Thursday, April 23, 2015

Climbing Mt Everest on limbs of steel

Reputed world federalist leader and editor-in-chief of the Saturday Review of Literature Norman Cousins wrote in his book, Human Options, “Most men think they are immortal -- until they get a cold, when they think they are going to die within the hour.”

It was a quote that sprang to my mind when I read about the brutally horrifying accident that Arunima Sinha lived through. The newspaper, the largest selling English newspaper in India, had given her three paragraphs in a single column.

A national level volleyball player then, Arunima was pushed out of the general coach of a running train, the Padmavati Express, on April 11, 2011, by thieves who attempted to snatch her bag and gold chain. When she resisted them, they pushed her out. She had been on her way from Lucknow to Delhi to take an examination that would qualify her to join the CISF [Central Industrial Security Force].

Falling on the tracks, struck immobile by the force of being catapulted out of a moving train, Arunima lay powerless on the track when a train on the other track went over her leg. Soon after that, a train on a parallel track ran over her leg again, crushing her leg below the knee. She lay there all night, even as rats chewed on her broken leg, and 49 trains went up and down. She was only rescued in the morning.

Doctors at the local hospital had no anaesthesia to operate upon her. Arunima told them she had already lived through pain, and that they should go ahead to save her life. Eventually, they had to amputate her leg in order to save her life.

Anyone else’s spirits would have been crushed, following such a devastating accident. Not Arunima.

Days later, she was moved to AIIMS [All India Institute of Medical Sciences]. A private company gave her a prosthetic leg free of cost. Meanwhile the media had a field day, accusing her of travelling ticketless and of jumping off the train. Others said she was intent of committing suicide. Arunima battled these misconceptions as much as the pain.

For 4 months, she stayed in AIIMS. While still there, she decided to climb Mount Everest and take up mountaineering. People belittled her efforts but she could not be stopped. Meeting Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest, helped her to realize her dream, giving her the training and the exposure she needed to make her dream come true.

Becoming a part of the Tata group-sponsored Eco Everest Foundation, Arunima took on the larger-than-life challenge of climbing a mountain that has deterred and attracted bravehearts for centuries. It took her 52 days to reach the summit. She was on top of the world on May 21, 2013, a little over 2 years after her accident.

Very close to the summit, the Sherpa refused to accompany her, saying that an amputee would find it difficult to climb Everest, that they should turn back. When he refused to listen to her pleas, she went on alone.

Her oxygen tank was nearly running on empty. The sherpa pleaded with her. At this point, even her artificial leg came off.

Through this ordeal, she became the first Indian amputee and the first female amputee to climb Mount Everest. In fact, she drove herself so hard that she overtook the others who accompanied her on the climb. You can listen to her story first hand in her own words and voice here:

I was so completely touched on viewing this video. Arunima is a plucky girl, who has shown uncommon courage, in spite of her disability.

Soon after, she was determined to climb the highest peaks on each of the continents. She followed up her Mount Everest success with Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Elbrus in Europe and Mount Kosciuszko in Australia.

She is now working towards opening a free sports academy for the poor and differently-abled. Her courage and determination have made her an inspiration to millions of differently abled people. Her actions have shown that they can live their lives with dignity.

Arunima’s achievements remind me of another quote by Norman Cousins. He said, “If something comes to life in others because of you, then you have made an approach to immortality.”

I believe that Arunima has earned her right to immortality.

Dear reader, if you are reading this and believe, as I do, in Arunima's rare courage and strength of will, please do not forget to vote for her. Please vote for Arunima. 

I’m voting for Arunima Sinha’s #WillOfSteel and blogging on BlogAdda to help her get felicitated and eventually enabled by JSW."

1 comment:

  1. congratulations on winning :)
    cheers, Archana -



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