Egged on by a mountain of passion

Egged on by a mountain of passion

Otherwise, 21-year-old Tusi Das may pass for just another ordinary egg vendor like so many others, sitting on the pavement going about her work at the local market in Dum Dum. But behind her innocent face, she is determined to take a plunge and face the risks and hazards of mountaineering.

Tusi has  colourful tale to tell of how she was been driven to this passion  that calls for not only a sturdy physique but  regular practice and training to ensure a right mix of physical fitness. 

A primary school drop-out, Tusi developed an interest in mountaineering from none other than one of her customers at the age of seven. "I used to chip in with my ailing father when he came in the morning to spread his wares. One day, a gentleman approached my father, asking if he would permit me (his daughter) to join a physical training program free of cost. Armed with this consent, he took me to a local club where I underwent physical training for six months."

Trainer took interest
It was during the training that the physical trainer took an interest in her and organized to send her for a mountaineering course. But as ill luck would have it, Tusi's father expired within a couple of years and being the eldest child, she had to take over the reins of the family to fight poverty staring at the family of three. Her mother worked as a maid while her four-year-old brother played around.
" I thought it was the end of my dream as I was at my wit's end to think how and when I could organise some money to pursue my passion," Tusi recalls. The local club came forward and extended some financial help. Tusi wasted little time and purchased some essential clothes and gear for a mountain trek.

This started the extended struggle in full earnest to establish herself as a mountaineer. It was not an easy job for Tusi as she has to get up very early in the morning to complete her gruelling two-hour physical exercise that includes yoga in the field adjoining the club. And then, she heads to the wholesale market for booking her `quota' of eggs that come straight from Andhra Pradesh in trucks. She sells eggs till one o'clock in the afternoon. Returning home, she cooks lunch for the family along with her mother.

Pursue her dream
"After all this, I go for mountaineering practice in the afternoon and return to the shop in the evening. I am desperately trying to save some money to fulfill my dream," says Tusi as buyers look at her curiously. Fellow shopkeepers always inspire Tusi and help her in all possible ways so that she can pursue her dream.
Yet, obstacles remain. She has already made a foray into the world of climbing and been participating in various rock climbing competitions. She has successfully climbed artificial rocks in Delhi, Pune, Kolkata and tried her hand at the Ayodhya Hills in Purulia district, which is a must for rock climbers.    
Tusi's point of worry is two-pronged. "If I vigorously pursue my passion, I am confident I will succeed one day because I have the blessings of my father. But then, what will happen to the family?

If I do not earn enough to run the family, my mother and brother will starve. I am looking for sponsors, but with such a background, nobody is keen to lend me a helping hand." Tears well up in her eyes and she struggles to conceal them.
The local club and fellow-shopkeepers have already petitioned the state sports & youth affairs ministry a year ago for some financial help; but there has been no response so far. Yet, Tusi is indomitable; she has chalked out a programme to climb a series of rocks this winter in Jharkhand and adjoing Gaya and Rajgir. Next year, she plans to travel to Garwhal Himalayas even if the cash box does not ring.   

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