It was an uphill journey that seemed to have peaked at one point and then turned into a cliffhanger of sorts. Naina Singh Dhakad, a resident of the tribal region of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, this week became the first woman from the state to scale the highest peak in the world, Mt Everest, and hoist the national flag there. But it then took a dramatic rescue effort to get the bone-weary climber to safety.
Naina is a resident of Ektaguda village, 10 km from the district headquarters of Jagdalpur in Bastar. She has been in the field of mountaineering for nearly 10 years and has also hoisted the tricolour on Mount Lhotse, the fourth highest peak in the world. Naina lost her father when she was three years old. Her mother brought up the couple’s three children. Naina’s elder brother runs a tea shop in Ektaguda, while the younger one has a small store. She has said that her mother and brothers constantly encouraged her to pursue her dreams.
Naina completed her graduation from PG College in Dharampura after studying in Maharani Laxmibai School in Jagdalpur city. She also holds graduate and postgraduate diplomas in computer applications, a masters degree in social work and a Bachelor of Education degree. She followed this up by completing several courses related to mountaineering. In 2010, she was selected for a national-level adventure activity course in Himachal Pradesh. The next year, she was picked by Tata Steel for the Snowman Trek in Bhutan, where Naina met Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to scale Everest.
While Naina Dhakad was on her expedition to conquer the highest peak in the world, another mountaineer, Yashi Jain, was constantly monitoring her progress from Kathmandu. On the morning of June 1, Naina’s expedition was to have completed and she would have reached the top. But when no news came till noon, Yashi got anxious and tried to contact Naina’s team. With great difficulty, at around 2 pm she learnt that Naina had fallen ill due to extreme fatigue after the climb and was unable to come down from Mount Everest.
Yashi immediately contacted her father Akhilesh Jain, and Rahul Gupta, the first person from Chhattisgarh to scale Everest. “Please do something, save Naina’s life," she pleaded. The Jagdalpur administration was contacted and collector Rajat Bansal, as well as sub-divisional magistrate Gokul Rautel, were informed about the situation. They reached out to the Indian embassy in Nepal and a rescue operation was launched. By 6pm, Naina was helped down and information went out that she was out of danger.
When contacted over the phone, Naina’s mother Vimla Thakur expressed happiness on her success. “It is not only a matter of happiness and pride for our family but also for all of Chhattisgarh," she said.
State health minister TS Singh Deo congratulated Naina on Twitter. “Today, Chhattisgarh’s daughter Naina Singh Dhakad has brought great pride to the name of Chhattisgarh by scaling Mount Everest. Congratulations on becoming the first woman from the state to climb the highest peak in the world," he wrote in Hindi.