Neeraj Chaudhary tested positive for COVID-19 on the day he was to start from Kathmandu for the Mount Everest but that did not deter the IIT Delhi alumnus who returned to the base camp within weeks of his recovery and ultimately managed to hoist the institution's flag, besides the tricolour, atop the summit.
While the country was reeling under the aggressive second wave of COVID-19, Chaudhary's family members in Rajasthan were hooked to their phones waiting for an update about his well being.
Chaudhary, 37, did his MTech in Environmental Sciences and Management at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi during 2009-11 and he is currently working with the Rajasthan government's Water Resources Department.
He took to mountaineering in 2014, and in 2020 got selected as a member of Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) Everest Expedition under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. However, the expedition was postponed due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
This year, amid the uncertainty posed by the pandemic, he reached Kathmandu with the team to begin the expedition. "But I hit a roadblock when I tested positive for Covid and had to return to Jaipur. I was feeling fatigued since a few days but I had no other symptoms," Chaudhury told PTI.
"In that moment as well, I wasn't really thinking of Covid. All I could think of was how much effort I had put in and the preparations I had done to reach there and that was my chance to complete it. I think that motivation of not having a second chance anytime soon helped me push my body harder and there I was," he added.
He tested positive on March 27 and was back in Kathmandu in April itself. He managed to scale the peak on May 31.
Chaudhary recalls that once he was back in Kathmandu, after recovering from the infection, the news updates from India about the Covid situation worried him, while his family was on tenterhooks due to updates of cyclones in subsequent weeks.
"It wasn't easy mentally, and mountaineering is not just a physical effort. When I reached there, then also it took me three attempts within 36 hours to ultimately reach the top but once there, it was the best feeling. I managed to scale the peak on May 31," he said.
Crediting IIT Delhi for shaping his career and the alumni association for helping him start a fundraiser of Rs 24 lakh for the expedition, Chaudhary took the IIT flag with him.
A flag in ceremony was held at IIT Delhi on Friday to mark the achievement.