By Tanmoy Bhaduri:
Sudipto Pal, an adventure enthusiast from West Bengal, plans to cycle solo 5,000 km in the Himalayas across India, Nepal and Bhutan, over 100 days to create awareness at the grassroots about children’s education. Being a professional mountaineer and cyclist, Sudipto Pal’s initiative, which begins on July 15, is part of the national campaign ‘School the Spark‘ launched by Child Rights and You (CRY).
Sudipto’s journey will take him through some of the most treacherous trails in the Greater Himalayan Arc from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir to Walong in Arunachal Pradesh. Along the way, he will also attempt to scale one virgin peak. Having actively participated in the rescue operations with Indian Army in the Gulmarg avalanche in 2010, Kalindi Khal in Uttarakhand, Mt Sudarsan Expedition and Operation Beas for Flash Floods in 2008 and having rescued injured climbers from 6400m at Mt. Kedardome in Uttarakhand in 2006, Pal has a record of diving in and taking action.
Below is an interview detailing the feat that he wishes to accomplish:
What drove you to take up the journey?
My experience in mountaineering and high-altitude cycling over more than 18 years has brought me close to the local people, and has taught me that it is the children residing in these difficult areas who are the most vulnerable when it comes to accessing opportunities and entitlements. I have interacted with hundreds of children, who, given a chance to access education and other facilities, could have grown to their full potential.
Why did you dedicate your journey for child rights?
I have been to these remote places many times, and it was actually a dream project for me to string together all of these piecemeal trips into a unified whole. This thought kept bugging me for the past eight years, and only recently I realised that perhaps now I am mentally and physically prepared to undertake such a humongous project. Once I decided to embark on the project, I knew if at all I went for it, my focus would have to be on the children who are denied basic rights and entitlements. This was almost at the same time I came to know that CRY – a leading Indian organisation working with child rights issues would be launching a campaign called ‘School the Spark’. This campaign would be addressing issues related to children’s education. It did not take me much time to decide that I would reach out to CRY, and offer to dedicate this solo cycle trip to their campaign.
The Himalayas and its people, especially the children residing in those demanding terrains – these two things have always been with me, from the very first day I started visiting the mountains. It may sound too tall a talk, but to echo Mallory, I do believe that I go to the mountains, not because it is there, but because it is there with its people. This is truly a mosaic of multi-layered ethno-cultural diversities, rooted in strong traditional depths. And, yes, as I said, the children, denied of access to education, immunisation and proper health-care, yet carrying infectious smiles on their faces and sporting twinkling black eyes – they were, and still remain, the source of my hidden strength. It gives me goose-bumps to keep going back to them, anytime and all the time.