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The Scholar Mountaineer
April 08, 2022 COMMENT comment
The Scholar Mountaineer
By Purva Grover
Kanan Dhru, founder and MD of RFGI, a thinktank in Ahmedabad, is a mountaineer by passion and a rebel by profession. Her love for scaling the highest peaks in the world stems from her urge to stay grounded. Most of my female friends refrained from joining, me and the male friends were busy so I decided to go ahead alone!
She shunned the skirt for mountainclimbing gear, questioned the Indian legal system to make way for reforms and challenged men in the courtroom to gain respect. Twentynine- year-old lawyer, founder and MD of the Research Foundation for Governance in India (RFGI), Ahmedabad, and mountaineer, Kanan Dhru believes in scaling heights, literally and figuratively. She takes pride in her insane thoughts, dissenting actions and powerful voice. She confesses that when she first stepped foot in the Gujarat High Court in 2007, she felt
disillusioned with the Indian legal system and unacceptability of women in the field, and felt the strong urge to make a difference. Today, five years later, RFGI's team led by her researches on issues in law and governance, hosts public events to raise awareness and acts as consultants in the implementation of government reforms. And all this, she owes to her survival instinct, a trait she acquired on her many treks in India and abroad. "I'd want to go on a trek with the man I decide to marry and see how he behaves out of his comfort zone," laughs Dhru, a Master's in Public Administration and Law from London School of Economics. Meet the scholar mountaineer who went for her last trek to Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, in June 2012 and is aiming at scaling Mt. Elbrus, Russia, in June this year. On her wish list are the seven highest peaks of the world.
Kanan was always an outdoorsy person but little did she know then that her romance with nature would take her to majestic mountains. It all started with a holiday in Mount Abu, Rajasthan, "I felt both powerful and peaceful while climbing up the mountain. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride be it stumbling on the rocks, fighting for breath or eating out of boxes." Next, she knew she had forged a bond with the mountains. "I enrolled myself in for the Brighu Lake Trek Himalaya organised by the Bangalore Mountaineering Club in 2009," she recalls, "Most of my female friends refrained from joining me and the male friends were busy so I decided to go ahead alone!" Once all the formalities were done, Kanan realised she had no idea about what to pack for the trek: "It was extremely hilarious." A novice once, today she has a trek instructor in Mount Abu. Also, she asserts that a woman is as capable as a man to scale the mountains. Kumar Parvatha in Karnataka, Mt. Hira in Japan, The Peak in Hong Kong and Yosemite National Park in San Francisco are some of the other treks that she has undertaken. She rigorously prepared herself, mentally and physically, for two months for an eightday trek to Mt. Kilimanjaro. She also exercises regularly in addition to playing lawn tennis and practising yoga. "Trekking has given me a chance to meet like-minded people and explore new countries and cultures," she says. On the trek, she sings Bollywood tracks and shares jokes to stay motivated, "The moment I cherish the most is that of reaching the camp at the end of the day and indulging in a hot cup of tea." And what does she fear the most? "That of letting myself down and returning home halfway," she confesses.
Interestingly, she feels that her choice of mountaineering as a hobby is a reflection of her personality and career calling: "My job is of a pretty aggressive nature, which requires me to question and be tough." No wonder each time she has to take a tough decision at work she relies on the lessons from the mountains: "I visualise myself in the mountains and being one with nature. It helps me stay humble and gives me the strength to think and act." And does she often relive the moment of being at the top of the peak? "Not really, because for me a peak is not just the highest point but a sign that there are further heights to conquer," she signs off .

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