The first woman amputee to climb Mount Everest, Arunima Sinha (25), who was in Mumbai on Monday, revealed her plans to set up a sports academy for the disabled. The gutsy young woman, who lost her leg in a ghastly train robbery two years ago, has bought 10 acres of land in Unnao district, Lucknow for the purpose.
Arunima was in Mumbai to mark the silver jubilee of SIES College of Commerce and Economics and received an award from former president A P J Abdul Kalam for scaling the Everest. Kalam honoured Arunima with a Rs 1 lakh cheque among other souvenirs.
Speaking to MiD DAY Arunima said, “After scaling the Everest, my aim is now to set up a sports academy of international standards for children, including the disabled. I have invested all my savings in procuring the land. The estimated cost for the academy is over Rs 15 crore, and to be honest, I do not even have Rs 15 with me at present. But I am confident of setting up my dream project one day.”
She added, “I would provide free training to disabled children and they would also be trained in mountaineering.”
Arunima, a resident of Ambedkar Nagar, Lucknow, has already started giving mountaineering training to around 20 kids, some of them disabled, in the age group of 10-15 from her village, for free.
The young woman is a postgraduate in Arts and holds a law degree specialising in criminology from Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya Awadh University. A daughter of a former Indian Army soldier, she started playing volleyball when she was in Std VI, despite opposition from villagers against girls wearing a tracksuit. Her family supported her and over time she became a national player. But the life she knew changed forever on April 11, 2011.
A black night
Arunima had cleared her written and physical tests for joining the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) as a sub-inspector, but wanted to correct her year of birth in the documents from 1986 to 1988. So, on April 11, 2011, she boarded the general compartment of the Lucknow-Delhi Padmavati Express to head to the Capital.
The compartment was crowded but Arunima managed to find a place to sit. A few hours later around 1 am, six armed men barged into the coach and tried to snatch her gold chain and bag.
Recounting the incident, Arunima said, “I resisted but they pushed me out of the moving train. I fell on the adjacent tracks and a train passed over them. It was pitch dark and I couldn’t see anything. I was in immense pain and did not know that my left leg had been cut and was bleeding profusely. I had also injured my right leg and hands. I screamed for help, but no one was around.
“The entire incident happened within three to four minutes and none of the commuters could even intervene. The space between the two track lines was so small that I had to be cautious not to stretch my hands, as a train could have run over them too.
“I was very much in my senses. I could feel the trains passing by and, at times, even the waste from train toilets falling on me -- I could not even wipe it off.”
The next morning, a young boy came to the tracks to answer nature’s call and saw Arunima. He alerted the villagers who took her to the nearest railway station, which did not even have a stretcher -- she was laid on the platform, blood oozing from her wounds. Her right leg had been shattered, the bone was jutting out, the stump of her left leg held in place with her outfit. She was then shifted to Bareilly district hospital and later to Lucknow trauma centre before being airlifted to AIIMS, Delhi. After spending four months at AIIMS, she was given a free prosthetic leg by a USA-based firm with a branch in Delhi.
Two years after the incident, the railway police have not been able to arrest any of the six men who threw Arunima out of the speeding train.
Yen for the peak
While in hospital, Arunima came across a newspaper ad on an Everest expedition and decided to participate. Her elder brother Omprakash (40), former head constable with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) encouraged and assisted her to realise her dream.
“Initially people disbelieved and discouraged me but my family stood by me. I was determined to put in my best to climb the Everest. Bachendri Pal (first Indian woman to climb Everest) supported and trained me.”
Arunima started her expedition on April 1, 2013 with Susan Mahto, a mountaineer from Jharkhand. She had successfully scaled the 6,622-metre Mount Chhamser Kangri in Ladakh in 2012 with Mahto. Ten days later, Arunima scaled the summit of Island Peak which is 6,160 metres above sea level, and proceeded to scale the highest point, succeeding in her mission on May 21, 2013.
Arunima said, “Throughout the journey, I faced life and death situations. I was bleeding at most points but continued my climb with an artificial leg and a rod in the other. But I was determined to climb the peak, and this determination helped chisel my will power.
“On May 25, 2013, I finally returned to the base camp. I had collected a few stones from the highest peak as remembrance. I recorded a small video from the peak, which I have uploaded on YouTube.”
Asked about acid attacks and the spate in crimes against women in local trains, Arunima said, “The men who are indulging in such cruelty should be ashamed of themselves. The victims should face all odds and fight for their dignity and respect.”
She added, “I would say that one should keep fighting and set a goal. Only then great heights can be achieved, with sincere hard work and determination.” Arunima will leave for her hometown today.