Monday, May 27, 2024

Dil Se :Poorna Malavath summiting mountains within and without

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Poorna Malavath made Telangana proud on May 25, 2014 when she climbed Mount Everest at the age of 13 years and 11 months, becoming the youngest Indian and the youngest female to have reached the summit. The icing on the cake was her rock-solid determination to do the Seven Summits – climbing the highest mountains of each of the seven traditional continents, first done on 30 April 1985 by Richard Bass.

After her conquest of Everest (Asia, 2014), she did Kilimanjaro (Africa, 2016); Elbrus (Europe, 2017); Aconcagua (South America, 2019); Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania region, 2019); Vinson Massif (Antarctica, 2019); and Denali (North America, 2022). 

The 22-year-old, in a conversation with The Pioneer’s Deepika Pasham, shares the high points of her arduous journey so far as well as unfinished agenda. Her refrain is that everybody must taste the adventure of mountain climbing at least once in their lifetime. She herself is not yet done with summiting mountains within and without. She looks forward to pursuing her passion while carrying along interested summiteers.

Momentous selection

While I was studying ninth grade in the residential school, I got selected for the Rock Climbing School of Bhongir at a time when I was active in various sports and other activities. I was sports leader, and a running competition was conducted. Among thousands of students from Andhra Pradesh, only 110 were selected. And then it came down to 10; later,it was reduced to two. Subsequently, I had a five-day course. That was the first time I interacted with people outside my village.

First climb

My first attempt was to climb Mount Renockin Darjeeling. We were trained for one month. Later, we went on a winter expedition to the mountains in Ladakh. The final list of students was selected only after this crucial testing on high altitude mountains.

Education

I am from Pakala village of the erstwhile Nizamabad district. Till my fifth grade, I studied in one of the government schoolsin our village. Later, till my Intermediate second year, I was shifted to the Tadavi Residential School. I did my BA (History, Economics and Political Science) and MA (Political Science) from Osmania University.

Childhood dream to become police officer

Initially, there was no goal. As everyone around me would fear one uniform — that of a police officer — I wanted to become a police officer. I then never knew about IPS, IAS and other AIS.

Momentous selection

While I was studying ninth grade in the residential school, I got selected for the Rock Climbing School of Bhongir at a time when I was active in various sports and other activities. I was sports leader, and a running competition was conducted.

Among thousands of students from Andhra Pradesh, only 110 were selected. And then it came down to 10; later,it was reduced to two. Subsequently, I had a five-day course. That was the first time I interacted with people outside my village.

Parents, brother backbone

They believed in my training and in my coach Shaker Babu, Arjuna awardee. Parents must be friendly. Both my parents are farmers and friendly. They explainedto us that major decisions must be communicated to elders in the family. At one point, when my father fell ill, I thought I would not be able to continue climbing. But he is doing good now. My brother is my first friend.

Bond with Praveen Kumar, IPS

It was all government funding from the Rock Climbing School to Mt Everest, thanks to Praveen Kumar, who was then Secretary for Residential Schools. The government intended to support only two for Mt Everest and we received that with the help of Praveen Kumar. He has been one of the inspirations in my life. He has since entered politics but keeps mentoring me.

Mount Everest

What is important is the mental preparedness to climb Everest and we must decide to respect the outcome, be it failure or success. Firstly, we have no idea whether we will be back alive. For three long months, we were trained specially and each single day our training regimen included 25-km jog, meditation, and yoga.

Leading teams

Once everyone must taste adventure. I learnt a lot while climbing mountains. Now I don’t want the role of an employee and be under one person because I willbe restrained from assisting people. I am training myself to lead teams of mountaineers. This passion will be my profession. I will invite people. I will help people beyond my circle and be a coach one day.

Academic planning

My mountain climbing was planned during the holidays. I would complete my training in the college playground in the morning. Once I had missed one semester and wrote the supplementary examinations later. My teachers have been a great support system.

Building confidence in girls

We have started working together to educate girls on mountain climbing. I have apartner Kavya, an Astro scientist. She is living in the USA but belongs to Kamareddy of Telangana. We have a project namely ‘Shakti’ with the concept of ‘We climb for girls’. 

The Project Shakti team members have successfully climbed an un-scaled mountain at an altitude of 6,021 metres in Ladakh.We raise funds whenever we climb, and it is totally sponsored for girls, beginning from education to any girl in and across Telangana.

Tough lesson

Mountain climbing is never a question of competing with another person. Every time you are judged on whether you could climb or not. If health or temperature is not supporting, it is better to return and attempt some other time because mountains won’t move, and we can try any number of times. I had faced this in climbing Mount Denali.

For this mountain, we have no porters, only guides. We must carry our own load and though the dry weather, our team member was unwell and the next day when climate forecast was dry, after climbing, we faced storm and had to come back. I never felt sick in any of the 10 mountains I have climbed.

Meeting Prime Minister

When the movie ‘Poorna: Courage Has No Limit’, based on my life story was released in 2017 (directed by Rahul Bose), we met Prime Minister Narendra Modi many times and ex-President Pranab Mukherjee. We never knew the Prime Minister would give us 45 minutes and I felt very happy. We were asked about our experiences in sports.

Free time

Previously I used to sit outside my village. We used to go around farms. We used this method to communicate as we don’t have other networks. In the village, people are our sources for information. These days I rarely visit my village. It is usually during festivals that I visit my village.

Disadvantage for rural families

Mountaineering is not being encouraged in rural places. And in areas where parents come forward, there is nobody to invest in the child or fund his plans. Corporates and the government must set up an institution to train talented students.

Rapid fire

Describe yourself: Dedicated, hardworking andpositive attitude
Fav colour: Black, white andblue
Fav actor: I watch lot movies, depends on acting
Fav food: Chicken
Religious or
spiritual:
I am both

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