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Mansi Khandelwal

IWB Blogger

Banker Vamini Sethi Tells Us How She Pedalled From Work To The Siachen Glacier

  • IWB Post
  •  March 20, 2017

 

“May your trails be crooked, winding, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” Edward Abbey

Being wanderlust at heart, beaches and mountains are my peacekeepers. The moment I hear about a vacation, I quickly pack my travel bag and wear my shoes to run to the horizon and hug it like never before.

But there are some who push themselves ahead of their comfort zones and explore their core strength to extremes.

Vamini Sethi is a case in point. Balancing the banker and the cyclist in her heart, she trekked to the Siachen Glacier last year. Yes, the Siachen. The only civilian woman to trek to the Siachen, Vamini’s application was rejected thrice.

Siachen Glacier cyclist

In a very high-spirited and motivational conversation with Indian Women Blog (IWB), Vamini shared her Siachen chapter with us.

IWB: When & how did the cycling bug bite you?

Vamini: I have been a very passionate rider since childhood. I used to cycle around the colony with the group of my friends. But since I was an ardent rider, I used to leave them behind to face the next obstacles which were flyovers and highways. In fact, there were times when I used to ride pillion with my one-year-old brother at flyovers and used to get scolded for the same.

When I grew up, I had quit cycling. It was only in 2011 that I signed up for a cyclotron and pursued my most cherished passion again.

Siachen Glacier cyclist

IWB: Tell us a little about your childhood cycling gang.

Vamini: I used to ride with my society kids, but since I was a rebellious child, I always used to venture out.

I remember I used to ride the most inexpensive bikes. And despite my brother being just a year old I used to take him along with me. As a child, I did a lot of uphills, which has helped me improve my strength. In 2011 I participated in Firestorm, a mountain cycling competition. I rode a Hercules there whereas other cyclists had their fancy jerseys and expensive cycles. They called me and made me ride their cycles. That was the day, I went back home and told my mom that I would now buy an expensive cycle too.

That’s when my journey re-started!

IWB: Between your corporate job and passion, is a social life existent? Or really, does the winner stand alone?

Vamini: Well, today, if I were to look back in time I would think that there were days when I would party till 4 am in the morning and now I have days when I wake up at 4 am to train. Since I work as the Vice President at the Royal Bank of Scotland, I hardly get time to socialize. I have learned to prioritize my life. As a result, I have stopped partying, watching TV and have cut down on the time I spent on Facebook or WhatsApp.”

Siachen Glacier cyclist

IWB: Tell us a little about the training you had to go through before climbing the Siachen glacier.

Vamini: Before starting to train for Siachen I got a hamstring injury in May 2016. My doctor advised me not to do anything for a year. I listened to him for two months, and then I resumed training because I received a letter from IMF that I had been selected. I went to Nepal and trained in the western ghat in Mumbai. I started rigorously training at the gym and took immense care of the food I ate. I made sure I got enough nutrition, carbs, and proteins and did not get stressed.

But this was nothing. The eye opener for me was the army training. It would start at 5 am and finish at 8 am. Apart from theoretical lectures on the history of the glacier, I underwent a physical training that dealt with the acclimatization and learning skills such as snow craft, running with loaded rucksacks, and few more survival techniques. The three-stage commando style training tested each of the trekkers physically, mentally, and emotionally. What was a stark difference in this training was that the army completely forgot that we were civilians. They treated us as Infantry soldiers.

Siachen Glacier cyclist

IWB: You placed a note on the glacier that was from your friend for her martyred brother. Give us a flashback into that story, please.

Vamini: Several soldiers have served the Siachen. And so did my friend’s brother who passed away while he was posted at the Siachen in 2004. My friend wanted me to put that note in the snow in remembrance of her brother. I took that note and put it in snow. I even clicked its picture in Leh because we were not allowed to carry a camera after that.

That moment was the most precious for me. It was so touching to have memories with someone who is no more present in this world and fulfill someone’s wishes that she might have not been able to do.

IWB: One relationship that boosted you to “Go Get It”!

Vamini: Ohh hands down that would be with my father. Whenever I used to practice at my mom’s place in Delhi, my father would always wake up at 4 in the morning to ensure that I didn’t miss my training. The amount of hard work he had put in was what motivated me when I had my ‘I give up’ moments.

Siachen Glacier cyclist

IWB: What diet did you follow to stay fit for the expedition?

Vamini: Before the expedition, I stopped eating any outside food. I used to eat a high protein, carbs and roughage rich diet. I drank a lot of water and forgot golgappas existed in the world.

IWB: A moment during “The Climb” when you wanted to give up?

Vamini: So we had to train in three stages with the Indian army. When I reached the third stage, I realized that the two other civilian women were made to leave. That was the day when I returned to my camp alone, and I felt so lonely that I almost decided to give up. Another moment was when the Scarpa boots that were given to us by the Indian army started hurting my feet badly. But soon I made peace with the pain and told my mind that I had to go on.

I am a firm believer of ‘You better finish what you started.’

IWB: One metaphorical glacier you’re yet to accomplish.

Vamini: There is no metaphorical glacier that I am yet to accomplish, but yes, at some point in time in life I would like to climb the Mt. Everest.

Vamini also gave me the best tip of life. She said, if ever in doubt, instead of asking yourself ‘Are you ready, ask yourself ‘Are you willing?’

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