Once a champion, always a champion

Thrown off a moving train, leg amputated, former national-level volleyball player Arunima Sinha is ready to climb Everest on an artificial limb

Published - March 26, 2013 12:22 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Mountaineering legend Bachendri Pal and Arunima Sinha (right), who is aiming to become the first differently-abled woman to climb Mount Everest, during a Press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: R.V.Moorthy

Mountaineering legend Bachendri Pal and Arunima Sinha (right), who is aiming to become the first differently-abled woman to climb Mount Everest, during a Press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: R.V.Moorthy

She was thrown off a moving train for daring to resist chain snatchers and had a leg amputated to save her life. It may have been a tragedy for most, but for Arunima Sinha, life actually found meaning only after the two incidents.

A former national-level volleyball player, Arunima has now set her sight on becoming India’s first ever and the world’s first woman amputee to successfully conquer Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. Having trained at the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation under Bachendri Pal for the past one-and-half years, Arunima will set out for the expedition on March 28, along with Susen Mahto, an officer of the organisation and himself a mountaineer.

“In a country where being born a girl itself is considered unfortunate, I remember people wondering how I will be able to live now. But my four months at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) helped me decide my future course. Having someone else do every small thing for me at that time was a bad experience. I had never taken any help till then and I was determined to prove that I would not need any help in future as well,” said the 24-year-old Arunima here.

She was lucky to have an elder brother, an Armyman, who supported her. But the rest of her family was sceptical. “It wasn’t easy. But once they understood my decision, they stood by it. And other than them, no one else matters to me,” she said.

Arunima met with the accident while travelling from Lucknow to Delhi on April 12, 2011 and her left leg had to be amputated at the knee. It wasn’t easy for her to get used to the artificial limb though.

“It was tough. Initially, there would be a lot of blisters and bleeding. Since my leg was made to withstand extreme conditions and take extra weight while climbing, it was tougher to get used to than a regular artificial leg. But now I am fine. The only thought that kept me going was to prove that any disability is in the mind, not body,” said Arunima.

Bachendri Pal, accompanying the youngster, admitted she was unsure of whether it would be possible. “At our organisation, we hold regular camps of 10-days each for corporates, of which five days are for training and five for trekking. Arunima used to accompany every batch on their treks, with just two days’ rest in between. That’s when I realised her determination. And when she successfully climbed Mt. Chhamser Kangri (21,110 ft) last year, I was confident she was ready for this attempt on Everest,” Pal said.

Arunima will acclimatise by climbing the 20,000 ft. Summit Island Peak in April as part of her expedition before attempting Mount Everest (April 15-May 28). She will also be carrying an extra artificial leg on the trip.

Not too many people with disabilities have successfully managed the climb. Arunima hopes to be the one to break the stereotype of an invalid in India. But, as Bachendri says: “She already climbed her own personal Everest when she decided to take up mountaineering. Compared to that this will be a cakewalk.”

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