Babu Sagar, a Keralite medical doctor-turned-adventurer, is seeking support in the form of votes for a trip to his dream destination – the Arctic. "The Arctic Polar Expedition, organized by Swedish firm Fjall Raven, is not simply a competition but also a voyage of discovery," says Sagar.
At minus 30°C, extreme weather conditions exist at the polar region. Many people are trying to dissuade Sagar from taking part in the event, but he is determined to go ahead. "Though a ‘Madrasi,’ I have lived for a long time in Manali. I have earlier too stayed at places with sub-zero temperatures. Moreover, I've conquered the Himalayas," he says.
Twenty contestants are taking part in the polar expedition and elaborate arrangements are being made by the organisers for the event, according to Sagar.
The event will start with a 200-km ride through the snow on sledges pulled by Siberian Husky breed of dogs. Trekking, adventure ride etc. will also be part of the expedition.
"I am lucky to represent India at the event. But I need two things more. Firstly, your prayers to ensure a safe return and secondly votes to win the competition," says the inveterate traveller.
Votes can be cast for Sagar by clicking the link https:polar.fjallraven.com/contestant/?id=4934
"Now I am trailing behind an Andhra native. In other words, to win, I need the support of Keralites," says Sagar.
Ask any regular traveller about Babu Sagar and the reply would be, "Babukka? He is a genie! If you want to live a life, live like him."
But the folks at his native place used to call Sagar mad. “Why else would a boy abandon a career of a doctor?” they would tell you.
Even Sagar's own family finally gave up on him. "A deviant," they decided. Never staying at home for long and spending time at places like Ladakh, Sagar soon saw his wife, too, leaving him.
But Sagar was not deterred. The travel bug had bit him very hard. He visited faraway forests and hills at regular intervals. Nobody could see him at one place for long, much like a genie.
A farmhouse at Manali
Now Babu Sagar is officially a farmer in Manali who grows apples, cherries, and nutmeg on 13 acres. There are cattle, chicken, goat, and sheep at this farmhouse.
Moreover, the local people call him, "Doctor bhaiyya," as he often treats them accepting no fee."I've become a citizen of Manali," says Sagar.
However, he has never ceased travelling.
Twenty years ago, while studying for BSc Microbiology at Bengaluru, Sagar set out on a trip to Ladakh on his RX 100 bike along with some friends. The trip provided the spark for all his future travels and led his life to a different track.
The Ladakh ride was along Manali, where Sagar and friends were held up for many days owing to heavy snowfall. An elderly woman in Manali came to their aid at that time and gave them food as well as money to continue their journey.
"It was a big learning experience," says Sagar about that trip. "It switched me to traveller mode," he adds.
His parents, meanwhile, were not amused. His father, a doctor, wanted Sagar to follow in his footsteps and sent the youth to Russia for medical studies.
During the eight years there, Sagar travelled every year to Europe, hoping to one day reach his favourite Manali. The only time a trip did not take place was in 2013, when his father passed away.
Sagar's mother Jameela wanted a doctor as daughter-in-law and her wish was fulfilled. However, Sagar did not abandon his travel plans and his wife, who wanted a full-time doctor as husband, left him. "I don't blame my wife. My only gain from that alliance is our daughter, Ayisa," says Sagar.
After this, Sagar took every paisa he had and travelled to Manali and started a restaurant named 'Babushka' there. Babushka translates as Grandma in Russian and Sagar gave the name to his venture in honour of the elderly woman who had helped him during his first adventure.
The restaurant was a success and the 'outsider' from south soon was accepted by the local people. This inspired Sagar to become a farmer.
Continuing his travels, Sagar says that he must have visited at least 25 countries so far. A recent trip was to Himachal, which was a bike ride to Komic, the world's highest village with a road, along with a friend. Heavy snowfall caused their bike to skid and Sagar's friend fell into a deep crevice. They were finally rescued by the Indian Army.
Babu Sagar often welcomes guests at his farmhouse. One among them, an IAS officer from Kerala, told him, "If you want to live a life, then one has to live like you – a farmer as well as a traveller, living among the trees and the sheep. This is paradise." Sagar does not need any other encouragement, but he wants votes for the Arctic journey.