Rafting in the Ganga in Rishikesh

Start of my accessible travel journey, many more to come

This piece takes you through the ripples that were created when Bhupendra started his accessible travel journey with Planet Abled. 

I  was a  successful IT Analyst in TCS for quite some time after my Engineering in IT and Executive MBA when life was shaken almost without much warning. I  became completely blind in both eyes four years back while fighting last-stage cancer and severe paralysis. I am proud to have emerged victorious ultimately after 13 months of sheer will-power and mental stamina. But it took me few months to come to terms with my new blindness.

Leveraging on the world of technology, I felt a  renewed power to go out in the world. Using screen reader software in my laptop and mobile phone, I  plunged into preparations for competitive exams. In my first attempt itself, I could crack SBI Clerk, Bank of Baroda Probationary Officer, RBI Assistant, IBPS Clerk, RBI Manager and UPSC Prelims. As I chose to join RBI, I felt it was my new birth!

I always loved travelling but in my new life, was often admonished by friends to avoid travelling without family members around. Sermons used to be given to drop my desires of venturing out to any popular place even locally if it was crowded.

As a part of my 3.5 months grueling induction training as a direct recruit RBI Manager in Chennai, we were taken to many Outbound Trips (OBTs). In the long hours of bus journeys, I  realized that for me what matters the most is not the outer beauty of surroundings but rather the inner beauty of my journey mates.

When I came across the email from Planet Abled regarding an accessible adventure trip to Rishikesh in November 2016, my heart leaped with joy. I took it as an opportunity to travel long distance with complete strangers, without the comfort zone of parents and siblings. All my concerns put on one side of the balance could not outweigh the lurking passion for adventure within me! And that is how I went out to play this game where Ganga Maiya was calling me again after a gap of 7  years.

Talking to Neha allayed my nerves to a large extent. She came across to me as very bindaas girl yet very sensitive/caring. She agreed to my request for assigning a  male “travel buddy” who helped me in unpacking/packing my luggage in the hotel as well as assisting me in myriad chores.

Rafting in the roaring Ganga was a  phenomenal experience for me. I had done rafting with my parents in Teesta river, Sikkim (earlier when I was sighted). But this was even better! The guide  asked if any of us want to jump into the placid portions and pat my hands were raised. Splash and I was in the mighty Ganga Maiya, floating on the surface completely surrendered to the moment! Even before I did that I did one mini stunt, bending backwards, I allowed my helmet to dip into the mystic waters. And as the waves creeped in and drenched my long hair, I was feeling heavenly in that inverted position!!

Bhupendra floating in the Ganga

Bhupendra floating in the Ganga

Ziplining is something which was so amazing! While others could see the demonstration by experts, my training was made accessible by detailed verbal descriptions and Q&A. As my turn came, I was the least scared in my group since I was blissfully oblivious of the height of the cliff ! My heart raced a little faster when the coach told that your next step is the last on the cliff and after that there is all air! Well trained, I went out and came back with an aplomb!

The Ganga Aarti is an experience that is so spiritual. Time stands still when the chanting of the veda boys on the sacred banks of Ganga maiya soaks the spirit and uplifts the prana. The yoga session in the morning was fascinating too, as I did the “Sheersh Aasan” or the head-stand, first time in my life with assistance of the instructor! Late evening bonfires in the resort were time to unwind, relax and chill out making new friends in the group!

In our resort, I made a clandestine deal with a local guy for early morning treks. Our resort was nestled in the middle of a hill. So, along with the local expert and my travel-buddy, the threesome went out twice on early dawn treks – once upslope, crossing thick creepers and bushes  all the way to the peak and the other day, downslope right upto the rocky banks of Ganga Maiya!! I was privileged to get the pre-sunrise Kartik snan in Ganga Maiya as I was carrying a  lota. Since the currents were strong, the duo made me perch on a rock and did the abhishekam on me!

My road trip back to Delhi became memorable as my travel buddy, Satyendra, who by now had become my sweet younger brother, came till the airport to drop me!

All-in-all, I  thank the entire team for giving me a Mega Experience in my new life !

With this confidence rekindled, I just completed Ladakh trip attending a four-day “Art of Living” meditation camp followed by 2 days of excursion to Pengong Lake, Khardungla Pass etc.

Kudos to Planet Abled, I  could  inspire my group to indulge in Zanskar river rafting. It was unfortunate that to do rafting it took me a couple of hours to convince the service provider, making me realize the effort Planet Abled might have put in to make rafting accessible for all, even for travellers on wheelchairs. I now aspire to set my footprints on the abode of Shiva, Mount Kailash and take parikrama of Lake Mansarovar!!

Bhupendra Tripathi is a manager in RBI and believes in living life to the fullest. We really admire his amicable spirit and friendly nature. He is based out of Ahmadabad.

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