Just as the morning sun shone bright on the snow and the world looked hidden somewhere deep down from that awesome height, 45-year-old Premlata Agrawal, a feisty woman from Jharkhand, stepped on the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, to become the oldest Indian woman to climb to the top of everything. It was 9.35 a.m. IST. Thus came to a successful culmination a great campaign which Premlata had launched on April 17, 2011, after getting advanced training from none other than Bachendri Pal, the first woman to climb atop Mount Everest. Premlata is a mother of two daughters, one of them married. Yet, at 45 years of age, advanced enough for a tough task of climbing Mt. Everest, Premlata was not daunted. In fact, she seemed to revel in the challenge.
This achievement has a message for women — that age is no bar when determination is firm and dream in the eyes too bright to be doused by advancing age or higher degrees of difficulties! And this is not a fashionable statement like ‘Life begins at 40’. The message is far too serious to be clouded by clichés. What Premlata has achieved is not just climbing onto the top of Mount Everest, but also telling women that they need not fuss about age at 45.
This is in sharp contrast of what is usually found in our women – heightening the degrees of difficulties when it comes to tackling big challenges like scaling Mount Everest. It is commonplace experience that average women tend to overdo the importance of obstacles rather than treating those as stepping stones, or bring their own morale down by prejudging that a certain task is beyond them. Of course, a huge change is coming over, and Indian women have started foraying into newer fields of activity. Mountaineering has often attracted women. Yet, at 45, one does not want to trouble oneself too much, stretch oneself beyond the normal, particularly when one is a woman. And if one happens to be married and has two daughters, life is a cozy experience. Why bother, then, too much, brave the terribly bitter cold and daunting winds and frightening peaks and unnerving valleys in addition to the dangerous landslides?
Premlata Agrawal, however, seemed to have overcome all those problems that crop up first in the psyche and then subdue the mental nerve and physical verve. Nothing – no difficulties — seemed to matter for her. All she wanted was to climb atop Mount Everest, fill her lungs with that sense of freedom from smallness, and then return to the mundane world with a straight, uncomplicated message to women of India: Come on. Move on. See big dreams. Give your kids bigger dreams. Chase the dreams. Don’t get daunted. Mount Everest is not a big deal.
‘Woman, thy name is frailty’, said someone. Premlata Agrawal, and of course many others like her, have often proved that wrong. In daily life, too, women have proved stronger psychologically than men. They have also proved their ability to stay fit enough to carry on with difficult life when husband is very ill or the son has failed or the money-lender is knocking at the door. It is, thus, a misnomer to call women frail. Yet, what Premlata Agrawal has done is to join that special breed of women that God sends down to tell the world that it should not take women lightly. Let alone such a message, in mundane world, not many women are known to gather such awesome courage to lift themselves to the height of Mount Everest. Of course, what matters is not just Mount Everest. What matters actually is the willingness to take on impossible-looking challenges. Mount Everest, therefore, is a symbolism. And therefore, Premlata Agrawal, too, is a symbolism one would love to be. Kudos to her!
Published in The Hitavada – Womens world Persona for 8 June 2011