“In the land of Everest, Pratima continues to climb the mountain. She will not stop.”
— Oliver Horovitz
Nepal is only a small country on the world map but for times immemorial it has occupied a place of pride for two very outstanding features. First, it has the proud privilege of having the world’s highest mountain peak, but more importantly, it has given the world the best soldiers who have been an epitome of courage and bravery. As an age-old friendly neighbour, India has been the best beneficiary as with very little to defend itself militarily, Nepal has given India the best of its military capabilities; the Gorkha soldiers. While the Indian Army has regiments for people from other regions of the country, in the case of the Gorkhas it has a brigade which comprises of seven regiments. We need to stop at that as we would need several articles to describe the chivalry of a clan that has found a place of honour even in the British Army as well as the Singapore Police.
If one has to read a fairy tale of how one’s misfortunes can be converted into opportunities, then it has to be about a teenager from Nepal named Pratima Sherpa. The term ‘sherpa’ has always been related to mountaineering and if one is to be truthful, no mountaineering expedition would ever see the light of day without the guidance and labour of the sherpas; even Edmund Hillary needed a sherpa in the form of Tenzing Norgay to make the first ever climb to the highest place on the Earth’s surface possible on the historical day of 29 May 1953. No wonder, therefore, that when the ESPN made a documentary on Pratima Sherpa, it was titled ‘A Mountain to Climb’. However, in the case of Pratima the mountain has been of a different nature because her story has been one revolving around the basic theme as to how one can manage to come out of poverty and misfortunes and make a name for herself in a game that is considered to be exclusively for the rich and affluent.
Pratima’s parents Pasang and Kalpana entered into wedlock in early 1999 and Pratima, their only daughter, was born in the same year on November 27. While Pasang Sherpa worked as a security guard at the Royal Nepal Golf Club in Kathmandu, Kalpana worked as a grass cutter and was involved additionally in watering and curing the course surface. With a monthly income of two thousand Nepali Rupees per month, the family had nothing better than a hand to mouth existence and letting their daughter to be a golfer in future would not have even dared to cross their farthest dreams.
So abysmal was their poverty that by the time Pratima was five years old, they could ill afford to even rent a room to stay. However, it was the luckiest thing to have happened in Pratima’s life. The Club officials took pity on the hard working couple and allowed them to stay in an instrument shed near the third and fourth holes of the golf course. It was a shed to keep the vehicles of the club, and other instruments. There is another small room in the shed with two beds, a makeshift stove in the corner, but there is no running water there. There is a small table filled with keepsakes: trophies won by Pratima. This is her home till this day, and Pratima is proud of her home. “This shed is my lucky house, because if I don’t live here, I cannot play golf!” Pratima says.
Gp Capt Achchyut Kumar has been associated with The Teenager Today for more than 50 years; initially as a reader and later as a contributor on varied topics. Having worked in the Indian Air Force and in India’s oldest company, Forbes & Company Limited, he is now practising as a lawyer in Nainital High Court.