Monday, January 3, 2011

Literally, on top of the world

The book lay unread on my table as there were others that I was dipping into like a vacationer at a lavish bufffet: the slim book lay buried under The Lynne Truss Treasury, a P G Wodehouse, Bill Bryson's huge illustrated edition of A History of Nearly Everything, and a delightful book by Paul Arden. Then, I picked up Arjun Vajpai's 'On Top of the World'. In neat, straight, simple prose, it tells the story of how 16-year old Arjun became the youngest Indian to reach the summit of Everest, the highest peak in the world. It's not only remarkable that this Delhi boy climbed the tallest mountain, but even more remarkable that he put down his thoughts, assisted by author Anu Kumar, and had a book published the same year!

Arjun tells us about the legendary mountaineer George Mallory, who was once asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. "Because it's there!" was his now-famous answer. Arjun also talks about the perseverence and patience that his parents showed while trying to collect enough money so he could take up the challenge of scaling the big peak. He says that a low-budget expedition to mount Everest still means USD 25,000! Why would people want to give away good money so some kid could try climbing a mountain, I asked myself. The answer lies in the fact that people have to invest not in their own dreams, but also in the dreams of others. That a teenager could make it to the top, and that he could write an account that inspires readers to chase their own dreams is proof of the power of collective goodwill.

Arjun took the South Col route in the Khumbu region of eastern Nepal. In 2003, a 15-year old schoolgirl named Ming Kipa Sherpa became the youngest person in the world to reach the peak of Everest. She used the North Ridge route from Tibet.

In school children are made to memorise general knowledge trivia like 'Which is the highest mountain in the world?' (Mt. Everest, above sea level. Mt. Mauna Kea in Hawaii is tallest when measured from its base under the sea!); Which is the highest mountain in India? (Chances are Indian kids will answer, Everest, or Himalayas. Mt Everest is in Nepal, the Himalayas are a range of mountains, parts of it in India. Is it Kanchenjunga or K2? Use the search engine to find some interesting answers!). Reading books like 'On Top of the World' can be a far more exciting and inspiring way to improve one's general knowledge. Ask any school kid! Ask Arju Vajpai!

So dear readers, Happy dreams! Happy reading! And may we all have the guts to make our dreams come true in 2011! Or have the generosity to nudge others with their dreams.

'On Top of the World, My Everest Adventure'
Author: Arjun Vajpai with Anu Kumar
Publisher: Puffin India
Price: Rs.175/-

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