Arunima Sinha, who lost her left leg after being thrown off a moving train two years ago, is determined to conquer the world's highest peak -- Mt Everest. Manu Shankar reports.
What is the true test of character? Is it the tenacity to claw your way out of a seemingly impossible situation, or the will and determination not to be bogged down by the adversities of life?
If it is the abovementioned traits, then young Arunima Sinha fits the bill perfectly.
This young 26-year-old, who battled for life after being thrown out of a moving train two years ago, is not only standing tall, but also has her sights set on climbing Mount Everest.
April 11, 2011 is a date that will be etched in her memory forever.
Recollecting the incident, Arunima, a resident of Ambedkar Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, was pushed out of the general compartment of the Padmawati Express for resisting a chain-snatching attempt by hoodlums, while travelling from Lucknow to Delhi.
That incident saw her lose her left leg. She suffered multiple injuries and was barely able to stand, let alone walk. She underwent a surgery at the Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University in Lucknow but doctors had to amputate the leg at the knee to prevent the spread of infection.
But instead of sulking, Arunima, who now has a prosthetic leg, has set her sights on scaling a peak, something even the able-bodied would think twice.
“The four months I spent at the AIIMS was a bitter experience. But I’ve moved on. I had lots of dreams growing up, and even though I won’t be able to achieve most of them, I decided that I will definitely make sure I achieve one of them – to climb Mount Everest,” she said.
And after Yuvraj Singh gave her a call, there was no looking back.
“When I was at the hospital, I used to read a lot and I actually got inspired by Yuvraj Singh’s story.
"I often wondered that if Yuvraj can battle a dangerous disease like cancer and play for India again, even I can climb Everest being an amputee,” she added.
Quizzed if the celebrated Indian cricketer ever visited her during the course of her treatment, Arunima replied, “Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh had called when I was at the hospital and they each donated Rs 1 lakh for my treatment. So it was a very good morale booster.
“They told me that one should never give up hope."
On artificial an limb now, Arunima faced the initial problem of convincing her mother about the expedition.
“My mother was apprehensive in the first place. She often used to say ‘you have already lost one leg, you have a rod in the other, learn to walk first, then think of scaling the peak’.
“But when she saw how focused and determined I am regarding this, she supported me.”
And when you have someone like mountaineering legend Bachendri Pal training you for over a year now, it adds to your confidence.
Arunima trained in the Uttarkashi mountain range, where the team identified a new route in waist-deep snow in Mugdatal, to get acclimatised to the conditions.
“I have never seen a girl with so much determination. She is very focused towards her target and her mental strength is exemplary. I think she has all the qualities of being a successful mountaineer," Pal said.
With sub-zero degree temperatures, and the amount of weight she will be carrying on her shoulders, Arunima knows the climb is not going to be easy. After all, Mark Inglis from New Zealand is the only double amputee in the world to have climbed Mount Everest.
“I’ve been training hard and know the challenges that lay ahead. But one good thing is that I got guidance from Mark Inglis, with whom I exchanged e-mails. He was kind enough to clear my doubts,” she said.
If successful, Arunima will become the first disabled Indian woman to achieve the feat. American Rhonda Graham, 61, a left-leg amputee, climbed Everest in October 2011.
She will commence her expedition on April 1 with Susen Mahto, a mountaineer from Jharkhand, with whom she successfully scaled the 6,622 metre-high Mount Chhamser Kangri in Ladakh in 2012. Tata Steel will sponsor the expedition of both mountaineers.
Photograph: Mountaineering legend Bachendri Pal and Arunima Sinha (right)