Age is only a number

On thin ice

While her peers busied themselves with clothes and shoes, Deeya Bajaj spent lazy afternoons dreaming of the Alps in Switzerland and of snow-clad Turkish mountains. It is not everyday that a 17-year-old passionately embarks on a month-long skiing expedition in Greenland, weathering sub-zero temperatures and harsh, icy winds. “My father loves the outdoors, and has been on many such expeditions. I asked him if I could come along, and though he was hesitant at first, he later agreed.” she says, elated. 

Touted as the youngest Indian to have skied across the tough topography of Greenland under sub-zero temperature with a her father, Ajeet Bajaj, two Eskimos, eight experts and their huskies, Deeya was only 14 when she took part in a sea-kayaking expedition in Greenland.

Explains Deeya, “I took up skiing on a family holiday to Turkey when I was 13 years old. I practised skiing before the expedition in Gulmarg in Jammu and Kashmir, but that was mainly downhill skiing. Cross-country requires skiing across a flat area as opposed to slopes.

Out of the comfort zone

In the month leading up to the expedition that began on May 13, this year, Deeya put in hours of rigorous training that included a five-kilometre run every day and light-weight training at the gym. She also took up downhill ski practice before the expedition, in Gulmarg, Jammu and Kashmir. “The most crucial bit in such extreme expeditions is the extensive preparation, taking into account all the worst-case scenarios,” says Deeya.

In Greenland, the team skied for 19 days, making stopovers at night after doing around 30 kilometers of skiing every day for roughly eight hours.

During the voyage, the main challenge was the weather. “The temperature fluctuated between -40 to -45 degrees. It was chilling! The wind threw the biggest challenge at us.

We would ski for about eight hours a day, taking a break of only 10 minutes after every four hours,” she says. Her poor eyesight became another problem. “Though I wore lenses, the speed with which the wind was blowing made it difficult for me to keep my eyes open. I was surprised to find mosquitoes at the coast of Greenland, although I had heard about them. The good part was that my team was very nice and in all, it was a very exciting stay of 20 days on ice,” adds Deeya.

A true sports addict

The idea of being surrounded by glittering, white ice for 20 days was a little strange initially, Deeya admits. “Before the trip, the concept of seeing just white ice for 19 days was challenging — mainly because it’s far from my reality. But I got used to it. I remember being extremely tired. But soon enough I got into the rhythm of things,” she says.

Deeya attends Shri Ram School in Gurgaon where she is currently the captain of the swimming team. A true sports enthusiast, Deeya has earned a black belt in Taekwondo from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi and a (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) PADI-certified scuba diver. Taking her love for the outdoors, she tirelessly trained to face the strenuous physical exercise of skiing for approximately ten hours a day.

“My parents run an adventure travel company in Delhi. So my sister and I were exposed to the outdoors at a very young age. I am thankful for having a supportive family — one that’s let me follow my dreams.”

Deeya has also managed to leverage her experience to raise funds to build an orphanage for homeless children born with leprosy. She has requested family and friends to pledge any amount of money for every kilometre she has skied.

This young sports addict has raised Rs 5 lakhs so far.

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