Imagine knowing what it would take to carry out to your maximum day in and day out while believing that you could do it. The drive, passion, and resilience to prevail over obstacles. Now imagine being able to accept the failures and improvement as though you had no doubt you would succeed. “To be able to climb Mount Everest was a dream come true for me. I became so obsessed with it, you can say I became insane. It overpowered every relationship, nothing really mattered in front of this dream,” says Kuntal Joisher, a software engineer-turned mountain climber.
Trapped in the 9-to-5 rat race back in 2009, mountain climbing was far from the mind of this Mumbaikar. Yet, there was always something to look forward to, as the route weaved through the steep slopes of Shimla, during a trip with his wife, allowing him to soak in the sights of the snow-capped mountains in Hatu peak. “When I was on top of the peak, it was an intense feeling. I can’t describe the state of my mind. Life came to a halt, I stopped thinking about my past and future plans. I realised this was my ultimate goal, and I wanted to feel this for the rest of my life,” he admits.
It was around this time that he realised his love for climbing mountains. When he came back home, he thought that he had committed to years working in an industry only to discover that it isn’t right for him. That, he must, find happiness beyond the cubicle. And that’s how it was meant to be. He recalls how he almost quit his job through a phone call. Fortunately, his software company offered him a flexible work arrangement instead.
“I began embarking on such expeditions more often and luckily, every time I felt the same way. I would be at peace with myself again. I thought, why not make this a habit? So, I would plan a hike every weekend.”
Leaving behind the luxuries in order to dwell in the mountains seemed expedient all of a sudden. The constant crave to be at the mountains and lying in the laps of Mount Everest kept captivating him time and again. Then came the moment. Kuntal hiked to the base camp in 2010, and it was this time around that he promised himself about reaching the top one day.
It took four years of relentless pursuit for Joisher to pull off his dream. There were moments, as he hints at, that were frustrating, but he took it all in his stride. He tried to climb Everest for the first time in 2014 until extreme avalanche conditions forced Nepal to cancel permissions to all tour operators. It was a near-death tragedy, he reveals, but somehow he managed to escape the destruction, only to be back next year when another misfortune befell him. The mountain was rocked by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake, causing more than 100 fatalities.
“My family was, of course, not happy. I went back to the mountain again in 2016 for a third attempt. Finally, I reached the top of Everest on May 19. I was feeling super strong, after six long years of training and two failed attempts. I had been training harder than ever for this one day,” he articulates.
However, following a passion may seem challenging as it calls for a lot of sacrifices to be made, only then can one attain the peace, sanctity, and happiness in life. “Ever since I decided to climb the mountain, the only thing in my mind was Everest. Imagine waking up in the morning and working on your laptop when all you can see is Everest.
You may think this is obsession or insanity. I guess it is. My family did not want me to climb Everest. It was either ‘they let me go and have a happy Kuntal for the rest of their lives’ or ‘they don’t let me climb Everest and have a zombie Kuntal’, so yes, they had to make a choice,” he says.
Though food is less of a concern, Kuntal does give careful consideration to his diet before and during his expeditions. He recalls how his expedition leader once told him that in order to reach the top of the world, one needs to have ‘a top of the world body’ and ‘a top of the world mind’. “I have been a vegan for 18 years now. I changed my workout regime, but nothing somehow worked out for me. After seeking nutritional advice from a friend, I cut out all the refined stuff from my diet. Now, my diet had a positive impact on my growth. I could see it myself. Once I moved on to a cleaner diet, I could see how it tremendously improved everything in my life.”
But, what he wishes to shout out to the world full of aspiring travellers? “Everyone has their own personal Everest to climb, it can be a dream job, or a mountain expedition, or six-pack abs. There are going to be a lot of failures. I failed too, but one of the biggest lessons for me was to never give up. The moment you are ready to give up, you are really close to achieving your dream. Come prepared, there are no shortcuts to reach the top of the world. Mountain climbing requires a lot of practice, training, and mental stability,” he signs off.