13-year-old Indian Girl Reaches the Top of Everest

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 10:04 a.m. DST, 14 June 2014

"Steel Bridges of Everest Base Camp Trek" Photo by: ilkerenderTIBET--A 13-year-old Indian girl wept after overcoming her fears. Her fears differ a bit from most young girls. This girl, Poorna Malavath, the daughter of poor Indian farmers in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, cried tears of joy after successfully climbing Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Her bravery and tenacity is incredible, especially since 16 Sherpa’s recently died in an avalanche, Everest’s deadliest ever, prompting the government to shut down the climbing season.

As the youngest female to climb Everest, she feels her victory is not only for herself but also for all young women, because “they tell us that we are nothing, that we can do nothing…but I know that I could do something, and I kept my eye on the goal, and now I made it.”

Though Nepal requires climbers to be at least 16 to scale the mountain, Malavath and her team of guides started from the northern side of Tibet, an area under control of China, which has no age restrictions. This side is considered significantly more difficult and dangerous, and in 2010 Jordan Romero, 13, of Big Bear, California became the youngest male to climb Everest, also from the Tibetan side. Before Malavath’s climb, the previous youngest woman to reach the top of Everest was Nepal’s Nima Chemji Sherpa, 16, in 2002.

She was sponsored by the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Educational Institution Society as part of its initiative to encourage underprivileged students in India. Most people in her hometown cannot read or write, and her town does not have internet or roads. Her parents are dalits, also known as “untouchable,” at the bottom of India’s caste system. Malavath attends a boarding school where she studies her native Telugu, Hindi, and English, and participates in track and field, volleyball, and kabaddi. Nine months ago she signed up for mountaineering training, a club where she would climb boulders and walls of an old fortress. Now she has reached the 29,029 foot top of the world’s highest peak after a 52-day expedition.

Though she had a few months of training, this expedition to Everest was her first mountain climb and along the way Malavath faced elevation sickness, temperatures of 40 degrees below zero and saw six dead bodies. A major challenge for Malavath was the packaged food she had to consume. “I did not like its smell or taste. I wanted to go home and eat my mother’s food,” she said. Despite being initially sent back to base camp for altitude sickness, she made it to the top before her 16-year-old friend, S. Anand Kumar.

India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi praised the duo on Twitter saying, “Was very happy to read this. Congrats to our youngsters. They make us truly proud.”

When she returns to school she will catch up on homework and she hopes to eventually join the police force, in homage to a retired policeman who introduced her and others at her school to mountaineering. When I finish my studies, I want to join the police because [of him]," she says. "It will be my thank-you to him for changing my life."

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

 

Tibetan Monk Self-Immolates

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 16:24 PM EDT, 16 February 2012

Konchog Wangdu Tibetan MonkLOBSANG GYATSO, Tibet - A 19-year-old monk from the Kirti monastery set himself ablaze on the main street, according to the London-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). Security forces beat Gyatso while extinguishing the flames, then took him away, the group said in an online statement posted late Monday. It was not immediately clear whether he survived.

Tibetan’s are a deeply religious and independent culture. The annexation of the country, forced resettlement, plus the exile of one of its most revered figure, the Dalai Lama has sparked intense resistance . Many monks remain fiercely loyal to Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, who fled the Himalayan region in 1959 amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EASprHOwZ48&feature=related]

China's tacit acceptance of the country's religious fervor does not negate the fact that the Tibetan people have expressed feelings of oppression from and domination by the invading Chinese. Out of fear of reprisal many Tibetans, including the man who was interviewed in 2008 by Michael Palin, will only publicly state that they have experienced no problems with their assimilation into Chinese society and culture.

Tibet is governed by China as an autonomous region and the territories of Lhasa and Yushu were featured prominently in Palin’s documentary “The Roof of the World.” The rich culture depicted in the documentary seems quite different from that of the Chinese. From this perspective, it is not surprising that this clash of cultures would result in an escalation of the number and kinds protests that dissidents would engage in to capture the world’s attention and highlight the human rights abuses that occur in Tibet on a daily basis.

Self-immolation is one of the most extreme forms of civil protest, second only in my opinion to a hunger strike. The case of the Tibetan monk setting himself on fire is reminiscent of another monk who burned himself to death in protest of the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam’s Roman Catholic government.

His name was Thích Quảng Đức and the photos of his self-immolation are burned into the psyche of anyone born in the 60’s. His self-sacrifice brought attention to the repressive policies of the Diệm regime. Malcolm Browne won a Pulitzer Prize for his renowned photograph of the monk's death.”(Source: Wikipedia)

Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday, 14 February 2012, stated that with regard to China's policies on Tibet, they respect the Tibetans traditional culture and freedom of religious belief. He further cast aspersions on the monk by stating that "in his opinion this monk and others like him are being manipulated by outside nations to incite the populace and destabilize the country."

Group: Tibetan sets herself on fire in protest

It would appear, based upon China’s response to this deadly incident that the officials view this movement as economic sabotage. China has invested a great deal in the infrastructure of Tibet, including building new dams, roads and communications networks. According to a CBS reporter who recently visited, he claimed that cellular service was better there than in America.

The Chinese government views these improvements as a benefit to Tibetans, but in reality the continued development encroaches on the nomadic, peaceful and spiritual lives of the Tibetans. Like the Native Americans, the Tibetans are facing the loss of their autonomy and culture through the imposition of the English and Chinese languages, habiliment and atheism.

Premiere Wen was quoted as saying, "Any attempt to incite a small number of monks to take radical moves to undermine stability in the Tibet Autonomous Region is not in the interest of development in Tibet or the interests of the people living in Tibet. Such attempts can have no popular support." He delivered this pronouncement to reporters at a joint press conference with visiting leaders from the European Union.

It is interesting that he used the imperative when stating that this movement “can have no” popular support. His words connoted a subtle but implied threat to any Tibetan who would seek to embarrass or otherwise demonstrate dissatisfaction with Chinese rule. Much of the recent unrest has occurred in adjoining provinces with large Tibetan populations, particularly Sichuan.

According to ICT, 20 Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople have set themselves on fire in China over the past year, with at least 13 dying from their injuries. These self-immolations have occurred with increasing frequency in recent weeks, and most have taken place in Sichuan's remote and mountainous Tibetan areas.

Independent verification of the true status of these anti-Chinese dissidents is unknown since Western reporters trying to visit that part of Sichuan have been turned away by security forces.