Sunshine story: Mumbai entrepreneur assembles solar lamp atop peak in Africa

Updated: Feb 26, 2019, 14:27 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Mumbai entrepreneur Chirag Gander sends sustainability message to the world as he assembles solar lamp atop Uhuru peak in Africa

Chirag Gander with the Indian flag atop Uhuru
Chirag Gander with the Indian flag atop Uhuru

Chirag Gander can breathe much easier now than he did a few days ago atop Uhuru peak, the highest point in Africa at 19,341 feet. The weather was minus 15 degrees Celsius and the oxygen was "just 40 per cent of what we have on the ground," said the young entrepreneur, recalling his Kilimanjaro climb in Tanzania, which he began on February 3. It was "a challenging and philosophical journey" for the co-founder of The Minimalist, a design and digital consultancy in Andheri.

Solar, so good
"A year ago I realised that in the rush of starting my company, in the frenetic pace of work, I had neglected my health. I then decided to work out at a gym and started looking very seriously at my diet. A little more than a year ago, I could not climb a mountain of a 500m, a year later, I decided Uhuru was going to be my test," said Gander, an alumnus of IIT Bombay.

(From left) Swaroop Chougule, Akarsh Singh, Chirag Gander, Hari Shankar and Swapnil Chougule
(From left) Swaroop Chougule, Akarsh Singh, Chirag Gander, Hari Shankar and Swapnil Chougule

Gander, 25, even assembled a solar lamp at the top of the mountain. "It took me just 3.5 minutes. It was all about giving the world a message of sustainability." The chemical engineer was accompanied by four IIT batch mates on his climb. "We took 4.5 days to ascend and 1.5 days to descend from the peak. I had Akarsh Singh, Hari Shankar, Swapnil and Swaroop Chougule as very valuable climbing companions. They motivated me immensely."

Doubts are out
Chirag said like any other task, there are moments of darkness and doubt in climbing too. "The cold, altitude sickness, headaches made me question myself. Then I saw the snow on Uhuru one morning, the range bathed in a sunlit glow, and I decided there is no going back. I have to climb it." Now back home, Gander wants to tell people that it takes just one year to change your life, "if you really want to change it." Uhuru literally means freedom. "That was hugely apt to describe my state of mind right at the top — free from my own fears and inhibitions."

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