On May 13, when Delhi teenager Deeya Suzannah Bajaj, a grade 12 student from the Shri Ram School, set out on a cross-country skiing expedition to Greenland, she didn’t have the slightest clue what was in store for
her in the days to come.
The challenge was to travel 340 miles in temperatures
that went as low as minus 49 degrees Fahrenheit. Not to
forget the ice, crazy winds, blizzards and rough climatic
conditions that made things worse for the young girl.
And what was Deeya’s purpose in undertaking this challenging expedition? To raise funds to build a new wing for
Ganga Vatika, a home for the daughters of leprosy
patients, in Haridwar, India.
Back home in India, before she embarked on the expedition, she requested friends and family to pledge a certain amount of money for every kilometer she traveled.
May 31, Deeya unfurled the Indian tricolor in
Greenland after successfully completing the challenge,
the youngest Indian to have made it through the expedition.
Her journey took her from Kangerlussuaq on the west
coast of Greenland to Isertoq, an Eskimo village, on the
east coast. She was accompanied on the expedition by her
father Ajeet Bajaj, the only Indian to have skied at both
the North and South Poles.
Deeya was recently awarded the Aspire-TIE Young
Achievers Award for her successful completion of the
Trans-Greenland Ski Expedition.
In an interview with India Abroad, Deeya speaks about
the challenges she faced during the expedition, the relationship she shares with her father and Ganga Vatika in
How does it feel being the youngest Indian to have
made it to the end?
I was initially very conscious. But others from the expedition made me feel comfortable. When I completed the
expedition, I was told I was the youngest to have made it
Could you summarize the 20 days of your journey?
What was the experience like?
It was an amazing experience. Twenty days of seeing
nothing but snow wasn’t as monotonous as I thought it
The landscape was beautiful and the snow would glitter
in the sunlight, making it
seem so surreal.
Deeya Bajaj with her father Ajeet, left, and a Trans-Greenland
Ski Expedition crew member
Though there were times which were really hard, I think
that pulling through those moments made me stronger.
This expedition also made me realize how far I could
extend my limits when I wanted to push them!
What were the challenges you faced?
There were many, but I have always liked challenging
myself. My recent expedition across the Greenland ice cap
demanded that I dip into my physical and mental energy
reserves time and again.
There were days when the conditions were so tough that
I felt like giving up, but I kept pushing myself to go that
extra mile, literally.
These kind of extreme expeditions require good teamwork and although the other members in the expedition
team were much older than me, I got along very well with
all of them.
There were days when their energy levels were low and
I would offer to lead the team. The responsibility of guiding my team to our goal with the use of GPS was
immense, but satisfying.
These were little things that kept us going. Looking
back, there is a sense of achievement which is hard to
What is the greatest thing you have learnt from your
journey so far?
My parents have been supporting an institution in
Haridwar for the children of leprosy patients for some
time now. These children do not stay with their parents
because of the social stigma attached to the disease.
The institution, run by the Divya Prem Sewa Mission,
initially catered only to boys. I initiated the idea of starting a girls wing.
They agreed to use their present infrastructure and ini-
tially bring in 12 girls, who were siblings of the resident
boys. I think my biggest achievement so far has definitely
been this initiative.
I wanted to carry on with this initiative by first raising
funds to look after the girls who had joined the home. I
wanted to help them construct a separate building for the
girls. And that required a lot of money.
Since my father is a member of several adventure
camps, he was initially invited to join the Trans-Greenland Ski Expedition. I asked if I could join him.
Although he cautioned me about the rigorous journey, I
explained why the expedition mattered to me. I wanted to
use the expedition to combine my passion for adventure
and my dream of supporting a girls home in Haridwar.
That’s how he agreed to take me along.
Before I started, I requested family members and
friends to pledge certain amounts of money for every
kilometer that I skied. I skied 550 kms during the expedition and have managed to collect over Rs 500,000 (about
$10,000) so far for the home.
Weren’t you conscious of the girls’ background while
interacting with them?
Frankly speaking, I wasn’t. I think that just because a
person comes from an underprivileged background doesn’t mean I should pity them or feel too conscious of them
being different from the rest.
Beyond everything, I respect them. These girls have
managed to pull through everything. They are barely six
and seven year old, yet they have experienced so much
more than me. The fact that they are so happy with whatever little they get makes me more humble and appreciative of the things that I would otherwise take for granted.
Approximately how many children are part of this
There are over 200 boys, but I raised money for the girls
wing, which has 12 girls so far.
Where did you learn skiing?
I learnt downhill skiing at Auli (Uttarakhand) when
try skis, which made the experience challenging
Have you always loved adventure sports?
Yes! I guess, it runs in the family. Since my parents
Divya Nair speaks to an Indian
Dream for a
Dream for a
teenager who skied across Greenland
to raise funds for an institution for
leprosy patients’ daughters