Small-town Haryana girl conquers great heights

Small-town Haryana girl conquers great heights

For Mamta Sodha, a small-town girl from Haryana’s Kaithal with limited means, it seemed like the end of the road for her dream to scale peaks.

Her childhood passion to scale great heights hit a roadblock when she tumbled straight down 45 feet to the hard ground below from a vertical mounting wall. What followed was a badly dislocated leg and ankle.

For Mamta Sodha, a small-town girl from Haryana’s Kaithal with limited means, it seemed like the end of the road for her dream to scale peaks.

She asked her doctors if she could be a climber again. “They told me I would be lucky if I am able to walk properly, forget climbing,” Mamta says.

A few years later, in 2010, Mamta scaled Mount Everest. Her indomitable spirit triumphed over all else.

She was the first woman from Jatland to climb Mount Everest and the lone woman in the group that embarked on this expedition with her.

Mount Everest was just the beginning. Later, Mamta went ahead and scaled five of the Seven Summits, the highest mountains of each of the seven continents, and more. In 2014, she received the Padma Shri for her services in the mountaineering arena.

Today, at 40, this mother of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy, fierce cop, homemaker, sportsperson, and philanthropist is planning her next mission to conquer the remaining two mountain summits: Denali in North America, and Vinson in Antarctica. Her age may pose enormous challenges. Her little son needs his mother.

As a Deputy Superintendent of Police in Haryana posted with the Human Rights Commission in Chandigarh, her job is equally demanding. But Mamta says challenges excite her. “I successfully climbed Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia in March,” she says.

This is not all. She involves herself in several philanthropic activities, too. And, her involvement is beyond just cash dole-outs. She spends time with kids in orphanages, preparing them for the journey called life.

“Such children need to be mentally tougher to take on challenges. We take them out on free mountaineering sessions where they are made to build upon dreams of a better life,” she said.

The family celebrates November 1, the birthday of her son Aryan, as a day dedicated to youth and adventure. On this day, Mamta and her husband, who she calls her mountaineering ‘Guru’ and inspiration in life, Rajiv Kumar, venture out in semi-mountainous zones with youth and the underprivileged for various expeditions.

But, behind all these feats lies an arduous struggle. According to Mamta, in the Jatland hinterland from where she hails, girls are not encouraged to venture out of their homes to make a career for themselves.

She considers herself lucky as her parents were different, with a progressive mindset. Though the family’s resources were limited, they encouraged her to think boldly.

“Around the time I was recovering from crushed limbs following my vertical fall, my father fell ill and passed away. From a pampered daughter, I became a responsible adult. Being the eldest of the siblings, I felt it my duty to provide for the family, even at the cost of giving up on my dream of becoming a mountaineer. I started working at a college. However, my mother and my siblings motivated me to go after my dream, making me resolve to pursue it, no matter what," she says.

Mamta has helped many, including cops, with her mountaineering expertise. Many of her pupils have also scaled the Mount Everest. As for her fitness mantra, “I lead a disciplined life. All workouts sans gymnasium, in the open, with nature,” she says.