55 YO Gita Balakrishnan From Kolkata Walks Over 2000 km Across India To Promote Design Awareness

Stories from Society By Ritika Bidawat | 5 min read

Contemplate, if you will, an architect traversing the streets, abandoning the confines of an office, toiling not at a computer screen but pursuing a noble cause: fostering awareness of the profound interplay between design, social change, and the environment. With a goal to enlighten fellow professionals, future generations, and everyday people about this profound relationship.

Or. Picture a woman in her 50s, having lived through the vigor of her youth, with grey strides of hair shining in the bright sun, clad in a running outfit as she gracefully journeys along the roads. With a mission to engage with people, absorb insights from her surroundings, and fervently advocate for using design as a powerful catalyst for positive change.

Gita Balakrishnan
Source – Instagram

Allow me to acquaint you with Gita Balakrishnan, a remarkable individual who has been pursuing her passion for walking for a cause over the years. Despite holding an unconventional architecture degree and studying abroad, Gita Balakrishnan does not conform to the stereotype of a typical architect confined to designing buildings. Instead, she transcends boundaries as an athlete with a unique purpose.

Gita Balakrishnan has undertaken extraordinary feats, recently completing a 306-kilometer walk from Kolkata to Bangladesh. Prior to that, she embarked on a remarkable 1700-kilometer journey between Kolkata and Delhi. Her running endeavors are more than just athletic achievements; they carry a special significance and purpose.

Indeed, the curiosity about why a well-educated, professionally established individual like Gita Balakrishnan chooses to walk under the scorching sun instead of opting for the comfort of a vehicle is entirely reasonable. However, delving into her story will undoubtedly shed light on the motivations and inspirations behind her remarkable choice. Prepare to be motivated and inspired as we uncover the intriguing journey of this extraordinary woman.

Gita Balakrishnan
Source – Instagram

Gita Balakrishnan:  an architect who couldn’t settle into the role of traditional architecture

Gita Balakrishnan, born and raised in Kolkata, followed her heart’s calling and pursued her architectural education at the School of Planning and Architecture. Despite being a brilliant student with numerous opportunities awaiting her after graduation, Gita Balakrishnan felt a lack of excitement in conventional paths. Driven by her restless spirit, Gita Balakrishnan took a leap of faith and enrolled in a course titled “Alternative Methods of Construction.”

This decision marked the beginning of a spectacular and courageous journey for her, as she embarked on an extraordinary path, distinct from the norm. With her choices, she started to carve a unique and inspiring trajectory in her life.

Gita Balakrishnan
Source – Instagram

Gita Balakrishnan’s incredible social impact began with her collaboration with AVAS (Association for Voluntary Action and Services) in Bangalore. Here, she harnessed her architectural skills to design shelter homes for the urban poor, leaving a commendable mark in the field of social work. Her passion for eco-friendly methods of construction took root during this time, and she became a pioneer and advocate for implementing such practices in slum areas.

Gita’s portfolio of meaningful endeavors also includes her involvement in “Development of Weavers and Rural Artisans in Kalamkari Art” (DWARAKA), a project that extends support to Kalamkari artists and handloom weavers in Andhra Pradesh. Through these endeavors, she continues to make a profound difference in the lives of those she touches, embodying a true force for positive change.

Indeed, Gita Balakrishnan’s restlessness and desire to make a difference were evident in her journey, leading to the formation of ETHOS in 2002. This organization serves as a platform that brings together architectural and civil engineering colleges from all across India. Through ETHOS, students can interact, share knowledge, and gain insights into the latest developments in their respective fields. It also serves as a catalyst for positive change, empowering students to make informed choices and contribute to meaningful transformations in the architectural and civil engineering domains.

Gita Balakrishnan ethos
Source – Instagram

As Gita Balakrishnan celebrated the 20th anniversary of ETHOS in the momentous year of India’s 75th year of independence in 2022, she had a unique and intriguing idea. Her plan was to embark on a remarkable journey, walking from Kolkata to Delhi on foot. But this endeavor was not merely for personal achievement or adventure; it was driven by a deeper purpose, one that sought to commemorate India’s historic milestone and draw attention to a significant cause. Gita’s intention behind this arduous journey was to raise awareness about environmental issues, social change, and the transformative power of design in shaping a better future for the nation.

 Her first walk from Kolkata to Delhi: A noble  journey  to spread awareness about good design

Gita Balakrishnan found inspiration and courage from the remarkable journey of another woman, Priya Dutt. Priya, the daughter of the late actor Sunil Dutt and a former member of parliament, had embarked on a significant peace march with her father to Amritsar during the turbulent days of Punjab’s militancy. This powerful display of activism left a deep impression on Gita Balakrishnan’s heart, motivating her to undertake her own impactful walk.

With Priya Dutt as a guiding light, Gita set her ambitious goal of walking 1700 kilometers between Kolkata and Delhi. She aspired to create a stir, to draw attention to pressing issues and ignite a conversation about the potential for change through her extraordinary endeavor. With determination and a vision for transformation, Gita embarked on this awe-inspiring journey, driven by her unwavering dedication to making a positive impact on society and the environment.

Gita Balakrishnan
Source – Instagram

Gita Balakrishnan’s words, “I wanted to shed light on the role of good design, the contributions of the architecture and design fraternity, and the issues they aim to address through design,” say everything. But there is more to it.

A walk to inspire future generations of architects and civil Engineers

Architecture is typically regarded as a complex profession with little relevance to the poor, underprivileged segments of society, or the environment. She intended to draw people’s attention to her stroll and express the importance of unique but successful architectural ideas that can aid underserved sectors of society and the environment, as well as make future generations of professionals aware of them.

Gita Balakrishnan’s profound mission during her walk from Kolkata to Delhi was to sensitize students aspiring to pursue careers in architecture and civil engineering. She recognized the importance of fostering empathy among future professionals, encouraging them to understand the unique needs and challenges faced by different communities.

Geeta Balakrishnan Walk for Arcause
Source – Instagram

Through her inspiring journey, Gita aimed to instill in these students a deep sense of social responsibility and the significance of designing with empathy and sensitivity. By walking the long distance and dedicating herself to this cause, she hoped to ignite a passion within the younger generation to prioritize the well-being of communities and the environment in their architectural pursuits.

Her message was clear: as architects and civil engineers, they possess the power to positively impact society by creating spaces that cater to the needs of all, especially those who are underprivileged. Through her actions and words, Gita Balakrishnan sought to inspire future professionals to embrace their roles as changemakers and advocates for a more equitable and sustainable built environment.

Moreover, she added that architecture and design are central to lifestyles, well-being, healing, connecting, growth, living, and life itself, and her walk was a humble attempt to learn, receive, imbibe, and generate ideas from her experience through the stories of others.

Gita Balakrishnan Walk for Arcause
Source – Instgram

 This majestic walk of hers was a big success, but it was also a new turning point in her walk, as this made her even more determined, and the result was the beginning of another campaign. This time around, she was walking between two nations: India and Bangladesh.

The second Walk of Design between Kolkata and Dhaka: Another glorious campaign and unconventional moment in her inspiring life

Gita’s second walk was another walk for design in just 17 days, she covered 306 km between two countries! The distance of something like 300 KM  may seem like a minnow compared to her earlier 1700 KM giant pursuit, but the aim is not little by any means. In this inspiring walk, she aimed to experience an inspiring adventure, spreading awareness and appreciation for the art of architecture and the beauty of shared heritage between the two great nations of India and Bangladesh. And boy,  didn’t she nail it this time around?

Her walk caught attention this time also, especially on social media, and people welcomed her warmly at many places during her journey. And not to mention she got the attention of fellow architects, students, and other stakeholders.

Before you praise and admire her for her unimaginable acts of walking, you must be picturing in your mind someone who just loves architecture, loves to guide students, and is involved in social work. But she is also a strong athlete who loves being amidst nature and is concerned about it. During her Dhaka walk, she said, “As I walked through picturesque landscapes, I had the privilege of immersing myself in the lives of local villagers, experiencing their warmth and hospitality firsthand.”  It shows that this highly educated, successful, unconventional, and intelligent lady is very simple at heart.

Gita Balakrishnan is a simple but strong woman on a long life mission to live a life of substance, act as a  catalyst of change, and become an inspiring example that people can look up to, learn from, and follow.

 If you haven’t connected with her and been witness to her wonderful acts, then you should. Just head over to her Instagram handle and follow her to stay updated and connected with this wonderful walking lady.

If you loved reading about environmental initiatives, you’ll also love reading – From Local Vegetable Vendor To Oxygen Man Of Delhi: This Man Walked 500 km To Raise Environmental Awareness

If you know more inspirational stories about any person, company, new idea, or social initiative, write to us at mad4india.com, or share such information with us on InstagramFacebook, or LinkedIn.

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