Our podcast can also be listened to here.
Deeya Bajaj is an internationally-recognized adventurer, speaker, business leader and founder of the non-profit, “Ganga Vatika Home for Girls”. She has summitted the highest mountains in 6 of the 7 continents of the world: including Mt Everest and Mt Kilimanjaro. She holds the distinction of being the first Indian father-daughter duo to submit Mt Everest. Additionally, she holds the record alongside her father as the first Indians to ski across the Greenland ice caps among numerous other amazing accomplishments. In this interview, we will learn about her journey and what the youth can take away from it.
What inspired you to pursue exploration and adventure? What have you been able to gain from these experiences?
Adventure had always been a significant part of Deeya’s life. Even before she was born, her parents had set up an adventure tourism company and were passionate outdoor people. This passion was quickly passed over to Deeya as she grew up immersed in a world of mountaineering, skiing, kayaking and other such activities. Over all of these years, Deeya learnt numerous powerful lessons and developed invaluable qualities such as leadership and resilience. From these experiences, she talked about three lessons in particular:
- Preparation – Deeya claims that there is no substitute for proper preparation, especially when it comes to some of the more extreme expeditions. We should always expect a myriad of possibilities to occur.
- Positive Outlook – There can often be times on expeditions when things are harsh and don’t always go as expected. If one’s attitude is to look only at the downside of the situation, it can prompt a ‘path of negativity’ to occur. It’s very important to stay positive and keep a growth mindset.
- Strong Support System – Appreciating and supporting the people around you is very important when taking on expeditions and other such challenging tasks in all areas. As put by Deeya, we should learn to ‘take care’ of this support system and embrace how vital it is for our success.
Why do you think it’s important that the youth immerse themselves in these sorts of experiences which push them out of their comfort zone? Are opportunities such as these still available even with Covid present?
Whether it’s with or without Covid around, being outdoors is one of the safest ways to interact with other people and spend less time with our screens. As opposed to certain other scenarios such as being situated in dense public spaces. In terms of the student aspect, Deeya strongly agrees that the youth should try to spend more time outdoors and challenge themselves. Hiking and other such activities are a great method of socialization. Deeya refers to the vast majority of expeditions she has been on which have evoked meaningful connections and conversations with the people she has done them with, many of which came from completely different backgrounds and cultures. As they all have a united objective and are in an expedition as a team, differentiated features are irrelevant as a powerful commonality brings the group together. This is something Deeya thinks is very important in today’s day and age, where people often try to differentiate themselves from one another, whereas we should be focusing on the ‘essential humanity’ that connects us all.
As well as being an explorer, you’ve taken your experiences a step further by advocating and sharing what you have learnt through numerous platforms such as public speaking. If you could narrow down, what have been some of the most significant messages you have tried to convey through these platforms?
The most meaningful message Deeya strives to advocate revolves around is the role of Women, particularly in India. Considering the societal norms in India, Deeya felt very fortunate to have grown up in a family which allowed her to do whatever she wanted regardless of her gender. This built a sense of appreciation within Deeya and made her acutely aware that this wasn’t the case in many parts of the country. Through climbing with her father, Deeya sees herself responsible to send a message to the girls in India that they are able to achieve so many amazing things, a notion that is only amplified by the positive support of their families. Throughout Deeya’s numerous messages, the one that stands out is the hope that she will inspire a ‘spark’ within other women to think beyond what they think their capabilities are.
If you could leave the youth with one piece of advice, what would it be?
Deeya left us with the message that we should always dream big and work hard to achieve those dreams. While on the path to achieving these goals, we should not be discouraged and instead take advantage of the resources that are available to us, whether it’s our family, schools or communities. If we work hard, stay positive and take the support of our community, we will reach heights much higher than mount Everest.