Amidst the tragedies, calamities and images of doomsday that is part and parcel of newspaper reading these days, May 22nd edition had a rare, bucking the trend, glimmer of cheer. On the day before, Arunima Sinha, a gutsy lady in her mid twenties became the first Indian amputee to scale Mount Everest.
A former national level volleyball player, she had the misfortune of being pushed off a train carriage by thieves while reportedly resisting a snatching attempt two years back. She found herself in front of another passing train which cost her one of her legs. Refusing to be an object of pity, with the help of prosthetics, she donned a new leg and a new occupation – that of a mountaineer. Ascent to the world’s tallest peak is no mean feat for a person even with two able legs. And I shudder to think what a test of supreme resolve and resilience it would have been for her at such inhospitable altitudes.
Arunima’s struggle reminds me of what Daniel Coyle referred to in his best-seller Talent Code, when he talked about capturing failure and turning it into skill. Arunima shows us how we can leverage ourselves from the lowest point in our lives to spring ahead instead of drowning ourselves in our negativity. It indeed would have been “deep practice” when she would have taken the many small steps right from standing to walking to trekking to mountaineering, with few victories and numerous failures along the way. Arunima was literally “seeking out the slippery hills” and “operating at the edges” of her ability, when she made the seventeen hour long slow arduous trek to the summit of the earth.
Last month, Jothy Rosenberg, another shining example of somebody who has turned disability to superability, came out in support of persons who lost their limbs in Boston marathon blasts. At sixteen, he himself had lost one of his legs and at nineteen, one of his lungs to cancer. Today he is a serial entrepreneur in the high-tech industry, has written three technical books, is an extreme athlete in skiing, biking and open water swimming and has completed his 20th Alcatraz swim across San Francisco Bay! As somebody who does not even have a single adventurous bone to boast of, I am flabbergasted: how does he do it; while he challenges the world “Who says I can’t?”
Jothy’s and Arunima’s accomplishments ultimately are not tales of physical endurance; rather of human domination through mental might. Their stories tell us however daunting a task it seems to be, the naysayers within us and around us can be silenced and overpowered. In a day when the Indian newspapers are flooded with accounts of spot-fixing in cricket IPL, we may tend to grieve the death of expertise and narrowness of human actions; but small headlines of triumphs like that of Arunima’s inspire us to celebrate the best of what it is to be human – and to rejoice at the best of what humans can achieve if they have committed their minds and bodies to the endeavour. Arunima, for our own sakes, we eagerly await the news of your further conquests.