Archana Sardana: Flying the World
India’s first female BASE jumper leads the way, flying well above the ground for a nation that is yet to make its mark in sports such as skydiving and BASE jumping.
Is it the challenge of extreme sports that keeps you coming back for more or are you addicted to the adrenalin and endorphin rush they generate?
The desire for challenge is central to my activities. A sense of achievement and reaching a milestone is important, and the adrenaline rush is obviously a driving force.
Has there ever been a time in the course of your BASE jumps, climbs and dives when you have been seriously scared?
While skydiving in the US, my main parachute did not open and the reserve opened at a very low altitude. After that incident… probably I was scared.
During a BASE jumping festival at KL Tower, Malaysia (the seventh tallest tower in the world), a very experienced Australian woman died — just the day before I arrived. And later, I even slipped while jumping off.
Do you have to keep seeking more extreme adventures to get the same sense of achievement that you did when first undertaking a new adventure activity?
No, it is not more extreme activities but the need for different activities that keeps the monotony out of extreme sports. For the sense of achievement, I find imparting training to others also very satisfying.
Your husband played a significant role in the transition from housewife to BASE jumper, mountaineer and diver. Given his military background, has he been criticised for not exerting control of his household, namely, his wife?
Indian Naval wives are a rank above their husbands! Rather than being criticised he has been envied for having encouraged, supported and pushed me to achieve greater milestones — not just for myself but setting benchmarks for Indian women in the field of adventure.
You have proudly displayed the Indian flag when jumping. How important is it to remind the world that you are from India?
It is extremely imperative for me tell the world that Indians are a brave nation. In sports such as skydiving and BASE Jumping, we have not made a mark as yet. Only as mountaineers have we reached the pinnacle.
Why do you think that adrenaline-based/risk-taking activities are less popular in India than they are in many other parts of the world?
Indians do very well in land and water-based activities. Aerial activities such as skydiving require aircraft and are expensive. That is where we lag behind.
And have you performed a BASE jump in India?
I have BASE jumped an 83 metre railway bridge in Jammu, India, with an Indian Air Force skydiving instructor.
You have progressed from skydiving to BASE jumping, to mountain climbing, to deep sea diving. What frontier is next?
Ride a motorbike!