‘Daughters can’ — that thought led this father-daughter duo to summit Mt Everest
With “fifty per cent” of her family up on the slopes of the world’s highest mountain, Shirly Bajaj had felt nervous. But, as she tells us, her pride and joy knew no bounds on May 16 morning, when her husband, adventure travel professional Ajeet Bajaj, and mountaineer daughter Deeya stood on the summit of Mt Everest. Ajeet and Deeya, who are from Gurugram, are India’s first father-daughter duo to achieve this feat.
They had embarked on this adventure of a lifetime last month, propelled by the thought: “Daughters can”. As Ajeet caught his first glimpse of the world’s tallest peak (8,848m), he said, “We are looking at Mt Everest, the Mother Goddess, one of the natural wonders of the world. We realise how small and insignificant human beings are in the larger scheme of things. We can never conquer mountains or nature and have to learn to approach the mountain with a huge amount of respect and humility. Mother Nature is supreme.” Indeed, the Tibetan name for Mt Everest is Chomolungma, meaning ‘Goddess Mother of the Mountains’.
Shirly tells us, “Girls, if given an opportunity, can reach any heights. I was worried and concerned as a mum and a wife as fifty per cent of my family was up in the mountains, but also excited for them as this was something they always dreamed of doing. After they summited, I spoke to them at Camp 3, at [an altitude of] 27,000 feet (7,200m). They sounded very excited; Ajeet was very emotional. This experience was all the more special because he had done it with his daughter. Deeya was excited to see the sun rise from the top of the world. It was very windy and cold, when they were up there. They did not have much time there.”
The adventurous duo trained for a year, to brave all the risks of such an epic climb. There were hard acclimatisation hikes to North Col at 23,000 feet (7,000m), a few easy days at a base camp, and satellite phone conversations with the family.
Ajeet, 52, a Padma Shri awardee, has been a life-long adventure enthusiast, and made his career in it. He is also the first Indian to ski to both the North Pole and the South Pole in the same year. Deeya, 24, is a graduate from Cornell University, and she supports a home for the children of leprosy patients in Haridwar. In 2012, Ajeet and Deeya were the first Indians to climb Mt Elbrus (5,642m), the highest in Europe, located within Russia, from the north side to the south side (via the summit).
Shirly says, “We run an adventure tour company and both the girls (Deeya and younger daughter Meghna, 20) have been exposed to the outdoors since the day they were born. Ajeet was going on an expedition to Greenland when Deeya was 14 years old. She asked her dad if she could join, and Ajeet was happy to have an adventure buddy with him (smiles). And she was hooked from that point.”
In May 2011, Ajeet and Deeya skied across Greenland, covering 550km over 21 days. They became the first Indians to ski across the Greenland Ice Cap, and this feat was acknowledged by the Limca Book of World Records.
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