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How an IPS officer conquered Antarctica

February 06, 2019 09:18 IST

Aparna Kumar fought pneumonia and extreme weather conditions to make history.

Aparna Kumar IPS

IMAGE: Aparna Kumar with the Tricolour at the Southern tip, Antarctica. All Photographs: Kind courtesy Aparna Kumar DIG IPS/Indo Tibetan Border Police

There is a reason why Antarctica is one of the least visited continents.

The South Pole is one of the coldest and driest places on earth.

On a normal day, the average temperature ranges from minus 37 degrees to minus 48 degrees centigrade.

If you love adventure, know how to ski and have it in you to burn thousands of calories sledging your way, you will be lucky to see a board with the names of the first two people who made it there -- Roald Amudsen (in 1911) and Robert F Scott (1912).

Every year, scores of avid trekkers challenge themselves to reach the site. Only a few succeed.

On January 13, 2019, Aparna Kumar, 44, an Indian Police Service officer currently attached to the Indo Tibetan Border Police, made a phone call to Home Minister Rajnath Singh to inform him that she had hoisted the Tricolour and the Uttar Pradesh police flag at the South Pole.

The mother of two, a 2002 batch IPS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, became the first woman IPS and ITBP officer to conquer the southern tip of the earth.

For someone who wasn't much of an adventure lover, Aparna completed an arduous 111 mile trek in 8 days and made history for India.

Aparna Kumar

IMAGE: Aparna Kumar in full trekking gear pulls her sled during the expedition.

Speaking to Divya Nair/ a fortnight after the expedition, Aparna says she has come a long way from her childhood spent in Karnataka which involved "playing outdoors, school, homework and reading a lot of books."

"During our times there used to be a TV serial Udaan which really left a mark on me and about the IPS. I studied BA LLB from the National Law School, Bangalore, and being very inspired by the uniformed services opted for the IPS."

In the last six years, Aparna -- trained in advance mountaineering -- has successfully scaled prominent peaks in six continents.

For the South pole expedition, Aparna, who previously conquered Mount Everest from the North side (in Tibet) in May 2016, trained for six to seven months and learned to ski.

"I worked on running long distance, improving my cardio, stamina and strength. I trained pulling a sled with more than 30 kg and also mentally preparing for the extreme weather conditions and hardships of the expedition," she says.

Just a month before the expedition, Aparna was diagnosed with pneumonia.

"I was on bed rest for almost 15 to 20 days in November and December and could not train as I wanted to. I was worried and apprehensive about my capabilities and if I can really be healthy during the expedition."

Aparna Kumar with her expedition team

IMAGE: Aparna, second from right, was the only lady in the seven member team who undertook the expedition to the South Pole in January.

Besides pneumonia, Aparna -- the only lady member in the expedition -- had other challenges waiting for her along the way.

"The most challenging part of the journey was the extreme cold conditions, high speed chilly winds and low visibility. My body would be cold all the time. Keeping my hands warm in the tough weather was very challenging. In spite of taking all precautions my nose got slightly frost bitten," she says.

The trek required you to plan one's meals and source of energy. Aparna had planned it meticulously so she could focus on the goal.

"For breakfast I had cereals of different flavours, noodles for lunch and for dinner mostly rice with chicken. All the food was package. We added hot water to the packets and ate it after 10 to 15 minutes. I had energy bars, gels and muscle recovery powder after skiing the whole day," she recalls.

"In such extreme cold conditions, the body deteriorates, so self care is very necessary. I had taken necessary medicines and was always aware of my body reactions, signs and symptoms of any illness."

Aparna Kumar with Rajnath Singh

IMAGE: Aparna Kumar was felicitated by Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi after the expedition.

Her achievement would have been incomplete without the help and support of the Indo Tibetan Border Force, her mother and her husband.

"My mother is my strength and inspiration. She takes care of my children when I go on expeditions. My husband is the unsung hero, managing all the logistics, finance and miscellaneous things when I am away."

Next on Aparna's bucket list is Mount Denali in Alaska.

"This is the only peak which remains in the seven continents. My biggest dream is to complete the seven summits and the explorer's Grand Slam."

Asked how she balances home, career and her passion, Aparna says women are experts in multi-tasking.

"Pursuing one's career and passion could be tough, but not impossible. If one learns to manage time, be disciplined, work hard, with support from family and well-wishers it is definitely possible to pursue career and passion."

Through her mountaineering journey, she wants to let the women of the world know that "there is no age for dreams, passion and vision."

"We should not put limits on ourselves, we should just soar as high as possible and discover new possibilities."

"We should never be dejected by failures, always try and never ever give up on our dreams or passion."

"We need to become the game changers and change agents."

"We must provide a platform and inspire the next generation."

aparna kumar ips first ips itbp officer to conquer south pole

Divya Nair