Family awaits return of first Indian woman who skied to South Pole

January 1st, 2010 - 4:15 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) For Reena Kaushal Dharmshaktu’s family the year 2009 ended on a high note as she became the first Indian woman to ski to the South Pole. However, as the family earnestly awaits her return, their first priority is to repay the loan taken to fund the venture, and not the celebrations.
“We came to know about the news yesterday (Thursday). I have not been able to talk to her. But the Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition authorities told us that she was likely to return Jan 15,” Love Raj Singh, her husband and a mountaineer himself, told IANS.

Dharmshaktu, a 38-year-old mountaineer and outdoor instructor based in Delhi, was part of an all-women expedition that skied for nearly eight-nine hours daily for 40 days, braving chilly winds, sub-zero temperatures, the vast emptiness of Antarctica and carried 80 kg of load on their backs to reach the South Pole Thursday.

For her family the journey to the South Pole was taken against formidable odds like lack of finance.

“It is a big achievement for us and a tremendous example of her will power. All sponsors had said no to us and we took a loan to fund the venture. The first priority is to repay that loan,” Singh said.

The cost of the venture has been Rs.10-11 lakh. Unable to raise sufficient funds and shown the doors by the government and corporate houses, Dharmshaktu had to take a loan of Rs.5.75 lakh from a bank and borrow the rest from friends.

Dharmshaktu and her husband’s dream of becoming the first Indian couple to together scale Mount Everest, the highest peak on earth, has taken a back seat.

“We will think about other expeditions only when we have repaid this loan,” Singh added.

However, currently the family is waiting to have a word with her.

“Despite the problems, the achievement is big. When I will get to talk to her I will just say ‘Well Done’,” an elated Singh said.

Even though Dharmshaktu’s return date is tentative, people from all over the country have been calling up her husband and congratulating him.

“Since yesterday (Thursday) the phone has not stopped ringing. Everybody wants to know when is she coming back and want to be part of the celebrations,” said Singh.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Commonwealth, the team of eight women from Britain, Brunei, Cyprus, Ghana, India, Jamaica, New Zealand and Singapore were selected for the expedition.

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