'Couldn't take eggs as I am veg but Rahulji insisted I be given paneer, soybean and milk'

Yatris who have stayed with BJY since Kanyakumari prepare for the cold weather with mind games, warm woollens and supplementary diets

Via Twitter
Via Twitter

Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

Even during their break, they continued with physical fitness even as every day brought a health issue. 

The Bharat Jodo Yatra isn't an easy path health-wise for yatris who face a lot of issues -  every state has a different climate. Along with physical fitness they also have to keep their minds at peace. As they kept moving briskly from one place to the other, they learnt the art to master all their tribulations in the first phase. 

But the Bharat Jodo Yatra will begin its second phase amid severe cold in the northern states. It will commence from Loni in Delhi towards Uttar Pradesh on January 3. The yatra is slated to reach Kashmir after travelling 650 km.

Rahul Gandhi embarked on the 3,500 km Kanyakumari-Kashmir foot march in September 2022. While all the attention is focused on Gandhi, and his health and courage, along with him nearly 120 yatris from different walks of life are also facing health challenges. The yatris didn't go home in the break of eight days. They preferred to acclimatise themselves to the cold weather of Delhi which has dipped to 17 degrees and as they move forward, the weather is likely to be even chillier. 

Now most of the padyatris have switched to exercises and yoga. They exercise every day and prepare their minds to withstand the falling temperature. Uttar Pradesh is already in the midst of a cold wave and the yatris are preparing to embrace it with open arms. 

Nanda Mhatre is one of the yatris walking the entire 3,500-km length of the Bharat Jodo Yatra with Rahul Gandhi from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Hailing from Raigad district in Maharashtra which, bound by the sea, is usually relatively warm through the year, she says  “Initially it was difficult to walk and I am heavy-weight also. In fact, in the first leg of the yatra, I lost nearly 6-7 kgs. With changing weather in the states, we tried mastering our body as well as the food. However, this chilly weather is so new to me. More than physical fitness, dealing with cold waves is a mind-game. I am tuning my mind to handle it.”

After being selected as a yatri, Nanda thought she would walk for a few days and later bow out citing health reasons.

“There was intermittent rain in Kerala on the third day. It was difficult to walk in the rain. The climate suddenly changed. Already blisters had troubled me so much that I could barely walk. I wanted to abandon the yatra on the third day itself.” But then she saw Rahul Gandhi walking tirelessly under the same conditions. Now she says the yatra is an integral part of her life and she had to stick to the end.

Nanda has played mind games with the weather but Dr Manoj Upadhyay is still coping with the freezing cold of Delhi. Physical fitness wasn’t ever part of his life. "I have managed to sustain so far in the yatra but I am still down with fever and on medicines. I am not used to this temperature at all.”

Dr Upadhyay says the first part of this yatra was too tough for him. With blisters he continued walking till now. It wasn’t that easy  to walk even five kms." Then he realised he probably had the wrong footwear and shoes and by taking painkillers, he could  continue.

“Rahul ji walked into the camp and suggested I take a protein diet and calcium tablets  to maintain my health. Being vegetarian it is not easy to take so much stress and walk for several kilometres. The doctors in the camp on their visits advised me to take eggs as a supplement in the food . However, Rahul ji asked me to continue with my regular vegetarian food but he insisted on including paneer, soybean and milk. Here I am in the yatra so far and intend to walk till Kashmir,” he added with great satisfaction.

With two thermal wear garments and a leather jacket, Dr Upadhyay has geared himself up to walk from Delhi to UP from January 3, 2023. If he can sustain it, he may even walk all the way to Kashmir.

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