“You cannot do it,” said that naysayers to Anita Kundu. However, her indomitable spirit and never say die attitude enabled her to move mountains, quite literally. In 2017, 29-year-old Anita Kundu became the first Indian woman to scale the world’s tallest mountain peak — Mt. Everest — twice, once from the Nepal side and then from the China side. Her quest to scale the world’s summits did not stop with conquering the Everest as, in January 2019, Anita successfully climbed Mount Vinson — the fourth tallest peak worldwide.
Anita Kundu’s early childhood
For Anita, who is also a police sub-inspector from Haryana, the task was anything but easy. From a childhood marked by poverty, loss and disappointment to becoming a bonafide mountaineer in her own right, Anita Kundu has become an inspiration for men and women alike.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Anita narrated the struggle that her life was. Born in Hisar, Haryana to a family of farmers, Anita’s early childhood was marked by abject poverty. Having lost her father at the tender age of 13, Anita was constantly forced by her relatives to get married. She laments, “My dad had a passion. I was the eldest child and he wanted me to become an international boxer. I had even joined boxing classes when I was 12, but his death changed everything.”
From learning boxing at a local akhada, Anita’s life completely went topsyturvy. Anita outright rejected the idea of getting married and took responsibility for the household upon herself. With no source of income, Anita and her mother started selling milk and engaged in farming. She said, “I would go to school during the day, come back home and till the land.” During her teenage years, Anita said that she and her family were tormented mentally by onlookers, neighbours and relatives alike, who kept pushing Anita for marriage, which she kept denying. After years of struggling, Anita finally seemed to have made a breakthrough in 2008, when she landed a job with the Haryana police. Things seemed to be looking up for some time, however, that was shortlived.
During training, the idea of rock-climbing intrigued Anita and she wanted to learn more about it. However, those around her at the time discouraged her by saying that the sport is not for women— a sentence that many women, who are willing to take up new challenges, have had to hear at some point. Unfazed and still determined, Anita sought help from her DGP who allowed her to learn mountaineering and advanced rock-climbing. For months, Anita dabbled in a sport which is arguably dominated more by men than women and finally, she could prove her worth.
Between 2009 and 2011 Anita scaled some of India’s most technical and challenging summits including Mount Satopanth and Mount Cokstate. After conquering heights in India, Anita expressed her wish to climb the Everest and in May 2013, she did so from the Nepal side. She said, “There are challenges as a woman mountaineer which others did not understand, but, I did not want them to think any less of me.” While there were many obstacles in the way and even a near-death experience, which shook Anita, she was successful at the end. However, the whole expedition was paid for by herself. She explains, “Mountaineering requires money and for the first trek to the Everest, I had to save up money and ask for a loan from locals.”
After coming back to her hometown, the same naysayers who questioned her dreams welcomed her home with cheers, garlands and chants. She said, “I proved myself and times changed.” A hopeful Anita took upon a second challenge just two years later. After having collected more money for her second expedition, Anita, in 2015 expressed her wish to climb the Everest for the second time from the China side — if successful, Anita would become the first Indian woman to do so.
However, the devastating Nepal Earthquake in April of that year shook the mountain range to such an extent that climbing it was off limits and Anita could not get permission from China to do so. In 2017, she tried one more time and was successful, thereby creating history in India.
“Congratulations to Haryana’s Anita Kundu for becoming the first Indian woman to climb Mt. Everest from the China side. More power to you!” tweeted Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
Congratulations to Haryana's Anita Kundu for becoming the first Indian woman to climb Mt. Everest from the China side. More power to you!
— Chowkidar Manohar Lal (@mlkhattar) May 21, 2017
From 2018 onwards, Anita took up a new challenge of scaling the seven tallest summits of each continent and after that, she wishes to climb the eight-thousanders or the 14 tallest summits of the world. Now, she has become a youth icon in Haryana as well as elsewhere. Anita said, “If one is mentally determined, then he or she can achieve anything.”
A statement Anita has proved to be true, it was because of sheer hard work, grit and determination that she could do such a feat. The Logical Indian applauds her unwavering grit and effort.