KOZHIKODE: Long before the advent of Internet and Google, which helped shorten geographical distances and made far-flung places household names, a Class VIII student was consumed by an urge to travel to picturesque Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.
The-then teenager - Babu Ahmed Sager - now a medical doctor hailing from here - said he got to know of picture-postcard Ladakh from a newspaper write-up. Since Ladakh was far-flung, especially for a teen in those days, Babu derived satisfaction by trekking to nearby places and neighbouring Wayanad. His passion for travel grew with passing years.
Now at 41, Babu is prepping for one of the world’s most gruelling expeditions - Fjällräven Polar Expedition - and will be off to the Scandinavian Arctic Circle on April 7.“I don’t know what attracted me to travel. But it was the article about Ladakh which got me hooked. Since then, I have enjoyed even going out to get milk,” said Babu, who now lives in Manali, Himachal Pradesh and travels around the globe exploring sites and engaging with people.
For the average Malayali, though, Babu’s story might be slightly difficult to digest. A doctor by training, he now tends to apple orchards in the rarefied heights of the snow-clad tourist hotspot, where he has been based for the past five years.
“Though I had learnt about Ladakh while quite young, I had to wait for several years before I could travel to my dream destination. After schooling, my parents sent me to Bengaluru for higher studies. My father wanted me to become a doctor and was scouting around for an MBBS seat. I had a Yamaha RX 100 bike then. And it was then I decided to travel to Ladakh on my motorbike. Though I shared the idea with my friends, none of them favoured it.
“I never had the courage to discuss the same with my parents. So I told my mother I was going to Chandigarh by train to enquire about MBBS seat and secured some money. And thus I began my solo journey,” said Babu.
His family became furious when they came to know of Babu’s actions and he was packed off to the-then USSR (latter-day Russia) to pursue medicine “It was a great experience. I had travelled across the globe to the-then largest country in the world,” he says.
According to Babu, each place in the world is beautiful and unique for its own reasons. But he likes to travel across India and says our country is rich in culture and diversity.Back in India, Babu regularly travelled to Manali since 1996. In the process, he became inextricably linked with the place and chose it as his adopted home.
“Manali is peaceful. We have clean air and water here. The people are also peaceful and want to enjoy their quiet life. There are no negative vibes at all,” he says if asked what is so special about Manali.Babu will set off for the challenging seven-day polar expedition on April 7 and it will be his first outing in the premier event. “The expedition is going to be great. We need to travel on dog sledges braving the climate. It will be really exciting,” he said, adding that the competitors do not undergo any special training for the expedition and this makes it really interesting.
Each April, the Swedish outdoor brand takes a group of 30 applicants from across the globe to the Scandinavian arctic for the adventure of a lifetime: driving a team of sled-dogs for 300km through the tundra. The participants need not have any prior experience of the outdoors. It offers a chance to adventure-seekers to explore the unseen. It can be a truly life-changing experience.