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Representation Matters

I love this message (see image at the bottom of post). Emily is 10 yrs old and this message warmed my heart, thank you ❤️ kids really do say it how it is! 

Why does representation matter, why does it matter that I’m brown? These are questions I used to ask myself all the time. And then over time I’ve seen how people react to me, seeing an Indian female, either on my adventures or in uniform. I just think it’s normal but it’s really not to a lot of people.

The power of seeing someone that looks like you can change or shape how you view yourself. I want to show and tell you that the world is your oyster. There is so much you can do, let’s break down those barriers! 

Stereotypes

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

I’ve always loved travelling and being impulsive. The photos are from my last two birthdays. My 30th birthday (right) and my 31st birthday (left). For my 30th, I was in NYC with my best friend, we had cocktails and went to see a show. It was so lovely. I’ve been told the leather corset is not “appropriate” before but I love it. I’m still the same adventurous, crazy girl in this outfit.

For my 31st, I was on my way to Norway for my polar training course, all part of my training for Antarctica. Probably how you’ve seen me most of the time!

The truth is, I love both! I still love a good night out and can’t wait to go back to doing that. Doesn’t mean I love my adventures any less. You can literally be anything you want ❤️

I also love both looks!


Not married

The look I give people when they ask why I’m not married (see photo)….

It’s generally the first question I’m asked especially within the Indian community. Even an Asian taxi driver asked me when I was in Derby, he also thought it was appropriate to tell me I’m getting a bit old now 😂 and no I had never met him before that journey! 

I get so used to the question that I shrug it off most of the time. Guess how many of those people ask me about my career: 0

I’m not against marriage, I also don’t think it will be the most important thing in my life. Let’s appreciate and celebrate other achievements, career, hobbies, going to Antarctica etc! 

An “aunty” told my niece when she was five that we would have to find a “nice boy” for her. I held my tongue at the time and wish I didn’t. How about encouraging her to achieve her goals, travel, be whatever she wants.

Anyway, rant over! Anyone else get annoyed over these questions?

📸 from Greenland, trying to keep warm! In all my warm kit, a damp down sleeping bag, still wearing the hat the wrong way round and with Louis Rudd’s book to keep me company! 

Resilience

“Strength is what we gain from the madness we survive”

The last six days in Greenland were tough. Digging the tent out of snow every few hours, waking at 2am and getting out in the dark during a snow storm was an effort itself. I would get out on my hands and knees and feel for where the snow had built up and then dig for a few hours. It was relentless. 

Normally in a difficult situation, I know when it’s going to end. Just this distance left or this many days to go. We were expecting to be picked up by a helicopter, packed up everything, made a HLS outside and waited. It didn’t come, we called and they told us they couldn’t fly with the weather conditions. We were rationing fuel at this point, living conditions were uncomfortable. 

We would wake up in the middle of the night, cold, I was sleeping in all of my layers but everything was still a little bit damp. The next day, the heli still didn’t come. The heli came after spending six nights in the same spot, you can see our den from the photo. The tent was pretty buried in the snow at this point so it’s still there. Let me know if you want to visit and I’ll give you the coordinates.. 

Trip advisor review: cold and damp but definitely an experience I won’t forget 

I’ve learnt so much from the experience and it has just made me stronger and more determined. See you soon Antarctica!

Achievements

Getting my degree will always remain one of my biggest achievements. Only having a few GCSEs and no A-levels, I never felt very academic and was so nervous about getting a place at university. I got myself on an access course and was so excited when I got accepted at St George’s to study physiotherapy. 

I remember going through anatomy and physiology in the first few months, feeling like I was completely in over my head. I was overwhelmed, nervous that I wouldn’t understand it, surrounded by students that were so much smarter than me. It can be so difficult not to compare yourself to others. I did get it eventually and became the first person in my family to get my degree. And now I’m doing my MSc, I never would’ve believed this 10 years ago! 

I finished paying my student loan today. When I first went to uni, I was told I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own. I took a loan to pay for all of my accommodation etc and I did it. Fast forward 8 years and it’s paid off 😁

No matter how small or big, your achievements are achievements. Try not to compare yourself to others, easier said than done. But your journey is your own, nobody else’s. 

Frost Nip

Frost nip is a cold weather related injury and a mild form of frostbite. You can see the frost nip on the edge of my nose on the photo below as it was starting to heal. I had a fur hood on which was covering my face from the side wind (I thought it was anyway). We had high winds and it was -45deg with wind chill. The tip of my nose started to go a mild blue in the evening and eventually scabbed over as you can see. 

Different stages of frostbite effect the different layers of skin. Frost nip occurs when skin is exposed to extreme cold for a sustained period of time. This affected the superficial layer of my skin. If left untreated and further exposed to extreme cold, it can develop into frostbite. 

How did I treat it? It was difficult to not further expose my nose to cold conditions and I’m not a fan of having my mouth and nose constantly covered so I used k-tape to cover it. I would then warm up the frozen aloe Vera gel in the evenings in the tent and rub that onto my nose, drink warm water. I’d also warm up my hands on my hot water bottles before applying them to my nose!

What did I learn? To continue checking that my face isn’t exposed, especially when I’ll be out in Antarctica on my own..

Learning Never Ends

I’m always learning something. This relates to all areas of life, military, physio, all the sports I’m involved in and the list goes on! 

In preparation for my polar expedition, I’ve read countless blogs and spoke to different people about their experiences in cold weather. 

Not everyone will do things the same way. I have cooked inside the tent and outside in the vestibule area. Both have their benefits, with both it’s important to make sure the tent is ventilated! The last thing you want is carbon monoxide poisoning! 

I had to change how I would usually pack my pulk. I would normally have my sleeping system in a piteraq bag on top of my pulk. We had a lot of wet weather so I had to waterproof a lot of my kit. The last thing you want is a wet sleeping bag! 

We had to adapt on several occasions, adapt to the weather and conditions. I’m always learning and will continue to do so throughout this journey. 

Being Asian

I’ve been called a “coconut” on many occasions and told I’m “not really Indian.” The term “coconut” refers to someone that is brown on the outside but white on the inside. 

I wrestled with my racial identity a lot when I was younger. I’m a British born Indian. I moved away from home aged 14 to play tennis full time, first in Surrey, then Czech Republic. I came back to the UK when I was 19 which is when I joined the Army and have lived all over since. 

Being viewed as an outsider isn’t nice and I started to think maybe I was a “coconut” Why might I be viewed as a “coconut”

  • Not speaking enough of my native language. My punjabi is broken at best
  • Pursuing a career that is not expected. I’m in the Army, I didn’t tell anyone when I first joined because I didn’t want anyone to stop me. 
  • Not following the faith you were born into. I recognise as being Sikh but have never strictly followed the religion 
  • The only Indian clothes I own are the ones my mum has bought me but she has great taste! 
  • Doing activities that are not classed as “normal.” I spend my free time doing endurance events, the photo is me digging a snow hole in the Cairngorms and I’m training to go to Antarctica 

I’ve grown more confident about my identity as I’ve gotten older. I don’t have to try to be Asian, I am Asian even if people think I “act white.” There isn’t a box that I have to try and fit into. Instead, let’s encourage people to be unique and not have to follow what is expected of them. 

Appreciate the small things

You learn to appreciate the small things. 

Keeping warm became a luxury in the last few days in Greenland. We were only sleeping a few hours at a time. The nalgene hot water bottles were a luxury. One bottle would go straight into my sleeping bag to my feet and I would hug the other one! 

I also started drinking just hot water from my thermos, not something I would usually do but it was just what I wanted. 

I was also eating less the late few days trying to avoid going out in the storm to go to the toilet. I would struggle to finish my dinner on the days I was tired and would have to force most of it down. The creamy pasta with pork was one of my favourite meals and I never had an issue with that. The porridge was the hardest thing to digest. I’ll start eating it again in the new year, I needed a break for a while! 

I had lost approx 5kg by the end of the expedition. Nutrition is key, making sure you’re eating enough calories and the right things. I’ll be trying my expedition food again in the New Year and trialling different food. 

Believe in yourself

Recently I was asked what advice I would give to others that wanted to go on their own adventures.

Believe in yourself and don’t wait! I know it’s so easy to say but just taking that first step is huge.

I’m very impulsive and if I want to do something, I will generally find a way! Sometimes there will be obstacles but then I will work around then. I’ll squeeze it in if I have to. I’m also very stubborn..

I decided I wanted to join the Army when I was 19, I didn’t actually tell anyone because I didn’t want anyone to stop me. It’s still one of the best decisions I made.

I decided I want to do an expedition in Antarctica. Why? I want to inspire people to believe they can do anything. It’s not that common as an Indian female and I do believe that representation matters. I want my 8 yr old niece to believe she can achieve anything. Imagine, if you grow up thinking like that. The possibilities are endless.