“A person is handicapped from the body, not the mind. If a person is handicapped from the mind then a normal person is also handicapped," Arunima Sinha says while passionately sharing her excruciating climb to Mt. Everest at INKtalks. In 2013, Sinha made headlines around the world as the 'First Female Amputee' to complete the gargantuan 29,035ft (8,850m) journey to the top of the world, Mt. Everest. This was merely two years after Sinha had met with a tragic accident that left her with an amputated leg.
In 2011, while travelling from Lucknow to Delhi, Sinha was confronted with a bunch of thieves that were trying to snatch her gold necklace. Shockingly, Sinha had to struggle against the 4-5 muggers 'single-handedly' without any interference from the much crowded compartment, and her bravery was appreciated by her getting shoved outside the speeding train. Just as she was pushed outside, Sinha was hit by a train passing on the adjacent track that ran over her legs. "After a while when I tried to lift myself, I noticed that my legs had cut-off." In this moment of agony and pain, Sinha watched her leg get nibbled by rats, eventually her vision dimmed and she survived an entire night in isolation in that crucifying situation.
"In the morning, some villagers arrived and took me to a local hospital." The hospital, not being fully equipped with appropriate medical apparatus required to conduct a surgery, was forced to cut her left leg below the knee without anaesthesia, after insistence from Sinha. Four months after the accident while Sinha was recovering from multiple grave injuries, she recounted how some individuals in society were fabricating an appalling version of her story including that her accident was a suicide attempt. "I had decided that I will prove who I am and what I am capable of and that is when I decided that I want to go for mountaineering," she asserts.
Sinha, a former national volleyball player, hadn't even completely recovered from the accident, and she approached Bachendri Pal, the first Indian female to summit Everest, asking Pal for guidance and training in her mission to climb the Everest.
In contrast to other mountaineers, Sinha's laborious training was quite distinct. Initially, it took her 3 hours to walk a distance that would only take 2 minutes for other mountaineers, but within eight months Sinha had recovered her timing to actually get ahead of others.
When a climber sets off on the Everest expedition, they are allotted a Sherpa, a climber's guide to the peak. When Sinha's Sherpa learnt that she had one prosthetic leg and a metal rod in the other, he resisted accompanying her saying she might die on the journey. Only after insistence from her brother-in-law and Pal, did the Sherpa agree to go with her.
"I encountered dead bodies, while I was climbing ahead of Camp 3. I was terrified. I stood there for 10-15 minutes and said 'if you (dead bodies) have completed the summit then that it is alright but if you haven't then I will complete the summit for you and go back alive."
"When I was close enough to the peak, my Sherpa told me that 'Arunima, you should go back because you are running out of oxygen.' And I told him 'what are you saying, I am not turning back now." Within one to one and half hour Sinha was literally 'on top of the world.'"
"I felt like shouting out to everyone and telling them that I am on top of the world." In this moment of endurance, Sinha could only feel pride and exhilaration while she embraced her national flag. However, Sinha was extremely short of oxygen and shortly after she commenced her journey back to base camp, her oxygen completely ran out. Around this time, a British climber who was climbing up with two cylinders had to turn back due to bad weather. Sinha's Sherpa rushed down to get that cylinder and gave it to her.
This inspiring and spirited mountaineer's journey has been celebrated and applauded not only in India, but all over the globe. "My doctor actually told me that my prosthetic leg is for walking and not climbing," Sinha says proudly while describing her accomplishment.
"My aim is to climb the top peaks of the all the continents," and so far she has conquered Asia's Mt. Everest, Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro and Europe's Elbrus. Her next destination is Australia's Mt. Kosciuszko.
Currently, Sinha is working towards her sports academy - Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Azad Viklang Khel Academy that will train athletes with physical disabilities for national and international competitions. "PM of India Mr. Narendra Modi launched my book Born Again on a Mountain in December 2014 and assured me that he will assist me in the completion of the project but we are also relying on private donations to speed up the project."
With her undying zeal and fortitude, Sinha has already proved that there is nothing stopping her from achieving her goals. This inspirational figure has proven that there is no physical barrier stopping anyone as long as your mind and heart are resolute enough to chase after a dream.