June 2017 has been a month of exhilaration, pain, joy, absolute bliss and self-discovery for Shweta Dubey from Udaipur, who became the first woman to complete the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Europe.
Shweta, the 32 year old Director at Fusion Business Solutions, Udaipur spent the month of June 2017 traversing the predominantly rustic route of Camino de Santaigo through Spain, having participated in the 13th Century pilgrimage walk, which was conceived and first walked by Spain’s St James.
Talking about her experience, Shweta said that the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage has the same relevance as the Badrinath–Kedarnath pilgrimage in India – however, one undertakes such a journey to fulfill commitment to one’s own faith, but how many people would want to do the same for another faith. Belief in the creator and the creation is what makes certain people look at achieving benchmarks towards self fulfillment and not follow the routine.
Shweta’s husband, Madhukar Dubey, founder and managing director at Fusion Business Solutions, also undertook such a journey in 2013, which was an intuitive and impulsive decision following the experience that he saw on a television show. Preparing for the journey and taking it up and then once completing it, persuading and motivating his wife to do the same, took a long 4 years – but success meets the focused. When Madhukar completed the Camino in 2013, he was the first Indian to have done it in the 6 years preceding the walk, and when Shweta did the same, she became the first Indian woman to have completed this journey.
I always thought I give her 3 nights and she will chicken out. I walked the Camino in 2013 and knew all the challenges beforehand but what I had with me was a huge bunch of amazing 70+ plus people whom I met during Camino who became my support system. Camino tests you every day, it makes you a better human being, it challenges you, it uplifts you, it throws you down and lifts you when you need it the most. Like I always say “May the force be with you”. God is kind and every pain…every trouble takes you close to God. Relish it….bask in the glory of God and being the first female from India walking this Camino De Santiago. The Camino is in you…you were the path and you were the destination…it’s about finding self and its human capabilities…Madhukar Dubey
Enough having being said on the background and achievement, let us go into the experience that Shweta has to share with our readers…
“For me, it started as a vacation – just being out of the routine responsibilities and chores, I sought out to explore a new sabbatical…this feeling however, lasted for one day. My first day at the Camino was a long 27km hike, which took me uphill for 90% of the distance. I was in distress by the time I ended the first day – what have it done, why am I doing it, I need to return…are the thoughts that came to mind. This was obvious, for I had never done such a thing before”, said Shweta, elaborating on her mind boggling experience.
However, after talking to family, exploring and mentally struggling with the available options , including that of backing out, the first nights rest got sense back into Shweta and she continued her journey, with renewed vigor.
The next many days, she says were a mix of immense pain and exhilaration. Walking through the woods, town roads, meeting people from all walks of life, both co-pilgrims as well as dwellers of the beautiful towns and villages that she walked through in her pilgrimage walk.
Everyone Shweta met during the journey, were amazed about the Indian woman taking up this task. She says that people whom she met during the journey, were curious about the Indian culture, the saree, the bindi, the sindoor, etc. Shweta says that she felt she now knew more about India and her culture more than anybody else. This experience was amazing – the Indian teacher walking European roads.
As Shweta explained – the towns and villages she walked through, all had hostels for the pilgrims. She did face situations with food at times, since she is a pure vegetarian, but the availability of grocery and kitchen facilities at most of the hostels ensured that she got her daily meals even if in bits and pieces. Olives and dry fruits were her savior most of the time though.
In the middle of the journey, Shweta, who says that she is used to luxury and pampering, found that she was physically in distress, as her feet had swollen and she was unable to move much. Luckily for her, medical assistance was nearby and she referred to a doctor, who understood the problem and suggested that she cease walking for a couple of days. Shweta says that she was dumbfounded with this suggestion and once again saw a hurdle in her quest. She says, that on that evening, she had arrived early and was sitting by a church compound, observing the children playing in the vicinity, a few street performers giving their performances, juggling, playing music, etc. “I sat there for hours…my co-pilgrims came and asked me to go along for dinner, a small walk, etc. I just sat there refusing to move. My co-pilgrims were aware of my medical condition and had advised that I take a break. I woke up to my surroundings and was snap alert in a while. I simple stood up, walked back to my hostel and told my fellow pilgrims, that I will continue the walk, come what may!”.
Shweta left the hostel early next day and eventually was the first to reach the day destination much to the adoration of everyone accompanying her and to self fulfillment. She finally reached Santiago de Compostela in 30 days, compared to the 34 days her husband Madhukar took. A one up on female power!
Shweta does say that it is not a walk in the garden, but a grueling journey, which takes one through beautiful landscapes and beautiful people that makes the pilgrimage so fulfilling. One day it is super hot, and the next is pleasant, with light rain, a bit of chill and cool winds.
Camino de Santiago pilgrimage is followed by a 100 km walk to Cape Finisterre, a rock bound peninsula on the west coast of Galicia, Spain. In Roman times, this was believed that this was the end of the world. Shweta got to Finisterre in record time, completing the pilgrimage.
The 800km journey this year, was undertaken by 500 people from different countries, and Shweta’s experience, she says, of interacting with natives of France, Brazil, UK, USA, Canada, South Korea, Japan, etc has been one of the most personally satisfying interaction of her life. The 32 yr old Director of Fusion and Chairman of ITI Mavli and ITI Badi Sadri, has been managing a complex mix of bringing up children, working alongside her husband in their business solutions company, re-inventing technical education by adopting ITI Mavli and ITI Badi Sadri as a social responsibility and now taking up the Camino de Santiago, arguably the most demanding journey and completing it with flying colors – makes this bold lady a woman of substance.