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Megha Parmar, the first woman mountaineer from Madhya Pradesh
It all happened quite suddenly. While I was volunteering with the National Service Scheme (NSS), I had once gone to the Maldives as India’s representative.
Living in rural Madhya Pradesh, how did your love affair with mountaineering start?
It all happened quite suddenly. While I was volunteering with the National Service Scheme (NSS), I had once gone to the Maldives as India’s representative. Around that time, I read a news report about two young boys from Madhya Pradesh climbing Mount Everest, and that is when I decided to take it up as well.
How would you describe the feeling of standing at the summit of the world’s tallest peak?
I cannot describe that feeling in words. Standing at the summit – the earth appears round, and holding the Indian tricolour in your hand in -47 degrees – is an absolutely incredible feeling. It feels different, you feel limitless. Being on the world’s tallest peak, you feel like you’re on top of the world quite literally!
There is indeed a lot of hard work and struggle along every path you take. Talking about preparations, it was indeed a tough time, but now when I look back I realize that there is no other way to succeed. If you want to achieve something then you have to put yourself through pain first.
Ever since you became the first woman from MP to scale Everest, you have achieved a lot. You are now a youth icon and inspiration. How does that make you feel?
It’s true that when you achieve something big people recognise you, but it is also a huge responsibility. As it happened with me, so many young people began to follow in my footsteps. I became extremely aware about my actions. I had to also make certain changes to my lifestyle, as more and more young people started to look up to me.
What is the best part about having the power to influence people?
I live by the motto, “believe in yourself, transform yourself”. And this is what I try to convey to the people as well. Of course, it feels great to be admired by so many. But it’s not enough if they only admire my achievements from a distance.
I want to inspire people to believe in themselves and transform themselves to achieve their goals. That is most important to me.
How inspiring! You are also the brand ambassador for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Andolan in MP, tell us a bit about your engagement?
Seeing boys and girls on equal footing makes me the happiest. Nowadays, parents are not just educating their daughters for the sake of it, but to help them achieve their dreams.
I advocate for a lot of gender-based issues as part of Beti Bachao Beti PadhaoAandolan. I highlight the difficulties faced by women throughout their life in rural areas.
For instance, I have been dedicating a lot of effort towards promoting menstrual hygiene. I’m also passionate about women’s education, as it is the only way that women can take control of their lives and achieve their dreams. If there’s no education, they’ll simply be married off.
I have observed that even women who pursue higher education often face problems of harassment, stalking and blackmailing. I tell them to not be afraid and report such cases to the concerned authorities. Taking the first step is the most important.
Besides these I also work towards improving financial independence and health of women.
You have also always continued to work towards the development of your own village, what is your inspiration for this?
Megha: Once when I visited abroad, I thought about the luxuries people have in these countries. I thought maybe I should move out of India too. But then I realized that I can never forget the place that has made me who I am, I can’t forget my roots.
My success has no meaning if I don’t go back to my village and help others from there to fulfill their dreams too. I want to bring the good things that I’ve observed back to my village. So I work for my village in different ways.
What has been the most challenging part of your journey?
I think raising the funds for scaling Everest, that too twice, was probably the biggest challenge because it was contingent on other people.
With all your achievements, you have challenged the idea that the opportunities available to the rural youth is limited. So, what message would you like to share with India’s youth?
Believe in yourself, transform yourself! We not only have the power to change ourselves but also to change the world around us. This motto has given me confidence. The circumstances will be difficult, but try to make the most out of it and run towards your dreams.
What do you think about the World Localization Day event that Village Square is celebrating on June 20?
Local is extremely important, whether in terms of food, culture, or sports. It is also very close to what I have been working on of late.
Children nowadays have stopped playing outside, they are hooked to their phones and other gadgets. So, there is a need to be vocal for local games and sports. If we promote local games, it will benefit many kids, and save them from potential illnesses because of a sedentary lifestyle.
Since I am an athlete, this is very close to my heart. Children say that we can’t play football or basketball, because we need to buy a kit and ground, or a court. But local games and sports hardly require any external equipment.
It is our responsibility to promote local sports. In cities as well as villages, sometimes there is no appropriate space for certain sports, and even when there is, it is expensive and many cannot access it.
(This story is a part of a series in collaboration with Village Square to Highlight inspiring stories)