By: Khogen Khoibam
“It was like a hallucination all the way along the higher altitude but in the end I was on top of the world.”
IFP: You have been the talk of the nation. Tell me how did you make it to become the youngest Indian to scale Mount Everest?
Chingkheinganba: Actually, to stand on top of the Mount Everest has been an ultimate dream of my father, who is a founder member of Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association (MMTA) but he could not make it in his time due to lack of financial and technical support. Years later, he inspired me to do it and I made it to the top.
IFP: Would you share how did he inspire you as you are quite young for this expedition?
Chingkheinganba: To be true, I have never thought of myself to become a mountaineer but the inspiration was driven inside me spontaneously when I started my training in MMTA. After my first training programme, I came back home and recollected few old photos of my father. In the pictures I saw the real spirit of being a mountaineer and realised how hard my father had struggled to bring up mountaineering in Manipur. My father, Nameirakpam Tomba was one of the pioneer members of the mountaineering team from Manipur.
IFP: Do you really want this or this is because of your father’s background?
Chingkheinganba: I was quite a mischievous boy in my childhood and loved to do all kinds of adventurous activities though I was unable to discover myself those days. So many times my friends and I used to crash in the woods and bushes blindly and experienced many injuries too. Now I can figure out that it was in me from childhood and I am in a right position right now.
IFP: Share an experience about those days in the woods?
Chingkheinganba: Yeah…there had been a memorable day in my life when I was 13 years old, which even left a scar on the wrist of my left hand. By that time I have already gone through some training and the urge to climb hills and mountains was extremely intense that I was ready to face anything. So, two of my cousins and I went up a hillock and started cutting some woods but I ended up with a serious injury on my wrist. Being scared to let my parents know about it, we three went to RIMS directly and had a stitch by borrowing money from one of the friends. We had to walk 11 km to reach home but one of the cousins fainted suddenly and I had to carry him too all along the way.
IFP: So your stamina is quite interesting, how did you develop it?
Chingkheinganba: I started my first training session when I was 11 years old and I was extremely weak in the beginning. To be true, it is good to watch Superhero animation or cartoon on T.V. Somehow Superheroes inspire a lot to gain more energy (…laugh) and it actually happened to me. And moreover, when I saw one of my instructors climbing up the hill so easily, the desire to become strong grew more. After that, there was no looking back and I started to practice running every early morning at home. Gradually upgrading my running routine with push-ups and other exercises, my target was to run continuously 6 hours a day. I kept in my mind that only then I will be able to climb Mount Everest and eventually I built up enough stamina.
IFP: Tell us your experience so far in MMTA?
Chingkheinganba: MMTA is one of the best Associations and the training programmes here are immensely effective. It is not all about only mountaineering here, in fact the trainers do not simply train but they identify our specific areas in which we are to be trained. The adventurous sports are classified on Air, Water and Land, for example, Rafting, Sea Diving for Water, Trekking, Caving, Mountaineering for Land and Paragliding, Paramotor for Air, etc.
IFP: What about financial support?
Chingkheinganba: We always get financial support. Like for the Mount Everest Expedition, we were aided by the Northeast Council with Rs. 2.5 lakhs.
IFP: How many participants were there for the Expedition?
Chingkheinganba: A total of 16 participants, in which three of them were not mountaineers, a Medical Doctor, a Base Camp Manager and a Team Leader. They played much important roles in communication, management and medical aid, without which all the mountaineers would not be able to accomplish the main target to reach the peak.
IFP: Heard about someone got sick in the middle of the expedition?
Chingkheinganba: Yes, actually there were two members from Manipur who had medical issue and they could not carry on with the expedition.
IFP: It must have been quite a tough task to reach the peak, share us your experience?
Chingkheinganba: It was like a hallucination all the way along the higher altitude but in the end I was on top of the world. This was the first northeast expedition in the year 2013, which we started from Manipur on February 25 and came back home on June 5. Among the mountaineers, there were three girls from Arunachal, Meghalaya and Manipur, and rest were boys from Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Manipur. Each mountaineer was guided in every step by a Sherpa, a local Nepali who knows most of the nook and corners of the mountains. The task starts from Base Camp to Camp 1, followed by Camp 2, Camp 3 and Camp 4, which is also called the Death Zone and after Camp 4, the extreme hardship begins.
Well, there had been much hardship, like shortage of water and oxygen, going through the Death Zone where I saw many death bodies lying, the fatal glaciers and Jet stream that nearly carried away each one of us. On the mountains, everyone was concerned of their own lives and own survival, even the Sherpas, in some sort of times. While on the way, everyone lost contacts and I did what I was meant to do and kept on climbing, sometimes I slept while walking. Area by area I continued and suddenly I saw the peak and I cried seeing my destination in front of me, but it was not at all near too. After crossing all the remaining areas, finally I reached the peak and I did not believe that I was there. I prayed to God and cried in joy. And then, all I could feel was a feeling like heaven and the giant shadow of the Himalayas was covering everything when I looked down.
IFP: Sounds heavenly, so did you wish to stay there little longer?
Chingkheinganba: Of course! And I felt really sad thinking that I have to go down again.
IFP: Great! So what is next coming up after Mount Everest Expedition?
Chingkheinganba: Well, I have a project in my mind to form a cycling team and cycle all through the northeast India, to convey the message of peace and harmony among everyone and let all the people aware of the hardship we face when there is an economic blockade and other of issues of boundaries of land and politics.
IFP: Apart from adventure sports, what do you love to do?
Chingkheinganba: A good dose of music. Sometimes I play guitar and have a good time.
IFP: Does your mother support you like your father?
Chingkheinganba: My mother, N. Sabitri is also from sports background. She used to be an archer and a Gold Medalist in archery.
IFP: Does the world of adventure sports affect your normal life?
Chingkheinganba: Hard to say exactly, but yes it affects my academic career somehow and in times, pretty hard to balance but ultimately this is what I do and I live for it.
IFP: Finally, what is your opinion on the issue of intoxication in Manipur?
Chingkheinganba: Well, intoxication is one of the biggest issues in the State and most of the youngsters are drowning into it blindly. I think there is a strong need for awareness programmes to be conducted consistently, which should include importance of sports too. Sports world is very competitive and once a person is hooked by the sense of competition in sports, he or she will automatically become health conscious. For example, MMTA is playing a major role to divert the minds of many drug crazed youngsters.