Bangladesh on Seven Summits
It has been a little more than two years since I felt called to embark on this journey - to walk to the highest point of every continent - in an effort to put my nation of Bangladesh and her women in a more positive light in the eyes of the world.
Bangladesh in southern Asia from the orbital perspective of astronauts living and working on the International Space Station. Bangladesh became an independent nation in 1971. Image credit: NASA
When the average person out in the world talks about “Bangladesh” – they seldom remember the genocide our people experienced. Despite all that was destroyed, the astounding leap of progress that happened to that paralyzed nation, especially the contribution that was and is continuously brought forth by women, is mostly ignored. Bangladesh on Seven Summits is a tribute to those women and men, who, through sheer resolve, overcame so many struggles for the birth of our nation.
Da Kusang Sherpa offering puja (prayer ritual) to Chomolungma (Tibetan name of Everest, implying Goddess Mother of the Universe) at Everest base camp before Wasfia’s journey to the top of the world.
Like the love I received from all over the world in the process of this mission to climb the seven highest mountains on each of Earth's seven continents, I had to also overcome many obstacles; mostly physical, mental, financial and logistical nightmares. Unfortunately, the list also includes a fair share of insults, misunderstandings, discriminations, harassment, and even death threats following my TEDxDhaka talk.
Amongst other things, I had addressed at the talk was the divine feminine that lies within all of us, making me realize that "conquering" a mountain is never an option. To conquer something means to defeat it. I have trouble claiming that over such sacred spaces on Earth. Mother Nature's mercy made these unions possible. It is she who is allowing us to tread upon her by not throwing us off with an avalanche or jet stream, so how can we so gallantly proclaim to have "conquered" her? It is truly in her mercy that we are able to manifest such an act. So if anything it is she who safekeeps us. She who births us. We can only surrender.
"The human woman gives birth just as the earth gives birth to the plants...so woman magic and earth magic are the same. They are related. And the personification of the energy that gives birth to forms and nourishes forms is properly female." - Joseph Campbell
The highest peak of the massive Himalaya range, Mt. Everest is also the highest peak on our planet. Wasfia Nazreen photographed its summit from the south side of the mountain.On the summit of Everest, the overriding feeling was that of gratitude, which literally made me feel I was connected to every single human being out there, though my heart in reality crawled all alone. I saw my entire life flash over me, and felt my peoples tiptoeing through my dreams. The only thing I could hear in my hypoxic state was my own blood rush and the sound of breath against my oxygen mask- when I was using it.It was like hearing my own heartbeats and feeling thousands of others where I was, alive, in my prayers and me, in theirs. Aspiring for a better world. Sitting on the top, I felt tinier than a bug leeching on the expansive stretch of these Himalayan gods & goddesses. And an intense amount of respect and love flowed through me for the courage and dedication my ancestors have gifted me.
Mt. Everest in the Himalayas photographed from the International Space Station. The highest point on Earth, Everest's summit is 29,029 ft/8,848 meters above sea level. Image Credit: NASAI am of the generation that came into existence at the cost of, above all, systemic rape and torture of 300,000 women and girls during a nine months long independence war, soon after which they were forgotten by the world as well as my own society, where rape is seen as a source of shame. I felt the intensities of all the turmoil we have felt in the past, and are yet to feel over the ambivalent distance. One beautiful spinning world birthing us all, and what a waste we spend our short times out here fighting away.Just like the journey up the Everest gives one infinite reasons to give up innumerable times, we can find unlimited reasons to give up on our home, this spaceship we share called Earth, and all her divineness. These curses, threats and the like, only make the rising feminine force stronger, where she no longer can be ignored, silenced or ostracized.
Wasfia, who reached the summit earlier, shows off her campaign logo to a few Army men from her neighbor country of India. Image credit: Ngima Girmen SherpaAt the end of it all, it is neither about the height nor about the medals. It is about experiencing that strength, and to understand how sacred we each are in our courage. To defend our love against fear and doubt is to truly LIVE.