Master of the sky, master of her destinyTrisha Shrestha is one of Nepal’s 14 female tandem pilots who have made their mark in the daredevil aerial sport, synonymous with danger and masculinity.
Trisha Shrestha made extreme sports history in 2010 when she became the first Nepali woman to take to the skies on a paraglider—solo.
She was 21 then.
Four years later, Trisha became a professional tandem pilot, setting new standards and dreams for herself in a male-dominated adventure sport and tourism.
Her bucket list got shorter in 2018 when she represented Nepal in the Asian Games in Indonesia.
It’s been 12 years since Trisha created history and went on to add daredevil feathers to her hat. She continues relentlessly breaking barriers and creating new frontiers for Nepali women in extreme sports while exploring entrepreneurship.
At 33, if she’s no longer counting the number of solo or tandem flights under her belt, she has set up a fast-fashion brand store as a side-hustle, creating jobs for 12 people.
On a clear weather day, one can be sure that Trisha is one of the colourful flecks gliding in the Pokhara skyline, flying two to three clients who want to experience the bird’s eye view of the iconic valley she now calls home.
But she’s come a long way from her hometown in Bahrabise, Sindupalchok and her days as a graphic designer in Pokhara when she first met Rajesh Bomjan Tamang, Nepal’s first paraglider and professional tandem pilot.
For Trisha, destiny had different plans.
“He showed me his photos. I couldn’t believe it was possible to fly. How do you support your body in the sky?” Trisha recalled her first meeting.
But little did Trisha know that the chance meeting with Rajesh to discuss design solutions for his paragliding company wouldn’t just change her perspective on flying; it would change her whole life.
Over time, the designer-client meetings became more frequent. Two months in, Rajesh convinced Trisha to take her first tandem flight.
“Up in the air, it felt like entering a whole new world,” she recalled ecstatically, her euphoria of the first flight still intact.
A dozen flights followed.
With each flight, the sky above Pokhara started to feel like home to Trisha. The designer-client relationship also grew, leading the couple to tie the knot in 2010.
A few months after their marriage, Trisha says, is when she had the first passing thought of becoming a paraglider herself and the odds she had to beat.
“My husband doubted if I could learn to fly. I told him that I could at least try and if successful, other women could also feel inspired to join the scene.”
With Rajesh convinced, Trisha started her training. She had a short learning curve and, in no time, wrote her name in paragliding history.
“I am euphoric when I am gliding in the sky. I let go of all the tension. I just want to fly in the sky.”
Trisha, the graphic designer, had turned paraglider and with each flight, her passion and ambitions for flying grew.
“I feel restless and incomplete on the days when I don’t fly. Paragliding is like dal-bhat (staple) to me,” she told the Post.
In the first three years of her paragliding career, Trisha went full-out. She competed in local tournaments and clinched medals. She had the first-flyer advantage and created opportunities for herself. The competition was scarce, but her hunger was growing.
“Many paragliders were training to be tandem pilots back then. I wanted to do something new, much more challenging, and most importantly, something others were doing,” she recalled. “I felt jealous.”
But the odds were building against Trisha, who wanted to turn her passion for flying into a career.
She had just given birth to their daughter Anwesha and the idea of her becoming a pilot didn’t amuse her husband, who immediately shelved it. Her mother-in-law had the strongest reservations.
“My husband told me back then that it wasn’t necessary to be a tandem pilot since money wasn’t the issue. Many people asked me to stop flying. I didn’t listen to anyone.”
Flying solo was no longer enough for Trisha, who had decided to command the bigger tandem wing, designed to carry the pilot and the passenger. Additionally, she wondered what it would feel like to have financial independence.
“I was clear about what I wanted to do and on my terms. I fought with my husband to be a tandem pilot.”
By the time their daughter was six months old, Trisha was up in the air taking lessons for tandem flying. Eight years since, she has flown people of all ages and nationalities, including their daughter, who wants to pursue paragliding like her parents.
“It’s incredible to take people up in the air.”
According to Nepal Airsports Association, 375 paragliders hold licences for professional tandem pilots. Trisha is one of Nepal's 14 female tandem pilots who have made their mark in the daredevil aerial sport, synonymous with danger and masculinity.
“Coming from a small society, it is challenging for women to get out of the house to work. On top of that, I fly. Some even take a dig at my husband for letting me train and be on my own.”
Trisha considers her paragliding career a blessing from God. She credits her husband for having things easy to fulfil her dreams and ambitions as she didn’t have to worry about the logistics and costs involved in paragliding.
“I didn’t have to worry about anything while pursuing my passion. I feel lucky to have Rajesh as my partner. He’s supported me in my career and my business."
The chance meeting with Nepal’s first paraglider a decade back changed the course of Trisha’s life but determination and grit made her the master of her destiny.
Today, she no longer counts how many times she’s been aloft after all the odds she has had to beat to be where she is today, to be the first female paraglider, to get a tandem pilot licence, to represent the country in the Asiad and to pick herself up when some men or women decide not to fly with her and pick a male pilot.
“One can achieve everything in life. Nothing is impossible. One needs to be resolute and just do it.”
This story was produced as a part of the ‘She is the Story’ campaign by ‘Voices of Women Media’. For details, visit