BHUBANESWAR: He was bracing up to set his foot on Europe’s highest peak, Mount Elbrus (5,642 m) in Russia but what transpired was a bitter demonstration of the saying, ‘man proposes, God disposes.’ Thanks to the coronavirus, mountaineer Nilachal Parida’s long-cherished mission had to be called off.
And, like every other man busy looking for an alternative, the 24-year-old soon changed his plans to contribute his bit to the country as well as his family during the crisis. He started selling vegetables near Delta Chowk here to raise money for the Covid relief funds of the State and Central governments and also support his family. He claims to have set the target of donating `10,000 to the relief funds by the end of May. So far, he has earned Rs 5,000 for the donation.
Working as a part-time driver for around eight years, Nilachal had saved around Rs 1.8 lakh for his expedition. “I had plans to leave for Russia from New Delhi in the first week of April. Prior to the lockdown, I was trying to book tickets for the trip which would have cost me around Rs 52,000. Besides my savings, I had borrowed additional Rs 20,000 from friends and relatives,” said Nilachal who had climbed the country’s highest trekking peak Stok Kangri. But the lockdown put all his plans on hold.
Soon after the nationwide lockdown was announced, Nilachal and his brother gathered bamboo, gunny bags, some torn tarpaulin sheets and cloth to erect a shade in front of their house. Since the last week of March, he has been selling vegetables under the shade. On a wall right behind his seat, there is a printed message for the customers reading ‘No mask, no vegetables.’ Each customer, who queues up in front of his shop, is first made to sanitise his hands using an alcohol-based liquid.
“I am also delivering vegetables to people staying within the radius of 10 km. For senior citizens, there is no distance limit,” the mountaineer, who starts selling vegetables as early as 6 am till 10 pm, said.
Since 2012, he had been scaling heights. He was trained at Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports. He had been a part of several camps at Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Biju Patnaik Himalayan Expedition. Under the banner of his group, he trains 32 youths at Khandagiri free of cost.