Author George Eliot famously said, ‘Adventure is not outside man; it is within’…and few people could, perhaps, embody this saying more than Mumbai-based oncosurgeon Dr. Murad Lala.
Entering the medical fraternity, by itself, signifies entering a world fraught with uncertainties, a world where you see life and death in their rawest forms everyday, where your decisions and actions determine which of these two a person would get. If this isn’t an exciting enough life, what is? But Dr. Lala makes sure his life is filled with adventures even when he steps out of the hospital… and this passion recently earned him the honor of being the 1st Indian doctor to conquer Mount Everest!
An adventure freak right from childhood, Dr. Lala is no stranger to sky diving, bungee jumping, deep sea diving and a host of other activities that get his adrenaline pumping. However, to scale the world’s highest peak, Mt Everest, is a dream that most have but few manage to realize…
The journey began when Dr. Lala got in touch with Peak Freaks, a Canadian organization that organizes small mountaineering expeditions to Mt.Everest. For two months, he had to undergo rigorous training at a boot camp in Nepal, including scaling three 20,000 feet high peaks, followed by training at a studio in Mumbai, which simulates an altitude of 15000 ft.
Finally, he was ready to put all the training to test. The real adventure begins. On March 28, 2013, Dr.Lala set foot in Nepal, charged up to reach his ultimate destination- the top of the world. Not counting the Sherpa’s and guides, Dr.Lala’s group comprised of four other climbers -one each from Australia, Canada, South Africa, Ireland. He was the sole Indian.
The group had to trek over 60 kms from Lukla at a height of over 17000 feet just to reach the base camp that leads to their goal. It was April 8th. From here, they had to further reach Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3 and finally, Camp 4. With the numbing icy cold, freezing weather and altitude, scaling every subsequent camp could take anything between 3 to 16 hours. Interestingly, for every new camp reached during the day, the team had to climb back down by day-end to base camp to sleep so that their bodies get acclimatized and then start over again the next day. Needless to say, It was an exhausting and long, slow climb…where track of time was soon lost… where unexpected avalanches were strong possibilities any time and bad weather was often the norm. The group was even snowed in for three days in their tents…but then, to conquer the Everest is not for the faint-hearted.
As the sun went down on May 18th, it was time for Dr. Lala to set out for Camp 4- the final hurdle. Before the climb to Everest, Nepal’s spiritual leader, Lama Geisha, had done a special prayer for all of them. They, perhaps, needed it the most in this phase…for this last stretch is also called the ‘Death Zone’ and not without reason. Many climbers have failed at overcoming this last level due to its tough terrain and till date, bodies can be found lying there. With a prayer in their hearts, they started, literally a step at a time. Later, Dr. Lala would describe the 12-hour journey as “walk of a lifetime”.
On May 19th 2013, Dr. Murad Lala of P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Center set foot on the peak of Mount Everest and created history; 1st Indian doctor to reach the peak of Mt Everest – an enviable and proud accomplishment indeed!
Always game for trying new different things, Dr. Lala says that being a doctor by profession proves to have both its pros and cons when you indulge in activities that test your endurance to its limits. On the upside, you understand your body more and what should or should not be done…and on the downside, you are also uncomfortably aware of all that can go wrong with it. However, for the rest of his expedition group, it was a relief to have a doctor in their midst should things go awry.
His wife, Dr. Mamatha, is also an adventure enthusiast like himself; so, family support was always there. Moreover, Hinduja Hospital not only granted him the leave for this expedition but also helped to partly sponsor this momentous climb.
So, what is riskier- climbing Everest or operating on his patients? He laughs and says that it is definitely the latter because he is responsible for someone else’s life, not his own.
Encouraging everyone to go all out and pursue their wildest ventures, he says, “However, don’t compromise on safety. Be adventurous, not a fool!”
Hat’s off to this spirited doctor who not only gave his medical fraternity an achievement to rejoice but also showed us the real way to live life- to the fullest!