05 May, 2018 | Time to read: 8 minutes

Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, driest place on earth, with the highest average elevation. Is it hostile? You bet your bottom it’s hostile. Just look at it on google! It’s covered in ice, with temperatures as low as -80 degree Celsius, katabatic winds that could knock a building off its foundations, and no permanent residents.

So why, you might ask, would any sane individual travel to this ridiculous place? Why would someone risk their lives for a little bit of adventure. Why not just go for a trek to Mahabaleshwar or even better, stay at home, snuggling in bed, binge watching Game of Thrones for the fifth time instead?

Well, the answer is simple really.

Once you’ve had the fortune of laying eyes on Antarctica’s icy landscape, your life will never be the same again."

In some ways, the experience of visiting Antarctica is quite similar to that of astronauts who venture out into the cosmos. They all seem to come back with a profound and unrivalled appreciation of our planet - this little blue dot in the vast darkness of the universe.

I too, came back a transformed individual, all googly eyed about the majestic beauty of nature and its many creations. My expedition changed me in many unexpected ways. I realized that:

01

With great power, comes great responsibility

We humans often make the mistake of thinking ourselves the masters of the universe. Why wouldn’t we? We can flatten huge mountains, tame violent rivers, escape the clutches of gravity, and build big beautiful things. But, we are not gods. Our intellect is not a weapon. It is a gift which needs to be nourished to help preserve our planet for all living creatures. That’s why I am proud of the work we do at Mahindra Susten – where we are innovating new ways of harnessing the power of the sun and address humanity’s growing energy needs.

It’s also why, on my return to India, I became vegetarian. It’s not that I think meat is murder. It’s just that lying down on the icy sheets in silence, your mind reaches a state of Zen, filling your body with peace and a profound sense of love for nature and its many creations. In that moment, the thought of killing something living for food just didn’t seem right. And so, I vowed never to eat meat again in my life.

02

Existence is fragile and needs constant care

Antarctica is harsh. But it’s not desolate. There are many creatures who call this vast land their home. Penguins are probably the most well-known residents, and they are kept company by the wandering albatross, fat bellied elephant seals, and giant 40 tonne whales, to name a few. Each one of these creatures walks a very fine line between survival and disaster. They all depend, in one form or another on the ocean’s krill population. But ocean acidification, warming of sea temperatures, and excessive fishing, are threatening the krill population, and by extension, the entire population of the continent.

03

We need to do more. A lot more.

I had always believed that action speaks louder than words. But going to Antarctica and witnessing its pristine beauty, I am filled with a sense of urgency like never before. Each and every one of us who travelled to this wonderful place came back feeling the weight of immense responsibility on our shoulders. Antarctica changes you. It makes you question the way you live your life. For me, adapting a more environmentally conscious lifestyle is no longer a choice. It’s a necessity. I am filled with a sense a gratitude for the planet we inhabit and I choose to dedicate the rest of my life trying to preserve it.

I am filled with a sense a gratitude for the planet we inhabit and I choose to dedicate the rest of my life trying to preserve it."

About the Author

Surmai lives to explore. Born in Mumbai, she has lived all over India with her family. From a very young age, her father, an officer (retired) with the Indian Navy, instilled in her a sense of adventure and wonder which has manifested itself in her travels to places like the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in Uttarakhand, Kolahoi Glacier in Kashmir and her recent expedition to the 7th continent, Antarctica.

She is a CSR Executive with Mahindra Susten, the clean tech arm of the Mahindra Group. Her areas of expertise include climate change, glacier hydrology, climate policy, sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

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