There can be many definitions of adventure. Travelers worldwide try out new things and discover new ways. They come up with their own set of theories about what adventure is or what it should be. Our search finally ended on one definition that blew us away. And it goes: Adventure is not about taking risks, it is about eliminating the risk with your experience. This has been the tested theory of an avid adventurer and traveler Captain Navin Gulia who scaled Marsimik La - world’s highest motorable mountain pass - in a modified SUV despite what is classified as “100 per cent physical disability”. Gypsy Shack is privileged to share some of his thoughts with readers.
Captain Navin Gulia
For someone who grew up climbing up and down the mountains and survived a fatal fall while controlling an angry horse at age 19, physical challenges were a part of life. Little wonder thus that even after getting a paralysis during the final relay in Military Academy Dehradun, that practically killed all his dreams, Captain Navin Gulia refused to be crushed. “When people face hardships or tragedies, their very first reaction is – why me? I find this question really stupid. I say, why not me? Why wouldn’t it be me?”, says Gulia. It is interesting that for a major portion of his growing up years, he was the back-bencher most of his teachers had a problem with.
Though he fared better in grades and sports eventually, it was the training period at the army school that really brought out the brave-heart in him. After successfully completing his training at the National Defense Academy Pune, young Navin began training at the Military Academy Dehradoon. Unlike his school days, he became an instant favourite of seniors and trainers for his true grit. He was a cadet who was ready to brave it out before anyone else. By the time he was 19, Navin had excelled in rock climbing, horse riding and parachute jumping – sometimes even at the cost of missing a vacation. During the final year of their last obstacle competition, Navin received a fatal injury in his spine leaving his entire body paralyzed. Who knew that his training in the Army was fated to prepare him for a battle of a life-time against his own body.
Captain Gulia during his military training (3rd from right)
“I never think I am the chosen one. Nobody is. Your experience and the ideas you produce when required, are the two things that make you stand apart,” adds this 42-year-old world quadriplegic. It took Navin over two trying years in the hospital and three months of physiotherapy to be able to sit on a wheel chair. But like always, he had passed in flying colours in the biggest adventure of his life. But really, how did he survive it?
Navin loves dogs
“My survival kit for any adventure has one essential thing – experience – that has never failed me. Everything else never comes handy when you need it. As an army man, I learnt that when you are prepared for enemy attacks from three directions, the enemy will nail you from a fourth direction. Life is like this and so is adventure.” True to his words, Gulia soon finished his Master’s course in Computers from Symbiosis College Pune and started teaching at various schools and kids in villages. In the meantime, he got an automatic transmission car developed for himself. He researched and got into the ‘trials and errors’ many times while modeling such a car. This is ironic since designing a car requires some basic math and Navin, as a school kid, had trouble understanding math until a good-hearted teacher had helped him out.
Are you now surprised that this is the man who attempted to go beyond Khardung La – practically the highest motorable road in the world and reach Marsimik La – world’s highest mountain pass with hardly any roads? He drove non-stop for 55 hours to the pass, which is at 18,632 feet above sea level. But how has the world record changed him?
Captain Gulia taking off the expedition to reach the highest mountain pass in the world
“You outgrow awards and adventures. A biker mailed me saying that the highest motorable road where I had been to, is not the highest anymore. I told him it no longer mattered to me, ” says Navin. He in fact dedicated the rest of his life towards helping underprivileged children through an organization called ADAA Welfare Society.
Captain Gulia with the kids of Adaa
"Adventure is about experiencing life at its extremes. Here’s where you learn to stretch your limits. But the real joy comes from seeing these kids smile and getting happy when they receive things like uniform or the opportunity to go to school”, says Navin – a recipient of numerous awards including Global Indian of the Year, Indian People of the Year and Ability Mastery Award. Well for someone who always loved running in the rain as a cadet, the grit comes naturally. He continues to inspire millions of people, especially physically disabled, across the world through various platforms.
Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam conferring The National Role Model Award to Captain Gulia
Article by: Mukti Masih
Feeling inspired by Navin's story to go on endless adventures?