Meet the SHEROES - Tashi & Nungshi Malik
Tashi & Nungshi Malik are the first ever twin sisters to climb the mighty Everest. After completing all mountaineering courses at NIM, Uttarkashi, and the sisters pledge to conquer the tallest peak in each of the 7 continents. They already have scaled six and are now aiming for the seventh for the cause of the Indian Girl Child in December. Here is our conversation with the twins -
Tell us about yourselves
To us, climbing Mt Everest affirms our long held belief, ‘dream big, and then achieve it’. That’s what characterizes the young Indians of 21st century! Both of us have been those ‘school changers’ because our father was in the army. But we think that’s made us adaptable to situations, which is quite necessary when you’re climbing extreme altitudes. And both of us have a couple of other things in common too ¾ Bachelors in Journalism, attending workshops like ‘Conflict Transformation Across Cultures’ in US and in Nepal, and ‘South Asia Peace Workshop’ in Sri Lanka. And of course, our love for long treks with nature!
We love sports. Tashi loves hockey, table tennis, basketball and badminton and dapples in all of them, but I prefer sticking to hockey.
What was the inspiration behind taking up mountaineering?
We give all the credit to our father, for his initiating us into mountaineering, following through and regular mentoring. Incidentally, our father himself has been superbly fit (as a cadet, he won several cross country medals at the National Defence Academy, Parachute regiment medal for being ‘toughest gentleman cadet in the passing out course’ at the Indian Military Academy and as Lieutenant won the ‘Commando Dagger’ for obtaining distinction and standing first on the Commando Course at the Infantry School). In addition, he topped almost all army courses he attended, obtaining ‘A’ and ‘fit to be instructor’ on each course. We think that somewhere at the subconscious level, our parents’ standards, achievements and vision do influence our own! We heard so many good words in superlatives for our father from his colleagues and superiors both in the army and later in the civil and because we are more friends now than ‘parent-child’ that we abundantly benefited from him.
Here we recollect how after our 12th (in which we both excelled with Tashi standing first among girls in the school and I was third), when most parents are busy hunting best colleges for their children’s admissions, dad called us and said, ‘with all the knowledge of the world now available on your lap (top), why don’t you do BA by correspondence, and in the time thus saved from a typical college life, do as many extra things as you like….these three years and the numerous activities you undertake, will give you good opportunity to discover where you heart is, what you’d like to become and develop a deeper vision of life. We couldn’t agree more. The idea of staying in the salubrious climate of Dehradun and the possibility of exploring ever newer horizons was incredibly exciting! So we enrolled in a Bachelor’s degree through distance education at Sikkim Manipal University. And it is this decision, which also led to us getting the time to do so many mountaineering courses! In all this sense, our father has been our biggest inspiration in life.
What is mission 2for7 about?
You know we had to spend nearly seven weeks at the Everest base camp acclimatizing and waiting for the window of opportunity for the final summit push. The base camp had nearly 700 aspirants for the summit, climbers who came from across the globe. This period of ‘waiting out’ is also the period of meeting other climbers, exchanging ideas and experiences, seeking advice and exploring climbing opportunities in other parts of the globe.
It was during one of these conversations, that we came across few mountaineers who were on their ‘seven summit’ journey and Everest was their last of the circuit. We were quite excited about the idea and since in our case Everest was our 2nd peak of the seven summit circuit (earlier we had climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, the easiest of all), we had decided that if we succeeded in scaling Everest, we were even better prepared to take on the ‘seven summits’. God has been very kind and we have made it to the top of the highest peak sin six continents in our first attempts. And all this, without any serious injuries or bodily harm is a rare joy!
How are you combining this challenge with your message of female empowerment?
Climbing Everest was a personal dream. But #mission2for7 was inspired by our concern for the girl child and gender equality issues in the country. While at Everest base camp for over 7 weeks, having to brave long wait for a clear weather window to make final summit push for Everest, we often discussed with each other on how to combine our passion for mountaineering with a much bigger purpose, so that our achievements do not benefit only us but our society at large. There we met many mountaineers and several suggested that doing the ‘Seven Summits’ was like entering the hall of fame of mountaineers. We liked the idea both to pursue our passion to the hilt, as well as for its social value…to inspire our girls and women to dream and exceed their goals. Of course, by then we had also learnt that no siblings had done this before! We’ll like to share a few details of our #mission2for7.
Through our achievements, promote mountaineering as a sport.Encourage the girl child to dream and achieve. We want to win on behalf of all girl children
We too are girls, with roots in one of the most conservative rural areas of Northern India (Haryana) with one of the worst sex ratios and heinous gender violence. We feel the pain of the blatant and epidemic violation of our girls’ human rights Many parents, especially in rural India still consider boys as the only off springs.
The girl child is caught in a vicious cycle of feticide & infanticide, denial-exclusion-malnutrition-lack of education-domestic work and eventual economic dependence on the male.
Right from her birth (that is, if at all she’s fortunate to be born!), our girl child has numerous ‘Mountains to climb’ to merely survive. And even more to realize her potential and full human rights.
We stand solidly with her and pledge to use all our resources to help her earn her rightful and equal place in the society. Let the world realize that ‘Girl child is a human being first always and every time’!
There’s a saying, “Seeing is believing”. By our world record feats in mountaineering, an area demanding extreme physical and mental capabilities and very high degree of risks, we want to show that girls can compete on equal footing with men even in areas traditionally seen as ‘men’s forte’.
And by this, we want to shatter some of the stereotypes about girls.
By our achievements and the consequent media interest, we want to send the message of gender equality and the fight against female feticide. Additionally, we deliver gender related talks at schools and social forums to directly appeal to parents and stakeholders to change their ‘angle of vision’ and see the girl child as a most trusted source of love, joy, progress, and strength.
We also plan to design memorabilia (T-shirts, coffee mugs, calendars and other utility souvenirs with gender themes) to spread awareness and pride in the girl child and raise money for our mission.
When do you plan your next climb? How are supporting the girl child cause with that?
We’re climbing our 7th and the final peak of #Mission2for7, Mt.Vinson (Antarctica) starting 04 December and we hope to successfully completed by 18th December. This of course depends a lot on weather conditions which as you know are quite unpredictable at such altitudes. We are preparing hard and are confident of hoisting the tri-color for 7th World Record as First twins to stand on Mt. Vinson and in the process also become the World’s first siblings to scale the famed “Seven Summits”.
As we have earlier stated, apart from some of the activities mentioned, in all our pre-expedition media interactions, news reports and public speeches we are highlighting that our inspiration for #Mission2for7 is the Indian girl child (who we believe is made of steel from within) and we appeal to all parents to provide equal opportunities to their daughters and encourage them to dream big and achieve. We do hope that with the successful completion of #Mission2for7 there will be wide media coverage of the event and that will again inspire our girls and their parents.
In addition we are on the verge of starting our own charitable trust by the name NungshiTashi Foundation aimed at empowering girls through adventure, especially mountaineering.
A message to all SHEROES out there
We are all human beings first, each uniquely gifted with unlimited potential in need of enabling environment. Gender is a human reconstruct that prevents us women from realizing our full potential. Let’s be watchful against gender discrimination: know it and fight it! “If he can be a hero, she can be a SHERO”!
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