“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – is what her intro in a social media profile reads which is a famous quote by Helen Keller. A self-taught cyclist, runner, and mountaineer. She is the first woman ‘Super Randonneur’ Cyclist from Ahmedabad to complete the Brevet des Randonneurs Mondiaux (BRM), one of the world’s most challenging and prestigious cycling championships.
Meet Lieutenant Khushali Purohit of the National Cadet Corps (NCC), who is now working with Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University in Gandhinagar.
The 37-year old has not only secured a position in Limca Book of Records, where she had cycled from Kullu to Khardungla in 2013 but, four years later in 2017, she also participated in the Satara Hill Half Marathon and secured a place in the Guinness World Records.
While the list of her achievements is endless, in an exclusive interview with Life Beyond Numbers, Khushali tells us the perks of being raised by liberal parents, embracing the beauty of nature, believing in self and living life on her own terms.
Calling parents her biggest support system, she says, “I had a great childhood and I feel so lucky to have wonderful parents in my life. I have a twin sister and elder brother who support me in all my endeavors in life. We had gender-neutral parenting, which helped us to create the best versions of ourselves.”
For Khushali, who holds a Master degree in Sanskrit and Diploma in Journalism, traveling means to explore new things, learn about new cultures, try out numerous cuisines and most importantly to connect with nature. “While I was a kid, concrete jungles attracted me, roaming around in the city was something I cherished with my parents. But, as I grew up, nature pulled me towards itself.”
How NCC shaped her as an individual? “I started actually living my life after I joined NCC. I started living for the nation. I started living for the fellow beings. I started living for society. And above all, I started living for myself,” she responded before I could take my next breath.
She continued, “NCC brought out the leadership qualities in me. It made me realize my duties towards my nation. It has made me tough enough to take decisions of my life, even if I have to stand against the odds. I learned to control my emotions. NCC has given me so many opportunities to travel, and that ultimately helped me developing adaptation skills. NCC gave me an opportunity to explore the rich culture of India and helped me to be sensitive towards one’s culture and adopting the richest diversity we have. NCC has given me the people for life.”
So what’s her ideal vacation? “I just leave my phone and laptop in my hotel room and wander about amidst nature, embracing its beauty,” she says. “This helps me to gather my thoughts and contemplate life in the best possible manner. Traveling once a year irrespective of the destination will always stay on top of my bucket list and the ultimate destination for me will be the Himalayas.”
Being single and traveling solo
Once, while traveling to Nadabet, which falls on Indo-Pak border, Khushali met an old man from a village who was curious enough to see a solo woman traveler and started questioning about her age, native place, and marital status. “When I said I am 36 and unmarried, he was shocked and couldn’t believe my words,” she recalls. To him, it was almost impossible to imagine a woman to live her life without getting married at this age as he felt that was the ultimate goal of every woman’s life and then he went on to start introducing me to his fellow villagers, not by my name but “she is 36 and unmarried”.
A woman’s age and marriage are not correlated. So, as you can already guess, there is no right age to get married and also getting married is a choice. “I feel a sense of freedom in being a single woman. There is no restriction to what I feel or do. I don’t have other family responsibilities, which makes it easy for me while I travel,” says Khushali.
Best chapters of her life
Be it traveling or participating in marathons, Khushali comprehends them to be the most significant chapters of her life. “It’s just the way how I have chosen to live my life. I love sports, even though sports came to a screeching halt between 2009 and 2016 when I started working.”
She believes, that there are indications and signals that everyone around gets, few people appreciate these indications and see a clearer picture of life and a few just ignore it submissively in the dust of daily life. “I thankfully chose not to ignore those signals coming from the heavens and ran my first run of 10kms in Ahmedabad in 2016. It was followed by several other runs,” recalls Khushali.
While you pursue your dreams and passion you become like the main character of a storybook and that’s the most interesting part. She says, “I faced lots of such situations where my physical health and my dreams meet at crossroads, but, I always move forward instead of waiting for the next opportunity to come my way.”
One such opportunity was running the PNB MetLife Satara Hill Ultra Half Marathon 2017, a 21 Km hill run, which was a turning point in Khushali’s life, for which she received Guinness World Record certificate along with other participants.
“Till date, this was the toughest challenge I had accomplished. More than that it was a complete win over fear to lose or fail. Look in the mirror, that’s your competition. The moment you learn to win over your insecurities, fear, negativities- you can achieve anything on this Earth,” she says.
Armed with confidence, Khushali gradually stepped into cycling marathon and broke her own record of becoming the first girl from Gujarat to complete the 1000km cycling marathon in 2017. “I decided to participate in BRMs. Mostly one has to complete all the BRMs (200,300,400,600) in the same year i.e. 365 days, but I did it in 22 days, which made me BRM’s first female cyclist of Ahmedabad and BRM Super Randonneur,” she says.
27 days later, she took part in 1000 BRM. “It took me 74.4 hours to nail this challenge. I slept only 5.45 hours in these three days. Accomplished successfully and now qualified for the world’s prestigious cycle event Paris-Brest-Paris 2019. Now I am also the first female of Gujarat to complete 1000 KM cycling,” she says with pride.
Khushali puts forth a very strong message for women who aspire to live their dreams but are uncertain about the challenges that come with every choice.
“I am grateful for each aspect of my life that has helped me every time to win on my weaknesses. There is no pot of gold at the end of the road called life, but if I have faith and I work hard towards that faith of mine, then I will definitely reach some point. One must have the determination to make the rainbow out of your dreams. Perhaps to a brighter goal than even a rainbow’s end,” she concludes with a smile.