When an 18-year-old girl in Bangalore witnessed the 19-year-old Rihanna top the music charts in 2007-08, she wanted to be “at the top of something”. At that time, mountaineer Krushnaa Patil had no idea that a year later she would climb to the top of the world, literally. Today she is just one peak short of conquering the Seven Summits. However, the youngest Indian woman to climb the Mount Everest is struggling to raise funds for her mountaineering expeditions. YouthKiAwaaz.com’s Pushkal ShivamÂ met up with Krushnaa and had a quick conversation with her. Below are some of the excerpts.
What goes on in your mind when you are at the summit of a mountain?
I think about different things most of the time. I was at peace when I reached the top of Everest. I wasn’t very excited. There were a lot of climbers who were in tears. I was quite normal. I thought of climbing Everest in November 2008, and in May 2009 I was climbing it. The journey between thinking about it and doing it was very short. A lot of madness went on before I actually reached the top. For mountaineers, Everest happens after years and years of planning. For me it was a very quick journey. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t have a reaction. You think of something and someone just gives it to you. My instructors would always say that whether or not you reach the top, it’s about returning back safe. When I reached the base camp, then I was happy. I was screaming. I was dancing. Till then, I was still climbing.
When did you decide that you want to become a mountaineer? What sort of difficulties did you face?
There was no point where I sat down and said, “Ok, I am going to become a mountaineer.” I actually wanted to become a dancer. I wanted to be a choreographer in life. Mountaineering was something I ran away from. I hated being in cities. I hated people. I hated talking. I didn’t like the noise in college. Mountaineering gave me peace and good friends. When I did my courses in 2007 and 2008, it was because I went with a group of friends. I got hooked on to the sport. I loved the mountains so much that when I heard about the Satopanth expedition, I said to myself, “Come what may, I want to do this.” Even after climbing Satopanth I thought I would go back and dance. It never occurred to me that the expedition had changed the entire path of my life.
You are just one peak away from conquering the Seven Summits. When will you be attempting the climb?
It may seem like I am crazy about records, but I am really not. I don’t care much about records. I would love to attempt the climb, but I have run out of money. I don’t have the money to go and climb that peak. Unless I get sponsors, I am not going to do it. I am not going to spend out of my own pocket to do something like that. I am making India proud. I am a sportsperson. I have made records for India. However, I am not interested in that peak anymore.
What do you plan to do next?
I want to climb Kangchenjunga (8586 m) in April-May this year. I want to climb Cho Oyu (8201 m) in September. There are 14 peaks above 8000 meters (all in Himalayas) which I want to climb.
In several parts of India girls are married off at the age you climbed Everest. How do you see your achievements in the context of our society?
I knew that people get married at 18 but it didn’t strike me that much. Over the past two years I have gone to a lot of women summits, schools and ashrams to talk to girls. And I have seen it firsthand now. I feel blessed in so many ways.
Who are the people you look up to and draw inspiration from?
India’s first woman photojournalist Homai Vyarawalla and Indira Gandhi are my role models. Before I climbed Satopanth, I was a dancer. I was studying contemporary dance in 2007-08. Rihanna was at the top of the charts that year. She was 19 and I was 18. And I said, “What the hell am I doing with my life?” I wanted to be there. I wanted to be at the top of something. At that point I had no idea that I would be at the top of the world.
What would be your advice to those who wish to pursue offbeat careers?
Don’t ever listen to people who say, “Aisa hota hi nahi hai (This never happens)” They obviously don’t have the experience to tell you what happens. Just do what you feel like doing. Even if you are not successful, the experience will teach you something.