Before I introduce Sreesha, I have to introduce Palakkad during a period we (our gen :D) grew up there. Back then, the place in itself was poetic with its large stretches of paddy fields, hills in the distance and a fair share of rivers. While we ‘Palakkadans’ take pride in our land, ‘lady-like’ had its own definition there (much more hardwired into the society than even our neighbouring towns like Trissur or Kochi) If you do not live up to it, you were scorned upon, repeatedly chided on the topic and talked about and talked to until you do.
When I saw that the FIRST INDIAN WOMAN TO BE VOTED FOR ARCTIC POLAR EXPEDITION 2020 – Sreesha Ravindran was from Palakkad – I knew that it had to be a handful for her. I knew that while you may get the heart of a trekker looking at the mountains from a distance – Palakkad doesn’t offer much of a help. From attitudes on upbringing to the terrain – it is hard to get in the practice the activity requires. In my curiosity, I reached out to her to understand her journey. Not surprisingly, the path she carved for herself is as awesome as any of these wild and beautiful treks she took.
In Europe (or anywhere outside South of India I guess) it is very common to find trekkers with unimaginable goals and accomplishments and to me, Sreesha stood out because she found her way onwards and upwards from a society that pulled her down with harsh criticisms, from obesity that set in soon after pregnancy, from a concrete jungle with little space for uphill treks and from a demanding routine of a full time job + family.
And as if she did not have enough on her hands already 😊 she loves Bharatanatyam and follows that too with an equal love. It is interesting though that she found a way to incorporate her dance practice as a strengthening exercise for her treks.
In senior high school, when she visited Kulu Manali as part of a school trip – she realised that the Mountains are her calling. But more than the activity of trekking which needs a lot of endurance, it was the societal pressure, time and practice grounds that were daunting in the beginning.
From her school days, until marriage – her dad took her every year to either the Himalayas or the Western Ghats. After marriage and delivery, she had to take a break of 3.5 years – partly succumbing to the societal pressure of ‘being there for the family’ and being a woman. But she is grateful to her family and friends to have come out of the shell, realizing that being for oneself and one’s family is not mutually exclusive.
The below picture gives a snapshot of her adventures that I’ve managed to put together one bit a time.
Living in Bangalore, as a full time Tax Manager and a mother of a seven-year-old boy is a trek in itself – let alone finding the time and strength for passions and pursuits. To be able to juggle in that atmosphere is an art that most women admire.
I’m sure that from a society that kept asking her “WHY do you do that” she may find a society that wonders “HOW do you do that” 😊 My personal wonder at this young girl is how she bends her obstacles to pave her path and how she blends the demanding routine into her working day.
She has convinced (not an easy task) her husband to be her ‘partner’ without whose help she would not be able to leave behind a demanding 7-year-old and daily chores of the household to walk up a hill. To allow the little one as much time as she can and to make him feel a part of her journey, she takes him on all her practices – yoga, dance, swimming.
Bangalore city doesn’t offer much uphill opportunities and so she runs up and down the stairs of her apartment and office with a 9kg bag on her back. To be able to tackle the breathing at high altitudes, she practices Yoga and pranayama in particular. To gain muscle strength and continue her passion for dance, she builds in 6 hours of dance practice over the weekend. About two months before her trek, she swims for an hour and half every day to get her strength and cardio training in.
She is grateful for the kind of support she is getting from Ernst & Young where she works as a Tax Manager as well. They realised her passion and provided her a global platform to showcase her pursuits and seek votes from supportive employees.
True passion and great achievements often call for a commitment on an hourly, daily basis. To be able to put in those hours on an everyday basis, to strike at things despite the scorns and scares – is an achievement in itself. Hailing from Palakkad and having an ambition of this measure, I probably can assume that Sreesha doesn’t have many role models to look up to. But I certainly have one in her.
There are some of us who have dreams in the distant and who wait for the day to put down what is in the hand at the moment to pick it up later. We feel the grind is the pressing need and the dream is a luxury we cannot afford. For us, people like Sreesha sets an example. For me hailing from Kerala and adopting Bangalore as my foster city – Sreesha is a pride I would like to see win this and many other milestones in her future.