Twins Nungshi and Tashi Malik are a well-bonded team who have achieved many global landmarks in mountaineering. In 2013, barely 21 years old, they became world’s first female twins to scale Mt Everest. Now they have dedicated their adventure mission to Indian girl child with the motto ‘Gender Equality Now: Fight Female Foeticide’. Last year, they started ‘Nungshi Tashi Foundation’ with the objective of promoting outdoor leadership and girl empowerment.
How do you plan to make a balance between your passion and career?
We aren’t into any career yet! Our climbing passion is slowly evolving into profession without us even realising it. We have double Bachelor’s degrees in mass communication and sport science and a half master’s degree in peace building. We are brand ambassadors for big US high altitude gear company, Mountain Hardwear, and are regular public speakers. Our foundation will occupy sizeable part of our time, so will various upcoming adventures and expeditions. Yes, whatever we do will be outdoors and adventure-centric! Bollywood had offered a biopic in 2013, which we turned down.
How did you get involved in mountaineering?
Initially we got into climbing purely for its educational value in promoting self-awareness and self-confidence. In first exposure itself we fell in love with it. Yes, despite initial parent’s disapproval we kept dreaming and persuading them to allow us to follow our passion. Mom was the biggest obstacle for over two years and finally she relented for one time attempt at Mt Everest. The ‘rest is history’ as they say!
What makes you different from others?
Twin girls with roots in rural Haryana setting half dozen Guinness World Records in mountaineering and exploration by age 23…these on top of brilliant academic performance.
What is the learning lesson people would get from you?
Gender is human reconstruct; mountains (literally and as metaphor) do not discriminate based on gender! Excellence comes when we back our passion with commitment and persistence. We must celebrate being girls and be our own best version. Often parental support and enabling environment is key to girls realising their wildest dreams.
What challenges did you two face?
Numerous gender challenges, apart from equally tough financial situations to support very expensive sport of extreme altitude-climbing; along with general disapproval, lack of support, fear and doubt instilled by apparent ‘well- wishers’, peers, relatives and society at large. How many times were we reminded, ‘Don’t you realise mountaineering isn’t for girls?’ Some were clearly visible, most were subtle and ‘well-meaning’ advice we call #invisible gender mountains.
What was your learning from the whole process?
There is a long list of lessons and learning. But the biggest of them all is ‘success invariably comes to those who follow their passion with commitment and persistence’. Let fear not take away your dreams. Courage is understanding fear and working past using it as an ally for better preparedness.
Whom do you attribute your success to?
Dad’s support, enabling environment at home and being twins competing against each other! Most importantly, inspiration from Indian girl child who we believe has nerves of steel to be able to climb her daily ‘gender mountains’!
What are your plans for the future?
Manage and expand our Nungshi Tashi Foundation’s Outdoor Leadership School at Mussoorie foothills, annually host South Asia’s biggest outdoor event ‘Base Camp festival’, deliver motivation talks, embark on bigger and bolder expeditions, create outdoor livelihoods for girls, write a book on our journey and find more time for our other great passion ‘dancing’!