On a spiritual journey

On a spiritual journey

On a spiritual journey

You should be dreamer, if you really want to do something in your life,” says Bachendri Pal, India’s first woman to scale Mt Everest. Even after three decades of having scaled the world’s highest mountain, Bachendri is busy pushing young girls and women to take up mountaineering seriously. “For me, more than breaking records, it is important to make others experience the same happiness which I feel when I am on the mountain,” she says.

Today, she is leading a 10-member all women team to an expedition to Annapurna range in Nepal under the aegis of Tata Steel Adventure Foundation. But before leaving for the trek on October 14, Bachendri interacted with Metrolife.

She talked about her journey from a small time village girl to world renowned mountaineer, her feelings for the snow clad Himalayan peaks and her emotional bonding with the Himalayas.
“I come from a very small village but it was my dream, grit and determination to do something that led me to mountaineering,” smiles Bachendri, who wanted to be a doctor and struggled for higher education. “It was my brothers who persuaded my father to allow me to do further studies after intermediate,” she says.

Bachendri utilised that chance and completed her MA and BEd.  “In villages, parents want to see their children as teachers and my parents wanted me to be the same. So I had to do BEd,” says Bachendri.

But before she could start teaching, mountaineering happened per chance. “A few mountaineers visited our village and persuaded me for the sport. Thereafter, I did a course from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering and was employed as an instructor at the National Adventure Foundation. It was Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister who wanted Indian women to climb Mt Everest. I was selected for the team then,” says Bachendri.

Trekking and mountaineering was like tasting blood, especially after Bachendri Mt Everest. “More than that, mountains give me a very strong feeling of freedom, they allow me to peep inside myself. It’s like a spiritual journey. I feel my identity is too small infront of these huge mountains. It disciplines your mind and spirit,” she says.

But things were never easy. Though “mountaineering is in itself a herculean task,” Bachendri says “it is more difficult to deal with people who do not want women to reach the summit.”
She remembers the Indo-Nepalese expedition and says, “Decision makers are people who made that trek difficult by creating a bottleneck when granting funds and permission. It is really difficult to deal with that situation,” she says.

After having travelled all around the world and climbing different summits, Bachendri still finds peace in her hometown. “I go to my village and remember the time when I was nothing. How I used to travel to five km each day to school and used to ask people to give us a lift.

Everything related to my childhood is imbibed in my soul that I can still feel those emotions,” says Bachendri, bringing the interview to an end as she did not want to be more nostalgic.

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