- Sauvik Biswas - https://sauvikbiswas.com -

Arunima Sinha and her Everest narrative

Exchanging books related to Himalayas with Nabyendu

Last Sunday, I paid a visit to Nabyendu. He had lent me Ed Viesturs’ biography earlier [1] and I wanted to return it. (If you want to read my thoughts on that, please click here [2].) I had also packed another book for him. This one to be precise:

This is a very different take on a Himalayan travelogue. [3]

This is a very different take on a Himalayan travelogue.

Nabyendu shares the same excitement and romance of mountains and voyages as me. He had been collecting some famous travelogues, in particular, those related to mountaineering. I borrowed one of the books from his collection.

Another book about Everest (well, not exactly)

DSC01533 [4]

The cover is not the one from the first pressing (which was a genuine image [5] shot in the Himalayas). This one is probably shot in some studio after she became the brand ambassador of BVG. Or maybe it was shot in the mountains, but the guy using Photoshop did a poor job.

Arunima Sinha is the first female amputee to climb Mt. Everest. She used to be a national level football and volleyball player but an unfortunate string of events [6] caused her to lose her left leg and have a rod support the fragmented bones of her right.

While her story is an excellent story of triumph over adversity, I didn’t like the book. Don’t get me wrong. I am not criticising her actions or belittling her achievements. Indeed, it takes a great deal of courage to do what she has done. The story should serve as an inspiration to many.

My issue boils down to the narration and the text itself. She devotes a huge chunk of her book to the narration of the accident and the media drama that happened outside her circle of influence and her perimeter of knowledge while she was fighting for survival. She goes through these in great detail. The presence of such detailed narrative has a lot of positive side-effects, too. We are acquainted with a lot of good souls who had helped her during that phase and in her subsequent endeavours.

The mention of Everest occurs at the 79th page.

DSC01535 [7]

This is the first time that Everest is mentioned in the book.

Considering the fact that the complete narration is wrapped up in 212 pages, the aforementioned incident forms a surprisingly long segment. Or, to be precise, the actual climb and the preparation behind it gets very less number of pages. The details are almost always smudged out. There were passages where I thought that a simple map of the routes she had traversed would have been hugely beneficial. Then there were other segments where I wanted gritty details or maybe a historical perspective and context.  I wanted to know more about her training and conditioning at Uttarkashi. I wanted to know more about her Island Peak summiting. I wanted details regarding the logistics, preparation and execution of her Everest attempt. If I could point out my frustrations with this narrative, that would exactly be it.

Nabyendu mentioned that she took many questionable decisions. He was highlighting quite a few of those decisions while I was busy taking the book out of his shelf. I can only say that while seasoned mountaineers might question those decisions, I am not the one to judge her or criticise. I am no more than an armchair mountaineer. In my opinion, as far as that aspect goes, she understood the risks and did whatever she deemed to be appropriate within the margins of her risk mitigation capability.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this book isn’t actually a mountaineering book or a travelogue. Whatever it is, I hope that she releases another version of this book sometime in the future. Preferably, a thicker and a more detailed one than this. I would love to read that. Her heroic story deserves a better narrative.

Before I end this blog entry, here is the 90 second clip she took on her mobile when she had finally reached the summit.

Ready Player One and the art of g33king out [8]
King of punctures [9]