Living their dreams

She is just 26, but Ishita Malaviya is living a life of her dreams. But the life she is accustomed to isn’t any lively metropolitan city, but a sleepy village of Kodi in Karnataka’s Udupi district. In the unconventional environment she is doing the unconventional thing of teaching surfing to many Indian and foreign nationals. She, in fact, is India’s first professional female surfer who prefers reading the tides and sailing along them.

Born and brought up in Mumbai, she and her boyfriend Tushar Pathiyan, were introduced to a group from California who knew how to surf. It was after experiencing surfing during the first year of college, Malaviya knew this was something she wanted to do all her life.

“Surfing is extremely liberating. I feel you are forced to grow up a little too soon because it is an extremely challenging sport. At the same time, it is a liberating experience and you find freedom in the activity,” she says.

Her journey hasn’t been without bumps as surfboats are expensive. So she, along with Pathiyan, saved money to buy a boat and practised early morning. In the absence of proper guidance, they would cheer for each other and learn from mistakes. Slowly and gradually they learnt the nuances of the sport. Now they have opened Shaka Surf Club where they give surfing lessons.

“Surfing is a very expensive sport so we have to find ways of generating money,” she says. Over years, she has befriended the community of fishermen and she also gives them free surfing classes because “most of them fear the ocean.”

“I want them to get rid of this fear and change their perception about seas. We also educate them about beach cleanliness as every weekend we clean the beach where the entire community, including children, participate,” she says.

Malaviya has found happiness in this quaint life and so has Arjun Venketraman who willingly followed the family tradition of “supporting communities” and gave up his high-paying job in California and returned to India. He is a third-generation entrepreneur whose grandfather founded a tribal development non-profit. He is the co-founder of Mojolab Foundation that develops low-cost, easy to use technology solutions that enable information and media sharing within communities in remote conflict areas.

“We usually identify a remote area and spend time with the communities, identify their problems  and then train people to deal with the problems and also help them to connect technologically,” he tells Metrolife.

“So we do a pilot project, define a model and then any organisation that is interested in the project takes it ahead from here. Our approach is simple, we are constantly thinking where to go next and it is basically word of mouth that gives us further leads,” he adds, saying this community-driven network has become so popular that dates for the coming year are already booked.

Both Malaviya and Venketraman, along with the pioneers of electronic music -- Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj of MIDIval Punditz are the judges for National Geographic Channel’s Mission Explorer, a nationwide campaign to look out for people who are constantly exploring new things.

“If you have encouragement, it isn’t difficult to get out of your comfort zone. For me innovative ideas would be the top most priority when it comes to finalising,” says Venketraman.

Whereas Malaviya feels a platform like this would open opportunities for those who aren’t able to follow their dreams for the lack of security. “This platform should give people the much deserved support they need to pursue their dreams.”

“When I started surfing, I didn’t know I would become the first Indian woman surfer. It is a great feeling, especially when you are told that girls are not meant for such activities,” she says.

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