Arunima Sinha: On top of the world


Thank you so much to all of you. To sit and listen to someone for so long it’s a big deal. Because when you sit and listen to someone, it requires you to keep patience – – that’s what I think. Actually, I am 26-years-old. In 2011, I was thrown out of a running train by some robbers. I have also been a volleyball champion. In 2011, I was wearing a gold chain, and some robbers threw me out of a running train, I was travelling from Lucknow to Delhi. It was a general compartment, there were a lot of people – nobody tried to intervene. It’s in the spirit of a player to not easily let go, not even after struggle. Even I resisted, there were four to five of them, and they threw me out of a running train It was unfortunate that at the same time another train was passing on the adjacent track. I first banged into that train and then fell on the tracks. Both the trains passed. After a while, when I tried to lift myself up and saw that my leg had cut off. I lifted my thigh and saw it was hanging with the jeans, blood flowing profusely. Bones of the other leg were all broken and had come out. All night I kept shouting in pain on the tracks, there are small rocks there… crying for help. Nobody came to rescue me All night shouting so much that I could no longer see. When a train used to pass the track would vibrate Not only that, some had got a free invitation – – you must have seen small rats on the railway tracks. They were now chewing on my injured leg. My brain consciousness was working – I was fully aware, but there was no movement in my body. Every second I was thinking how I could save myself. The whole night passed, in the morning some villagers took me to Bareilly District Hospital in UP. This is where it happened. In the morning, when the villegers took me to the district hospital the pharmacist, doctor, and everyone were all discussing among themselves – that they did not have anaesthesia or blood – and if they wanted start my treatment how could they start. Though I couldn’t see, I could hear all of this. From where I got the strength, even I don’t know, I said, “Sir, my whole leg is crushed, and for so long I was on the tracks and I endured the pain, but for my good you will now cut off my leg” Maybe you won’t believe this, or you would have never seen this before – that a doctor or pharmacist donated their own blood to save a patient. After hearing what I had to say, the doctor and pharmacist both gave a unit of blood each, and amputated my leg without any anaesthesia. Even today, I feel that pain. Every time I speak, I feel all that pain. After that… When the media found out, people got to know that Arunima is a national player. I was then admitted to KGMC – King George Medical College in Lucknow. From Lucknow to AIIMS Trauma Centre in Delhi, on Sports Minister’s intervention. Everything was going fine, because of being a player I started getting good treatment. For about four months I was being treated at AIIMS. After AIIMS, as I started getting better after about 25 days, I looked at the newspapers, all twisted stories – “Arunima didn’t have a train ticket, and jumped off a train” “she was rejected by her family,” and even, “Arunima attempted suicide.” For a girl whose limb had been amputated, future is unknown – if she’ll be on a wheelchair or crutches To the extent that my spine had three fractures, I didn’t even know if I would ever get off the bed. You can only imagine what must be going thought my heart and mind. You can imagine the situation of the family whose young girl is going through such a situation. They say – “Where is a will, there is a way.” On the bed at AIIMS, I decided – I was shouting out what I had to say everything that was happening was at such a high level, and I being from a middle class family, was shouting out what I had to say but nobody was listening. They say… From my heart, mind and soul, I made a decision — It’s okay, today is your day say how much and whatever you want to say one day it will be my turn, and I will prove who I am… …prove who I was. On the hospital bed I decided, not volleyball but life’s most difficult game – I then choose mountaineering. To say and to do – there is a huge difference. When I first thought about mountaineering and shared it with people, the biggest thing was to get training under proper guidance. The second thing was sponsorship, a huge amount – I had never seen 40-50 lakhs (~ $80,000) before. It was a huge thing for me to raise this money. When I shared with people that I wanted to pursue mountaineering, and I wanted to try for Everest. Everyone asked me had I gone mad, “You can never do mountaineering. One leg is artificial and the other has a rod.” “Have you lost your mind? Your spine is also has a fracture.” “You’re mad, forget this and take up some job and spend your life.” The biggest problem with people is that they just look at your physical self. They look at my legs, what is going on with my conscience that no one knew. What I feel… Today, I have been observing and I have learnt so many good things here. You have heard from so many great speakers, and even I am speaking to you today. No matter how much I am able to motivate you, no matter how many things I share, but what I feel is – the biggest motivator is you yourself. The day your inner-self is awakened toward any goal, nobody can stop you from reaching that goal. I am not saying things that are picked up from books. I have experienced each moment.. [applause] None of these are quotes from books. Each moment of my 26 years – that experience is what I am sharing. After that, somehow I managed. My brother… my family was my backbone. My family and brother suggested that we meet Madam Bachendri Pal, who summited Mount Everest in 1984, that she would surely help. After being discharged from the hospital, my right leg had stitches, but instead of directly going home, when people were thinking how I’ll spend the rest of my life, When people think what about my life There were only two things going on in my head – Firstly, how will I answer all these people, and secondly, how will I summit Everest. Right away we went to see Bachendri Pal. When she first saw me she started to cry and said, “Arunima, in this state you even thought about such a difficult challange like Everest – that means you have already conquered it in your heart, now it’s just for the sake of other people.” Apart from my family she was the only woman who had faith in me that yes, Arunima can do this. That itself was a big deal for me. Planning is all done. I have met my mentor. Everything got done, but when you get on to the field you then find out where you really stand. I reached the road head, then ma’am said, “Your saying and thinking won’t do, Arunima you have to prove yourself.” I said, “All I need is one chance.” Really, when I reached the mountain, from road head to base camp it took people two minutes, but it used to take me three hours because my right leg’s bones were not yet healed, my left leg was a prosthetic, the stump was all red – all the wounds were still fresh. If I used to place my leg forcefully, it would start bleeding. Everyone else on the expedition was normal all of them used to say to me, before every climb, that, “Arunima you take your time and come slowly.” The only thing running in my head used to be “What is this!! I’ve planned for Everest, and I can’t even keep pace with any of them.” I made a vow with myself – There will be one day that I will reach before them. Maybe you won’t believe this, in the next eight months with all the weight on my shoulders, we used to leave base camp together and reach the top first. I used to turn around and see that they have been left behind that made me happy. What made me happier was when they would ask, “Madam, what do your eat?” “Tell us”, “You have no legs, but walk amazingly.” [applause] After that, I got full sponsorship. When I went for Everest, the biggest challenge for me on the Everest journey was to explain myself to the other. I couldn’t explain it to anyone that I could do it. When I went for Everest, and met the Sherpa When Sherpa found out that I had an prosthetic leg and the other has a rod, he refused to take me fearing the risk to his own life. Madam, us, everyone somehow convinced him. We saw for real what you only see in photographs and TV – blue and green ice, it’s absolutely terrifying. It is as terrifying as it is beautiful. We had six people in our group Up till the rocky areas, I was ahead As soon as I reached the green and blue ice, my artificial leg started slipping over the ice When I would raise my left crampon in front pointing, even with pain in the left leg, I would still do it. But with the artificial leg, my leg would just turn the leg itself would move. Sherpa told me, “It is not possible Arunima, don’t do it forcefully.” I said, “No way, this is my leg! I know how it will work.” Finally, after several tries, holes would form and ice would start breaking I would slowly go ahead placing my foot in the holes. It was all fine up till Camp 3 I properly acclimatised myself and reached Camp 3 When it comes to going further up from Camp 3 to South Col Summit – for even the best of mountaineers and brave-hearts, their determination completely dwindles when they see someone die right in front of their eyes. And when thoughts come to your mind and your decision making And thoughts come to your mind that that for the same reason we are going ahead is for the same reason these people are dying and have died. Most of the climbing is done during the night because the weather is calm When I left South Col camp in the night from camp 4, wherever my head-light went I could only see dead bodies I got goosebumps I couldn’t understand, didn’t know what to do Not only that, on the rope I was using, as I was going forward I saw a Bangladeshi whose hand was moving [painful sigh sound] the sound was coming from the mouth. I can’t explain how afraid I was. Again and again the thought running in my head was that this person’s oxygen ran out, he is dead. In this last situation, I am unable to do anything. What to do. After that, I just stood there for 10-15 minutes I said to them, “Out of you all, if everyone succeeds in summiting Everest, then it is alright. If not, then I will summit Everest for you all, and return alive” Because what we think like our bodies also start responding that way. Because of the dead bodies one couldn’t go forward from there, as the anchor was in the same rope, I had to step over the dead body and that’s how I started going forward. When I reached the Hillary Step close to the south summit my Sherpa gave me a huge shock, “Arunima, turn back, your oxygen is running out” Right after Hillary Step is the Everest summit, just a little climb. Imagine being so close to your target, and someone tells you to turn back. Imagine how that would feel. I said, “What are you saying! I won’t go back.” He said that you still have rest of your life, try again you will eventually summit Everest. I said no. You don’t get golden chances like this again and again. It depends on you if you take these chances or let go. I never wanted to let go of my golden chance. because I knew how difficult it was for me to raise money and sponsorship If I leave it once, I won’t get this chance again. Finally, Bachendri ma’am and my mother had explained it to me once that sometimes in life, situations arise where you are all alone and only you have to take a decision, wherever you are, turn back to see and reflect that you have reached here step by step, just put forward your foot once more you’ll see after some time, you’ll be at the top. In my head, her words were playing like a video. And only the Everest top was on my mind. I first tried to convince the Sherpa, “Brother come, nothing will happen.” Finally, when he did not budge, I took a step forward. I took the decision that I’ll go forward without fail. We went ahead. In about one and a half hours, I was at the top. [applause] Not just that, even today every time I speak I feel it every time, I get goosebumps. If feel like raising both my hands up and to shout out loudly. To should so loudly that I can tell everyone that today I am at the top of the world. Tell those people who think that – firstly, a woman, secondly, handicapped, and then thirdly, from a middle class family [can’t do it], those people who after losing once don’t want to fight again Those who think they can’t do anything after failing. To shout from the top and tell all those people that “No, you can do everything, It’s all how you think!” A person is handicapped only [physically] not from the [mind] If a person is handicapped from the [mind], then normal people are handicapped too who are handicapped in the [mind]. I wanted to shout loudly and say this. [applause] I asked Sherpa to click a photo of mine because everyone does that. You get the sense of the value of a National Flag when you are out like this. I was also overjoyed. I hugged the flag, and asked for a photograph He replied, “Have you gone mad? Your oxygen can run out any moment. Climb down!” But I said no, and told him to click a photo. He clicked a photo. The next time he got so angry when I asked him, “Brother, make a video also” At the height of 8848 mts, and my oxygen is running out. Today I am laughing along with you because here there is sufficient oxygen. [laughs] And when at a height of 8848 Mts, if anyone were to ask the Sherpa to film a video, he was troubled – “Have you gone mad? You die here, I am going down!” I said, ” No, nothing will happen, you make a video.” Somehow I convinced him. I had taken four to five pairs of batteries with me, a disposable camera and a back-up camera, that if one doesn’t work another will. with proper planning. Maybe you all must be wondering why would this girl take such a huge risk, she could have lost her life any time. But I took that risk because I wanted it– I was also mentally prepared that I might not return alive I wanted that if I did not return alive, this video I told Sherpa to deliver this video to my India – so this would reach the youth. Because I wanted it… On April 11, 2011, I had an accident, on May 21, 2013 at 10:55 I was at the top of the world. [applause] Almost within one to two years… How?… from the [mind] from the [heart] to succeed… [this mission] had become my life, it had become my obsession, it had become my passion, my insistence. Sleeping or awake or sitting, I could only see Everest in front of my eyes. I feel that if anybody wantes to reach their target Until from the [mind] the madness comes, it won’t happen. Finally, he also made a video. Now he was asking me to quickly run down. When I was at the top, there were some more people there. At 10:55 I summited Everest, if someone tries to attempt after 11 we call it a suicide attempt. As soon as I started going back down, most of the deaths happen on the climb down on Everest. As I am coming down, I only reached so far and my oxygen completely ran out. You can only imagine when the oxygen runs out, what would have been my situation. I fell down on my side like this. Sherpa was saying to me that he didn’t think that I could summit Everest, but still you did it. He said, “I want you to return alive. Come, stand up.” He was repeatedly trying to make me stand up. I couldn’t stand up on my feet. Really, I had no strength. They say, like we have our own rules, God also has his own rules. If my name is not on his list, he can’t take me away. Secondly, my concept was fully clear now. When I was on the railway track, lying there for 7 hours 49 trains went up and down. My concept had become fully clear. The meaning of this is if God had saved me, then must be for creating some history. I took it in a positive way. And at the same time, a British climber was coming up. He had two oxygen cylinders, he threw one right there, and started going back down with the other one because the weather was really bad. My Sherpa anchored me and started going down and quickly brought it back and put it on me. He said, “Arunima, you are so lucky that you got oxygen here. Definitely, God wants you to stay alive.” He was calling me lucky again and again. Maybe there might be some of you who believe in luck and fate, I don’t know, may or may not I don’t want to hurt anyone’s sentiments But I do not believe in any of those things. My belief is that luck favours those who have the passion to win. If you don’t have the passion to win, then in all directions, there are only excuses, only excuses Maybe even if I had turned back and came I could have said that my oxygen ran out, nobody would have questioned me, neither Bachendri ma’am nor my family, no one would have come to ask me. But would have I been able to explain it to myself? Never. Finally, whatever it was luck, fate, or destiny… I was coming down. I was very happy, Mountains, dead bodies, and my Sherpa –– only they were there. I couldn’t even share it with anyone that I had summited Everest. Couldn’t share it with anyone. Quickly, pushing my heels into the ice I was coming down. In one whole piece, my entire prosthetic leg came off. The temperature goes down to – 60 degrees centigrade on Everest. My hand wouldn’t bend, and it had started bleeding. I was telling Sherpa. Already my leg is already amputated If this thought gets into my mind that they would have to amputate my hand too. How would it feel? There are 3 stages – red, blue and black. Mine was already red. If it turns black then they have to amputate it. Again and again I am telling my Sherpa that something is wrong with my hand There is no movement in my hand, there is all blood here. He said, “Nothing Arunima, the further down we go, the better it will get.” My prosthetic leg has already come off, I have stopped, my oxygen is still working, that I got because of whatever luck, fate, or destiny… My Sherpa is ahead of me, until the last moment he would try to convince me, but If I don’t move, he will simply leave me and go ahead It”s not his fault, what can he do, why risk his life because of a climber. It’s not his fault. At last, tears started rolling down my eyes. I thought, “What can I do now?” To cry….on its own it just happens, from somewhere tears come. The next moment, I understood that crying won’t help. I wiped my tears. I had a rope, I grabbed that rope, and grabbed my artificial leg with the other hand, and started to drag myself down. That’s all I had. The other option was to give up. Only two options. I started walking dragging my leg. After walking down for a while, there was a rock. We stopped, opened the leg and fixed it, and then started again. Camp 4 to the summit and summit to camp 4, it’s 3500 feet. People generally take 15-16 hours to summit it. It took me a total of 28 hours to summit. Every mountaineer, Indian or not, had assumed that Arunima won’t return alive. Everybody had assumed that. When I reach South Col camp again and opened the tent zip. Everyone said in shock, “Oh! you’re here, we thought you passed.” Everyone said that. After that we all were celebrating. To tell you all this I had only one intention – that everything in within us, we can do whatever we wish for. Already time limit is over. I will recite a 4-line poem. Actually my aim is to summit the highest peaks of all the continents Asia’s Everest is done, Africa’s Kilimanjaro is done, Europe’s Elbrus is done, On 23rd November, I am leaving for Australia for the highest peak there. All I need is your good wishes. Now the four lines: The real flight of this hawk is impending. The real flight of this hawk is impending. Right now, this bird is yet to be tested. Though I have leaped over the seas, the entire sky is remaining. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks a lot [applause]

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