Everest Twins Nungshi and Tashi Malik have scaled the seven highest peaks in the world and skied to both the poles
In a crowd, their chiselled faces and hourglass figures draw your attention, their verve and laughter radiates into the surrounding, but a handshake with them is a sure mountaineer grip giveaway. The twin sisters Nungshi (numerological meaning: with a Life Path 2 that is the symbol of duality and love) and Tashi (a Tibetan word meaning good fortune or prosperity) are girls with passion in their hearts and fire in their bellies. Their father Colonel VS Malik, from the Gurkhas, gave them the spirit to conquer the unconquerable. They hold eight world records that notably include first twins to complete the Seven Summits, first siblings to complete the Seven Summits and first twin females to summit Everest. They are the youngest people (at 23 years and 303 days) to complete the ‘Explorers Grand Slam’ that adventurers challenge to reach the North Pole, the South Pole and all the Seven Summits (the highest mountain peaks of each of the seven continents). They are also the recipients of India’s highest adventure award ‘Tensing Norgay National Adventure Award 2015’, conferred by the President of India. Also conferred on them by the President of Iceland is the 2016 ‘Leif Erikson Young Explorers Award’.
Born to a Haryanvi father and a Nepalese mother at Military Hospital, Meerut, on 21 Jun 91, they grew up in typical army environment attending different schools and moving all over India.They attained initial academic laurels, but their lives changed when their father introduced them to basic mountaineering in 2009. What was to be a one-off experience became a lifelong passion. Realising their daughters’ potential, the supportive parents went all out to fructify their adventurous quest. Raising funds was an uphill task. In India, sponsorship is not very forthcoming. Their mother placed all her jewellery as collateral to take loans and their father put all his savings to gear them up and meet the expenses of training and travelling. Now, their father is their manager, secretary, PR man and fundraiser– their one-man army.
After their advanced training, they set their eyes on Mt Kilimanjaro and scaled it in Feb 12. Their next stop was Everest and once they convinced their reluctant mother, they knew that they had won half the battle. They stood atop the Mt Everest on 19 May 13, but only after overcoming a near death experience when Nungshi’s oxygen regulator malfunctioned on their way up and watching their Sherpa Mingma plummet to his death in an unfathomable crevasse. Conquering the five remaining peaks in the remaining continents was now a matter of time for these determined twins, which they accomplished in another year and a half. Thereafter, their adventurous pursuit took them to the South Pole on skies, lugging their 136 kg laden sleighs. After the South Pole, came the North Pole where the biggest challenge was to negotiate the deceptive and thinly crusted leads (open water patches) that could just crack open under their weight and plunge them into icy waters of the Arctic beneath. On 21 April 15, they skied the last degree from 89 to 90 degrees north – the northern most point on the planet where all meridians of longitude meet and where the only direction is south. During all their endeavors, death was not a mere possibility but a harsh reality; their ability to follow their passion and fulfill their resolution, long after the excitement of the moment had passed during their basic mountaineering course, exemplifies their character.
A man’s inadvertent remark to their father that it was unfortunate that he did not have a son shook them up to live a life less ordinary. Their stature grew with their stereotype defying activities and made them symbols of gender equality and women empowerment. In April 2015, they set up the ‘NungshiTashi Foundation’ that is dedicated to advancing the lives of Indian girls and women through outdoors, adventure sports and mountaineering. The core areas of the foundation are mountaineering, girl empowerment, protection and conservation of environment. Uttrakhand has made them the brand ambassadors of its Beti Bachao campaign and they have delivered motivational talks in various forums in India and abroad.
Learning is a continuous and never-ending process for the twins. With an eye on a career in outdoor activity, they graduated in sport and exercise from Southern Institute of Technology, Invercargill, New Zealand under a scholarship from that country’s Prime Minister. They have a PG Certificate in peacebuilding from School of International Training, Vermont, USA. They have also attended the US government’s Global Sports Mentorship Program for ‘emerging women leaders in sports’. The UK charity on girl empowerment ‘Girl Guiding’ selected them among the top ten most inspiring women, less than 25 years of age, alongside Nobel Laureate Malala Yusufzai and British celebrity Emma Watson. Last September, BBC interviewed them for their program ‘BBC Impact’. Verve magazine featured the twins among India’s top 50 power women and their collective social media following is in excess of a quarter million.
Currently, they are excited about attending the Finse1222 Explorers Festival in Norway in Feb 2017 and then in March, speaking at a globally prestigious event alongside famous celebrities such as Paula Abdul, Margaret Trudeau, Holly Branson and Kate Winslet. After recently summitting New Zealand’s highest peak Mt Cook, the Malik twins have now set their sights on the ‘Four Icecap Challenge’ that includes Patagonia, Greenland and a return to the Poles. Nevertheless, while concentrating and training for their arduous mission, they continue to stay focused on their mission of empowering young women in India. Way to go girls – you have done India and its Army proud by going to places where not even the eagles dare. Before signing off, Soldier2ndLife wants to remind you of the stirring words of TS Elliot, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”.
Did not know of these Army achievers before. Thanks for sharing