Youngest Woman In The World To Climb Kanchenjunga, Sheetal Defied Odds To Fulfill Her Dreams
- IWB Post
- September 12, 2018
Meet 22-year-old Sheetal, the youngest woman in the world to climb Kanchenjunga, the highest mountain in India. Born in Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand, she is the daughter of a taxi driver and leads a life of a pahadi woman- cooking for her family, getting fuel and fodder from forests and milk from cows. But her life is very different from the other women in her village- she is busy fulfilling her dreams.
“After I passed class 10, my grandmother arranged a marriage for me. I was only 15. My parents supported her out of respect. But I refused to bow down to the pressure. I wanted to do something with my life. It’s only after my grandmother passed away two years later that I was able to get out of the situation,” said Sheetal.
Today, her classmates are either married or about to tie the knot. Some are busy raising their children. “Some of them have two children. We don’t get to meet often, but when we do, they say, ‘‘Teri to life ban gayi hai. Kaash hum bhi shaadi nahi karte (You are doing well in your life. We wish we were also not married),’” she said.
While that’s the schedule her friends follow, hers begins with a 10-km walk every day. “With a husband, kids and parents-in-law, their life isn’t theirs anymore. They have to take care of other people more than themselves. But I am following my dreams,” she said.
Currently, she is busy in her preparations for the Panchachuli expedition in the Kumaon Himalayas, which will take off in October.
“It’s common to think of a girl child as a burden and marry her off as early as possible,” said Sheetal’s mother, Sapna Devi.
For Sheetal, the biggest hurdle is arranging funds for her dream as her father’s rented taxi rides barely provide for her family. “My friends in the National Cadet Corps and rock-climbing clubs paid for mountaineering courses. I didn’t even have ₹800 for the membership fees of the Indian Mountaineering Federation. They helped me out,” said Sheetal whose expedition to Kanchenjunga was funded by ONGC.
“Scaling Everest won’t be possible without any sponsorship or support from the government,” she said. “I want to climb all the highest 14 peaks of the world. My journey has just begun.”