When life takes some tragic turn, do never fear; just add some epic twist to it. This is what did Arunima Sinha, the first Indian amputee to climb the Mount Everest. The second woman amputee in the world to achieve this milestone, Arunima was thrown off a moving train by thugs, losing her one leg and leaving the other utterly weakened. While being a subject of pity and the ridiculous stories that followed, she determined to make the most of her life and decided to climb Mount Everest. With one leg amputated, she succeeded in climbing the Mount Everest, the feat that brought her much recognition and respect, alongside a Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
In 1988, Arunima was born to a middle-class family of Ambedkarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. Her father was an engineer in the Army, and her mother worked as a supervisor with the health department.
Arunima belonged to a family where they enjoyed sports. And, she was naturally athletic as a child, though she had little professional aspirations for the same. She used to do cycling and loved playing football since early childhood. Arunima excelled at volleyball and played it at a national level too.
Arunima studied law and was confident about getting started on a robust career. However, things did not go well for her in the field. Following the suggestion from her family, she also applied to the Paramilitary Force, thinking that there she could get chances to take part in sports while earning a living as well. Despite many heartfelt tries, however, she didn’t get through.
In 2011, Arunima applied at CSIF. This time she got the call letter. But there she noticed an error in her one credential. Resolute not to lose such an opportunity due to a technical error, she decided to go to the officials immediately to get it correct.
The tragedy in the train
Arunima left for Delhi to get the mistake in her call-letter rectified. It was during Arunima’s journey to Delhi in a Padmavat Express when some rogues got in and tried to loot her. There were many people in the same compartment, but no one came to the rescue of a girl being robbed and attacked. A single but strong-willed lady, Arunima resisted much. Since the robbers were greater in number, they, at last, overpowered the 24-years old Arunima and heaved her out the running train. Arunima flew into an oncoming train, and the force threw her onto the parallel tracks. Before she could move off, a train ran over her left leg.
There, she stayed lay wrecked, bleeding on the tracks throughout the night. Later, in the morning, she was discovered by the nearby villagers. She was to be taken to the Bareilly District Hospital. But the process involved so many systematic hurdles from disinterested officials that she was left on the platform for hours before being taken to the hospital.
Hospitalization and afterward
Her leg had to be amputated from below the knee immediately to prevent further infection. Even the hospital had then run out of their anesthesia stock. With no choice and time left, the doctors had to execute the amputation while Arunima was still conscious.
Sooner, she was shifted to the AIIMS for better treatment and recovery. There, Arunima spent four months. She was later provided a prosthetic leg free of cost by a Delhi-based company.
The Indian Sports Ministry earlier offered her compensation of mere Rs 25000. But following the public outrage over such sheer mockery of a tragic incident, the state sports’ ministry announced an additional Rs. 2 lakhs as compensation as well as a recommendation for a job in the CISF. Indian Railways too offered her a position.
The controversial turns
Much to Arunima’s misery, a police inquiry of the incident rose much doubt on her version of the accident. The police report suggested that she was either attempting suicide or met with an accident while crossing the railway tracks. This was heartbreaking to Arunima who discredited these allegations as a shameless scheme to make her a scapegoat for the failure of railway administration. Later, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court ordered Indian Railways to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakhs to Arunima Sinha.
The decision to climb the Mount Everest
Lying on the hospital bed, in her most vulnerable moments, Arunima felt helpless to defend herself against the disgraceful controversy that started due to the false report the police made to the public forum. To prove herself, she pondered on the most unattainable she could do then and so decided to climb the Everest.
When she disclosed her plan to doctors, they thought that the accident had affected her mental health. Even she was jeered at for such an incredible ambition.
A woman on the mission
Firm in her mind to achieve the impossible, Arunima started to walk in just two days after her getting the prosthetic limbs. Once she had resolved that this was what she would do, it became for her the question of life and death. Straight out of the hospital she went to see Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb the Everest, who encouraged her much.
To prepare for her mission, she attended the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, to learn basic of rock climbing. This was followed by a period of rigorous training for one and a half year. At first, she used to climb smaller mountains. During the practice sessions, she got a couple of near death experiences and underwent mind-numbing, exhausting, guts crushing pain. A grant from NIM supported her prospect. Then, Tata Steel also came to her help by sponsoring her climbing venture.
The historic climb
On the 1st of April 2013, Sinha and Susen Mahto, her instructor, commenced on their ascent of the Mount Everest. As it was expected, the mission turned out more deadly than ever. Her prosthetic limb posed some unique problems. The ankle and heel would twist as she climbed, causing her to lose grip often. The right leg was held intact by a steel rod and any pressure sent up twinges of sharp ache. Her instructor almost refused to accompany her, assuring that it was a suicidal undertaking.
The climbing is to be completed in four sessions on route to the peak. Once you’ve reached the fourth stage, there is now only 3500 feet to the summit. That area is known as the Death Zone, infamous for so many lives it has claimed. After reaching there, Arunima witnessed dead bodies of erstwhile climbers strewn all around. A fellow climber she had met earlier breathed his last right before her. It was more than horrible there. But ignoring the cold fear encroaching through her heart, she continued her climb stoically.
At last, after suffering and toiling so much, Arunima made it to the summit of Mount Everest on 21 May 2013, booking her place in the history of climbing. All over, it took her 52 days to reach there. In her moment of absolute happiness, she wrote a small message thanking God on a wrapped cloth and waved the Indian national flag.
Her remarkable achievement was applauded and praised widely. Indian Sports Minister Jitendra Singh congratulated her. The then CM of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, acknowledged her accomplishment and rewarded with an amount of Rs. 25 lakhs.
Her distinguished exploit brought her a Padma Shri in 2015.
PM Narendra Modi also honored Arunima and personally launched her book, “Born again on the mountain”, in 2014.
An exemplary personality
Now, Arunima aims to climb the highest peaks of every continent and unfurl the national flag there. She has already climbed many mountains beside Everest, like Kilimanjaro in Africa, Elbrus in Europe, Kosciuszko, Australia, etc.
Now, Arunima is dedicated toward social welfare, and she wants to open a free sports academy for the poor and differently-abled people. She is donating all the financial aids she is getting through awards and seminars for the same cause. The academy is to be named Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Vikalang Khel Academy. At present, they don’t have a building or campus of their own. The institute uses other people’s fields. Despite the lack of support and facility, the students are trained in the best possible way. There lies a long road ahead and to give this non-profit enterprise a definite shape, a lot of money is needed for which Anurima is working harder as ever.