Vamini Sethi sounds at once chirpy, excited and driven at the other end of the phone line. Sethi is a biker, trekker, traveller and fond of all things athletic. She starts off with a joke about how her Punjabi genes ensure that even water ends up as belly fat and so she has to try doubly hard to keep fit. Quite the dilemma for Sethi to reach out for a plate of Chhole Bhature (which she does anyway), whilst currently training for a one-month biking trip to Thailand.
Among other expeditions, Sethi has ridden across Sri Lanka, Manali to Leh and done a trekking trip to Siachen with the Indian Army last year. She had started biking in 2011, after feeling unhinged by her unhealthy lifestyle.
A banker with the Royal Bank of Scotland in Mumbai, Sethi says, “I used to love riding as a child but as one grows up, priorities change. Earlier, I went partying almost every weekend but one day I chose to participate in the 4k Delhi Cyclothon with my regular bike. There I met a group of bikers who had come with proper biking gear and it suddenly opened up my eyes to this new world of possibilities.”
Sethi took them up on their offer and joined the group four months later on a mountain biking competition in the Aravallis, “I spent Rs 25,000 on a bike and participated in the Expert Category. One of the participants got dehydrated, another got a puncture and by some stroke of luck, I happened to come second in the competition. And there has been no looking back since.”
Her lifestyle is supplemented by a supportive personal and professional environment. While her once wary mother-in-law anticipates a medal from every biking event she attends, her office gives her the mobility and freedom to work from anywhere, during the hardcore training months.
“I end up using most of my leaves for my travel and that leaves very less time to indulge in recreational activities. Having sponsors for my trips, I incur very little financial expenses of my own, but all the money I earn is put to no good use because I have no time to holiday with my family,” she laments.
But Vamini Sethi’s is a life which imbues discipline, enthusiasm and encouragement to every woman who struggles to juggle between family, work and personal aspirations. A missed opportunity is another opportunity gained. When she was unable to ride to Thailand last year because of an injured hamstring, a decision was made to trek to the Siachen range instead.
She says, “Three months prior to an expedition is when the rigorous training starts. That’s when you have to work for nine hours and also spend time with family without compromising on your exercise regimen, or diet. So I give up on everything which I absolutely cannot do without – socialising, Facebook, watching television – all of it goes out of the window.”
The 31-year-old now has her eyes set on climbing Mount Everest. By the time she is 40, she hopes to have set the bar so high that she could inspire other women to follow their dreams, “It is important to try and make your life count… and once a woman realises her potential and believes in herself, even sky is not the limit.”