Destiny is not always the deciding factor in determining success. It also takes courage, strong sense of self belief and a never give up attitude.
Powered by sheer grit and determination, 25-year-old Arunima Sinha created history at 10.55 am on May 21, 2013, by becoming the first Indian amputee to conquer Mount Everest – the world’s tallest peak – as part of the Eco Everest Expedition from the Tata Group. She took 52 days to reach the summit.
But this achievement takes on a different meaning when one considers the events that transpired two years ago; events that mirror the state of our society where law and order have different meaning depending on one’s class and gender.
On April 12, 2011, Arunima Sinha – a former national volleyball player who lives in Ambedakar Nagar in Uttar Pradesh – was travelling from her town to New Delhi in the general compartment of the Padmavati Express. Her aim was to join the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). She was planning to go to the Noida office of CISF to get details about the centre for the physical examination scheduled for May 7 and to ensure a correction in her date of birth in the call letter received by her.
Arunima Sinha (AP Photo)It was then that her life took an unfortunate turn. Miscreants on the train tried to snatch her chain. When she resisted they threw her out of the train onto the path of an incoming train. Arunima was hit by the passing train and sustained critically injuries. She was hospitalized but on April 18, 2011, she was brought to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, with serious leg and pelvic injuries. In a bid to save her life, doctors had to amputate her left leg below the knee. She spent four months at AIIMS, where she was provided a prosthetic leg free of cost by a private Delhi-based Indian company.
Her painful story did not end with the amputation of her leg. Her trauma continued in the insensitive manner with which the police investigated the incident. Additional Director General of Government Railway Police (GRP) A.K. Jain had pointed out “holes” in Arunima’s version of the events that led to her amputation. At the time he said: “Investigations have revealed that Arunima’s story had many holes. We have reason to suspect that she suffered the injuries either in an attempt to commit suicide or she met with an accident, but chose to blame it on crime in the railways.”
One can only imagine what might have gone through the mind of a girl who was the victim of a serious crime while also grappling with the agonizing trauma of having a limb amputed. But this is where Arunima showed her indomitable spirit. Refusing to let these horrific events break her, she decided to do something which would be a mighty challenge for even a physically abled person.
While still recovering in hospital she decided she would one day reach the summit of Mount Everest with her prosthetic leg. Overcoming the scars of the accident and defying all odds, Arunima started training at the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF) camp in Uttarkashi last year under the guidance of Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to conquer Everest. She excelled in the basic mountaineering course from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi. In the run-up to the Everest ascent Arunima successfully scaled the 6,622-meter-high Mount Chhamser Kangri of Ladakh last year, but her ultimate goal was to climb Mount Everest; a goal that evades many mountaineers either due to their own physical limitations or their mental belief in their own capabilities.
Climbing Mount Everest is a not a joke; it is considered a stupendous feat for any individual who even attempts to do so. And doing the same with a prosthetic limb, therefore, makes it a one of a kind achievement.
Arunima reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 21, 2013, and became the first female amputee to do so. Her achievement shows no road is tough for a person with self-belief and determination and this applies to everyone. This teaches us a great lesson in life: one’s will power and determination can do anything. This shows human spirit cannot be subdued.
But this story throws few sad and unanswered questions to all Indians. Like, what happened to the culprits who pushed her from the train? Have they been apprehended? Have they been jailed? What happened to the DIG who passed his own judgement on the incident alleging that she was trying to commit suicide? Why is our cricket crazy nation going all over for ‘Fixed & Sold’ IPL and ignoring such heroic and unparalleled feats by other sports persons?
The entire country should salute Arunima’s achievement, courage, fighting spirit and physical robustness. She has defied all odds and this act of hers will be an inspiration for millions throughout the world. She is the epitome and symbol of raw courage, self belief, determination, optimism and an indomitable human spirit. Arunima is and will be an inspiration and a true role model to all women and younger generation not only in India but around the globe.
Long live courage, fighting spirit and self-belief of mankind. Let us celebrates her victory. Respect and three cheers to Arunima ‘Everest’ Sinha.