Mandvi Garg battled depression, vision loss to come back as a champion trekker
From childhood Mandvi Garg was passionate about a range of sports, be it judo, swimming, handball or volleyball. She represented her school in various events and had every intention of making a career of it until she started losing her vision due to Retinitis Pigmentosa.
About eight years ago, she lost her sight completely.
I was in class 10 when I started losing my vision. Today I cannot see at all. I was active in sports from class 2 and was supposed to play at the national level. I had to give it up because of my failing sight and also because my parents felt I should focus on academics. I sank into depression, gained a lot of weight and suffered a huge loss of confidence. I had a hard time coping with the changes that came with losing my vision.
Today Garg has made a comeback with a bang. It all started quite by accident when she impulsively signed up for a short trekking trip organized by Bachendri Pal, the first Indian women to climb Mount Everest. Her first hike was, in her words, "a horrible, miserable experience as it was raining all through, with the temperature three degrees below zero. "
However, that trek proved life altering.
"I realized that I was so blessed. I had such a comfortable life and contrast that to what people experience on treks, where there is no facility. I felt like the happiest and richest person on earth. I made up my mind to take up mountaineering seriously."
After some training, she tested her mettle with a 19,600-foot climb at Mt Kanamo in Himachal Pradesh. "When I came back, Bachendriji asked, 'Do you know what you have done? You are the first fully blind person to climb this height.' It felt awesome. I was in all the newspapers too!"
That was in 2015 and since then there has been no looking back for this manager with the Oriental Bank of Commerce in Hisar. She has her focus firmly set on a bigger climb - Mount Everest.
"I need to train for that and have done an advanced mountaineering course in Darjeeling. In the meantime, I use every opportunity to take part in events and learn new skills like scuba diving."
Soon after Mt Kanamo, Garg cycled from Ahmedabad to Junagadh in three days to climb 10,000 steps to reach the famous Girnar temple. She was the only blind person in the group.
She was also brand ambassador for the Pinkathon in Delhi this year, becoming the first blind women in India to run 21 kilometres.
"I am determined not to miss any opportunity. My ultimate goal is Everest and for that I need more training and trainers who are willing to work with me. That remains a challenge."
Given the story of her remarkable comeback, this is sure to be just a minor roadblock.