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Everest climbers to help quake-affected on 50th anniversary

By Sushil Kumar,

New Delhi : Opting for relief work as against traditional celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the first successful Indian expedition to Mount Everest in 1965, the “living members” of the Indian team of mountaineers have decided to help the quake-affected people in Nepal.

Captain M.S. Kohli, who led India’s first successful expedition to Mount Everest in May 1965, told IANS in an interview that “the members had planned to celebrate the occasion in a big way, but now we have decided to help the quake victims in whatever way we can”.

“Instead of cancelling the celebrations we have renamed them “Nepal Trauma Functions”,” Kohli said, adding that there would be meetings in various parts of the country to raise funds and the money would be utilised to help the affected people.

Elaborating how he along with his team mates plan to make a difference in the lives of the Nepal quake victims, Kohli said that apart from funds collection they would call for volunteers to go to Nepal to help and interact with the affected people.

“Relief and rescue operations are being carried out by various agencies from across the world and they are doing a good job,” Kohli said, adding that theirs would be a “different help”.

“Our teams would meet the affected one-on-one…we would try and provide them the mental strength required after such tragedies to go on with life,” he said.

On being asked whether all the living members of the 1965 team would be involved in the Nepal Trauma Functions, Kohli said that out of the total 19 members of the team, only nine are alive and out of them two-three are very old and it would have to be seen if they are fit enough to travel.

Kohli told IANS that they plan to organise the trauma functions soon after the rescue work is over and the Indian authorities involved there give the green signal.

He said that his team would interact only with the victims in Nepal and not those affected in India.

“Our help would be Nepal-centric as there is a huge loss of life and property there,” he said, adding that it’s not that they are not bothered about Indians but the situation here is not that bad and can be handled well by the local authorities.

Asked whether he thought people would stop going to the mountains after the avalanche on Everest, Kohli said an avalanche happens once in a while but there is always a danger to your life up there.

“I don’t think the avalanche of April 25 would have any negative effect on mountaineers…they would continue to be attracted towards high peaks from where one sees a totally different world” he said.

On why people, despite knowing the dangers involved in scaling heights, continue to do so, Kohli said, “it’s a feeling of being attracted to heights”.

“It’s a special pull which attracts you” he said, adding that when you come back from there you are a changed person.

“You become new. Your total experience is so magical, so mesmerizing that you can’t describe things in words,” he said.

“You get to see something that could not be seen by travelling jets…it’s an out of the world experience,” he said.

Kohli, one of only three people in the world who has spent two consecutive nights at a height of 28,000 feet, also expressed happiness over how awareness about keeping the Himalayas clean was spreading.

“It’s showing results and it’s good for the mountains,” he said.

(Sushil Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])