Nahida Manzoor- Kashmir’s mountain girl who scaled Everest in maiden attempt.

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Nahida Manzoor- Kashmir’s mountain girl who scaled Everest in maiden attempt.

As the darkness of night overwhelmed a town on the outskirts of Srinagar, a small house lit by electric bulbs was visible from a distance. All the family members of Manzoor Ahmad Pampori were awake. Razia Anjum, Manzoor Ahmad’s wife, was busy rolling a rosary in her hand and murmuring some prayers.

At 12:35 am Manzoor Ahmad’s phone rang. As he received the call, his eyes welled up with tears. “Your daughter Nahida has successfully scaled Mount Everest. She scaled the summit in the morning. She is expected to be here in next two days,” the person on the other side of the call said.

Nahida Manzoor became an overnight sensation when she became the first woman from Kashmir to climb Mount Everest. This 26 year old lean girl took the internet and electronic media by storm on 23 May, 2019 as the news about her successful summit was made public by Transcend Adventures, a Hyderabad-based mountaineering and trekking services company, with which she had gone for her maiden attempt to scale the Everest.

“The Fourth summit of the day is Nahida Manzoor along with her Sherpa Guide Nima Kancha. Nahida hails from the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The 26-year old lady has been passionate about the snow peaks and took to the mountains at a very young age,” the company posted on their official Facebook page.

A resident of Zewan area of Srinagar, Nahida Manzoor started climbing mountains from the age of 10. Gradually, this became her passion. In 2017, she took mountaineering professionally and pursued courses in mountaineering, rock climbing and skiing from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering and Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering.

“I grew up climbing the hillocks that surround our locality. While kids dreamed of becoming doctors and engineers, I dreamed of mountains; Mountains fascinated me. I experienced a unique feeling of calm and tranquility over there. So, I made up my mind of taking it as a profession,” Nahida said.

Nahida is second among the three sisters. Nahida’s father, Manzoor Ahmad Pampori who runs a butcher shop never treated his daughters differently.

“I hear people talking about me and my daughter. They want to shackle girls with their bigoted mindset. I want all three of my daughters to achieve whatever they wish,” said Manzoor Ahmad.

Nahida continued her studies and striked a perfect balance between her passion and academics. Nahida completed her Bachelor’s degree from Vishwa Bharti Women’s College and in the mean time scaled many peaks including Mount Deo Tibba, Manali (6001 metres) and Friendship Peak of Himachal Pradesh (5,289 metres), Srinagar’s highest peak Mount Mahadev and Mount Tatakooti in Pir Panjal.

As Nahida kept ascending mountain after mountain she started aiming higher. She dreamed of ‘The Mount Everest’ but looking at the expenditure it incurs, it seemed impossible for Nahida who comes from a humble background to fulfill the financial requirement.

“An attempt to summit Mt Everest costs around Rs 30 lakh, including permit fees paid to the Nepal government. It was impossible for my family to bear my expenses for the summit. So, I looked for sponsors but nobody helped,” Nahida said.

On March 4 2019, Nahida started crowd funding to support her dream journey. She was able to generate sponsorships from TCI Max (a cement factory) J&K State Sports Council, and District Commissioner Srinagar after her crowd funding campaign caught eyes of a local daily.

Nahida finally started her journey from her home town towards the world’s highest peak on 6 April.

“Our team of five members reached the base camp on 18 April and took two days’ rest. On 20 May, we left Camp Two at 8 am for Camp Three. On 21 May, we reached Camp Four. We reached the top on 22 May On 24 and 25 April, we did an ice fall and an acclimatization walk in the Pumari base camp respectively,” Nahida said.

The summit, as expected was not a cake walk for Nahida, she witnessed the death of her lone female team member, Anjali Kulkarni, who breathed her last breath few kilometres away from the summit.

“My oxygen level was fluctuating, my two fingers were frost bitten and then I saw her- exhausted and breathless. But then I reminded myself of the promises I had made back home. I gathered my courage and didn’t stop, I conquered the summit- the highest summit,” Nahida said

“Standing at the highest peak of the world, I realized how small we are and how majestic Allah’s creation is,” she added.

Nahida became a household name in the valley and girls especially started looking up to her. Nahida encouraged a number of girls to their dreams. Nahida soon launched her own adventure company named ‘Pampori and Daughters’, where she organizes camps for both boys and girls.

While Nahida and her family were still celebrating her accomplishment, news started to emerge about her summit. Nahida was accused of faking Everest summit.

“When the news reached me, my world fell apart. I could not understand what good somebody could achieve by defaming me. I have come this far by pushing my limits exponentially and now people who sit in their A.C rooms question my achievements,” Nahida Said.

Nahida has filed a complaint against the people spreading such news against her. It has been almost a year but there is no progress. The consistent harassment and online mocking has even lead Nahida to attempt suicide twice.

“Had I faked my Everest summit, why hasn’t the Government of Nepal taken any action against me and cancelled my certificate as they do in such cases. It has been a year they must have figured out, if I had done such a disgraceful act,” Nahida said.

In a melancholy voice, Nahida asserted that, “I strongly believe that had I been a guy, I would have never faced this. Incident like these reinforce that our society still does not consider equality between men and women.”

This is not how we celebrate our torchbearers, Nahida added.

“I grew up climbing the hillocks that surround our locality. While kids dreamed of becoming doctors and engineers, I dreamed of mountains.”

“My oxygen level was fluctuating, my two fingers were frost bitten… But then I reminded myself of the promises I had made back home. I gathered my courage and didn’t stop.”

“Had I faked my Everest summit, why hasn’t the Government of Nepal taken any action against me and cancelled my certificate as they do in such cases. It has been a year they must have figured out, if I had done such a disgraceful act.”

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