She is no spring chicken but her enthusiasm to live life to the fullest will encourage you to travel more and have endless adventures. Chances are pretty high that you will also get itchy feet, once you listen to her story! She often discards the society’s critical judgment of a mother- “A woman should not be traveling around the world leaving her children behind in her husband’s care”.
In a candid conversation with Life Beyond Numbers, this ex-Naval officer turned travel curator Richa Ingle Deo says, “ I am a strong believer of the fact that one doesn’t have to be single or rich to travel.”
This woman from Raipur believes that traveling is an integral part of her identity. As she turned 40 this year, she believes that it was her parents who perfected the art of traveling and adventuring on a shoestring budget.
“Every summer holiday we were heading to somewhere exciting,” says Richa. It was in class 9 when Richa got hooked on to Perry Mason (American fictional criminal defense lawyer character) series and she wanted to be a lawyer and have an exciting life like his. Apart from that her father also read out articles from newspapers about people who were ruthless in fighting for justice. These reasons contributed to the fact that she chose law as her subject after school.
Excelling in a male-dominated job
It was in 2001 when Richa was commissioned as an officer in the Indian Navy and there were merely 100 lady officers in the entire organization.
“During the Passing Out Parade (POP) my parents shipped the Naval epaulets, known as ‘Stripes’ on my shoulders, thus symbolizing my transformation from ‘under trainee’ to a full-fledged Naval Officer. My parents told me I made them proud and to this date, I cannot forget that precious moment,” says Richa.
On asking her about the biases she faced in this male-dominated job, Richa says, “As for bad experience I would rather say that what happens in Navy stays in Navy. It definitely is a male-dominated profession but I did not face biases. I was hardworking and dedicated to getting the right kind of opportunities. At the end of the day, we are all Commissioned Officers, not male officers or lady officers.” In fact, she was doing night duties even during her full term of pregnancy.
Life after Navy
“I think the fact that my parents showed a lot of respect in my choices, I was never disoriented about what I wanted to do in life. I think all the above exposure has left me highly confident to choose the career path I wished to,” says Richa.
Richa was 30-year-old when she left Navy and had 2 kids (2-month-old and 2-year-old) and had great dreams of changing the world.
But life was not always easy for her. Post Navy, she was associated with few NGOs and sadly it was not a very good experience in her life. She was in a highly demoralized state when she found escape in television and wrote scripts for Chhota Bheem, Krishna Balram, Roll No. 21 and few other series. Not just that, she also co-scripted an animated Movie- Chhota Bheem and the Curse of Damyaan. She also wrote a picture book for Pratham Publications called Veeru goes to the Circus, which is now available in 9 national and international languages.
Becoming a travel curator
Having inherited the travel streak from her parents, Richa feels lucky that her life partner shared her passion for travel. With their 2 kids in tow, they travel everywhere.
She goes on very high altitude treks without family, which helps her to test her endurance and get some “Me-Time”. Even though she strongly believes that family travels are fun, but for mothers, taking a break from routine work is crucial as well.
I am lucky that when I am climbing mountains away from any connectivity my Supporting husband and mother-in-law take care of the kids. But India being India, I am almost always asked, “Aapke husband kahan hain?” and when I tell them that my husband is not with me as he is taking care of the children, they look more shocked than surprised by this statement.
Her Etawah to Agra cycling was through the ravines of Chambal Ghati and in spite of the harsh weather conditions, it was thrilling to cycle through the area which was once a sanctuary for bandits and dacoits. “I am no spring chicken and so cycling 480 km over 9 days across 5 high altitude passes from Manali to Leh was definitely a surreally challenging expedition. Manali to Leh cycling is 90% mental strength and 10% physical strength,” she says.
“We were always traveling and I felt that if I could curate the travels it will help so many other people. Also, many people feel that having kids means giving up traveling, which from our personal experience we know is not true,” she says.
While her husband is a caring father who brings home money, she is a carefree mother who brings in exuberance. “My mother and my mother-in-law often travel together to different parts of the world and I am inspired by their zeal towards life.”
Richa is now a full-time Travel Curator at Light Travel Action and says, “Travel is an inseparable part of my life and learning. It has not only exposed me to interesting places but has also made me tolerant of others beliefs and customs.”
Self-care is not Selfish
“In the eyes of many, I might be a selfish mom, and to many- an irresponsible daughter-in-law, not an ideal wife, but then who is perfect in this judgemental world? No one is perfect and I am at peace with my imperfection,” says Richa.
From being a Commissioned Indian Naval Officer for 7 years, she decided to take the plunge of being a full-time mom in 2008 and that was a huge transformation for her. “I was in the JAG (legal) branch of Navy and so overnight I had shifted my entire focus from Courts Martial to clinging and playful 2 toddlers of 2 months and 2 years of age,” she says to LBN.
And how did it go for her? “Well not as expected. Or shall I say I should have rather expected it? My entire world was now focused on the toddlers and I was struggling to find time for myself. At times, it was rewarding but exhausting most of the time.”
Is a woman wrong in wanting to travel alone, leaving her kids behind or is she wrong because others thought that it is not the right thing to do for a mother? “It was at this moment that it dawned on me that I cannot and will not run my life because someone else thinks it’s not right for me to do so! I should seek opinions to take the right decision, but I will not be governed by them,” she says.
About Women joining Navy, she feels Military training should be made compulsory for youths (be it men or women) for two years have a little discipline that will go a long way in transforming them into responsible citizens.
Even though many people think she found her mojo in traveling and writing, but that is not true at all. Richa says, she enjoys travel writing as much as she had loved her law profession in Navy. “I think it is all about living in the present and through good and bad decisions it’s important to remember – This too shall pass.”
Richa strongly believes that one doesn’t have to be in the defense forces to serve their country. You can very well be a farmer, who is doing a great deal for the country and so are the people who are helping these farmers survive. Every honest citizen is helping the nation in moving forward.