Born 1969 as the youngest of four siblings, Seema had a tough childhood. She comes from a broken family that struggled to ensure the basics of life. Her self-esteem took a beating as a result of constant abuse. She became hyper active and independent. Very early in life, she acquired an appreciation for sports and physical exhaustion as means to deal with her troubles. At school, she maintained a healthy interest in sports. She soon realized the need to take control of her life. Like her other siblings, she had no choice but to fund her own education and therefore started working right after matriculation. Although she could not complete her graduation, she did something very few from her generation of women in India, managed – she fully funded her education, working and studying side by side. By age 20, after various odd jobs, she floated a food flavors company in partnership with others. It was involved in manufacturing and distribution of food. At that time, she was among the few women entrepreneurs venturing into large scale industry.  Seema oversaw sales and marketing for the company. However, just when the firm went public to raise funds for expansion, the stock market crashed. Along with several other businesses affected so in that wave, her company too sank into debt.

To make ends meet, Seema briefly ran an event management company. Meanwhile, back at the beleaguered food flavors enterprise, the promoters sold out to clear debt. In 1998 she decided to get married. Embarking on a new life with her husband, Seema had to start again from scratch. She commenced a dry cleaning business. It was a success. Seema followed this up with a bio-ceramic medical implant distribution business. She was sole distributor for the Indian subcontinent. This business too did well. When her finances improved, she invested in the exclusive franchisee opportunity offered by Wildcraft, a well-known outdoor brand originally identified with backpacks and later apparel and footwear as well. Seema was soon operating three Wildcraft stores in Bengaluru. It proved a wise move for in the months that followed she had to exit the distribution business. She now manages two Wildcraft stores.

However even as she did well on the financial front, her personal life began going downhill. Seema’s marriage unraveled into yet another disappointment.  It eventually ended in separation. But marriage gave her one lifelong gift; an unexpected one. Her husband – he remains a good friend even after separation – was a rock climber and outdoor enthusiast. He introduced her to climbing and Bengaluru’s small community of climbing addicts. Seema – then 28 years old – found herself drawn to the sport. She climbed whenever she could. For her, climbing was love at first sight.

Seema Pai

Seeking relief from what had become of her personal life, Seema periodically escaped to Bengaluru’s crags. High on rock, intensely alive to sport filled with consequences should anything go wrong, the mind lost bandwidth to dwell on life’s troubles. Given moment in time – life’s now – was all that mattered. Climbing became Seema’s fix to find equilibrium. She earned a reputation as a strong climber among women into the sport. She had her share of first ascents. The bulk of her lead climbs in this period ranged from 5.7 to 5.9 in terms of difficulty. On top rope, she could tackle 5.11. “ I would any day call her a solid 5.8 climber. She has been up to 5.9 and 5.10,’’ Dinesh Kaigonhalli, among Bengaluru’s pioneers in climbing and one of the founders of Wildcraft, said. Dinesh has also been an instructor in mountaineering with the US based-NOLS.

Looking back at her life with stages therein when every day had seemed a crisis, Seema said, “ the moment you become comfortable in life, you start losing touch with it.’’ The comment harks of life distilled by rock. Climbers relax during their climbs but taking climbs for granted is not part of how they relax. Anything can happen anytime. You stay alive to the possibility. In climbing, to relax is to become calm, consciously. Climbing reached deep into her hyper active self, to heal. “ I saw boulders and rock faces like problems. Every time I solved a problem I felt confident. My inferiority complex reduced that much,’’ Seema said. Besides rock climbing, as natural progression in the sport, she started going to the mountains. Seema’s first trek to the Himalaya was in November 1999. “ I had no idea what the Himalaya is. I just fell in love with the place,’’ she said. Seven years after she got into rock climbing, aged 35 she did her Basic Mountaineering Course from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Uttarkashi. Regular visits to the Himalaya started later with a 2007 winter trek to Pindari Glacier followed by a hike up Stok Kangri (20,082 feet) in Ladakh. That was when Seema realized that she acclimatizes well to altitude. Seema has since trekked and climbed in the Himalaya and elsewhere in the world, including therein, three of the Seven Summits reached. For an overview please visit the page titled Mountain Trips.