It’s a feat and honour that you wouldn’t expect to associate with a school principal. But, then, Principal Nalini Sengupta was one of the first women to graduate from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) in 1968. So, when the founding principal of Vidya Valley School heard that a virgin peak was being named after her by the team of Giripremi, an active mountaineering institute in Pune, she naturally though it was a joke.
“The Giripremi team had decided to attempt a virgin peak which was 5260 metres high and when you climb a virgin peak, the government allows you to name it as well. Since the school and I have actively supported them, I think they felt that they should name the peak after me. Believe me, I was a bit embarrassed at first. I kept thinking, why me? I’m sure there are others who are much more worthy. It’s really humbling!” explains Sengupta with excitement.
After she had completed her basic mountaineering course from NIM, Sengupta fondly recalls that her batch mates and her were taken to meet the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1969. “She was a very charming lady, delicate and graceful. She told us that we were very privileged to be the first few women to do the course. She told us to love the mountains and look after them,” she remembers.
It was only a few weeks ago when she actually scaled terrific heights to reach the base camp of Peak Nalini and had a surreal experience.
As a leading academic and school principal, Sengupta also understands the responsibility she has as the peak is named after her. She has attempted to inculcate the love for mountains. This fierce passion drove her to make the decision of going to the base camp of Mount Nalini. Sengupta had to train for long hours as the trek would be physically demanding due to the altitude changes.
“Umesh Zirpe, the Coordinator of Giripremi, had suggested that I walk a couple of kilometres every day and climb the Parvati Hill and Vetal Hill as a way to get warmed up. The mountains open after June and we were set to go during the first week of July so I had to get geared up,” she said.
Much to Sengupta’s surprise and happiness, some parents volunteered to come with her to the base camp. She was also joined by 15 people to the base camp that includedher husband, her sister, her son and her friends. She recollects from her expedition that the terrain was tough as it was full of boulders and snow. With five layers of clothes, monkey caps and mittens, the arduous journey took them around seven hours to complete.
“We huffed and puffed our way up. Our expedition leader, Anand Mali, kept on assuring us that we would reach soon. We had to cross a river to get to our tents. It was around three in the afternoon when we reached the riverside. The waters were rising as the glacier was melting due to the sun. The water was icy cold but we finally got to our tents,” mentions Sengupta.
She describes what she saw of the Himalayan mountains and the snow line filled with no forests but craggy and uneven rock. Her sight also included rivulets, huge boulders, waterfalls and spotting little daisies.What Sengupta saw up there is perhaps a view that she won’t easily forget and will always recall it as the way she puts it, “A wonderful experience!”
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