Premlata Agarwal shows how to scale a wall at the JRD Tata Sports Complex in Jamshedpur. Picture by Bhola Prasad
Usha Agarwal of Jamshedpur has added a recent hobby — river rafting — in her 65th year.
The trim septuagenarian confesses it is a Premlata Agarwal ripple effect. After all, the achiever who scaled the Everest on May 20 this year after she turned 45 is also from the Marwari community. The Premlata effect is working wonders on middle-aged women from conservative families, who are now trading pickle making for rafts, TV soaps for treks.
Instead of routine early morning chores, a clutch of 25 women from across communities, many from Jugsalai, where Premlata herself lives, have begun attending yoga and aerobics sessions. The more adventurous among them have also taken rafts down to the gurgling Subernarekha.
Move over saas bahu serials. Adventure sports is their new adrenaline rush. Their logic: “if Premlata, a mother of two grown-up daughters, can do it, why can’t I?”
From river rafting to artificial wall climbing, these women are trying out everything.
“Premlata changed my viewpoint. Adventure sports instilled a fresh confidence in me. It has made me bolder,” said Jugsalai-based Prabha Padia, joint secretary of Marwari Mahila Manch.
Echoing Prabha, homemakers Savita Poddar and Annu Mittal said adventure sports had enabled them see the brighter side of life.
“It’s all due to Premlata,” said Savita.
Annu chipped in with: “She made us to believe in ourselves.”
The mountaineer who’s now a muse and a mantra for self-belief is evidently exultant.
“I don’t want women to remain confined to their homes,” said the ace climber and role model. “I’m trying to inspire women in adventure sports and other lively activities,” Premlata told The Telegraph.
A student of Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF) head and the first Indian woman to conquer Everest, the feisty Premlata said she started her mission some weeks ago.
“The response is great. I’m looking to include more women in adventure sports. The idea to generate a new school of thought and instil confidence among women. It was always close to my heart,” Premlata added.
To add the warm-up zing to her mission, Premlata started conducting yoga and aerobics sessions for women at Rajasthan Yuva Manch in Jugsalai.
“The outfit offered me a room to conduct activities between 5 and 6.30 in the morning. Most yoga students also joined me in river rafting (from Kanderbera to Domuhani) in Subernarekha recently. Sixty-five-year-old Ushaji was part of the group,” she smiled.
The mountaineer had planned to take women for a trek in the scenic Dalma hills, but the rains played spoilsport.
“The Dalma venture was very much on cards. But torrential rains did us in. It’s risky to trek on slippery hills amid the slush,” Premlata said.
No sprained ankles, for now.
But knowing Premlata, she can’t do without a plan.
She is planning on a trip with the women to Garhwal Himalayas with the TSAF team.
“I’ve asked my team members to accompany me to Uttar Kashi next month. I want them to trek on the Garhwal mountain ranges and take on the challenges posed by nature,” she said.
Clearly, the altitude will then match the flying-high attitudes.