This morning’s news in India has, as usual, been filled with news of scams and scandals – what with more gory details of the spot-fixing episode that grips cricket in India and the story of self-destruction by a dynamic CEO of a large IT company hogging the headlines! But the story that caught my attention, buried in the inside pages of most papers, filled me with hope, enthusiasm and offered me a teachable point of view.
This is the story of 26-year-old national Volleyball champion Arunima Sinha, who, yesterday, became the first Indian amputee to scale Mt.Everest. What’s remarkable is not only that Arunima is a woman or that she is an amputee. What’s remarkable is that she overcame tragedy, several odds, enormous pain and bounced back in record time – in about 24 months since she was thrown off a moving train in April 2011 for resisting a chain-snatching attempt by some criminals! She landed on the tracks and before she knew it a train approaching from the opposite direction had run over her left leg. To save her Life, doctors had to amputate her left leg below the knee. Arunima says she decided to fight back because she did not want people to look at her with “pity”. Her accident made national headlines because of the apathy the government showed in offering her support despite her being a national sports champion. The Sports Ministry offered her just Rs.25,000 (USD 500 approx) as compensation before it was upped to Rs.200,000 (USD 4000 approx) following a nation-wide outcry. Cricketer Yuvraj Singh offered her Rs.200,000 in his personal capacity to support her treatment and rehabilitation. Arunima decided to overcome her crippling injury and decided to think of doing something “audacious” for an amputee. The Tata Steel Adventure Foundation and the first Indian woman Everest summiteer Bachendri Pal supported her Vision which finally came true yesterday as she scaled the world’s tallest peak.
Arunima’s story is hugely inspiring.
All of us, like her, will encounter pain and tragedy in Life. We will fall. And simply not feel like getting up. As a national sports champion, in the prime of your sporting years, imagine losing a limb for no fault of yours. Imagine having to face up to an indifferent establishment that makes a mockery of the role that it has been set up to play. Both these can depress and anger the bravest heart. The initial response will be to pity oneself and will be to seethe with anger over the helplessness to do anything to set things right, to avenge the situation and to bring an apathetic administration to book. Any of us would have responded similarly, in our own tragic situations – with self-pity, depression, anger and cynicism. We may have ended up becoming bitter with Life.
But Arunima flipped the paradigm. She rejected pity and looked for something that seemed impossible to achieve and immersed herself in its pursuit. This shut out all negativity from her. When your Life has a purposeful pursuit, it begins to matter. Through her resolve and intent she connected with the right partners and did what most people would not even dare thinking about!
Remember that when pain and tragedy come calling, they don’t choose their targets basis income or social strata. Each of us is vulnerable at least as long as we are alive! The immediate response to tragedy is to grieve, to pity oneself and to plunge into depression. Arunima inspires us to look the other way. She invites us to take the situation head-on by thinking of doing the unthinkable in such a context. Life loves people like Arunima who pick up the gauntlet it throws. Then the same Life that created the tragedy in the first place conspires to make it a celebration – of hope, faith, patience and triumph!