It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half grown mango tree they had planted together ,all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever.
She saw her father scolding a 10 year old Amreen as she wanted to mark her name in golden. She saw him leave her all alone; she couldn’t stop believing the plantations she sowed were going far away from her. She was all alone, with none around.
Furious over the thought, she couldn’t stop tears flowing .Unable to lift her feet buried deep within the snow boundaries, her throat became dry. She managed to drink & eat less but all the bottles in the back pack were nearly finished; Hardly one or two sip. Frantically she moved her hands all through, her mind frozen with the lack of thoughts. She seemed to be insane. A snow ball fell on her hands, but she felt nothing. She lost sensations on her hands & legs. Situation worsened as she was not able to sleep in the wet conditions, she just lay nearly numb in a small snow hole & tried counting days on her finger.
Yes the ailment was baffling, her heart thumped louder than ever, she had bouts of hallucinations, went full of fatigue. Yes, she had an attack of HACE, a cerebral edema on high altitude, as her brain vessels severely lacked oxygen & her brain attained a swollen state.
To worsen the situation, her toes & leg muscles went close to numb ,it all felt waxy ,as if these parts would break away from the body soon..Blood filled purplish blisters were turning scary. She shivered of the chemical changes..It all took a toll on her! The Great Himalayan Avalanche!
It had been more than 60 hours; Amreen was buried in the snow at a height of 26,600ft mountain range – Nanga Parbat II.
It was a happy day, when Amreen 20 year old teenager, a mountaineer by passion, obsessive thrill lover decided to conquer Nanga Parbat II, along with 2 other women mountaineers. Nanga Parbat is highly isolated range surrounded by River Indus, a peak in the Himalayan range, which was never conquered by any Indian due to its rough terrain & highly treacherous weather & rather even being termed as a “Killer Range”. Having dominated close to 22 peaks, she was amongst top mountaineers & held a special position amidst the lady troops. Full of zeal, her mind was made to make her dad feel proud, by being the first Indian to battle on this peak.
With ample advice, sufficient acclimatization & backups, they began their 6 days journey .Amazing were first 3 days when they almost reached the peak & communicated to the base stations of their well being.
“Climbing is no kids play, it involves high mental & physical strength, a great self management, it involves dealing with a continuous anxiety to sustain the confidence to reach the goal, despite of the un-predictive dangers with every step ahead. It’s a quest of high adrenaline rush & great patience.”
She had indeed triumphed over the odds of the harsh weather & made her flag deeply buried on the summit. It was such a spectacular view, she wished to cherish every moment of her victory .Down in the city, every channel and every paper quoted the overpowering saga of this brave Indian girl & her team.
But he was different, an ex-army man, her dad had no emotions, no smile for the deed Amreen had done. She conquered the summit but failed to make her dad love her once again.
But destiny had something else in his plate. Next few hours, weather all of a sudden became turbulent, avalanche broke down, and it started snowing heavily which triggered rock slides. Amreen did sense it but before she could gauge & open up her shelter while climbing down, a boulder close to 1000 pounds fell on her right hand & slashed down, which threw her close to 2000 ft down & made it impossible for her to go up or down. Not just her, she saw one of her team mates fall deep down in the adjacent valley & death was certain. She panicked & frantically looked for 2nd member Anaya, who was some 5-10 feet down her but with the boulder on top of her. Amreen could meagrely see her legs, mountain shoes & right palm. Scared & shocked, she shouted for Anaya to speak & try to move, but all vain.
Heavily sweating with her heart thumping loudly, for next 15-20 minutes she was swinging all alone via rope & ice screws. She had to find a solution for herself & check on Anaya. Even though she had broken her arm, she was strong enough to prepare herself a cover dug, a snow hole with her gadgets. She had lost communication with base station due to the terrible winds & heavy snow. Once dug, she managed to move closer to Anaya crawling, she tried breaking the boulder out with Ice axe, but she realized the life was lost! A sad end in her life had struck her hard.
She yelled, shouted, deep in pain. She freaked, every moment she saw parts of Anaya down & projected if such painful death awaited her?
Somehow she managed on her food & water supply for next 10-12 hours but she had broken her arms of 2 places & had torn ligaments. Instead of resting, avalanche continued to get harsh for next 48 hours & there began her terror story.
“Slowly she nearly lost self control & her memory was weakening, she hallucinated every hour. She shivered, narrowed herself down more as she illusioned of her mom shouting to save her life amidst the killer ocean, Amreen cried for help but she just saw her mother fading slowly & slowly & there were clear waves & nothing else..She was gone! She panicked losing her dad, her home, her little teddy, small beautiful sapling which was growing into a big strong tree just like her. She saw herself a loser. False impressions were torturing her all the more!! Amreen picked up the snowballs & ate them one after another; she was losing herself to the “Deceitful Himalayas”.
By then, down the border her dad along with teams had begun the rescue mission. He was inconsolable, with clock ticking, every second seemed to be imperative, as helicopter rescue had so far been out of sight due to the bad weather conditions. Teams below & Sherpa guides knew that if alive, Amreen & team would be on the verge of depleting oxygen & food supplies. Every moment they tried to contact them but failed with no signals.
Amreen had lost her consciousness. Her heart rate slowed down to dangerous levels. Mountain rescue teams had begun climbing but twice the hunt was suspended. Now the wait was just for the weather to improve to commence helicopter & rescue team search.
“He had lost his wife while surfing due to sheer negligence. Inspite of her being close to a professional surfer, she entered in the water without life jacket (due to little 4 year old Amreen not allowing it to go ,as it pleased her, as she wore on top of her frock) . Winds were high that day but she was all smiles & full of positiveness. She moved away from the shore & slowly was amidst the ocean, closer to the tides. Amreen’s dad did try a word of caution but she was just enjoying & never thought that her love for water could deceit her. It was hardly 2 minutes, when a huge tide splashed her off the surfing board. Amreen & her dad shouted for the help but they could just see her fading away.”
She lost the love of both mother & father. Post this trauma, he remained indifferent to her. Her chirpy nature frustrated her dad. She loved him & wanted him to respond but in vain. Since then she desired to make a mark in this world, to make her dad proud of her ever day, every moment. Her step towards Naga Parbat II was one more towards looking her dad smile & hug her. Today Amreen didn’t knew if her mission would be successful but, silently, tears of joy did dance on her dad’s face. For him the world fell apart, his only daughter was missing, he didn’t even knew if she was alive or he had already lost her. For the very first time in past 16 years, did he long for Amreen, he wanted to hug her, he wanted to play with her, he wanted to take her back to swings & hear the chirpy words .He promised to love her more than anyone in this world.
By then announcements were loud enough, Sherpa guides rushed to prepare their team. Police officers &rescue teams strategized with the acknowledgement that avalanche had slowed & in next 6-8 hours would completely end. With improvement in the weather conditions, the base station got connected back to Amreen & team, but they could not hear responses for next 5-10 minutes. This made all to guess that the so called “killer range” had once again proved itself. By then helicopter had begun its rescue operation with consistent try to hear response from the team.
“Hello, I’m here…Papa I don’t want to lose you. A vanishing shriek was heard suddenly! Mountain rescue team bounced back with energy.
Amreen, which side are you, how much down…try to send some signal…Pull your hand or flag out. For next 2-3 hours teams kept on shouting. But they could just hear faint voices time & again…Papa I’m here, dying..Papa, I love you…”
With the understanding of signal being received the team moderated the distance & direction where they could find her. Every minute turned crucial, but they were near, very near to her. God signalled, with a snow ball dropping from her hole, indicating rescue teams of the presence of the trapped girl. Yes she was there, they saw her. Their mission turned successful, they took along a lifeless & a girl close to getting back in life!
Hope of 72 hours & beyond!!
It has been close to 5 months Amreen is recovering , having lost tips of 5 fingers to frostbite ,a broken arm ,It was not the same girl ,but a thankful soul who made her dad lover her again! For her it was not “Killer Range” but a range which ushered her life with parent love once again, the emotion she lost 16 years ago.