New Delhi: There is no dearth of people aiming to climb up the Mount Everest but an Indian woman BASE jumper wants to dive off the world’s highest mountain to raise awareness about social evils like female foeticide.
Chandigarh-based homemaker Archana Sardana claims that she is India’s lone woman BASE jumper. The 38-year-old says she wants to show the world that Indian women are second to none and empower them to fight social evils like female foeticide.
“It is a myth that women cannot take up extreme adventure sports because of physical reasons,” she said.
“To the outside world, I want to show that Indian women are second to none and at home, I want to send the message to the women of the country that they can do anything men do. So they should not tolerate any injustice,” asserted Archana.
Archana plans to skydive down the Mount Everest on November 19, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Birthday.
“Skydiving as an adventure sport is in nascent stage in India. Very elementary training facilities are available in certain places and that too for static line jumps. Organised skydiving training facilities are available in the country for defence forces skydiving team only,” she says.
“You have to go to United States to be a BASE jumper. Only there you get formal training. BASE jumping involves jumping from buildings, antennae, spans and bridges. In USA, they call it earth instead of bridge. It is done with a single parachute (no reserve parachute as in case of skydiving) and very little time to react for emergencies. The free-falls last for a couple of seconds, after that it is a question of how you fly your canopy. It is definitely far more exciting than skydiving and infinitely riskier. In fact it is daredevilry,” explains Archana.
“My riskiest and the proudest achievement so far is the free fall from the Perris Valley in California, USA. I did that with my body wrapped with Indian tri colour. I was allowed to do that after completing 200 jumps and qualifying for ‘Flag Jumps’. It required a minimum of 200 skydives to qualify for the Flag Jump. In July, I completed my 25th BASE jump from a 400ft high bridge in Utah, USA,” she says.
Her interest in adventure sports began only after marriage 12 years ago and she was influenced by her husband Commander Rajiv Sardana, a submariner in the Indian Navy.
“It involved rigorous training of 16-20 weeks in USA done in three phases for proper assimilation. Also I made an expenditure of Rs 15 lakh for training visits to USA. I have had to sell my wedding jewellery, car and whatever I have. I had to dig into the my husband’s savings. All along, my husband, parents and family have been supporting me in my endeavour,” says Archana, a ‘C’ license holder from the United States Parachute Association.
Archana, a science graduate and a diploma holder in interior designing, did her Adventure, Basic and Advanced Mountaineering courses from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling and Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi.
She later did a course in Accelerated Free-fall Training at the Perris Valley Skydiving School in California in 2007.
“Skydiving is unconventional only in India. I my last trip to USA, I witnessed a large number of American women ‘Jump for Cause’ (to awareness for breast cancer) jumping to make a world record formation in the year.
“My vision for Indian women is to break the glass ceiling and achieve greater heights to prove to the world that Indian women are second to none. My mission is to create awareness about the social evil of female infanticide,” says the mother of two, school-going children, 10-year-old Parav and 8-year-old Ayush.
“I am now preparing for skydiving on the the highest drop zone on Mt Everest with the Indian tricolour. It will be like flying up the Mt Everest and drop down with a single parachute on the highest drop zone. This I want to do on Indira Gandhi’s birthday and I have to take permission from the Nepal government,” she says.
“I am also planning to jump down the Pitampura Tower in North-West Delhi. I am in the process of taking permission from the authorities for that.”