Monday, July 12, 2010

Queen of earth, sky and sea - 25-year-old daredevil masters art of mountaineering, scuba diving & aero sports

The following article is published in Telegraph on June 28, to read the original article please click here

Bhubaneswar, June 28: This girl grew up playing with dolls but her favourite sport was to chase boys.

Today, the 25-year-old Arpita Mohapatra has progressed to where she is climbing peaks, plunging to the depth of oceans and falling through the sky. Arpita recently returned after leading a team of eight visually-challenged persons, who successfully trekked the Himalayas has surfaced to become the first and only woman in the state to have mastered all the areas of extreme adventure — mountaineering, water sports, aero-sports and scuba diving.

This daredevil hailing from Amaria, a little hamlet in Balasore district, was never a bright student. “Often, I would get back home bruised and was tired of dressing my injuries. None of my other six siblings troubled her like I did,” recalls Arpita. “Studies never attracted me. I was a good athlete from my school days, winning competitions in long jump, high jump, discuss and javelin throw.”

When in plus two, the Arpita had a brief stint in football for a period of two years. But before she could play any important games, her parents asked her to take up some computer courses so that she could bag a decent job. It was then that she headed for Bhubaneswar, aiming to take up a course in systems management. “My sporting activities had completely stopped and I was into this course. I was, however, badly missing my sporting activities. My uncle, a sports enthusiast, kept insisting that I must resume my sporting activities,” she says.

In 2007, Arpita hesitantly participated in the National Himalaya Expedition where she climbed the 14,000-ft Sarpas Cross.

“It was a 42-member group and I was the only one from Orissa. It was my first trekking experience and although I was hesitant to go in the beginning I could sense the pleasure soon as I reached the spot. It was the first time I was going out with such a mixed group,” she reminisces.

There was no stop from there. What followed was the Goa mountain and beach trek and sailing in the Arabian Sea. There was 12,000-ft Sandakphu trekking in the Kanchenjungha range and another from Darjeeling to the Nepal border. She also took part in the National Coastal Trekking expedition from Gangasagar to Digha. “Technically, it is difficult to go on these trips. Its exhausting and one needs a lot of energy,” she admits.

Determined to take it up as a career, Arpita took professional courses in mountaineering, water sports, aero sports and scuba diving at various institutes, including the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Regional Water Sports Institute, Himalayan Institute of Aero sports and the Institute of Professional Association for Diving Instructors. “The courses, apart from the much-needed professional certificates, provided me proper training and helped me adapt better methods to handle onsite. I had a rich experience of learning under experts like Reluram Thakur, Roshan Lal Thakur, Venketesh Charloo, Andy and Jeff,” gushed Arpita, who clinched the Anupama Award instituted by Doordarshan on occasion of Womens’ Day.

“She has excelled in all fields of adventure sports and aspires to take it ahead as a career. Her trainers have marked her as a quick learner and have always been encouraging her efforts. “The most important thing for women in adventure sports is proper guidance and loads of encouragement,” says adventure sports enthusiast Sushanta Kumar Das.

Arpita currently works as a swimming trainer at the Kalinga stadium where she trains young swimmers. “I get happy whenever I see the old snaps of the expeditions but I cannot be sure if this can be financially rewarding ever. With so few girls into this area, I am often looked upon as a tomboy.” “Neither I find the state government keen to support women who really wish to scale new heights. There have been occasions, where I was forced to let go some important expeditions as my leaves were not sanctioned,” she rues.

Arpita’s family still does not know what she has been doing all these days. They know that there is something called adventure sports but are not much into it. They understand that I am swimming and that is what I get my salary for,” she laughs. “But on the whole, it is a rewarding experience. I am proud I have been able to do what many girls can only dream of. I wish to excel in all I do,” she signs off.

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