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From Kutch to Kanyakumari on a kayak

THE ASIAN AGE. | POOJA SALVI
Published : Dec 11, 2016, 12:14 am IST
Updated : Dec 11, 2016, 6:54 am IST

This adventurous duo has been exploring the coastal lines of the subcontinent on a kayak and bicycle.

Kaustubh Khade and Shanjali Shahi
 Kaustubh Khade and Shanjali Shahi

One day, when kayaking near Prong’s Lighthouse near Navy Nagar, Kaustubh Khade got into trouble. “The security is extremely cautious of who is on water. Since the 26/11 terror attack, it has become a very sensitive area, but I didn’t realise I was there. In mere minutes I had a helicopter flying overhead! At first, I didn’t make much of it — just thought it was a passing helicopter. But when they came back to me for the third time and got the copter lower, was when I realised that I got myself into trouble,” he recalls. “I tried offering them some water, but they probably just wanted to shoo me away,” he laughs.

Kaustubh Khade, is an IITian-turned-kayaker, who quit his job to pursue kayaking fulltime. Eight years ago, on a trip to Goa, Kaustubh found himself curious about kayaking. “I tried it there. To be honest, it wasn’t about kayaking as much as being out on the beach,” he says. When he came back to Mumbai from the trip, he enrolled in a kayak-training course in Marine Drive. It was three years into this training programme that he decided to do this fulltime.

For Kaustubh, the transition, from being a computer engineer working for a reputed company to a kayak, has been a smooth one. “My parents had always been supportive of me regardless of what I’ve wanted to do,” he says. Recalling a funny incident he tells us, “My mum never really had any problems with this entire transition, but this one time, after I came back from the Asian Sea Kayaking Championship, she exclaimed, what was the point of studying from IIT when all you wanted to do was be a fisherman!” he laughs.

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Kaustubh doesn’t do this alone. He has his girlfriend, Shanjali Shahi, for a companion. A marketing professional, Shanjali accompanies Kaustubh on a cycle. The couple has always been interested in outdoor sports. Shanjali, who is more inclined towards cycling, hiking and climbing mountains, and has cycled from Mumbai to Goa, admits she has to cover more distance than Kaustubh. “Since Kaustubh is on water, he has lesser distance to cover than me. And being on road is equally difficult,” she clears out for us.

The couple has been together for around two years and work around their expedition together. “We are working all the time! From waking up in the morning at 5 am and prepping our meals to mapping the day’s agenda on the map and setting GPS — we are constantly working,” Shanjali tells us. This is, they admit, what keeps them going. “The adrenaline rush is crazy! In this expedition, no two days have been the same. I have seen all types of waters — from the green waters at Veraval to the blue waters in the banks at Dwarka — it has all been beautiful and worth it,” Kaustubh passionately explains.

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Through this expedition, Kaustubh hopes to set a record by sailing from Kutch to Kanyakumari, which is around 3,300 km along the coastline. One reason why Kaustubh moved from competitive kayaking to long-distance was to spread awareness about the sport. “There are so many of my batch mates who have no idea that I’m a kayaker — they have no idea that India won at the Asian Sea Kayaking Championship. Thus, I’m attempting to set this record,” he says.

When asked what keeps him going, he says, it is the beauty of the expedition. “These things are pretty addictive — I mean, at 20,000 feet above sea level, what keeps you going? Just to reach there, just reaching the destination. It has been insane — meeting so many new, interesting people, documenting the journey,” he concludes.

Tags: travel, marine drive, kaustubh khade, kanyakumari