“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it………” Nelson Mandela.
Fear is conquered by the bravehearts- that is what Nelson Mandela wanted to convey to the world. And the bravehearts do not get confined to the mere pity of gender stereotype.
“Well, the mountain doesn’t see you as a man or a woman. They see you as a human being.”
The words have been proved right by Tashi Malik and Nungshi Malik- the twin mountaineers who have been to the apex not once or twice but seven times and that too to the seven tallest mountain peaks of seven continents. Adding to their Mission of 2for7, a plan to bring attention to the plight of the Indian girl child and empowering them, the Malik twins also conquered the North Pole and South Pole to claim the title of Adventurer Grand Slam. Now they have added another feather to their cap by becoming the first South Asians to be selected for the Eco Challenge which is regarded as the world’s ultimate expedition race.
“Time has come once again to push our boundaries beyond imagination! We always believe girls can do anything. Rare honor to be the first South Asians to be selected for this race aptly named by some as ‘Olympics of Adventure’ and fly the ‘tri-color’ among the flags of 30 nations and 60 competing teams!”
This year the host nation of Eco Challenge, Fiji, will deliver stunning terrain including volcanic cliffs, remote villages, turquoise seas and also provide dense jungle, rushing rivers, narrow canyons and coral reefs. It will be a life-changing experience for the adventurer athletes who will have to race non-stop, 24 hours a day for 12 days across mountains, forests and oceans. The event will be hosted by internationally acclaimed adventure and survival instructor Bear Grylls. The man who himself is the hero to many once described the Maliks as his hero. Grylls in his blogging site referred to the infinite courage of Tashi and Nungshi by writing, “So proud of these girls, Tashi Nungshi Malik- shining bright and inspiring many”.
In the Eco Challenge event, every team will have five members who have to encompass the total distance in a variety of non-motorized forms of transportation like outrigger paddling, mountain biking, rappelling, climbing, whitewater rafting, pack rafting and paddle boarding.
“We have named our team Khukuri Warriors. Khukuri is the traditional knife of Gurkhas made world famous by the Gurkha soldiers. It symbolizes courage and valour.”
Tashi and Nungshi Malik are the leaders of their team and they will be assisted by mountain climbing expert Brandon Fisher of USA, skiing and rafting expert Praveen Singh Rangar and their father Col Virendra Singh Malik. To the junior Maliks, their father is the greatest inspiration. Being in the Gorkha regiment as an infantry officer, Col Malik was often far from home and had little time to spend with his daughters. But whenever they interacted, he motivated them to choose a life that becomes a paradigm.
“At an age when normal kids like us have our first cycling sessions, we learnt how to ride a horse and go carting. Playing hide-seek was not our kind of game. And for us, holidays meant a remote military post 14,000 feet high in Sikkim, or the sand dunes of Thar Desert and what not.”
After graduating from high school in 2009, Tashi and Nungshi were encouraged by their father to try out adventure sports and mountaineering. He even enrolled them in the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in their home state of Uttarakhand. Mountaineering enhanced their physical and mental stamina. The sport that had just started as their hobby soon turned out to be their greatest passion.
In 2010, Tashi and Nungshi Malik went to their first expedition to Mt Rudugaira in the Himalayas in an all-female expedition. They traversed through the rugged terrain soaking in the beauty of the mountains. They thought that if Rudugaira is so appealing then what about the higher peaks, precisely what Mt Everest would be like. Once they were back home, the future was decided. They wanted to scale all the heights and prove that girls can lead a path that is unconventional enough.
“Being a strong woman is not about physical strength. Strong women are independent, self-confident, purposeful –and this is definitely true. To be a strong woman is to respect yourself enough to set your own boundaries and follow through on them.”
Tashi and Nungshi Malik scaled the world’s seven major peaks- Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mt Everest in Asia, Mt Elbans in Europe, Mt Aconcagua in South America, Mt Carstenz Pyramid in Oceania, Mt McKinley in North America and Mt Vinson Massif in Antarctica. They are the first twin sisters to achieve this success and also the first twins to step together at the highest point on Earth.
“Never stop fighting until you arrive at your destined place – that is, the unique you. Have an aim in life, continuously acquire knowledge, work hard, and have perseverance to realise the great life.”
On 19th May 2013, Tashi and Nungshi Malik reached at the top of Mt Everest. They were joined at the summit by Samina Baig, the Pakistani high-altitude mountaineer. They placed national flags of India and Pakistan close together to spread peace between the two countries. Both Tashi and Nungshi admit that reaching at the top of Mt Everest is so far their greatest feat.
“During our final push to the Everest summit, Nungshi’s regulator malfunctioned, leaving her breathless and on the verge of retreating. On the other hand, Tashi was further ahead, climbing strong. Tashi’s constant motivation was what kept Nungshi going and finally, we made it to the top of the world ‘together’, becoming the first female twins to climb Everest. The moment we stood atop the Everest Summit was surreal.”
The Maliks spread the message that girls and women should dream big and achieve their goals. They have set up the Nungshi Tashi Foundation to foster outdoor spirit among girls and women in the form of adventure sport and mountaineering. But at the same time they spread awareness about protection and conservation of environment and disseminate knowledge about mountains. And all these became easy due to the trust they have for each other.
“The bond we share is completely genuine, something we don’t have to worry about between friends. And a friendship between sisters is unbreakable & unchangeable.”
This sisterhood has made them stronger and brighter. This has been a persistent source of afflatus to tread further roads ahead.
“During our travels we have seen to so many beautiful places that we almost feel overwhelmed & sometimes even lost in our imagination, and have always tried to steal a particle from each beauty in order to build ours. Maybe we failed, but we managed to shape ideas that hallowed our soul and we think that’s exactly what life is about.”