Everest, marriage or education? Why the Malik twins chose to scale new heights
In 2013, Nungshi and Tashi Malik set off to climb Mt. Everest at the age of 21.
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Having conquered Everest and other famous peaks, the Malik twins want to break down the societal mountains Indian women face.
In 2013, Nungshi and Tashi Malik set off to climb Mt. Everest, aged 21. Before departing, the twins snuck a letter in their parents’ room in case they did not return. They made it back from the expedition, and subsequently completed the Adventurers Grand Slam (climbing the highest peak on each of the seven continents and travelling on foot to the North and South Poles).
The ice ceiling
The mountains are impartial. In the rarefied reaches of the highest peaks, a single misstep can be a climber’s undoing.
“Few professional mountaineers at tempt Mt. Everest, and fewer still make it back alive,” Tashi said. “A single mistake can be fatal, whether you are a man or a woman.”
Tryst with the hills
The Maliks, who hail from rural Haryana, had their first encounter with mountaineering in 2009. After returning home from school, they learned that their father, Col. Virender Singh Malik, had applied to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Dehradun on their behalf. The twins idolise their father for his support.
“Few professional mountaineers attempt Mt. Everest, and fewer still make it back alive.” — TASHI MALIK
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“Our father believed that getting out of your comfort zone empowers you,” said Tashi.
The Maliks’ house was divided on the question of Everest. Their mother, Anjoo, was not sure the girls should go, while Col. Malik moved mountains to secure the Rs 40 lakh required for the expedition (no corporate house helped him).
“Our mother gave us three options — climb Everest, get married, or study abroad. It was an easy choice,” said Tashi.
After climbing Everest, the Maliks were optimistic that they’d come by money to finance their ambition of completing the Adventurers Grand Slam. “We thought we’d get funding, but it was still a challenge,” said Tashi.
“We were lauded by the press, but the private sector was not taken by our achievements as mountaineering is not a spectator sport. We got more recognition outside.”
The greater good
The sisters returned to India from the Everest base camp to receive news of the Nirbhaya rape case. “We were delighted by our success, but were shattered by the invisible mountains our girls have to climb in India,” said Tashi.
To tackle the gender imbalance in society, the twins set up the Nungshi Tashi Foundation, dedicated to advancing the lives of Indian women through outdoors, sports, and mountaineering.