Dehradun based mountaineers, who scaled the Mount Everest last year, recently visited the city to interact with students on how to follow their passion for adventure and promote the cause of Indian girl child. Patricia Mascarenhas reports
In May 2013, Nungshi Malik and her sister Tashi Malik, created history when they became the world’s first set of twins to scale the Mount Everest. Since then, the sisters have conquered many higher peaks like Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus and Mount McKinley to name a few. The duo have dedicated their mountain-climbing projects as a living tribute to young Indian girls, who suffer from a multitude of ills, including rape, murder, infanticide etc. “Through our achievements in mountaineering, an area that demands extreme physical and mental capabilities and high degree of risks, we want to show that girls can compete on equal footing with men even in areas traditionally seen as ‘men’s forte’,” says Nungshi.
Since mountaineering is perceived as being predominantly a male-dominated career, girls who take it up are frowned upon in our society. "For girls mountaineering comes with additional challenges like gender stereotypes, besides the usual ones like travelling alone to remote places, spending days and weeks together in the company of men, often sharing limited spaces in tents, several medical issues such as periods etc.," warns Tashi.
With regards to female infanticide, the twins has started delivering gender related talks at schools and social forums to make a direct appeal to parents and stakeholders to change their ‘angle of vision’ and see the girl child as a most trusted source of love, joy, progress, and strength. Using their mountaineering as a metaphor for life’s climbs and breaking gender stereotypes, they want to show the world that a woman can conquer every obstacle that’s thrown her way. They also plan to design memorabilia—T-shirts, coffee mugs, calendars and other utility souvenirs with gender themes to spread awareness and pride in the girl child and raise money for their mission.
When it comes to achieving goals, several common traits such as staying focused, perseverance, meticulous planning, calculated risk taking, self belief backed by solid commitment come to mind. However, passionate and successful people have also to be mentally and physically robust. “As for mountaineers, there is no way one can conquer extreme altitudes without the ability to look at the danger in the face and move on towards the summit. Pushing the body and mind to the limit despite the pain and exhaustion amidst potentially dangerous circumstances is what separates great mountaineers from ordinary ones,” advices Tashi. In the same way, people wanting to follow different passions should also have the ability to look at obstacles and move past it because in attempting to overcome these extreme odds, we become more self aware and self confident.
The Maliks got their first taste of mountaineering thrill in 2009, when their father (retired colonel Virender Singh Malik) applied on their behalf for the basic mountaineering course at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Uttarkashi. “Our father informed us about the admission only after it was confirmed. According to him, it was essential education that would make us self aware,” says Nungshi. Soon after finishing their course in 2010, they set their sights on conquering Mount Everest. "Since Everest being the highest peak, conquering it symbolises the ability to dream big and to achieve it by combining passion with commitment,” adds Tashi. Having scaled numerous mountains till now, the sisters now plan to clamber up Mt Vinson Massif in Antarctica.