Twins Nungshi and Tashi Malik, after scaling the highest peaks of five of the seven continents, are now set to climb the other two – all for the cause of Indian girls
Aim for the sky and you will hit the mountain top: that is what the twins — Nungshi (meaning love in Manipuri) Malik and Tashi (Tibetan word for good luck) Malik (born on June 21, 1991) — are doing figuratively and literally. Incidentally Nungshi is elder to Tashi by 26 minutes. Last week they scaled Mt. Carstensz Pyramid (16024 feet), Indonesia, the highest peak of Australasia, along with eight other members. They have already conquered four other peaks — the highest in the respective continents.
Living in Dehradun, the girls were exposed to the outdoors from early childhood and imbibed a love for it from their father, Col. V.S. Malik, retired from the Indian Army. “We did parasailing at the age of seven, tied with a shawl to our father’s back, and jumped from the seven metres board in the swimming pool at nine years,” says Tashi about their father’s influence.
Col. Malik enrolled them for a basic mountaineering course at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, after the sisters finished their Class 12 exams. Their initial awe and fear were removed by their father’s reasoning that exposure to physical danger and challenges will make them aware of the unknown and also educate them. Since then they have completed four courses from the institute. Besides, they have equipped themselves with a basic skiing course too.
Both scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), the highest peak in Africa, in 2012. Thereafter, they conquered Mt. Everest in 2013 along with Samina Baig of Pakistan whom they treat as their sister. The idea of climbing the highest summits in the seven continents by the trio germinated here, but the scheme could not fructify since Samina received funding faster and moved on (though Samina did join them in Indonesia).
The twins are pursuing this dream not for sheer adventure and fame but much more. It is for a fight against female foeticide; encouraging the Indian girl child to dream and achieve, as well as to promote mountaineering. “We feel the pain of the blatant and epidemic violation of our girls’ human rights,” they say, and observe, “A girl child has numerous mountains to climb to merely survive and even more to realize her potential and full human rights.” The duo described their feats as an evidence “to prove that girls can compete on equal footing with men.”
Nungshi and Tashi share same likes and dreams and cannot recollect a single thing they have done separately. Between the two there is a healthy but invisible competition. Recalling a humorous incident, Nungshi says that while being persuaded to jump off a seven-metre board at the swimming pool, when she lost balance and fell, Tashi too followed within seconds, despite being more scared than her. The elder sibling says they have never been separated, and the mountaineering achievements and sharing of the most dangerous moments have only made the bond stronger. Tashi candidly admits, “We have quite evident differences and off the mountaineering missions, we are often the worst enemies, just as we are best friends.”
Describing climbing as very demanding with immense physical pain and dangers involved in which nature is all powerful, the sisters say the mountains and the snow “make one aware of your vulnerability and insignificance”. The quietness and remoteness add to the sense of loneliness and fear.
The girls studied in schools in 10 different States of India and were able to see the length and breadth of the country. “Today we feel we belong to so many parts of India, connect easily with all religious, ethnic and cultural entities and understand better what it means to be Indian. Most importantly, it has made us very adaptable and cosmopolitan individuals,” says Tashi. However, there were challenges and stress too. Nungshi points out that there was frequent loss of friends made in school, adding that “part of the reason why we don’t have close friends is because we never spent enough time with any!”
The sisters identified dancing as their strongest passion apart from mountaineering. Though unable to devote time, they intend to take up formal training after they finish climbing the remaining two peaks. Having excelled in athletics and represented their school in South Zone championships, the twins love to watch outdoor adventures, football and hockey, and of course, the Asian Games and Olympics.
Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa, February 2012
Mt Everest, Asia, May 2013
Mt Elbrus, Europe, August 2013
Mt Aconcagua, South America, January 2014
Mt Carstensz Pyramid, Australasia, March 19, 2014
Peaks to be climbed
Mt Mckinley, North America
Mt Vinson, Antarctica