Scaling new horizons with daring dives
Archana Sardana, a 40-year old adventure enthusiast is India’s first woman civilian BASE jumper, often jumping from a bridge of over 3,600 metres (12,000 feet). Raised in India, a country where’s women’s participation in sports remains uneven, Sardana did not grow up as an adventure sports enthusiast. A mother of two boys, she graduated with a diploma in interior design, and says she never took an interest in outdoor activities. But just 20 days after her wedding, on a whim, she and her husband braved a local marathon known for its steep peaks and competitive nature. That was the turning point. She decided right then she had to have more, and thus, a legend was born. She completed Adventure and Advanced Mountaineering courses from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling and Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, and hasn’t stopped chasing the thrill since.
She has done multiple deep sea scuba dives in every corner of the globe, and is the first woman master scuba diver trainer in India. She unfurled the Indian flag at a depth of 30 metres in the ocean, off the Andaman’s Neil Island, and set a new record in the process. A smart business woman, she also runs her own venture ‘Archana Sardana Scuba Diving Academy,’ training young women how to conquer their fears and feel the rush of adventure sport.
Over time, Sardana has sought way ways to use her adventurous spirit to help others. An expert at jumping out of helicopters, she did her first jump in service of an organization called ‘Blind Free India.’
What do you think have been the most important factors that have helped in getting you where you are today?
Firstly, I owe it all to my support system, my amazing husband and my two beautiful children. Secondly, it has a lot to do with the mind set - the physical part is important, but it is just as important to be mentally strong. What drives you in the long run is your mindset and your drive.
What were some of the biggest obstacles you faced in reaching where you are today?
The biggest obstacle has been money. I even sold my house so I can follow my dreams. But we have managed fine until now. When I started, my children were in boarding school, and during that period, I travelled extensively. I had to find a balance. I worked more then. But now my kids are with me, they are pretty self-sufficient and they are extremely supportive of my work.
Tell us a bit about your childhood, your ambitions and who inspired or influenced you to be who you are today?
I was brought up in a family that had a small business, and was always pampered. My parents were always protective of me. Interestingly, I picked up adventure sports only after my marriage. But if I hadn’t taken that proactive initiative, nothing would have been possible. Whatever I start, I try to finish. My husband sees these capabilities in me. Somehow, something pushes me to jump.
Being a woman, has that affected your road to where you are today, and how?
Nobody wanted me to continue. [But], that did not stop me, and I am not planning to stop either. This is what keeps me going. I will continue to do this until the end of time.
What is your main message for the younger generation? What should they learn from your experience?
Whatever fears you have in your mind, do not let them conquer you. To all the parents out there, do not make your fears your children’s fears. Let them experience it for themselves. If parents do not interfere, they will be ready to explore themselves and the world around them. Parents must take that initiative.
What is your message for other women and girls who may be inspired by your journey and achievements?
Overcome your fears to really start living.