The Bengaluru women helping people reconnect with nature | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: For weeks, veteran technologist Nalini Krishnan looked for a way to shake off the work-life blur and re-energise. She didn’t want to idle away the hours or stream shows; she wanted a meaningful experience in a setting that felt unfamiliar but welcoming.
She found the remedy on a women-only trek near Bengaluru. After months of isolation and remote working, many stressed-out city dwellers, with varying fitness levels, are eager to hit the forest or hill trails. Initiatives like Happifeet, started by three women, are helping them reconnect with nature, appreciate the importance of this relationship and become more self-aware.
Happifeet co-founders Maggie Inbamuthiah, Neha Mummigatti and Neeth D’Souza organise themed treks, including all-women trips, giving greater emphasis to wellness than physical feats.
“All three of us love trekking, and we have trained in different therapy modalities. Spending time in nature is healing and empowering. A great mental-health booster. Japan, for instance, has the concept of forest bathing,” says Maggie, a serial entrepreneur and technologist. “We had been discussing how we could take the trekking experience to people who shy away by thinking one must be extremely fit to do it. We encourage everyone to feel the rock under their feet, feel the wind and see what that does to them. We also want people to rediscover positivity and be more sure of themselves.”
Several women, from homemakers, IT professionals and entrepreneurs to business owners and avid hikers, signed up after learning that the activities, which included mindful exercises and meditation, were led by women. “Taking time away from family is always a challenge for women. Plus, many wonder if a particular activity will work for them or whether they know the people involved. In that context, it was wonderful to see their participation,” she says. “After the hike, they talked about feeling free and connected to themselves. It was great to see the transformation.”
One of Happifeet’s objectives is to improve women’s access to the outdoors. “In society, there are so many spaces which are denied to women or where they are expected to stay in the background,” says Maggie, a leading advocate for inclusion and gender equity.
The initiative also has an environmental dimension. “The more you enjoy nature, the more you respect it. You start paying attention to how you are using the resources. We are aiming in this direction,” she says.
Nalini heads sourcing and competency management for practice at TCS, and she has been associated with various support programmes for women in leadership and technology. “I had wanted to go on a trek for a long time, but there were always priorities. When I learned about the women-only trek, I instinctively said yes. I needed that break to stop running behind the clock, slow down and connect with nature, which replenishes your soul,” she says.
Nalini, the mother of a 10-year-old, lives in a joint family. Before Covid-19, her day used to begin at 4 am with early preparations for the house and her school-going son, and end at 11 pm. Though WFH eased some pressure, in terms of the hours, it shut small windows of reprieve. “Earlier, I used to drive two hours to the office. That was the only ‘me’ time I got. During the pandemic, I realised how important that two-hour period was,” she says.
Describing the challenges of WFH and the need to switch off, she adds: “The boundaries between personal and professional spheres have vanished. People walk by when I am on calls. Or when I am trying to focus on a task, kids come in. Things are always happening at home. In a way, the hike was my brief escape to recharge.”
Suprriya Das is a storyteller, practising expressive arts therapy, a movement artist and an enthusiastic trekker. “For me, trekking is not about reaching a point. It’s about the walk. I take my own time, feeling every movement of my body. I feel truly present,” she says.
She believes women must break out of the conditioning that they cannot pursue interests requiring physical effort. “We need to believe in our strength and not accept notions that we are delicate,” says Suprriya, who describes herself as a lifelong rebel.
Neha, a psychotherapist, has been part of the development sector for more than a decade. A lot of her work has been related to preventing gender-based and sexual violence and promoting diversity and inclusion.
“The idea of Happifeet is to help people get a sense of who they are and what they can do. Trekking is a physical activity that can translate into emotional wellness,” says Neha, who began trekking at the age of six. “Over the years, our lives have become fast-paced and we have moved away from nature, losing the sense of harmony with the environment. We hope to bring people closer to that side again.”
Neha believes the pandemic has brought nature to the forefront and many people want to change their lifestyle. On the importance of creating spaces and communities for women, she says: “Women are the primary caregivers in most families. Often, their efforts are not recognised, so their sense of self takes a beating. They need communities where they can feel safe and connected.”

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Sagar Biswas

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