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Vadodara’s Pinal Parlekar became the first woman to cover the capital of seven-sister states by cycling in 20 days with the slogan “Swasth Bharat” which was announced by Indian Achiever Book of Records recently. Parlekar braved the challenges after being deserted by the teammates to complete the expedition – ‘Mission 7 Sisters on Wheels’ - in January this year. In an interview with The Bridge, the 29-year-old Master of Engineering in Digital Communication shares her experience and challenges. Here are some of the excerpts: 1. Congratulations! Tell us what made you to choose the northeast states for your expedition? Pinal: Thank you so much. Prior to my expedition, I just heard about Northeast India as beautiful unexplored beauty, place of rich culture and diversity and less polluted. One of my friends got an idea to explore the seven-sister states by bicycle. Then we searched about the route and we saw no one has ever done this before. So it will be a new world record. So, we decided to do this route by cycle and explore the region. Which also means to connect the region to the rest part of India with ‘One India One Nation’ theme and to meet the people here besides inspiring the youths by this expedition with the goal of Swasth Bharat. 2. What was the route and the distance covered? Pinal: We, a six-member team, started December 15 in 2018 from Assam state zoo, Guwahati and finished the expedition on January 3 in 2019 at the same venue covering a distance of 2104.5 kilometre across all northeastern states. The route was Guwahati, Shillong, Agartala, Aizawl, Imphal, Kohima, Itanagar and finally Guwahati. 3. What were the challenges you faced during the expedition? Because, all the states here have different kind of characteristics Pinal: Yes, all the states have different kind of characteristics. First of all, no one has done this route before so we didn’t get proper information about the route. But since 2015, I am in the adventure field and I am living with nature, so I have learned a lot. I have learned acceptance. Accept the challenges and work on it. I start believing in myself. I became physically and mentally strong. My optimistic attitude has helped me to solve various challenges in my journey. Aizawl City during evening. But we had some difficult times. On the 2nd day itself, one of the riders in the team got seriously injured. But we kept cool and composed to continue our journey. Everything seemed to be as per the plan but on the day 15, the route was misjudged by two of my teammates which created an argument. Finally, on the next morning they (senior members) left me at Bokajan. They even took all the cycles and the supporting vehicle.
This forced me to ride the route from Bokajan via Majuli and Biswanath Charilai to Guwahati alone. On the last day, I rode 237.9 kilometre to reach Guwahati. Morning view in Mizoram. For this episode, I had to lose two days which is very crucial for any expedition. But finally, I could resume the ride. The experience of this cycling expedition taught me to be strong and determined in every situation. 4. Also, if you can recall some of the special moments which you would like to cherish or maybe some experiences which made you think that let’s abandon this expedition… Pinal: I had some wonderful experiences during the expedition. I have met some fantastic human beings who have helped me throughout. I made some new friends. We had some great foods in several places of these states. In Imphal we were invited by the locals for the flag off at Kangla fort gate. We had great experience there to have met two awesome individuals -- Father Francis of Don Bosco and Binay Kumar Sahu. Father Francis is 63 years of age and his left hand is paralyzed but he effortless rides bicycle and so is Sahu. Differently-abled Sahu too is impressive with his riding skills. He was on a solo trip when we meet him. This has been a fantastic experience which kept encouraging me. Besides, local people everywhere welcomed us. It felt like coming back to the NE again. Also Read: i) Ultra runner Sufiya Khan to run from Kashmir to Kanyakumari ii) One football fan's cycling odyssey to meet Lionel Messi 5. Have you ever thought of giving it up? What keep you motivated? Pinal: No I never thought of giving it up. Northeast is very scenic and beautiful, less polluted and people are very helpful. I would love to be with nature all the time so my cycling expedition 7-sister on wheels was a lifetime experience. The beauty of North East India always kept me motivated. 6. Tell us something about you and your background. How did you start cycling? How was the support from family? Pinal: In school first time I knew about Bachendri Pal and the first time I knew about mountaineering. But in Gujarat mountaineering is not popular adventure sports. So I didn’t get any proper guidance for trekking and mountaineering. After that, I was busy with my study. And I have completed my Master of engineering in Digital Communication in 2013. But when I started the job I understood 9-5 job is not for me. I can’t do the same work every day. And in 2014 I went for my first Himalayan trek in Himachal and I realized how happy I am with nature. I got interested in trekking and mountaineering. And I decided to change my field from Engineering to Mountaineering. So I am in adventure field since 2015. And I have been to more than 10 national treks and four expeditions in four years. I have done Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) from Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI), Darjeeling with an A grade and Advance Mountaineering Course (AMC) from NIM (Nehru Institute of Mountaineering), Uttarkashi with an A grade. On October 2, 2018 on Gandhi Jayanti, I have successfully completed the ‘Ride for Pride’ cycle tour of about 390 km on historic Dandi Path, which was sponsored by Gujarat Tourism. Since 2016, I am working with Paragliding Association of Uttarakhand (PAU). When I started mountaineering I started staying close to nature. And I understood it’s our duty to save our environment beauty. And we have to save our natural resources. And in mountaineering no competition no age limit we always work in a team. Anyone can do. That’s why I love mountaineering. 6. India is a country where still women face difficulties in almost everything they do? What kind of difficulties you had to undergo for being a woman? Pinal: Yes, it’s true that women are facing so many difficulties. I think we should always discuss how to motivate women. I just want to say, girls have an aim, be ambitious, stand on your feet, be independent. Just forget about difficulties always focus on your goals. And I request to their parents please support your daughters and give them a sky to fly. One day you will feel proud of your daughter. Just like my parents. 7. What is your ultimate goal? Pinal: To motivate people about adventure sports specially our youth and girls. I think adventure sports are very important for personal growth. It’s in believing in yourself, being bold and enjoying your own company. It’s important to learn to protect our environment. All these qualities are making my life simple. I want every people can feel this and be positive in their life. And make people aware to be plastic free, save water, be eco-friendly for a better future. So our next generation can live a healthy life.
But I didn’t lose my passion and courage and even for a single moment didn’t think of giving up as it was my dream to complete it in anyway. And I was the only female member in the team.