Mountaineer Srujana Shaga is a firm believer of this famous quote. The 24-year-old is a spunky young girl who climbed the highest peak in Australia, Mount Kosciuszko, in a sari. Srujana was inspired by a talk given by Arunima Sinha, the first female amputee to scale Mount Everest, at the Ramakrishna Math in 2014. It propelled her into the physically demanding activity.
Determined to summit the seven highest peaks of the world to test her physical and mental limits, she began to train under her coach Mohammad Wasim to climb the first mountain on her list – Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. “During the time, I was pursuing my engineering degree and the training began to affect my daily schedule. So, I decided to take a break. I wanted to summit a peak before I entered the corporate world,” recalls Srujana.
Having grown up in a sheltered environment, her parents were initially skeptical of her decision, especially her father. “I’m daddy’s little girl and he wasn’t very keen on me facing the tough conditions on the mountains. My mom convinced him to let me do this. If it didn’t work out, I would know that this isn’t my forte,” adds Srujana. In 2018, she achieved her dream of scaling Kilimanjaro in April, followed by Mount Elbrus, Russia, in August and rounded off the year with Mount Kosciuszko, Australia, in December.
Being an active NCC cadet also helped her prepare physically. “I used to gym regularly, and follow a diet chalked up by a personal trainer. Before the expeditions, I would check the weather conditions and see what foods are available there and how to modify my diet. A lot of groundwork goes into that. But, I do have my cheat days,” quips Srujana.
Compared to the other mountains, the Australian trek didn’t warrant any technical gear, so the five-member group of girls from the two States decided to go with a cause. They went to different handloom clusters and made a documentary to understand the techniques and challenges faced by weavers.
“Trekking in a sari was a different experience. I generally wore them on special occasions for one or two hours. But, I spent many hours wearing one to trek uphill and then descent,” adds Srujana, who sort of came into her own during her expeditions as she dealt with frostbite and flagging spirits.
“On the mountains, it’s just you and your guide. When you are trekking for 8-9 hours, it’s just you and your thoughts. Kilimajaro taught me about my physical capabilities, I never knew I had it in me to walk for 8 hours at a stretch without a break. Elbrus taught me my emotional strength. When I suffered from initial stages of frostbite in my fingers, my guide was clear that if it got worse he would terminate my expedition just 400 metres before summit to avoid permanent damage. I decided I won’t give up,” reminisces Srujana who surged past the obstacle.
Her ultimate goal remains Mount Everest, but, before that, she is preparing for her next trek climbing Carstenz Pyramid in Indonesia. “I’m looking for sponsors to fund the expedition. Hopefully, then, I can make it for the trek by July-end,” signs off Srujana.