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Bachendri summits five-year extension

- Tata Steel can’t find anyone to fill her shoes as boss of adventure foundation

She’s 60 years young. Too young to hang up her climbing boots, feels Tata Steel.

Legendary mountaineer Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to scale the world’s highest peak and an icon for generations of women, has received a five-year-old extension as the chief of Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF).

Her three-decades-long association with Tata Steel, which started in 1983, officially came to an end on May 31. However, keeping in mind her legend, legacy and love for work — which, for the large part, is all about handholding young and young-at-heart climbers — the steel major decided to extend her term by five more years.

Before she came to know of it, the ever-practical Bachendri had begun preparing for her impending retirement, shifting household items, including utensils, to her Dehradun home in Uttarakhand.

Though based in Jamshedpur for over three decades of her working life, Bachendri has kept her roots alive in her home state of Uttarakhand, formerly a part of Uttar Pradesh, where she was born in 1954 in Nakuri village in Uttarkashi district.

She leapt to front-page headlines after scaling Everest on May 23, 1984, a day before her 30th birthday.

Jump-cut 30 years forward. Now, the Padma Shri and Arjuna Award winner and more importantly, mountaineering mentor to hundreds under TSAF programmes, Bachendri is revered by latter-day climbers. They include Premlata Agrawal, a homemaker of Jamshedpur, who at 2011, became the oldest Indian woman Everester at 48, and Arunima Sinha, in her mid-20s, who became the country’s first with a prosthetic foot to summit the world’s highest peak.

Bachendri, a light climber, wears her laurels lightly.

Bachendri, who had even recommended to Tata Steel two climbers as her possible replacements, is now pleasantly surprised with her extension.

“It’s a big surprise for me. I am thankful to the company as there is no better place to work than Tata Steel. Earlier, I had job offers from Uttarakhand as well as the central government. But, I decided that I would only work with Tata Steel. The company pays me well to pursue my passion,” Bachendri said.

A Tata Steel official, not wanting to be named, said the company did not find no one capable of slipping into Bachendri’s shoes.

“Her honesty, her reputation as a doer and the way she motivates others have created a unique Brand Bachendri. Bachendri is an icon who inspires those she leads. Her stint as chief of Tata Steel adventure programmes has been unblemished,” he added.

Premlata agreed. “Bachendriji is one rare achiever who believes in motivating others. She backed me immensely when I was preparing to challenge the Everest. She is an icon who has tried to make women believe in their strength and has motivated many to take part in outdoor expeditions,” Premlata said.

What do you expect from Bachendri in the coming five years? Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com