In April 2011, 24 years old Arunima Sinha boarded the Padmavat Express from Lucknow to Delhi to take the CISF entrance exam. A few thugs gathered around her and started tugging at the gold chain she was wearing – a gift from her mother.
When she resisted, they threw her onto the tracks, where an incoming train ran over her left leg. And life as she knew it changed forever.
“I had a very happy and adventurous childhood. I was born in Ambedkarnagar near Lucknow, my father was in the army and we had a very disciplined environment at home. After my father died, I was brought up by my mother,” says Arunima. His history.
Since childhood, Arunima was inclined to sports, loved cycling and football although volleyball was his first love. She became a national volleyball player and her goal was to join the paramilitary forces.
When life changed forever
Recalling the incident that changed her life, she says, “Imagine a normal girl who was doing all her work using her hands and legs, and suddenly one day she loses part of her body. It is indeed very difficult to live the life of an amputee, but if you start looking from another angle, everything changes. Lying on the hospital bed, I decided to take the hardest jump in life and even thought to myself that there must be a reason why the Almighty kept me alive even after such a traumatic incident, and that surely means history is being made. .”
Arunima felt the immense pain amid the various reactions surrounding the incident. People wondered if she had suicide in mind, and some even went so far as to insinuate that she had traveled without a train ticket.
She was anxious and angry, but she says she also felt a strange sense of comfort – that she would be back to normal.
Arunima’s immediate goal and dream were big – Mount Everest – but the reaction drew lots of laughs and jokes.
“I felt bad, but I also knew that was part of life because when you start thinking big, nobody really supports you or your decision, but once you do, everything falls into place and the people start to like you. When you begin to direct your thoughts in one direction and convince yourself that there is no other way out, that is when you will succeed. Imagine that you are made to run with a dog; you won’t be able to win against him, but imagine how fast you can run once he starts chasing you,” she says.
“Similarly, if you have options in life, your mind will be unable to decide; Instead, focus on achieving a goal and you can achieve it. My broken leg reminded me to move on in life and achieve my goal,” she adds.
Once the decision was made, his mother said to him: “In your journey, if you ever feel that you may not be able to do it, look back and be proud of having come this far, it’s just a matter of a few more steps and you will arrive at your destination. This strong support has also been Arunima’s guiding principle in life.
Climb the summit
Two years after the accident, Arunima reached the summit of Everest on May 21, 2013. It took 18 months of rigorous training and several leaps of faith.
Since then, she has climbed several summits on seven continents.
“I have yet to climb Denali, the highest peak in North America. Each mountain has its own challenges, but I believe the biggest challenge is your mental stability. There were times in my journey to Everest where my prosthetic leg came out, or my ankle twisted, heel came over toe, lack of oxygen. On my trip to Mount Vinson, no one trusted me, even though I had climbed so many mountains before. It’s sad sometimes when people don’t really trust your mental toughness and start judging you on your physical abilities,” she says.
Her biggest challenge was getting people to understand that she “could do it”.
Arunima’s life and work is the subject of a special Women’s Day film on the National Geographic Channel, featured in the ‘Women of Impact’ series. As India’s first female amputee to climb Mount Everest, the film shines a light on her spirit and zest for making impossible dreams come true.
According to her, if there has been progress in the way people perceive the disabled in India, it is still largely sympathy, not empathy.
“There are groups of people who represent people with physical disabilities for their own good. For that, I believe, there needs to be increased awareness. Although the government is doing its part, more efforts are needed from the public for the well-being of people with disabilities. Regarding my work, I have contributed to our Prime Minister’s Skill India Yojana, and through it, I have trained students from various sectors such as IT, Retail and Hospitality, and helped them complete internships while guiding them in the sport by taking them to national and international levels,” she says.
His vision is to build a sports academy for people with disabilities, giving them a space of their own and instilling in them the confidence to play the sport they love.
Arunima has set her sights on the North and South Poles and is working there.
“I just want to say to all young people, male or female, never underestimate yourself and have the utmost confidence in yourself. Just set a goal that you want to accomplish and work towards it diligently. If you have a goal, you will fulfill your mission one day,” she says as she signs off.