37-year-old Ravindra Kumar is not only an IAS officer and mountaineer, he is also an adventure junkie, author, and a martial artist.Roshni Balaji
The first thing that comes to mind when you hear about someone being an IAS officer or a bureaucrat is their nature of work. We tend to assume that they would spend most of the time indoors, in front of a desk stacked with files. But 37-year-old Ravindra Kumar is not one of them.
He is a person who has donned many hats – an ex-seafarer, adventure junkie, author, and a martial artist. He was the first IAS officer to successfully climb Mt Everest, and then led another team of IAS officers to the same summit.
Ravindra was born in a humble farmer’s family in Bihar’s Begusarai district. Going by his roots and financial background, opportunities were scarce. He worked hard to crack the IIT entrance exam in the first attempt and even cleared the Civil Service exam a few years later.
“My father struggled hard to meet my educational needs since the fee for twelfth grade along with IIT coaching was way too expensive,” he says.
Ravindra has given a few glimpses of this journey in his book titled Many Everests. By quoting his own life experiences he has elaborated on a technique called 'Advanced Positive Visualisation' which deals with the power of the human mind to achieve any goal. He hopes that the book is known to have motivated a lot of people to realise their dreams.
“I was inspired to join the Civil Services as my maternal uncle, Shyam Prasad, was an IPS officer. When I cleared my IAS exam, it felt like I had realised my childhood dream,” Ravindra says.
He was initially asked to join the Sikkim cadre as part of his training programme. He worked as the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of different parts of the state.
During the course of his career, he has held multiple positions including - Director of Indian Himalayan Centre for Adventure and Eco-tourism (IHCAE), Chief Development Officer (CDO) of Sitapur District in Uttar Pradesh, and Commissioner of Entertainment Tax.
After holding multiple positions as an IAS officer in Sikkim and Uttar Pradesh, Ravindra became the Private Secretary to Uma Bharati, Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Ravindra’s accomplishments has won him several accolades. He was awarded the Sikkim Khel Ratna Award by the Government of Sikkim, and the Vishesh Khel Samman by the Government of Bihar.
When Ravindra was posted in the Sikkim cadre as part of his Administrative Services’ district training, he got acquainted with the fact that the region was prone to earthquakes.
“I decided to learn mountaineering after I witnessed local hikers helping people get out of the rubble after an earthquake devastated the state in 2011. The desire in me to reach out to people at the time of calamity led me to sign up for a course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling,” Ravindra recollects.
Since he was always a person who had a tendency to seek challenges and meet high standards of performance, he developed the fervour to climb the highest peak in the world.
“I began preparing myself both mentally and physically to scale the peak. A lot of people suggested that climbing Everest first could be very risky and asked me to try ascending smaller peaks instead. But I stuck to my guns,” Ravindra says.
After months of intensive training, on May 19, 2013, he reached the top of Mt Everest. With that, Ravindra created history by becoming the first IAS officer to have attained such a landmark. When he got to the peak of Mt Everest, he was awed by the high altitude and the view from the top. So much so that, it left him speechless. “I sat there for a while silently observing everything around me. The kind of happiness I experienced was unmatched,” Ravindra told YourStory.
Ravindra did not become complacent after reaching the peak of Mt Everest just once. He wanted to scale it to the top again. However, this time, the purpose of his adventure was to spread the word about ‘a cleaner India’.
In 2015, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), under the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, organised an ‘All India Services Expedition to Mt Everest’. The team consisted of five IAS officers led by Ravindra Kumar.
“This adventure was aimed at raising awareness about ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’, from the world’s highest peak. The expedition was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself,” told YourStory.
However, when the team reached the base camp, there was an earthquake in Nepal, which resulted in an avalanche in the area. In the chaos, the team witnessed firsthand the horrors of the earthquake — dead bodies stuck to the ice, a fellow Chinese trekker’s head was smashed on the rock right next to their tent, and cries of people in pain echoed through the mountain air.
Although the expedition was called off, Ravindra refused to move out of the dangerous site immediately. He joined the rescue mission and saved the lives of three people near the base camp with the help of his teammate, Kazi Sherpa, by putting his own life at risk.
“We had to carry the injured in a stretcher to a makeshift healthcare centre nearby. The terrain was tough since there were glaciers all around. We were at an altitude of 17,600 feet. I suppose God gave me the courage to save those lives. Both Kazi and I were lucky to have got back intact,” he recalls.
And now, Ravindra is gearing up to scale the Everest for the third time. He is scheduled to leave for the expedition in the first week of April, 2019. The noble intent behind it to disseminate the message of an open defecation free nation and a clean Ganga. “I am really looking forward to garner the attention of people with regard to the efforts being taken towards an unpolluted India,” he says.
It is rare to come across a multi-faceted personality like Ravindra in everyday life. Apart from being a mountaineer, he also enjoys high-adrenaline activities like scuba diving, bungee jumping and horse riding. Being a black belt in Karate, he is also well-versed in combat and self-defence.
“I follow the three word mantra – conceive, believe, and achieve. Conceiving big dreams is important, but working hard enough to believe in oneself is even more important to achieve and realise the dream,” says Ravindra.