Imprint on sand

TRAILBLAZER Bachendri Pal: ’Care must be taken never to offend nature’

TRAILBLAZER Bachendri Pal: ’Care must be taken never to offend nature’   | Photo Credit: Photo: PTI

Bachendri Pal has entered the Limca Book of World Records for leading an all-women desert expedition

“I have climbed too many mountains. But there is always a wish to do something new. So I thought of this desert trip,” says Bachendri Pal, India’s first woman to get to the summit of Mount Everest. Bachendri led an all-women Thar Desert expedition early this year. The first such expedition on camel back by any civilian, it has recently entered the Limca Book of World Records. “All the 12 members of the expedition were women. Some of them were housewives. I met a couple of them during my various expeditions and all of them were keen on doing something interesting. On camel back, treading that gruelling route from the Rann of Kutch through the Thar Desert to the Wagah border is not an easy task not only for women, even for men, so I salute all of them,” said Bachendri, during a telephonic chat from Jamshedpur, where she heads the adventure team of Tata Steel.

Bachendri, soon after climbing Mount Everest in 1984, was offered a job by J.R.D Tata in Tata Steel and her latest expedition was to celebrate the completion of 100 years of the company this year.

Born in 1954, Bachendri was 30-years-old when she scaled the Everest. Now well into her 50s, she says, “If you have the will, you can do anything.”

She had to break out of the fetters of a traditional society and disprove those who often asked her the same question after she climbed the first mountain peak: “Pahar charke kya milega? (What will you gain by climbing mountains?)

“Now, I feel good when the same people tell me to train their daughters to become a mountaineer,” she says with a laugh. In the Thar Desert trip, tea, members had to deal with doubt from skeptics. “Hope you won’t leave the expedition half way.” But she has a lot of praise for the Border Security Force, which facilitated the 48-day trip. “DIG Batham Manohar was in charge of our trip and not only he, but all those from the Force whom we met during the expedition, were extremely helpful,” she says.

Having never done a desert safari, Bachendri and her group had to undergo three days of training at Bhuj. Starting from how to ride a camel, they gathered tips on how to handle the harsh weather, negotiate sand dunes, take precautions against scorpion and snake bites, etc. Ask Bachendri about the camel ride experience, with a loud laugh she sayss, “My God! As the camels get very lazy during summer, the BSF suggested that we should do the expedition during winter. But winter is their breeding season, so it was difficult to control them at times!”

Backaches, joint pain, injuries and rashes, all showed up during the 2000-kilometre trip. “Still, we managed to do 60 km per day at times,” she says. Bachendri takes care never to “offend nature during expeditions.” “For if there were no nature, there would have been no Bachendri.”

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