While in Pune with Rohini, I saw this NYT bestseller on her bookshelf. The cover caught my eye and the description made me curious. One man's mission to promote peace... One school at a time.
The back cover said: 'Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to anything --even die.'
It is the first book I have read about Pakistan, in fact, about Kashmir occupied by Pakistan. And my recent foray into epics had taught me that Dhritarastra's wife Ghandari and her brother Sakuni, root of all problems in Mahabharta, came from the present day Afghanistan!
It is the story narrated by a mountaineer, Greg Mortenson, who failed to scale K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Rescuing his teammate cost him and another a chance to attempt and scale the summit. He had just of 600 meters to climb. As he came down, he lost his way and landed in a village, Korphe in POK and was nourished back to health by them. In gratitude he impulsively promised to build a school when he saw the children were studying under the sky!
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
K2 is known as the Savage Mountain due to the extreme difficulty of ascent and the second-highest fatality rate among the eight thousanders. For every four people who have reached the summit, one has died trying. It is more hazardous to reach K2 from the Chinese side; thus, it is mostly climbed from the Pakistani side. Unlike Annapurna, the mountain with the highest fatality-to-summit rate, K2 has never been climbed in winter. (Wikipedia)
Topografic map of Tibetan Plateau.png. Karakoram range.
While the story is about how he managed to keep his promise, I felt a bit disappointed that K2, the second highest peak was not in India, it has nothing do with it being now in Pakistan. Probably it is because as kids we thought Mt.Everest was in India and then learnt that it was in Nepal! I suppose that is how we are made.
David Oliver Relin, the co-author, says that Greg was lost as he moved south, into an impenetrable maze of shattered icefall, and beyond that, the high altitude killing zone where Pakistani and Indian soldiers lobbed artillery shells at one other through thin air!
Note: The quotes from the book are in Italics.