JULY 2001- Contents
Travel & Adventure
the-south-asian.com July 2001
Page 1 of 2
A DOCTOR'S WINTER OF CONTENT
Isidore Domnic Mendis
She is the first Indian woman to travel to Antarctica and stay in the frozen continent for 16 months. Dr. Kamal Vilku's spirit of adventure can be gauged from the fact that she was 51 when she was selected for the expedition. Age, for this intrepid lady, is just a state of the mind…..
Apart from India, 27 countries have put up 44 stations in the Antarctica, mostly for the purpose of scientific experiments. Russia has five, America four and India, China, Japan and South Korea one each. The Indian station called Maitri (Friendship) is India’s second station. The first, Dakshin Gangotri constructed in 1983 submerged in ice in 1989.
" After the dark winter, the first sunrise is precisely for four to five minutes. And that is celebration time for teams of all countries"
What do IPS officer Kiran Bedi, Everester Bachendari Pal, sky diver Rachael Thomas, shehnai player Bhageshwari Qamar, tabla player Anuradha Pal and now Dr. Kanwal Vilku have in common?
They have all achieved a first. More precisely, they are the first Indian women to carve a niche in a field that was traditionally male dominated. Most of these women are by now well-recognized figures except Dr. Kanwal Vilku, who recently staked her claim to this exclusive club by becoming the first Indian woman to travel to the Antarctica and stay in the frozen continent for 16 months.
" I am on top of the world. It's a marvelous feeling," says Dr Vilku who was part of the 22nd Indian expedition to Antarctica from December 1999 to March 2001.
" I was elated when I was selected to be a part of the expedition," says the medical doctor who was earlier with the Assam Rifles and is currently working as chief health officer at a Central Government Health Service (CGHS) dispensary in Ashok Vihar in north-west Delhi.
" I was always fascinated by the Antarctica. I had seen many documentaries of the continent on the National Geographic and Discovery channels and had always dreamt of visiting it one day. Little did I realise that my wild dream would turn into a reality."
Dr. Vilku's spirit of adventure can be gauged from the fact that she was 51 when she was selected for the expedition. Age, she says, is a state of the mind. " My father’s words still echo in my ears. He used to say that age should help not hinder education. Which is why my 16 months in Antarctica were a unique learning experience."
The expedition comprising 23 men and only one woman---Dr. Vilku---were from diverse fields - scientists, meteorologists, geologists, doctors and the army's logistic support staff.
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