Astep Above The Rest on Everest
Arunima Sinha conquers the world, scales the tallest mountain on an artificial leg
Her triumph over Mount Everest on the morning of May 21 is a resounding demonstration that what you really need to conquer the world’s tallest mountain is a heart that wills you to take a crack at the impossible. Twenty- five- year- old Arunima ‘ Sonu’ Sinha is quite literally on top of the world.
On April 11, 2011, the spirited youngster, a national volleyball player, singlehandedly took on a bunch of chain- snatchers on a train to Greater Noida ( Gautam Buddh Nagar). Frightened fellow passengers looked on with horror as the murderous goons pushed Arunima out of the speeding locomotive straight onto the path of an oncoming train. “I resisted but they pushed me out of the train. I could not move. I remember seeing another train coming towards me. I tried getting up. By then, the train had run over my leg. I don’t remember anything after that,” she told doctors on regaining consciousness at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences ( AIIMS).
Two years on, the sun shining down on her atop the snowy summit, Arunima’s triumph was truly unmatched. She has magically transformed the prosthetic limb, fitted to replace her amputated right leg, into a living, pulsating extension of her body. The painful memory of what was done to her, just could not keep up with her determination to reach for the sky. And Everest seemed like the perfect place to do that. “For four months when I was undergoing treatment at AIIMS, I could not do anything on my own. But then one day I decided to climb the Everest,” Arunima says.
All the pieces of the puzzle fell into place the minute she made up her mind to go out there and climb the mountain. Her older brother, then with the Central Reserve Police Force ( CRPF), knew she could do it. In all their years of growing up together in a Faizabad village, Om Prakash Sinha had never known his kid sister to back down from a challenge she set for herself.
But not everyone was as confident. Even Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Everest in May 1984, was doubtful: “A year and a half ago, Arunima called me and expressed her desire to climb Everest. I could not believe that she wanted to do it on one leg,” she says.
But Pal, who currently heads the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation’s ( TSAF) mountaineering programme, could not help but marvel at the bruised and battered former volleyball player’s spirit. She mentored Arunima at TSAF’s Uttarkashi ( Garhwal) Center for over 18 months during which the willing pupil first tested her mountain- climbing skills in a punishing ascent to the top of the 6,622metre Mount Chamser Kangri in Ladakh in 2012.
At exactly 10: 55 a. m. on May 21, Arunima, one of the most precious members of Tata Group’s ‘ Eco Everest Expedition’, followed Susan Mahto, a mountaineer from Jharkhand and her constant companion on the snowy Himalayan slopes, to the summit, dwarfing everyone who had tried to bring her down.
Arunima Sinha found her real inspiration to fight impossible adversity in cricketer Yuvraj Singh. The two share a very special bond: “Yuvraj sent me a cheque of Rs 1 lakh and was in touch with me when I was recovering. I got to know later that he was diagnosed with cancer. When I saw him back in the Indian team, I was inspired and said to myself that if he can get back to the team, I could also do something with my life,” she says.
So what’s next for the young woman who dared to dream of standing taller than Mount Everest on an artificial limb? Probably, conquering the planets.
ARUNIMA SINHAAT HER LUCKNOWHOME