24 October, 2020

The Inner Himalayas

Bachendri Pal became the first Indian woman to climb Everest

Jitender Gupta
The Inner Himalayas

If someone had told Bachendri Pal before May 23, 1984, that her life would change forever after climbing Mount Everest, she would probably have laughed. That’s what the villagers of Nakuri did when they saw Bachendri train for the climb. “Bachendri is trying to restore the height of our eroded hills,” they jeered as they watched her climb up the hill with a load of rocks in her rucksack. Her father, who made a bare living by farming, joined in good-naturedly: “After her degrees, Bachendri has found no job she likes as much as a coolie’s”. But her mother, a Garhwali villager who’d worked hard to educate Bachendri, was upset. Bachendri was the first person in Nakuri with M.A. and BEd degrees, and the last thing her mother wanted her to do was to haul rocks up hills. It seemed too close to her own life of climbing everyday for water and firewood.

Like many girls, Bachendri dreamt of a secure job and perhaps meeting her hero, Indira Gandhi. But she didn’t know how, except to study hard and...



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