Everest next, says woman IAF officer

New Delhi, May 29 (Calcutta Tube) Rough weather and stormy winds tested Nivedita Choudhary’s determination as the young and svelte woman officer of the Indian Air Force (IAF) roped down a 2,000-feet vertical rock face after scaling Mt.Kamet in the Himalayas.

But all she could think of during the ‘most arduous moment of the gruelling trek’ was her mother who had tried hard to dissuade her from the adventure, said Choudhary, the first woman officer of the Indian armed forces to scale the 7,557-metre Mt Kamet.

‘Oh my god, I don’t want to die before seeing my mother, I prayed hard when I was hanging mid-air and strong winds were blowing away my hopes for life!’ said Choudhary, a flying officer in her 20s and who is now eyeing the world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest.

Kamet is the third highest peak in India after Kanchenjunga and Nanda Devi, the two peaks that are off limits – one due to religious beliefs and the other due to environmental reasons.

Choudhary is in the 20-member all-woman IAF mountaineering team that is undergoing mental and physical preparation to scale the 8,848-metre- high Mt. Everest in a summit attempt that will begin mid 2011.

The team has explored several Himalayan ranges and successfully scaled Mt.Stok Kangri (6,123 m) in Leh and Mt.Abi Gami and Mt.Kamet in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand, close to the border with China.

‘It is purely by choice, but against my mother’s wish, that I have taken to the adventure of scaling mountainous heights after I joined the force a year and a half ago,’ Choudhary told IANS.

Choudhary, posted in Agra, was in the capital for the felicitation ceremony. She said her mother was too scared to allow her to climb mountains but ‘I knew I am tough enough to endure all the physical and mental challenges’.

With success on the world’s 29th highest mountain, Choudhary is now focussing on her quest for the highest peak. ‘I was too excited for Mt.Kamet and thought when I am on the top, I will jump. But then I remembered my next goal — Everest — and I forgot the accomplishment.’

The electrical engineer-tured-IAF officer said she had always set herself tough goals to be on top of the world ‘and every step I have been taking all along my life is towards the biggest goal…to stand on top of the world with an Indian flag’, she said.

Her team leader to Mt.Kamet, Group Captain N.K. Dahiya, was all praise for Choudhary and other women officers in the 35-member team that scaled Kamet. ‘The women officers performed well, at par with their male counterparts, that too when we faced some tough situations,’ Dahiya told IANS.

And what does it take for a woman to be so tough. ‘Just a firm belief in yourself. Just don’t stop dreaming. Listen to your heart and do what you want to do, really,’ Choudhary, neatly dressed in her IAF uniform, says with firm determination.

(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at s.kashani@ians.in)

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