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A new high

Adventure became synonymous with her name when she got married at the age of 20.

Written by Pranav Kulkarni |
May 17, 2010 11:26:19 pm

The oldest Indian to reach Everest base camp,Arundhati Sardesai has been changing lives of countless youngsters using the formula of adventure

Adventure became synonymous with her name when she got married at the age of 20. With a husband working in the Air Force and posted on the remote Naga hills in the northeastern states,her tryst with Pakistani aircrafts,the relations she developed with the Naga and Bodo tribes and the habit of traveling alone because of being a serviceman’s wife shaped her ideologies about exploring the world through paths less trodden. Having explored bungee jumping at the age of 58 and trekked to the Mount Everest base camp at the age of 66 thereby becoming the oldest Indian to have reached the base camp,Dr Arundhati Sardesai,director of Raja Shree Shivaray Pratishthan and chairman,Manavya Trust has been shaping lives of countless children using adventure,the formula that taught her life.

“The age group of 14 to 28 is such that the ideologies have not yet concretised. With countless attractions around,there is a high risk of children and even grown up individuals between this age group taking the wrong path and follow the wrong ideals. If at such point,they are exposed to adventure,they can be better equipped in order to explore the positivity in life,” says Sardesai.

From regular treks to forts in Maharashtra where Sardesai and her group of students indulge in activities such as cleaning the water bodies,removal of plastic waste and unwanted trees,cleaning the roads on the forts,to about two treks per week where the troop is taught self-sustenance and courage,Sardesai believes that adventurous outings are the best means of education for youngsters. “It is during such outings that we teach them how the education system in the villages works,how the crops are grown,the governance in villages and so on,” she adds.

From 1989,Sardesai has been associated with Manavya Trust,an organisation that deals with the education of HIV positive children. And from a trek with visually challenged individuals to the most recent venture where Sardesai gave parasailing experience to an HIV positive student of the Manavya Trust,Sardesai puts forth the philosophy of her life saying,“I was 20 when I got married. Being a serviceman,my husband would not be able to accompany me everywhere because of the commitments. In 1965,during the Indo- Pak war we were posted at the Naga Hills,a highly dangerous area. I used to be alone at home and my husband had given me a loaded gun saying that I should shoot myself in case Pakistani soldiers attack me. That moment,I realised the importance of courage. Since then,till date,I am not scared of anything. And it is the same courage that I try to inculcate in my children. Be it the threat of losing or the threat of facing the world with our weaknesses,I believe that adventure is the only way threats can be challenged.”

With about 850 children- normal,visually challenged as well as HIV affected,as the members of her trekking group,Sardesai is a mother to all of them,as they proudly call her Mama. “When they call me their mother,I feel responsible and at the same time content that they are on the right track. I am a proud mother of 850 children,isn’t this an adventure in itself,” she concludes.

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