Tanil Kilachand, Deepak Vijaysinh Bhimani and Jayasinh Mariwala are Mumbai-based industrialists and they are all 70-plus. Recently, they successfully undertook a seven-day, 50km winter trek to Har ki Dun, which is at a height of 11,500ft in Garhwal, Uttarakhand. A member of the Delhi-based Himalayan Club, Kilachand, and his fellow trekkers, will host a talk on their experiences in the Capital on Saturday.
In a telephonic interview, he spoke about the trek, his lifelong interest in the mountains and how age doesn’t matter. Edited excerpts:
When did you begin trekking?
It began with a 400km trek over 32 days to Kailash Mansarovar from the Indian side in 1986. I was 51 at the time. For the last 15-17 years, I have been going on hikes once a year, mostly in the Himalayas.
Did your trekking activity pick up post-retirement?
I have been fond of the mountains since my childhood when we would go on hikes during visits to Kashmir and hill stations like Nainital, Mussoorie and Ranikhet. In 1966-67, I trekked to the chaar dhams—Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. So the fondness for mountains, nature and beauty was coupled with a desire to go to pilgrimage centres and an interest in literature. The early Sanskrit epics, such as Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhav, Ritusamhara and Meghadoot, talk about the Himalayas. The cloud formation over Kailash Mansarovar reminded me of the description in Meghadoot. So while sports and adventure is part of the charm, there are also these other elements. My joining the Himalayan Club 15 years ago accelerated the interest.
A seven-day walk at 11,500ft sounds arduous. Aren’t you putting your health at risk?
There is no health risk, provided one is reasonably fit and follows an exercise regimen. I normally undergo a cardiac check-up before I undertake a trek because I have a stent. Basically, it is about the call of the mountains; an element of risk is always there. My partner Mariwala is 78 years old and has had two heart bypasses, but we have both been okay so far.
Do you face opposition from your family?
There is always a little dialogue to put it mildly. But I take them into confidence and we go by medical advice. In adventure sports, you carry others with you to a point but then you have to take the final call yourself.
Any extra help or precaution that you need to take?
To keep fit, I take a daily 3-4km walk and do Pranayam and some asanas, because I find breathing and breath control important. Other than that, besides a medical check-up before a trek, you have to carry your stock of medicines with you, and you set your rhythm as you walk. You have to be a little bit more aware about whether you are feeling tired. Naturally, you can’t carry a backpack yourself—you have porters for that.
Is this a rich man’s hobby?
Not necessarily. There are different levels of facilities available. From Dehradun to Har ki Dun and back cost us Rs30,000 each. We drove 8 hours to reach the starting point of our trek. The actual trek costs with tents, equipment, porters and cooking facilities, etc., came to about Rs1,500-2,000 per day.
Some would argue that one should leave such physical sports to the young and retire gracefully.
Trekking can be done at any age provided you maintain a certain degree of fitness and discipline. For me, it is a holistic experience—nature and wildlife—unlike the mountaineers who go out for sheer grit and adventure. You do that at a younger age. But I’d say to the young, look beyond adventure when climbing, that way you will be able to sustain it as you get older.
Your advice to the older generation of Indians.
At the Himalayan Club, we want to have more members. The younger generation is impatient—they don’t want to spend more than seven-eight days trekking. No one wants to go on very long treks, unless you are a professional. There are too many other attractions for the young like five-star hotels and discos. We need more nature camps and wildlife weekends in our schools. Ten-years upwards, children should be told about and shown the outdoors.
The Himalayan Club will host an illustrated talk, Timeless Adventure, by Kilachand, Mariwala and Bhimani at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on 5 February. For details, contact Maninder Kohli, The Himalayan Club, Delhi section, at 9810009564.