The 11-year-old’s dream of climbing Mount Everest was dashed by the earthquake but she returned home unscathed, thanks to the Indian Air Force’s rescue operation and fellow trekkers who kept her spirits high
Since the age of five, trekking has been Shravani Kulkarni’s greatest passion. When her father agreed to an expedition to Mount Everest, it was like a dream come true, but she had no idea how quickly the trip would turn into a nightmare.
Shravani poses with a few members of the rescue team
Three days into the trek, the earthquake hit Nepal, leaving the nation and Shravani’s plans in shambles. It took four days before she and her father finally made it back home to Daund yesterday, but disappointed as she is, Shravani is grateful to God for giving her a “second life”.
Also read: Things you must know about earthquake
The 11-year-old and her father, Abhijeet (35) were amongst 16 tourists headed to Nepal from Pune. After two days of trekking, the group reached Namche village, where they were to enjoy a day of rest at Kamal Hotel. Shravani and her father decided to do some sightseeing and shopping instead.
“On April 25, my father and I visited a local temple where we prayed for a safe trip. Later, while we were at a shop, everything began shaking. At first I thought I was fainting, but then I realised it was an earthquake. I had only seen such images in movies,” recalled Shravani.
The father-daughter duo went to an open space for safety and then tried to contact their fellow travellers. The tremors had woken the rest of the group, and everyone went out of the hotel. “Our hotel was made of wood; we felt the whole building swinging.
When we went out, we saw that all the nearby hotels had collapsed and only ours was still standing,” said Shailesh Mishra, one of the trekkers who hails from Hadapsar, Pune. Shravani and her father caught up with the rest of the group outside the hotel.
They realised that they had left all their belongings in their rooms, but could not get in as the owner had locked the building and left. “Some of us had run out wearing just shorts and most of us were barefoot. We had no food or water, and there were rumours that bigger tremors were coming.
But Shravani is a very young girl, and we did not want to scare her, so we diverted her by sharing jokes and singing songs and playing antakshari,” Mishra added. The group climbed up the hotel windows to collect basic necessities warmwear, documents, water, etc.
They climbed up a hilltop and set up camp there, waiting through yet another quake. Locals provided a little water, but all the group had to eat was dry fruits. “We split each nut in two and shared it amongst us so the dry fruits would last longer. After another earthquake struck, we shifted camp near the police check post.
The next day the police shifted us to Lukla village. This was lucky, because the same day, the check post was washed out in a landslide. After seeing this, many of us lost hope all hope of living to see the next day,” recalled Uday Harpale, who was also in the group.
“We kept hearing rumours of more tremors and I prayed to God, asking him to send Shaktiman to save us. Ultimately though, it was the Air Force which saved us,” said Shravani. On Tuesday, the group was airlifted out of Lukla village by a helicopter and taken to Kathmandu airport, from where an Air Force plane ferried them to New Delhi the same night.
Impatient to get home, they didn’t bother to wait for free train tickets being handed out by the Maharashtra government, and instead booked flights home. Having reached the safety of her home yesterday, Shavani is now looking forward to climbing Mount Everest in the future some day.
“I had wanted to wait for a few days and then try the trek again, but my father didn’t agree. My dream was crushd this time, but I will surely fulfil it some day,” she said.
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