Planet earth’s highest point, Mt Everest, has been scaled by only a chosen few in the history of mankind while many have perished harbouring the dream of looking at the world from the top. India’s Gaurav Sharma, a gritty boy from the small hamlet of Churu (Rajasthan), dared to dream the impossible and achieved it too. He scaled the highest summit of the world on 20th May 2009 at 6:15 AM.
Hoping for some empathy and support from the government, Everester Gaurav Sharma spoke to Vineet Sharma of Zeenews.com about his painstaking journey to the top, and his plans for the future. Here are excerpts from the interview:
Vineet: How was the experience of scaling Mt Everest? What went through your mind when you were at the top and what all could you see?
Gaurav: You can see half the world. It feels like you’re below God and above the rest of mankind. It’s an unmatchable feeling and makes you even more proud for doing something for your country, to wave the tri-colour on the top.
I took a total of eighty days for the entire expedition, out of which seventy were spent in climbing. I used two and a half cylinders of oxygen and was fortunate to have a great team to accompany me.
Vineet: You had a team that consisted of mountaineers from Finland, Sweden, South Africa and Nepal. What was the most important thing that all of you abided by during the gruelling expedition?
Gaurav: Mountains teach you one thing. You are a nobody alone. It is all about the team. We can take some of the best lessons in team-work from mountain climbing. At thousands of feet above sea-level and nothing in sight, you realise the fact that an individual is nothing without the right team. It is at this point where the realm of sports is overshadowed by bigger issues.
“Pahadon mein dard saha jaata hai, kaha nahi jaata” (You bear pain in the mountains, not speak it)
Vineet: Mountain-climbing is an expensive sport. Did you get sponsors and government aid for your feat?
Gaurav: No. Barring a few local sponsors, I had to arrange the entire money for the expedition on my own. I got a big zero by zero from the government. (Laughs) I’m still paying the EMIs for my achievement and even the medical treatment post-expedition (due to lung complications at the high altitudes) has to be incurred entirely by me.
Vineet: You mean to say that Rajasthan government did not give you any kind of awards for this feat?
Gaurav: They have given me land for agriculture as a reward. No money, no job that suits my qualification. Meanwhile, mountaineers who have scaled Everest from other states like Haryana, have been given good posts in the police and the likes.
It is sad to see many people with the calibre not being even motivated by the government, let alone any other type of help.
Vineet: What is the difference between Indian mountaineers and their world counterparts?
Gaurav: God has bestowed Indians with an unmatchable grit and determination. We have lesser opportunities, but we still come out on top. Coming from Rajasthan, I had to adapt to a temperature difference of almost 100 degree Celsius. We can do anything, be it deep space, highest summits or the greatest depths of the ocean. We can make our nation proud everywhere.
Vineet: Everest conquered, what next?
Gaurav: I aim to scale the highest summit of all the seven continents. I’ve already started achieving the goal as I scaled Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, a fortnight back. I’m also penning a book ‘Mountain Madness’ and am trying to motivate the youth of the nation to take up adventure sports. The road ahead is tough, but that is what makes it fun!