Sometimes personal challenges lead to the path, which can have that dramatic and lasting effect on one’s personal development. In life we all face those challenges and learn from them. It’s a kind of reality check, which makes you strong, courageous and self-confident.

 Mumbai based freelance wedding photographer Aanchal Dhara Madan took one such personal challenge. While walking on a pleasant rainy day, she got caught with the idea of walking all the way to Pune from Mumbai.

 OFFDHOOK speaks to her to know what all are her takeaways from the journey of 169 Kms.


ODH – You did what many just think and could not implement it, so what made you to take this ‘Personal challenge’?

 Girl on Foot 05Aanchal – My husband introduced me to the world of fitness and adventure. Because of him I started taking my walks seriously. One day, I was out on a leisurely stroll and as dark clouds hovered the city, a slight drizzle accompanied me and I started listening to the downpour. That was the moment when with cool breeze caressing my face, I decided to walk through the length to know the world around me.

 ODH – So, did the idea get approved by your husband and family?

 Aanchal – Oh! Yes. After sharing the thought, my husband took a minute to calculate the distance I wanted to walk. He was there with his car as a support, driving almost at my speed all through the walk.

 ODH – Before we ask about your on road experience, tell us how did you prepare yourself for the tough journey?

 Aanchal – Long time back, I started walking for good one hour as a part of my daily routine. After this idea caught me, I started walking for good 10 Kms daily on the roads of Mumbai. Just before the first day of my walk I happened to meet Nikhil latay, the ace Physio for Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal and many more India’s finest. He was kind enough to meet me and said – “take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you”. It is his advise that is responsible for everything that happened the past week. In a way it’s a life advise which means – Taking care of the ones that help you achieve your dreams.

 Girl on Foot 10Girl on Foot 17ODH – Being a woman, weren’t you scared of perpetrators, who devise ingenious ways to harass women? For instance eve teasing with a girl walking alone is very common on Indian roads.

Aanchal – Right. Even I was a bit apprehensive about it, as a girl who walks alone at night is definitely a head turner. I did find that people were curious and they also stopped to ask me about what I was doing but at no point did I feel unsafe or in any danger.

ODH – Please share some amazing moments of your walk.

Aanchal – First two days of my walk i.e, Mumbai to Panvel were challenging because of heat but the third day became more challenging as by then heat had started taking a toll on my body. Everything was hurting. But the day did have some unexpected moments.

Girl on Foot 09Girl on Foot 08I discovered a Jumbo plane in middle of nowhere. It was nicely parked under the hills and next to a few huts. Day three finished early as it rained with dramatic flashes of lightening. Still I could manage 26-odd kilometers and finally stopping at the foothills of Lonavala.

 ODH – Can’t wait to know about day 4,5 & 6 !

Aanchal – Day 4 was a rest day but a lot happened and I have an incredible story to tell.

I got a lot of sleep finally but was constantly worried all morning about being behind schedule. Post lunch I just couldn’t take it anymore and decided to walk. I covered 11 Kilometres over a slow pace just to cover up and get back on schedule for the rest of the trip.

Girl on Foot 04I met a gentleman called Tejas. He was working at a Dhaba by the Lonavala highway for last seven days as he got on the wrong bus from Nagour and then couldn’t figure out his way back!! Can you believe that? He ran out of money so had to take a job at dhaba where he was supposed to keep whistling to attract passing vehicles to stop. Finally got a chance to go home, much to the relief of his family.

ODH – Quite an Interesting story. But climbing up the hills on day 5 would have been very difficult?

Girl on Foot 07Girl on Foot 02Aanchal – Yes it was, I climbed, wheezed and puffed. But as I reached the top, I was rewarded with this refreshing site of Biker boys. I also met a group of Muslim devotees who were waiting for six hours on the side of the road, in the hot sun to witness his Holiness pass by in his car. By this time Pune was 42kms and I was gifted with three new blisters on my feet.

 ODH – Blisters would have made it really tough for day 6 & 7 ?

Aanchal – Yes, but the spirit to do it kept me going. And both the last days were as exciting. After walking 21 Kms from Lonavala, I saw these beautiful flower fields. I was curious to know more about those pretty flowers so met a 72 year old man who walked me around and told me the flowers are called ‘CONGRESS KA PHOOL’. Also met this waiter Mr.Bose at one of the dhaba’s who insisted me to sit in the family section as ‘Bahar ajeeb ajeeb se log aate hai’….I was very touched with his gesture of concern. I walked 30Kms and stopped at Pimpri.

Last day after walking more for 12 Kms, Pune welcomed me with nice cool weather and I finished it at Shivajinagar bus Depot.

ODH – How would you sum up the whole experience of this walk?

Aanchal – This walk turned out to be so much more than what I had imagined. It was an experience that was made far greater by the kind, beautiful people I met. Their stories will always remain with me as much as the feeling of achievement.

Girl on Foot 12 ODH – Last but not the least what are your takeaways from this journey?

Girl on Foot 13Aanchal – Beautiful people and their stories for sure but 128 bottles are the real gems of this walk.

ODH – What bottles? Please explain.

Aanchal – Sometime on day 3, I saw a car passing by and a bottle being thrown out. I picked up the bottle and kept it in the boot of my car and decided to do this for the rest of the walk. I must confess that I did not start for a cause but some how along the way the walk became bigger than myself.

ODH – When are you walking next ?

Aanchal – May be next year. MUMBAI TO GOA….

ODH – We wish you all the best and hope your walk takes you around the world.

Aanchal – Thank You.

P.S. – OFFDHOOK will come back with Aanchal Dhara Madan’s next walk. Till then she leaves you with some tips and a check list, in case you get inspired and start walking! She can be reached at aanchal.dhara@gmail.com


  • Set goals such that people laugh at you. That way you’ll know they are big.
  • Getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to discover new things about yourself and the world around you.
  • Talk about your goal constantly with people who believe in you. Positive energy is infectious.
  • Avoid walking in the hottest part of the day.
  • Wear bright color clothes so that you are seen clearly at dawn, dusk and other lighting conditions.
  • Wear a broad brimmed hat, sunscreen & sunglasses.
  • Train properly to get yourself ready physically and mentally.
  • Don’t hesitate to talk to people and make new friends.
  • Hydrate well and take lots of rest.
  • Keep your eye on the final prize. Don’t let daily upsets get you down.
  • Stay Inspired.

Girl on Foot 16CHECK LIST –

  • Clothes, cap, shoes, sun glasses, socks, foam roller
  • Fruits, bread, Nutri Bars, Drinks, Lots of water; Enerzal, Gatorade.
  • Medicines
  • Vaseline petroleum jelly for feet massage
  • Ice pack
  • Torch lights, Swiss Knife
  • Sunscreen
  • Sanitizer
  • Music
  • Hotel bookings

Richa Sharma  IMG_20140910_130332

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