Mark Joseph Inglis belongs to that rare category of people who refuse to give up. From an attention-deficit student to the world’s first double amputee who scaled Mount Everest, Inglis’s life tells a story of indomitable courage.
Born in a poor family, Inglis always wanted to do something new and different. “I was not a great student. I never got prizes for excelling in academic or sports activities, but I used to have an interest in everything,” he recollects.
In Delhi recently to interact and motivate the students of the British School, Inglis recounts his school days when he discovered a love for climbing. In no time it became a passion and he started dreaming of climbing Mount Everest. He always had a wide range of achievers to motivate him in life. “This is what I say to everyone - Always have a big basket of people from different fields to take inspiration from. At a young age I used to get motivated by scientists, mountaineers, motor cycle bikers and a whole lot of other achievers. You come across different situations in life where you need different kind of moral support”.
The cruel blow came at the age of 23. During an expedition, he remained trapped in a snow cave for 14 days. The incident cost him both his limbs. “I saw both my legs rotting and finally they were amputated. Since the loss was not sudden, the affect was liberating to some extent. The most difficult part was rehabilitation after that,” says Inglis.
A never-say-die attitude, however, kept Inglis’s dream alive. Though it took some time to come to terms with the irreparable loss, yet with the help of carbon fiber prosthetic legs he was back in the mountains once again. “Soon after getting these artificial limbs, I started my training for cycling, which was the other passion,” he says.
When in 2000, at the Paralympic Games in Sydney, he won the silver medal for cycling, it rekindled his hope of achieving his childhood dream – climbing the highest mountain peak. It took 24 years of continuous training and sheer determination to achieve the unbelievable feat – of becoming the world’s first double amputee to climb Mount Everest.
The biggest challenging moments on the expedition? When Inglis broke one of his carbon fiber prosthetic legs in half. “There were extremely difficult situations and they were those circumstances when instead of thinking about others for inspiration, I had to keep talking to myself and say, ‘I can do it because I did this in my training’,” he says.
Mentioning a question that a student of the British School had asked him during the interaction, Inglis says, “He asked me if I would like to have real legs or if I was fine with the carbon fiber prosthetic legs. I told him that I would love to have my real legs, but if I don’t have them I have no regrets. We have a habit of criticising and and have these regrets. That’s the wrong attitude. Just get over it and move on,” he advises.
Unfortunately Inglis’s historic feat was embroiled in controversy when his team was unable to rescue a dying British climber on their way to Mount Everest. Though he had clarified later that it was an “arduous situation” and even if he had wanted, he couldn’t have saved the climber’s life, Inglis says, “The temperature was -50 degrees Celsius. It was an extremely difficult situation for us to survive. People who criticise me should put themselves in that situation and then question me.”
So today, when Inglis is inspiring the whole new generation, what inspires him? “Many things. There are people around you in your own community who are living in extremely odd situations and yet doing amazing things. I think India is full of such people.”
Many Indian businessmen, sportsperson and celebs motivate him. “Ratan Tata is one of them. His vision and focus has created abundant opportunities for people.”
Mark is quite happy to see the changing attitude of people towards the disabled. “I am extremely glad to see Indian newspapers mentioning disabled as differently-abled. We are not unable to do something but we are able to do things in a different way.”
We are not unable to do something, we are able to do things in a different way — Mark Joseph Inglis, double amputee mountaineer