Where there is a will, there is a way. This is aptly justified by this enthusiastic lady doctor from Ujjain, a small town in MP.
While, most of the middle-aged ladies are known to keep busy in kitty parties and household jobs, Dr Archana Kothari does mountain biking. She was regarded as the role model in a cycling expedition from Kullu to Khardung La pass among all her co-bikers.
"It was in 2011, I was part of this biking tour organised by Youth Hostel Association of India. We rode for 650 kms. Since then cycling has been a significant part of my life. Keeping fit is yet another passion of mine," says gynaecologist and general surgeon Dr Archana Kothari, who owns a hospital in Ujjain.
A gym freak too, when asked why only cycling, Kothari says, "I was always a fitness freak. And after that expedition, I realised cycling is one thing through which I can motivate others too. Being a doctor, if I need to advise my patients about how to keep fit, I have to keep fit first. Women usually don't prioritise their health. They should understand that any kind of physical activity is necessary for them."
A diabetic Archana Kothari rode from Ujjain to Bhopal on a cycle and attained another pinnacle of fitness. "I was getting a little bored of gymming and since my brother lives here in Bhopal, I decided to cycle till here and motivate my family members too towards fitness. There was a car following too that had all the first aid, that we learned during that Leh expedition that safety is a must."
Ask her how did she prepare herself for this ride and she says, "I was practicing a lot. I used to get up at 4-4:30 am and go for cycling for almost three-four hours. Then would be in the hospital till 8 pm and go to gym from 8-10 pm. This is my regular schedule. I was pretty confident of 100 kms as this was a usual thing for me. But riding from Ujjain to Bhopal and then till home at Char Imli was around 230 kms and I struggled at some points, but didn't give up. I started at 6am on August 28 from Ujjain and reached Bhopal at 5:30pm. I also took three-four two-minute breaks for drinking water and a 40-minute break at Dodi."
What is that one thing that keeps her going, "Besides physical fitness, mental endurance is must. There will be times when your body will give up, it is just your mind that keeps you going thereafter," she says.
Dr Kothari, who is a sought-after specialist in women issues says, "If we see the lifestyle of any middle-aged woman in our country, they would have certain issues developing as stress. My request to them is that instead of wasting their time, they should develop a habit of giving some time to themselves too. I also want to appeal the men and children of the house that they would be more content and happy when the ladies of their house are fit. I can say this with my own experience that if the women of the house are mentally and physically fit, all the other members of the family will never ever face challenges on these fronts."
Preparing for marathons now, Dr Kothari's experiences of previous expeditions always keep her going. "While we were just half a km away from Khardung La, there was a steep rise in our way and every girl in the group got down the cycle and completed that passage on foot. I was determined and I fell thrice on that rise but I completed it on cycle only. There was a military commandant watching me and when we reached up, he saluted me praising my efforts. That is an unforgettable memory of my life. I am filled with more energy when I recall that moment," she narrates.
Dr Kothari is now aiming to trek on Mansarovar and Mount Everest which is her dream. "For the Everest I would need to go under training for at least two years. But I am very determined to do that."
"My family members are always supportive. Initially, before every such expedition, they are a bit worried but eventually they all come around," Dr Archana Kothari said on being asked how the family takes her tours.