BENGALURU: For Nirupa Shankar, life’s biggest challenge is to step outside her comfort zone.
“I intentionally take on things I’m afraid to do. The best way to overcome something is to dive right into it,” she says. Her current goal – despite being afraid of water and speed – is to participate in the half-Ironman in Greece this October. This event involves a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and 21.1km run, which is much more rigorous than the triathlon sprint she completed in 2017.
Which is why, for the past five months, the 38-year-old has spent 10-12 hours a week running, cycling, swimming, and doing yoga and strength training. This, in addition to being the executive director of Brigade Enterprises Limited and a mother of two.This second-generation entrepreneur has never been one for the eat-work-play lifestyle. “It’s too boring,” she says simply. So barely six months after she had her second daughter, Shankar began to train for the half-Ironman, along with adopting an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ lifestyle. By the time of this midday interview, she had already ridden up and down Nandi Hills as part of her workout.
“Everyone tells you to prepare to go up the hill but I find the descent scary and dangerous. You ride down at approximately 50km/hour,” she says. A pack of dogs, monkeys that hopped onto her friend’s bike, and the city’s infamous bad roads... Training is always eventful, she says.
The adventure doesn’t stop there. Since these events require swimming in an ocean, Shankar has been heading to Sappanahalli lake 70km away from the city to train in open waters. “But there are no people, no signage. If you ask the villagers if there are crocodiles, they just say they haven’t seen any. There’s no firm ‘yes’ or ‘no’, which is not reassuring,” she says with a smile, hardly betraying any of the worry she feels while taking on such feats.
Interestingly, she hasn’t found many women at such events. The hurdles, in such cases, are more societal than physical. “I’ve got remarks from all corners too,” she says. But while there have been obstacles, cheerleaders have made their presence felt too. Namely, her husband, Varun Ravindra, who is the founder of Vanantara. “My husband’s support makes it possible for me to have a rigourous training schedule. He’s with the kids when I’m training,” she adds.
Shankar’s bond with her elder sister, Pavitra (also an executive director at the company) is strong, minus the occasional good-spirited sibling bickering. “We sit close to each other, often have lunch together, discuss issues and learn from each other. She’s a big support,” says Shankar. She wishes the same for her daughters, aged five and one.
“I just want them to be there for each other,” she says.Though Shankar has spent 12 years in the company – she started out as a management trainee – every year starts the same way: With her finding a new skill to enhance. 2021 was no different, with relationship development being the focus. As for personal aspirations, she says, “I want to complete the half-Ironman in October and then take it further.”