Conquering taboos, leaping higher

Conquering taboos, leaping higher

GRAND ACT What holds women back from scaling new heights?

Conquering taboos, leaping higher

Why do we climb mountains? If you spend some time in the company of mountaineers — and we think everyone should — you might be surprised that you wouldn’t often hear terms such as ‘altitude’ and ‘atmosphere.’

You might, on the other hand, hear words such as thrill, exhilaration, challenges and achievement. Intimidating and gorgeous as they are, mountains are also old, daunting reminders, perennial dares to human beings to scale them, take them on or
perish in the process.

When we reached the top of Mount Everest, it became a defining moment in our parallel lives.

To us Army kids who went to school in multiple states of India, climbing
mountains had always been a way to give shape to our dreams. We grew up either constantly trekking or constantly discussing the world’s summits, and it
wasn’t long before we realised that we could not take up anything else but mountaineering as a profession.

The world knows we made the Mount Everest saga possible, but only we know about the
avalanche, crevices, blizzards, overhangs and jagged mountain cliffs that we overcame to get that ‘top of the world’ feeling.

But an even tougher challenge, which some girls would consider a big impediment to success is the ‘period challenge’. We remember back in school, we found it so strange that girls who were on their period would refrain from taking part in physical activities.

In fact, our friends would talk to teachers and excuse themselves from physical activities as they were scared that it would stain their white skirt, leading to embarrassing situations.

An inconvenient majority of Indian girls today face period taboos, which we
believe are invisible mountains of ignorance and superstition, and they climb them, every single day. You need the best ropes, hammer, ice axe, trekking books and other quality mountaineering gears to be unstoppable.

You also need determination, grit and a lot of physical and mental stamina to sustain the rigours.

And the taboos associated with menstruation make it much harder for
Indian women. Not just to achieve, but even go about their everyday life. When period taboos begin inhibiting young women from daily chores, restricting them from going out and making them feel like untouchable outsiders, there is a grave problem.

The genesis of these taboos happened years ago, due to a lack of proper sanitary solutions, and they have been passed on from over generations of women. We are collectively trampling upon millions of dreams — of wanting to become a mountaineer, a pilot, an athlete, even a CEO or a multitasking home-
maker.

As we completed the Explorers Grand Slam — the South and North Pole and the Seven Summits, our desire to fight for the Indian girl only grew stronger. At 23, we have tamed all of the world’s tallest peaks. But more importantly, we decided to align mountaineering with the Indian girl’s cause and have achieved much fulfillment.

A significant part of all our journeys, and the ones which lie in our connected futures, will always be proving on behalf of all girls, that nothing is impossible. If we can achieve whatever we have in the male-dominated, weather-dependent, highly strenuous profession of climbing mountains, we are sure there are millions of ladies out there who too can give shape to their dreams in various life choices.

Let’s not be modest here. Mountai-neering requires an incredible amount of dedication, physical prowess and commitment. For every journey, we went through dozens of physical and emotional barriers, but not one of them was ‘period issues’. Why? Let’s just put it simply — when you have a challenge that’s nearly 30,000 feet tall, everything else looks ridiculously small.

All our summit journeys started with a single step. The journey to overcome the mountains of ignorance and taboos too will take just one bold step forward. And believe us, when you start climbing upward and being unstoppable, there will be no avalanche too harsh to withstand, no mountain too high to tame.

(The authors are influencers of the ‘Whisper Touch The Pickle Movement’)

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