HYDERABAD: Neelima Poduta, the city-based techie, was on the top of a mountain, at an altitude of 6,400 metres, close to the base camp of Mt Everest when the killer quake struck last Saturday. “We could feel the tremors but we all thought it was just giddiness because of mountain sickness. We did not think it was an earthquake!” recalled the 28-year-old who returned home Friday.
Sharing her experience, the employee of Cognizant Technology Solutions said she was not aware of the earthquake even after returning to their lodge as the communication network was disrupted. She finally learnt about the devastating calamity on the radio.
Neelima, though not a mountaineer, had embarked on an expedition to the base camp of Mt Everest along with six others on April 20. Neelima could not contact her worried family back home for two days — during which time, her father Showraiah and mother Dr Papa were praying for her safety.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, Neelima and her group had to endure days of sheer terror. “We later experienced many aftershocks. Some of them were more powerful than the actual earthquake,” said Neelima, who was the only Telugu person among the group. “We came down very fast, we were trekking for about six-eight hours a day, just like we did on our way up, but we were covering more distance on our return journey,” the techie recalled. Neelima is in fact a very lucky girl. “Lodges, we had earlier stayed in, disappeared, transport system was badly damaged and bridges collapsed. So, we had to look for other routes,” she said, adding some of them were so terrified as not even to cast a glance on either side. “They just focused on the next step.”
After four days of arduous journey, they reached Lukla village and then, the Tenzing Airport in eastern Nepal. “We saw the Indian Air Force helicopters evacuating people. We rushed back to our lodge, packed our bags and stood in the queue for our turn,” Neelima said. After landing in Kathmandu, the group boarded a flight to Delhi.
Despite being shaken after the experience, Neelima, also a trained Bharatanatyam dancer, is determined to conquer the Everest. “Next year, if I get a sponsor, I will go to the summit,” she said.
Her father, a retired advocate, said it was an equally harrowing experience for the family. “We were extremely concerned when we could not contact her. We could barely sleep and I cried a few times,” he admitted.