August 2018 | 950 words | 4-minute read
Edmund Hillary, who along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, was the first to climb Mount Everest on May 29, 1953, had earlier attempted the feat as part of a British reconnaissance expedition in 1951. That attempt failed, and Hillary made a promise to himself and to the formidable peak at that time. He said, “I will come again and conquer you because as a mountain, you can’t grow… but as a human, I can.”
It is a statement that epitomises the spirit of the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF), an outdoor leadership institute with a team led by Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest in 1984.
When Ms Pal returned after her momentous achievement, she received letters of congratulations and invitations to “work with us” from several organisations. But it was Tata Steel that she opted to stay with, disregarding the plethora of opportunities that had opened up.
She says, “Tata Steel supported me when I was nothing. The company employed me in the sports department in December 1983. I was selected to be in the team that would scale Mount Everest, but being in the team is no guarantee that you will be able to reach the top. I never forgot that gesture. My parents taught me to appreciate those that reach out to help us when we have done nothing to deserve that help. I took their advice to heart.”
A day after joining Tata Steel, Ms Pal left for the Mount Everest training camp, and from there onto the peak. She carried with her the Tata flag, given to her by Tata Steel. Exactly five months after joining the company, on May 23, 1984, she stood on the summit of Mount Everest, unfurling the Indian tricolour and the Tata flags.
On returning to Jamshedpur, Ms Pal was felicitated by Russi Mody, the then chairman and managing director of Tata Steel; at the function, he announced the setting up of a full-fledged department called the Tata Youth Adventure Centre, to be managed by Ms Pal. That centre was the precursor to TSAF.