Lying on the hospital bed…When people are thinking about how they want to spend their lives. What job they want to take up. What they want to do…there were only two things on my mind-now, no volleyball or football. I planned to take up what was the toughest game in life....mountaineering. Now, I wanted to climb the Mt. Everest. Just that. While I was in the hospital. People would tell me that there is a huge difference. Between planning to do something and actually being able to accomplish it. If there’s a girl. Lying on a hospital bed with one leg, that too broken. Is not able to walk. And cannot even take care of her personal hygiene…And she claims to scale Mt. Everest. People will obviously deem her insane. Every single person questioned my sanity, then. To an extent that even a psychiatrist was called in. such was the condition. What happens with us is that... unless we quote an example...people don’t really believe us. Finally, when I began planning from the confines of that hospital, I realized that sponsorship and training were the two most important things. In order to execute what I’d thought of, I approached a few corporates for sponsorship... who turned me down by saying that... “I’d lost my sanity, along with my leg.” Can you even begin to fathom her state of mind? But, as they say... when you’re committed to your goal... even if you have no money or no way out... eventually things begin to fall in place... only if you’re committed to your goal. I was completely dedicated to my goal. I had to achieve it, anyhow. My elder brother always supported me... my family has always been my backbone... They advised me to meet Madam Bachendri Pal. Instead of heading back home... I made my way to the railway station.
I had gotten stitches in my right leg... and a prosthetic left leg. But, because of the emergency operation....it bled frequently. When for the first time, I had to sit in the ‘handicapped’ compartment of the train... I cried the entire night; I hid my face thinking of that. Nevertheless... I thought, there is a bright morning to every dark night. And, that, is what eventually happened.. When I met Bachendri Pal for the first time, in Jharkhand. I had tried contacting her five times, but, I could not get through. It was the sixth phone call.. And I just told her that, “I’ll meet you tomorrow.” The next day.. I persuaded the hospital authorities for an early discharge.. Took a train the same night; and the next morning, I was in Jharkhand. The first thing she asked me, when I met her was that, “What on earth could me so urgent?” She was left teary-eyed when I proposed my idea to her. She said to me.. “Arunima, because you had the courage to even think of doing such a herculean task....you’ve already conquered the Everest inside you. What is left, is for the world to see it.” It felt so good, knowing.. That there was someone other than my family.. Who believed in me when no one else did. She never gave me any false hopes, rather.. Asked me to accomplish what I had been aiming at. At first, when I actually went to the mountain... where even a normal person faces difficulty. Reaching the base camp from the road head.. This meant climbing down… it took normal people a minute or two.. It took me two to two and a half hours because I’d have to lie down. Because, the bones of my right leg weren’t joint. As for my left (prosthetic) leg.. Because I went through an emergency operation.. It used to bleed frequently and I had to wait for the bleeding to stop. But, my goal was very clear. Even during training, I was asked the same questions. People questioning my sanity, for aiming at something like that. But, I believe.. When people start questioning your sanity for having set a tough goal.. Is when you’re just about to accomplish it.
They used to take us to 13,000-14,000 ft. high peaks.. Along with Madam Bachendri Pal. I was always the last person to reach the required spot, among my group members. All of them, often asked me to quit. I’d never react, I just kept moving forward. You may have heard plenty of motivational talks today. Nonetheless, neither them nor me, can ever motivate you as much as you, yourself could. The day your conscience starts to believe in a goal, there’s no stopping you from achieving it. That day, I made a promise to myself…There was no one around me, but, my brother. I decided that day, that.. Although, I am not in the condition to match up to them…one day, I was surpassing them. 8 months later.. We would start together from the base camp with the weight on our backs.. But, I would reach the top first. I would often sit on the top, munching on the biscuit crumbs that I carried up there.. And I’d wait for them to climb up.. It gave me immense joy. But what used to leave me elated.. Was when they were fazed by my sheer will to not stop climbing. They’d say, “You’re such a great climber, despite having a prosthetic leg.” All I had to say in response was that.. “My goal is my life, my passion....my need and my obsession." The day your goal becomes all of that.. No one can deter you. Not even you, yourself. Because, passion makes you do things you could never imagine yourself doing.” A few people understood.. And the others still kept on questioning my sanity.
But, finally.. When I could manage to get sponsored by the Managing Director of TATA group.. It took some convincing on Bachendri Pal’s end.. For them to make up their mind, to sponsor me. It takes Rs. 5-6 million to execute an Everest mission.. An amount I’d never even seen before. I reached Kathmandu.. And the local ‘Sherpa’ (guide) who was supposed to accompany me.. Refused to do so after he saw my condition. He thought, that it’d risk his life too. Bachendri Pal, my brother, along with me, convinced him.. That I had had due training. There were six people from India. I did pretty well up until the rocky area. But, the real challenge was.. To cross the green and blue icy area.. Where I’d tend to slip. When I had to climb the front facing ice wall.. My crampons would make my right leg pain.. As for the other leg, the prosthetic would often get displaced from its original position. The ‘Sherpa’ who’d never seen a prosthetic.. And he asked me to back out. Without uttering a single word..
I’d rearrange my prosthetic and begin again. The ‘Sherpa’ now, questioned, how adamant I was. I believe, that.. Being adamant is what it takes to take on any task in this world. Moreover, I knew.. This was my decision to make. Finally, I started breaking through the ice and continued doing so.. Until, I succeeded. An Everest expedition comprises of four camps. The Khumbu glacier is between camp one and camp three.. And it keeps on moving. The crevasse would expand as the day would progress. I tripped many a times.. Got up again and continued…Gradually.. I crossed the Khumbu glacier.. Where most people would give up. Although, seeing normal people give up evoked fear in me but, nothing could deter me. But again, I would tell myself that, “I have it in me.” That is how I used to motivate myself. From camp three to South Pole, camp four.. I reached there at one in the morning., it was sunny.. There was snowfall.. All excited, I started looking around. There was a yellow camp nearby.. And a girl was being dragged out of it. I wondered what was happening. When a few sharps took her out of the camp,
I got to know that she had died there.. Her body was frozen. Not just that.. We heard that someone had slept in a tent and died. His lungs had got filled up with water. I realized one thing that day.. If we break the rules of the Mountains.. Like any other thing in life. If we don't follow the discipline.. If we don't follow the rules.. Life won't follow us there. We won't be given a chance to apologize. When we are playing a sport at the sea level, we commit a mistake, we say 'sorry'.. We either win or lose. But Mountains are not forgiving. Life will apologize to you. Those people had slept after doing the summit, and such was the result- to die. Because the body had adjusted so much, there was nothing left of it. Slept for once, slept forever. So, I had realized one thing.. That I have to follow the rules. Most of the climb is accomplished during the night. The distance from the South Pole to summit or the main summit.. Is 3,500 ft. And, it is called the 'death zone'.. Because, there are at least 200 dead bodies there. Scattered all around.. Some are half covered in snow.. Some are half visible. They have such expensive equipments on them.. But, they are dead. I started making my way through it. Any path that my headlight would light up.. Had dead bodies on it. There is one thing that is enough to shatter the best of the mountaineers.. To watch someone die in front of your eyes.. And, realize that you are working to accomplish what became the reason of his death. And the feeling of being so helpless that you can't do anything for him. I can't tell you.. How hard it is to take any decision. It would come running to me, every other moment.. That I have a prosthetic leg. "How would I able to do it?" I stood there for some time and..
said to myself.. "I am going to do this for all these people.. And return alive!" Because how we think is how our body operates. It starts functioning accordingly. Swami Vivekananda had said.. If we think that we are weak, all the situations start making us feel weaker. And I have experienced all of it Ma'am had told me something at that moment. She had said, "Arunima, go!.. There is no pressure on you. Just give it your best. But, don't over exert your limits. But, just remember one thing.. When you had met for the first time, it was just your dream.. Today, it is the dream of the entire nation. But, there is no pressure." Can you imagine? *laughter*I would be constantly thinking about it. That this is the dream of the entire nation. Then, my Sherpa gave me another shock. He said, "Arunima, let's go back “I was so shocked, I asked "why?'He asked me to try again, if I was alive. I persisted him to tell me what the matter was. He said that I was running out of Oxygen. And, asked me to return. It may sound so easy while I am telling you about it. But, there we could not even see one another. You are so packed. You cannot even see properly. He was constantly saying, "You go, if you want to die, I won't.. I have a family, I am returning." I was trying to convince him....saying we were safe, God was with us. I was constantly trying to hold him. But, he would not listen. My mother and Bachendri ma'am had taught me one thing..
that there are moments in life when you are all alone. When there is no one around and you have to take hard decisions. At that moment, take a moment.... and look back....remember all the steps you had to take to reach this point. Just have the courage to take the next step.. And, you will find yourself where you had wanted to reach.... at the top. At last, I was so done with trying to convince the Sherpa.. I was so irritated.. I told him that he could go if he wanted to. But, I was not going back. I knew that I had enough Oxygen to reach the top.. And make the nation proud by setting a record. I just took another step. And, after some two hours.. I was at the top of the Everest. I don't have the words to tell you.. How happy I was. And, I relive it every time I talk about it. Those few minutes of my life were the happiest moments of my life. All I wanted to do was to raise my hands and scream at the top of my voice. Loud enough to tell the world, that I was at the top of it. Tell all the women, handicaps or middle-class people.. Not to give up, no matter how many times you fail I just wanted to scream out to them. I took my mask off and started screaming. My Sherpa thought I had gone mad. That the high altitude had affected me. I was so tired, I could not even scream properly. Especially after taking my mask off, when there was no proper Oxygen. When you are on the sea-level, you may not cherish your National flag so much. But, when you are up there....you just want to raise it up....as high as possible....higher than any other flag in this world.
That was the only thing I could think have, then. All the people around, were looking at me. I had reached the summit at 10:55 am on 21st May. If someone attempts it after 11 am....it is called a suicide attempt.. I had just a few minutes after 10:55 am.. I was still left to get the pictures clicked. I had taken a few batteries with me. Along with two disposable and a normal camera. Just in case, one did not work, the others still would. I had to get a picture clicked. The Sherpa got really angry. He asked me how I could even be concerned about getting pictures clicked at 8,848 meters. I still asked him to click pictures. He clicked the picture. But what made the situation worse was.. When I asked him to make a video, too. He was just so angry. Today, I think of it what I did then. He was so angry....that he picked the camera and smashed it on the ground.. He said to me, "You have planned to die and you should. You are repeating such dangerous things, do what you want.. I am going back." As he took a few steps, I took hold of his hand....and asked him to shoot a video. You may think that what I was doing was suicide....I was running out of Oxygen.. I was well aware of the fact that would not find Oxygen at a height of 8,848 meters. You must be thinking," Why on Earth did she need to shoot a video? A picture is still fine, but, why a video?" I was well aware of Everest.
I knew that I would not find Oxygen at a height of 8,848 meters. Somewhere in my head, I was not sure if I would be able to return alive. I gave the camera to the Sherpa....and told him.. "If I don't return alive, there is a message I want to convey. Shoot this video....and if I don't return alive, send it to my country....to the youth of my country." There was only so much in that video.. I had met with the accident on 11th April, 2011.. And on 21st May, 2013, I was on the top of the world. All in a matter of two years, how?..Whereas the doctors say that it takes 4 to 5 years just to walk on a prosthetic leg. And in just two years, I had reached the top. Do you know, how? I never used just my legs to walk....I used my heart and my brain.. When you do something with all your heart and mind.. No one can stop you. What can a prosthetic leg do to stop you! You are so crazy for it, that you do anything. I shot that video.. And asked the Sherpa to keep it with him. Started for the descend. I had taken just a few steps and my Oxygen was finished. That was the biggest fear I had. I had fallen into the snow below. I was desperately trying to breathe under the snow. Just hoping to get some Oxygen. But, nothing worked. The Sherpa was trying to get me up. He was trying to push me to move and continue the descend....where we could hope to find rescue.. But, I would fall the minute I would try to stand. I had climbed at 10:55, and any attempt after 11is called a suicide attempt..
The weather gets bad, as the day progresses. The peak becomes invisible. The snow fall paces up so much that you can't see anything. And, the wind gets so strong that it can topple you. At that exact moment, a British climber was coming up.. He had two Oxygen Cylinders. Generally, everyone has two. I too had two, but, I had used both of them on my way up. That was why I had run out of Oxygen. That British Climber took one cylinder, threw the other and returned. When my Sherpa saw it, he quickly walked down, and got that cylinder for me. He finally got me up. He said, "Arunima, you are so lucky that you could get Oxygen at this height." I do not believe in luck or destiny....because I believe that luck favors those who have the passion to win. If you have the passion to win....things will turn in your favor. If you don't have it, just excuses. You will have so many excuses.. To give to the world.. No one will ask you.. "Why did you not do it?" But, would we ever be able to make ourselves understand. Many people say that nothing could justify the risk I took. I believe that not taking any risks is the biggest risk in life. No pain, no gain. If you can't bear pain, you can't do anything. And, if you can, you can do anything. Handicap is a mental concept. Anyone who thinks he is incapable, is. And if he is mentally strong, he can do anything in this world. Nothing is impossible. Finally, I was happy on getting Oxygen.. I continued my descend.
There were dead bodies, blue ice and snow fall all around us. You could see patches of blood. Some people even start throwing up blood. There were still challenges left.. My prosthetic leg got detached from my body. The temperature can fall up to -60 degrees on Everest. If I removed my prosthetic leg to fix it.. I would get froze bite. And, if I did not do that, I could not walk. I had been fortunate to get Oxygen.. But did not know how long it would last. I had the sight of death in front of my eyes. I started crying. I was yelling, "God, you took my leg away.. Gave me the thought of scaling Everest, and now that I have done it, you want me to die?" The Sherpa got concerned. Even, my tears would freeze. But, crying was no option. I wiped my tears and challenged God. I collected myself, and continued. Because, that was the only way out. The other way was to give up! I started running down.. Reached the rocky areas.. Which had less snow and wind, and fixed my leg? My leg had slipped because of the wet silicon gel. I dried it with my glove, and started walking again.
The Sherpa looked at me and said.. "If we go back alive, we will go together” But, I won't leave you alone like this. As I reached down, all my group members had come back.. I took my things off.. The first thing I was asked was, "Why did you need or take such a huge risk?" I replied, "Not taking any risks in life is the biggest risk of all." All of us were happy. The reason why I told you my story is that.. If a moment of your life can change someone else's life.. Nothing can be better. That I can create more Arunimas like me. And, this is why I am creating an international sports academy, which will be an NGO. Even the honorable Prime Minister is supporting it.. And, now, I just need your wishes*recites a motivational poem in Hindi*I am planning to do big things. I have summited Asia, Europe and Africa. Now, I am planning to summit Australia.. Have already applied for a VISA now, I just need your good wishes thank you. Namaste.
One of India’s best known mountaineers, Arunima Sinha has already scaled 5 out of the famous 7 summits (highest peak in each continent).