That Arunima is an amputee and still acce[pted the challenge to climb to the top of Mount Everest certainly makes her achievement very special. In fact, nobody really felt that she could scale the the world’s highest peak with that kind of handicap. Things were not easy for her. Nature played spoilsport to some extent, and there did come some moments when she questioned her own decision to make the literally Himalayan attempt. Yet, Arunima endured her weaknesses and hung on.
This tale of Arunima should inspire not only women but also everybody. This event is not just restricted to gender-related achievement; it goes further to highlight the human spirit. Yet, when the mountaineer is an amputee and also a woman, then the degree of difficulties as well as scale of achievement go up.
Another thought comes up in the mind, and it is related to gender issues. Is it not true that the average woman, whether Indian or from any other culture, is fighting battles against odds and evens out? Is it not true that the average woman of the world faces the vagaries of the world with many handicaps — familial, social, financial, political? Is it not true that despite all the so-called refinement of human civilisation, the average woman of the world is bogged down by a near-amputee status of this or that kind? Talk to an average woman and she will reel out a list of difficulties which she faces every day. And this happens despite the fact that the average woman of any place in the world is a non-complaining person because she takes the difficulties of life as fait accompli. And yet she has a long list of difficulties that have originally no business being there. She keep grappling with them all the time and overcomes most of them to ensure that the family affairs are run smoothly, day in and day out, year in and year out.
This does not mean that I wish to raise the same issues over and over again. It only means that there is a need to remind the larger society of the overall condition of the average woman.
However, let us not talk about the physical difficulties of running the house, whether the woman is a home-maker or a wage earner or a careerist. Let us talk about the spiritual difficulty the woman often runs into. This difficulty relates to the way the larger society, men in particular, treat their women. There may be countless studies across the world highlighting the percentages of men who treat their women or ill-treat them. But beyond the studies, it is obvious that what most women experience regularly is certain kind of spiritual humiliation particularly at the hands of men who do not show much regard for their women’s abilities and qualities.
Here, it is necessary to tell what the phrase ‘their women’ means. It means all women around them — mother, daughter, wife, sister…! In traditional societies, men are habitually given to thinking that their women are not fully endowed with the ability to live life well on their own. So, they take on the role of protectors and try to stop women from doing countless things. If this role is that of a genuine protector, then it is welcome, though women per se may not need all that protection all the time. The problem is that most men are not given to thinking genuinely that their own men behave or can have very special abilities that could mark them as outstanding or extra-ordinary.
The average woman senses this all the time, though, again, she may speak out her discomfiture over it. Yet, she realises that her men (father, brother, husband, son…) do not respect her for what she really is. She realises that she is often rated much lower than what she is capable of.
And this is where the real problem lies.
Therefore, when an Arunima scales Mount Everest despite her amputee status, the women feel elated. For them, Arunima is a symbolism of the unexplored potential of women.