with hot chocolate and French fries. It was a cold night. I tucked along with sid, and he slept off within no time.
Sid misplaced his mala before sleeping and was restless because he was unable to locate it, he desperately said: “mamma, now will I be able to complete my trek?”
I was bewildered.
I held his hands, looked eye to eye and said sternly, “it is not the mala but your courage and strength that will make you complete the trek. Have faith in yourself and climb”. I don’t know if he understood what I meant, but he slept off. Next morning he found the mala.
I had a very uneasy night. I had a blocked nose and kept breathing from my mouth. As a result, My mouth was drying up, and I had to sip water from the flask now and then. I started feeling dizzy and waited for dawn. Midnight I thought of calling out to my Sherpa, but then I realized that sid would be scared. So kept my cool, continued chanting and deep breathing (as much as I could).
It was a difficult night.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1454173675/embed/a71f41fab6285f532bdc4a5a69baf1ac12618201” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Manang to Yak Kharka

13TH MARCH 2018- DAY NINE- YAK KHARKA TO THORANG PHEDI,14,501FT

ORDEAL BEGINS

I got up uneasy and was contemplating my decision to climb further. I did not give out any gesture of my discomfort as I knew sid would be disturbed. I told my Sherpa, but he had no inputs to give instead he said to us that rather than staying at Thorang Phedi we’d go to high camp which will save our time for the climb to the summit the next day.
I was expecting sometime of assistance from my Sherpa towards my breathlessness but had just two options for me – to go down or climb up. I chose the latter one. I walked exceptionally slow and kept sipping water. Within an hour I was much better, and we then continued with our climb.
By the time we reached Thorang Phedi both myself and sid were exhausted as the winds had caught up and we wanted to rest. As our porter was told to stop at high camp hence, he didn’t block our tea house, and we had to climb up to go to another tea house. I was annoyed with my Sherpa’s ignorance. As hike gains elevation, it is advisable as well as instructed that both the porter and guide should walk together because if the client faces any issue, all can descend together. I expressed my annoyance. My Sherpa didn’t take my complaint too well and ignored us entirely; his behavior was very indifferent. I sensed further ordeal.
Before we retired for the night, we decided to start the climb at 5 am, although most trekkers start the hike as early as 3 am. I was bothered only about Sid and wanted him to take proper rest.
We giggled and talked a lot at night, only to ease out Sid and slept cuddled up.
The night went off well.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1454174027/embed/525f217628aa734182e641ad6c1ee3359112914b” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Yak Kharka to Thorong Phedi

14TH MARCH – DAY TEN-SUMMIT DAY- THORONG PHEDI TO THORONG LA PASS,17,764FT

SID –MY HERO

At 3 am my door banged, it was my Sherpa. I recalled the last night discussion on timing, but he was adamant to leave early. I didn’t argue and woke up sid to get ready for the day. It was the final day of the climb, and we were expecting lots of snow, steep, and extreme winds. We had to reach the pass anyhow before noon as afterward, the weather gets unpredictable.
We quickly ate boiled eggs, packed bread jam, filled two water bottles with the assurance that we will get water at a tea house at high camp.
We had to climb a straight mountain to reach the high camp. After crossing the hill we faced knee deep, and sid’s feet were cold. With the previous discussions, he was always worried that he might get frostbite. I assured him he wouldn’t. I was carrying toe warmers and asked my Sherpa to get hold of my porter just in case I need more clothing for sid. Although I had all necessary stuff in my backpack.
But to my dismay, he stood there unwary of my demand and informed that the porter would meet us at the tea stall much ahead.
I put toe warmers on sid’s toe, and he felt comfortable to walk. I then asked my Sherpa to get water, and he again said that we would get it at the tea stall. I told him about my requirement to have a lot of water (in one of my previous high altitude adventure I had acute dehydration which resulted in a stroke. Since then I am advised to drink a lot of water in higher altitude)
It was our first experience of walking in such deep snow. We enjoyed it. I was walking slowly even now. As we reached the tea stall, to my utter shock it was shut. It was here that I lost my cool and blasted my Sherpa on his irresponsible behavior. I was shocked further when he said, “water is your requirement you should have kept why are you blaming me ?” P.S. I paid for a porter and guide, and it was not a self-supported trek.
I took a quick glance at the remaining water and did a fast calculation on how much to consume till the summit. We still had around 4-5 hours to the summit.
We started walking again. After a while, my Sherpa was out of our sight. It was just myself and Sid walking across the snow-clad mountains. Sid was tensed, anxious and worried. I realized I shouldn’t have shown my despair in front of him. I assured him that we would make it to the top. He was worried about almost no water left. I told him miracles happen and we will get water. And miracle did happen. We saw a guy walking towards us from nowhere with a water bottle dangling around his waist. On requesting he gladly transferred the water into our container.
I was still walking very slow. It was now sid’s tun to boost me. As our Sherpa wasn’t available to guide us, hence we took help of the poles as landmarks and keep walking from one pole to another. Sid kept on saying – “mamma common it’s almost done. We have to finish it. We have to reach the top”.
And yes we did reach the top. Yes, we were at the summit! Sid, this 12-year-old, fragile boy of mine, was at the summit !!
We met our Sherpa here.
Extreme cold wind at the pass welcomed us.
We had to start our descend soon as the weather was now worsening . after few mandatory pictures, we started our descend.
Both of us were starving by now. Our Sherpa informed that Muktinath (final destination of the day) was an hours walk from the summit. We were delighted.
We kept walking for almost 3 hours but couldn’t gather sight of any habitation.
Sid was utterly exhausted, famished, tired and dizzy. He was unable to walk any further. Finally at around 4 pm after walking for almost 11 hours, I asked my Sherpa for emergency evacuation and ordered him to rush down where he could get mobile network to inform the trekking company. Meanwhile, I fed some dry fruits to sid and sat by the side of the trail. I made him lie down in my lap and asked him to sleep. After an hour my Sherpa informed that evacuation process is initiated and helicopter might come soon.
I wondered if Sid was fit to walk a little and he confirmed that he could. We started our descend again because it was getting cloudy. All calls to trekking and insurance company went in vain, and I decided to rest as soon as I saw any habitation. It was almost 5 pm, and helicopters don’t ply in Nepal then.
We finally saw few tea houses and rested for the night there.
I was mentally exhausted and had a tromping headache. I wanted to move back home immediately.
I decided to terminate the trek.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1454174318/embed/90c26eeaaa3eade725e4ce368bacd29782ee99f5” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Thorong Phedi to Thorong La pass, Garmin conked off in between

15TH MARCH- DAY ELEVEN- OVER AND DONE, MUKTINATH TO JOMSOM

HAPPY SOULS

Next morning was bright and beautiful. Both I and sid were very happy souls. We had achieved what we aimed. We walked down to Muktinath and took a jeep to Jomsom. By the time we reached Jomsom, we were informed that because of bad weather all further flights were canceled and we can only fly the next day which I readily agreed.
We ate very well, had mobile connectivity, talked to family and shared our pictures.
At the tea house, we met various groups who were resting there after completion of the summit. All of them were surprised at sid’s feat. One of them said, “you are the coolest mom. At 12 I had no clue what mountain were. Had I known then I would have been a different person altogether” ahaannn… time to pat my back (on my own although)

16TH MARCH- DAY TWELVE- HOME BOUND IN A JIFFY, JOMSOM TO POKHRA TO KAHTHMANDU TO MUMBAI

Next morning we were at Jomsom airport to fly to Pokhara. The airport and the craft was a replica of Legoland. It was exciting.
As I landed in Pokhara, I checked for the flight availability to Kathmandu. I was now desperate to be home, to be with my other set of boys. I was surprised when I got the tickets to Kathmandu. I then modified my flight from Kathmandu to Mumbai, and once I landed at Kathmandu, I was all set to fly back home.
Three flights in a day, from 15,000 ft to sea level in a day. Back home to the hugs and cuddles, I couldn’t have been a happier momma.

TAKEAWAYS

WHEN HIKING WITH CHILDREN

WHEN YOU ARE HIKING WITH CHILDREN

  • Inform them about the altitude, AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), what to expect and what not to during the hike
  • Build up the excitement
  • Constant encouragement
  • Choose the travel company wisely and talk with your guide in absolute clarity
  • Keep children entertained either by carrying a book, a game or even a mobile phone with their favorite games. Afterwall they are city kids.
  • Feed them well. don’t focus on healthy food but let them eat whatever they want
  • Carry ready to eat foodstuff and water purifying tablets as much as possible because as you go higher food and water prices soar extensively
  • Get the layering done adequately
  • Invest in good hiking shoes. don’t think for it’s a waste of money as they outgrow very soon . good hiking shoes is very important
  • Buy good wind chaffing cream, sunscreen, and polarized sunglasses
  • Keep an eye on your behavior and eating pattern, you might miss a sign of AMS otherwise
  • If hiking alone then follow the map as well as fellow trekkers accurate directions
  • Sherpas demand good tip after the hike, plan your budget accordingly.
  • Give them good rest, don’t hurry up.
  • enjoy and look around as you hike. mountains have so much to offer, teach and learn
  • Choose your time and duration of the hike. Alter the itinerary as per your child’s energy level.

“The hardest choices require the strongest will – Thanos”

 

 

 

 

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