Tashi & Nungshi Malik

Has someone ever told you that you can’t do something? Just for no good reason other than they’re being a bugger?

Absolutely everyone told Tashi and Nungshi Malik they couldn’t do certain things because they were girls. More specifically, they were girls in India.

Thank God they chose not to listen to these visionless people beholden too old ways of thinking.

Instead, with the support of their trailblazing parents, they’ve conquered the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents and really embody one of my favorite characteristics, fearlessness.

How did twins from a tiny town in India conquer Everest and beyond?

It’s just enough audacity and it comes from their parents, the girls say, especially their father, who encouraged their foray into mountaineering and was quite the trendsetter himself. “He was the first person from his village to become an army officer and also the first to marry outside his caste,” Tashi explains.

Their mother is the daughter of an army officer, so she knew exactly what she was getting into– the family was always on the move, globetrotting, and meeting new people.

This worldly view helped with societal pressures put on girls, but only some.

Nungshi says, “We would overhear aunts and uncles asking our parents if they didn’t want to try for a boy. We would sometimes hear comments because we were tomboyish.  There is also a sense of fear where we are from that you can’t do certain things if you’re a girl. Those fears are interesting, but with our parents guidance, we channeled our resources into really succeeding at life.”

They make it sound easy, as all the most amazing people do, but it takes many mountaineers a lifetime to accomplish what they have conquered at just twenty-five.

Perhaps having a go-to best mate is the secret? “We feel truly blessed to be twins,” Tashi answers. “For us, it has always been about togetherness. We can take on the world with ease.”

Nungshi adds, “our mission puts us in life threatening positions; it would be too hard alone. Together we have synergy.”

The NungshiTashi Foundation devoted to inspiring other girls in India to challenge gender stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes. Their mother’s influence is keenly apparent here. She is the role model who encouraged them to care deeply about women’s rights.

Of course, even the closest of siblings must fight occasionally, and the Maliks are no exception. Nungshi laughs recalling the story, “We were skiing in the North Pole, staying in a tent with a line drawn across the center to keep some personal space. A storm came in and we had to pack quickly. Tashi stepped out of the tent and a big chunk of ice fell into my sleeping bag, which just made me furious and we fought, not just yelling, but kicking with our boots.”

But Nungshi also says, “We are in it together. Without Tashi, I would be incomplete forever.”

With these two out in the world, one hopes that little girls in their village will hear they can’t do something far less often than those before them and someday girls won’t hear it at all.