‘Haarna nahi hai Geettaa!’ rang across the deathly silence of the stadium, and the theatre, in the dying pangs of the crucial bout. Surely you all recognise the iconic voice of ‘Tauji’ as he motivated and cheered on his daughters to victory. It is rarely the case that one is fortunate enough to be present to witness history in the making. Such is our story today.
India, the home of a billion souls, has been unkind to her daughters for a long time. For centuries now, as far back as you can cast your eyes, the fairer sex in India has been at the receiving end of a whole lot of unfair treatment. Bound by meaningless restrictions and fighting prejudices, our women have walked paths strewn with odds and beset with hurdles. Yet, they relentlessly fight to rise above, inspire and motivate us to look inwards.
Our story today, begins in, what was, a small provincial town, on a far-flung corner of our sprawling motherland. The small city of Bomdila in Arunachal Pradesh had little to boast about, except the marvellous natural beauty of its topology and the good-humoured nature of its lovely people. In fact, the only reason Bomdila would ever peak up in the national radar was due to a constant threat overhanging it from our neighbours.
Growing up in these Eastern Himalayan foothills, a little girl fell in love with the majestic mountains. Her name, Anshu Jamsenpa. Sure, now the name begins to sound familiar, you begin to get curious about the story behind the name.
Anshu Jamsenpa is in the news for all the right reasons. She just became the first woman to summit the peak of Mt. Everest twice in 5 days. Yes, you read that right; she just peaked a height of 8,848m (29,029ft) twice in 120 hours. She completed the first summit on May 16, 2017, came back down to the lower base camp, ‘caught her breath for a minute’ before going back up to summit again on Sunday, May 21. And this, on a mountain and terrain that is legendary for its unforgiving nature to those who are cocky or disrespectful to its grandeur.
But then again, Anshu is no ordinary woman.
In fact, if you knew her story better, you would be inclined to call her Mother India, if not better. The 37-year-old mountaineer is a mother of two, Anna and Angel, aged 16 and 12 respectively. Yes, let that sink in for a moment. It is no wonder that even the mightiest of the Himalayas, the Chomolungma or Sagarmatha in Sanskrit, bows down in reverence in the face of her resilience and undaunted climb. Mothers are usually known to be that species who had been created by God and handed special super powers since He/She could not be present everywhere. Here’s a mother who pursued her passion while carrying the weight of her children’s hopes, dreams and fears in her heart. With every step, she was further from them, and closer to the peak, yet she persevered.
Do you want to know why? In the words of Anna, “The proudest moment for me, was when one of my classmates asked for my mother’s autograph.” For Angel, her mother is not only ‘the best’ mountaineer in the world, but also her inspiration.
They say, ‘Behind every successful man, there is a woman.’
True or not that might be, the reverse seems to be true in this case. Just ask Tsering Wange, the president of the All Arunachal Pradesh Mountaineering and Adventure Sports Association. Better known around his neighbourhood as Anshu’s husband, an epithet which only makes him beam with joy and pride.
It has been a very difficult journey for the couple, recollections of which still bring tears to their eyes. The sacrifices they have had to make along the way, the luxuries they have given up and the trials they have been through. Tsering talks about one of his most troubling moments during the preparatory stages of Anshu’s first attempts in 2011 when he had to face taunts and jeers from his neighbours and accusations about how he could be inflicting this on his wife. But his support and belief never wavered. He was that one unflinching constant in Anshu’s adventures; that one band-aid for every cut and scrap, that one pep-talk for every downfall and the trekking pole on which she reached the top of the world. The neighbours are back now, but only to congratulate the couple and bask a little in their reflected glory.
Pride of not only Bomdila, but entire India
But like every little fairy tale, this one too has a little villainy and a bit of spiritual guidance. The villain, being, of course the soul of the mountain, unpredictable and merciless. Anshu’s first attempt in 2011 saw her summit twice in 10 days between May 12 and 21. Her third summit came two years later on May 18, 2013. But that was all that the great mountain would allow, it seemed.
Her attempts in successive years after that, failed due to natural calamities; one of them being the horrific earthquake in Nepal in 2015 that we only remember too well. But where she didn’t give in, the mountain did. This was her fourth and fifth summit respectively. Blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as she set out on her arduous journey on April 2nd for Guwahati, her parting words were, ‘My only aim now is to unfurl the national flag once again atop Mt Everest and pay homage to Lord Buddha. I seek blessings and support from my fellow countrymen.’ We can only be extremely thankful that the pride of our country is being returned by the Himalayan gods in sound health and spirit. For this is not the end of their story; it is a stepping stone to higher grounds.
Stories of heroes like Anshu continue to inspire us and make us proud of India’s daughters. Especially her story, coming from a part of the country which is culturally and socially treated as if it is an afterthought; as step-children of Mother India. It is time that we set aside our narrow-minded ideals and celebrate the wholeness of our great country, with all our people; regardless of their caste, creed, religion or gender; and mostly celebrate our Mother and Sisters, so they may continue to soar the high skies. For the health of a nation’s psyche is reflected in how we treat our daughters.