On breaking barriers to chart new territories as Polar Preet

On breaking barriers to chart new territories as Polar Preet

Captain Harpreet Chandi, known popularly as Polar Preet, recalls how on her solo snowy trek to the South Pole she had a Covid mask in her pocket. Instead, had it been a pack of jellybeans, it would have been more useful in curbing the sweet cravings during the 40 days of the Polar expedition.

"It's crazy the kind of things you crave on a solo trek. I was really craving some sweets," Polar Preet tells iGlobal of her first trekking expedition to the South Pole.

She named her Covid mask companion 'Miles', and feels it's time to create more anecdotes with greater challenges and newer adventures.

Being Polar Preet

As the first British Indian woman to complete a solo trip to the South Pole earlier this year, Polar Preet says she is excited to go back again because of everything she’s trying to achieve with this.

"The biggest highlight is seeing little girls dress up like me with their little sledges. I don't think there's anything better than that," she said.

"Whether they want to do polar expeditions or whatever they want to, I want to show them that you don't have to limit yourself. You literally can do anything you want. And I think what's sad is we spend so much of our lives being told that we can't do a lot of things or are not expected to do many things. And I want to say, actually, be ambitious, work hard and achieve what you want," she shared in her message for others who might be inspired to follow her expedition tracks.

Punjabi girl from Derby

A role model to many young British Indian girls today, Captain Chandi herself considers her paternal grandfather as her biggest role model.

"I've always been very stubborn, and the family knows I'll not talk much but do what I've decided to do. My mum and my big brother have always been very supportive of me and very proud after my first trek," she said.

Her mother is from Punjab, and her father is from Uttar Pradesh, India. After completing the expedition, she thinks it's essential for her to return to her roots again.

Referring to her Polar expeditions, she said: "As a Punjabi girl from Derby, I never thought I would do anything remotely like this. And to me, if I can go into this, you can do whatever it is you want. And, those boundaries, you know, don't exist!"

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More territories to conquer

Considering the first one as a training experience, a warm-up of sorts, the 33-year-old British Army medical officer now aims to be the first woman to go beyond the South Pole and cover the entire Antarctic in a solo, unsupported expedition towards the end of October 2022.

"So last time I did 700 miles to the South Pole. And this time, I aim to be the first woman ever to do a solo, unsupported crossing of Antarctica. This means that I won't stop at the South Pole and will keep going for another 400 miles to go to the other side." Capt. Chandi beamed.

The stakes are higher

The first time around, it took her a longer preparation of two and a half years. But perhaps, this time, it is more exacting.

"I'm going to the gym to try and get stronger. I have a harness and drag tyres as part of my training. It replicates me pulling my sledge when I'm in Antarctica," she mentioned.

The sledge in question is her 120 kg kit that needs to be dragged behind. It'd carry every little thing she might need in her upcoming 75 days of the trek, along with food and necessary equipment. This is one of the main challenges of going solo and unsupported, apart from having no human contact, amongst others.

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Finding strength in friends & family

"It was important for me to bring people along with me. My sledge was named Simran, after my niece. I wondered if anybody had ever taken a sledge with an Indian name before," she recounted.

On the last trek, her food bag had 48 days of food, with every pack labelled with messages she had received from unknown readers and followers on social media from all over the world. And each day, she would read these messages while having lunch.

"The books I listened to, and I listened to many South Asian authors when I was out there. I wondered if their voices had ever been to Antarctica before," she recounted

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Breaking Barriers

Breaking boundaries in more ways than one, Capt. Chandi decided she would have a fusion Indian wedding where she'd walk the aisle by herself. But perhaps, not until 2024.

"We're in no rush, my partner and me. At some point we'll have a wedding, but I don't believe in blindly following traditions," she said.

In fact, I even got my brother to tie me rakhari (Rakhi) as I tied one on him. I feel sisters need as much protection as brothers," she voiced the thoughts of many Indian women today.

And we wait patiently to hear more heart-warming and thrilling stories – about her expeditions and of life's following chapters, as we wish her every luck on each step of her journey.

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