When we catch up with Aanchal Dhara Madan (30), she has just wrapped up day eight of her expedition; she has crossed the Katraj tunnel near Pune on her way to Satara. Madan, who is a photographer by profession, started her ambitious 582km walk from Andheri on October 23. Her goal is to reach Morjim beach in Goa by November 17. As part of her expedition, she is currently walking seven hours every day (in the mornings and evenings), and is covering 30 kms a day. So far, she has braved challenges including severe heat and physical discomfort (swollen feet, boils and painful nails).
By pushing herself to the brink, her goal is to encourage women to step out of their comfort zone — which also led her to start The Audacious Project with her husband Prashant. The project encourages people to embark on expeditions that test the human spirit. For this project, titled Two Feet & A Dream, her aim is to give out a strong message, especially to women, to act on their dreams. “We are capable of so much more — physically and mentally — but never discover our potential. I’d like women to step out of their comfort zones and do something that makes them feel alive,” Madan says. A previous walk, in October last year, saw her travel from Mumbai to Pune over a span of a week. During that trip, she started collecting discarded bottles and found 128 plastic bottles along the way, which she disposed of.
Madan, a journalism graduate from Delhi University, moved to Mumbai from Delhi in 2007. She brought along her love for walking. “In order to avoid standing in long bus queues, I would walk. I saved money and managed a bit of a workout at the same time. So, from a routine activity to a hobby to a passion, walking has become a way of life,” she says.
In fact, walking, she says, is embedded in her genes. “Be it commuting for work or meeting relatives, my parents have always walked to it,” she says. Some of the childhood memories she cherishes are of her father taking her for strolls and explaining various flora and fauna, or teaching her mathematical tables and poems during a walk.
While Two Feet & A Dream has just begun, Madan has already made a discovery — of a plane parked in a field at the foothills of Lonavala. “As it turns out, it’s a defunct Air Sahara plane that’s now used as a location for shoots,” she shares. Accompanying her is a support team of three, including her husband, who is directing a documentary on the walk, and shooting images which are then posted on Facebook; a cameraman and their driver.
Two Feet & A Dream is funded by Madan herself, while her walking clothes have been sponsored by a sports apparel brand from New Delhi. The second phase of The Audacious Project has already been planned. Slotted for September 2016, it will entail her husband Prashant cycling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, a 5,000km ride spanning 45 days.
Keep up with Aanchal Dhara Madan’s journey on facebook.com/The-Audacious-Project
Call: 98202 93205
Route: Mumbai to Goa
Distance to be covered : 582km
Days: 26 days total; 20 for walking
Route: Madan will travel along the NH4. She will go from Mumbai to Pune via the Old Highway, then on NH4 to Satara and Kolhapur. Madan will leave the Highway at Nipani and head through Amboli Ghats to Sawantwadi and finally on to Goa via the NH17.