The only adversary on an otherwise perfect afternoon to scuba dive was the blistering Maldivian sun. But that didn’t seem to be on anyone’s mind. First-time divers from eight different countries were only excited to strap the heavy oxygen cylinders and get into skin-clutching full body suits to explore an alternative world. It was the eve of Neha Gandhi’s 23rd birthday, and she had promised herself that another adventure frontier would be conquered to mark her year on the planet.
As someone who always has an infinite list of adventures to try, ticking off a deep-sea diving course was especially memorable. Even though one can practically see the busy marine life in the sapphire sea with naked eyes, the actual underwater experience is inspiring. Gandhi, now 25, specifically remembers tuning into a moment of calmness and silence despite the traffic of small and big fish, turtles and sharks, adeptly avoiding each other and brushing past candy-coloured corals. “Finding that balance by controlling my breath and letting myself savour every detail of the scene was a life-lesson in being present," she says.
Gandhi is the director of Stovekraft, India’s largest privately held kitchen appliances company, which includes flagship brands like Pigeon and Gilma. Navigating the business world and travelling for adventure are tent poles to her existence. “In India, work is looked at with religion-like veneration—something that lies above and detached to the other success factors in life. For me, both work and travel are interlinked and feed into each other, making me a more fulfilled person. Travel brings fresh perspectives, and I can often apply the learnings from the road (or water) into work," says Gandhi.
Gandhi ensures that the five to six trips that she takes during the year are well balanced with adventure and outdoors, or culture and heritage in off-the-radar places, choosing family, friends or her own company at times. Most trips are less than seven days long, often timed with long weekends, but she squeezes out one or two big holidays at least two weeks, every year. Travel that is clubbed with work is a welcome bonus and is quite frequent and often, unplanned.
“I’ve had several trysts with the sea. Apart from the stunning emerald waters of Maldives, I was awed by the rules of physics toppled on its head in the Dead Sea in Israel. It is such an underrated destination. That trip gave me the opportunity to explore the fascinating historical roots of the country, and explore the surreal Petra sites thanks to the proximity to Jordon. Then there was this wonderful trip to Cinque Terre with my mother—two ladies hopping on trains between five strikingly stunning villages on hills by the Ligurian Sea," says Gandhi.
While all the trips have contributed to lifelong memories, the deep-sea diving course in Maldives has left an indelible mark. “Diving to me is almost Yoga like. What I remember most from the trip is the stillness in the water. Even though there was such a flurry of activities, with schools of fish swiftly swerving from others, solo turtles on a voyage and unimaginable colours of corals, there was a strange undisturbed sense about it. Despite the slight nervousness of swimming with hammerhead sharks around, my time in the water was almost meditative. It was an abiding lesson in control and decorum and I find myself reaching out to that state of mind," Gandhi reminisces. “Another adventure that made me feel the same way was a trek to Hampta Pass in the Himalayas," says Gandhi. “When you’re trudging through the dips and peaks of the valleys, there’s a newfound respect for bare essentials like oxygen. And the staggering mountains offer a lesson in humility." Bungee jumping from the highest tower in the world was another exhilarating experience for Gandhi. One would think that it’s not worth the experience when the eardrums are ringing with the gush of wind and there’s nothing for the eyes to savour but a whirl of undecipherable colours, but for Gandhi it was all about the adrenalin. Taking a leap from a 233-meters high bridge can instill confidence like none other. Gandhi is often met with the ubiquitous question of time management during and before holidays. “I stay connected with the team back home via mail once a day, and messages for emergencies," she says. Skydiving features high on Gandhi’s long list of adventures to embark on, but plans point in the direction of Iceland, this year. “You see, water is addictive. Even if it’s frozen," she jokes.
Addicted to Outdoors is a series in which company leaders inspire travel plans with their favourite adrenalin packed holidays.