The Telegraph
Monday , January 28 , 2013
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Now Padma Shri, Premlata eyes mentor mantle

- Honoured on R-Day, ace climber wants platform to help homemakers in their 40s dabble in adventure sports

Jharkhand’s mountaineer mom has annexed yet another envious summit, albeit of a different kind.

Premlata Agarwal — the oldest Indian woman to conquer Mount Everest on May 20, 2011 — was awarded Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour, on Republic Day. And buoyed by this support, the 47-year-old is gearing up for a new mission. She wishes to devote time to educate women her age on benefits of body fitness.

Back from Antarctica, where she scaled the windy Mt Vinson Masiff — one of the world’s highest seven summits, Premlata said she aspired to inspire women whose confidence sagged once they crossed their youth.

The climber, who dedicated her Padma Shri to mentor and ace mountaineer Bachendri Pal, said the prestigious award had increased her responsibilities towards the society.

“A Padma Shri is definitely a very big achievement for a housewife like me who took to mountaineering only six years ago. Now, I want to work for middle-aged women who feel that they have reached the nadir of their lives at 40,” she said.

Premlata stressed that women could achieve a lot more if they focussed on their health. “Good health gives you confidence, which most women lack.”

She admitted that she was looking for a proper platform to fulfil her new ambition. “To spread awareness, I need a platform. I am confident that I can convince women to come out of their houses and take part in outdoor adventure activities like trekking,” she said.

As candid as she is, Premlata conceded that she did not make lofty peaks bow in front of her for records or honours. “The idea was to prove my worth as a woman. I wanted to tell women like me that they needed to be mentally and physically strong in the face of challenges,” she said.

She also attributed a part of her success to the enormous amount of support that she got from her family.

“My husband and my in-laws were always there to give me that extra push. It helped me move forward and strive for better things in life. Family support is a very important component in a women’s life.”

On a more personal note, Premlata said that her career as a climber would come to an end some day.

“I cannot keep climbing all through my life. My conquests will come to an end some day, but not my quest for life. I want to give something back to the society, which has played such an important part in helping me achieve so many goals,” she said.

Premlata signed off saying she wanted to promote more and more mountaineers from Jharkhand. “Bachendri Pal promoted me. I want to act as a mentor for youngsters who want to take climbing seriously.”