Monday, August 10, 2009

The Mountaineer

Once upon a time, a man who lived near a hilly range decided to climb the highest peak amongst those mountains. He gathered a few friends one evening, told them of his plans and started before dawn the next day.

As he started to climb, he met many people and was very happy conversing with them. He delighted in the company of fellow climbers, but was a little dismayed that only very few were aiming at reaching the highest peak. He never tired of talking with them about the climb and about the peak.

But as he climbed higher and higher, the company dwindled. Now he saw tents pitched with his fellow hikers having made a home there, and he met only two men in an entire week who were still climbing.

As he went still higher, he become not a little tired and short of breath, and was moreover mortally afraid that there would be nobody to help him in case he collapsed.

In his tiredness, whenever he looked up, he was blinded by the harsh sunlight and could not see the peak that was his destination. He started shifting in and out of fantastic hallucinations.

Immensely lonely, he wondered in his delirium why there were so few people nearby when he was no near the peak. He could not believe that nobody else wanted to reach the peak that he so desired to stand upon. He became forlorn and confused and doubted if he was on an altogether wrong path.

He looked down in the plains and saw multitudes frolicking, laughing, crying and fighting. He had a great urge to turn back, as the way forward was treacherous and uncertain whereas the view downhill was comforting in its familiarity.

He sat down wearily, and as he turned his eyes away from the peak and the sun, he saw a single eagle gracefully gliding in a circle, alone, unconcerned. And then as he looked down into the plains, he saw a great swirl of birds following each other in a pattern.

He closed his eyes and a deep stillness came over him. Blood rushed to his white hands and to his cold feet, and with a surge of energy he ran to the peak and cried with joy.

In that duration-less moment, he stood straight on his two feet, without wavering, with his eyes firm and unmoving, while the gliding eagle vanished from his sight into a cloud.


Anonymous said...

Nice...short and crisp, just wondering what follows next. "The mountaineer having done the hard work and reaching the peak enjoys the beautiful sunset. There is a moment of calm and pure joy that makes all the arduous effort and cadences of delirium worth it."

Unknown said...

I remember one afternoon at a barbecue, wandering apart from the crowd and just standing there quietly watching a lone bird flying toward the sunset in the fading light. My childhood best friend appeared beside me, pointed to it and asked "what does that make you think of?"

Me: Freedom.

Him: Loneliness.

Anonymous said...


A while later, he noticed others around him. A few who has just arrived and more on the way up from the other side of the mountain. Earlier, half way through the mountain, he had wept when he looked at the sad song of humanity being played across the valley, now he looked at them, with regard which was beyond any definition. He was filled with ever flowing joy and needed no guidance, no mentor and no inspiration. It was joy to have company but he missed none, needed none.

Di said...

Moral of the story:
Never attempt mountain climbing with out some experience. Also one should always-always carry sun glasses. And one should not depend on others to finish the mountain climbing (co-dependant). A little bit of training goes a long way.
Good one.

Anonymous said...

by Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans

The Boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but him had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud though childlike form.

The flames rolled on; he would not go
Without his father’s word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.

He called aloud, "Say, Father, say,
If yet my task be done!"
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.

"Speak, Father!" once again he cried,
"If I may yet be gone!"
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
In still yet brave despair,

And shouted but once more aloud,
"My father! must I stay?"
While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound;
The boy, - Oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds, that far around
With fragments strewed the sea,-

With shroud and mast and pennon fair,
That well had home their part,-
But the noblest thing that perished there
Was that young, faithful heart.

Di said...

The mountaineer/rock climber is bit cocky...don't you all think? Maybe the writer is pushing him to be out there like some hero; looking down upon rest of the humanity (literally and figuratively) and going "tch-tch" at their mediocracy. Dekha mainey pura mountain climb kiya and you all looser. followers of herd. mediocre. not pushing limit. etc etc
He is cocky, lonely at the top without realising what fun the people in the herd are having and low stress too....they are enjoying the life, while being regular people.

Anonymous said...

from W.B.Yeats ( Lapis Lazuli)
:: Or lofty slope where it still snows
Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch
Sweetens the little half-way house
Those Chinamen climb towards, and I
Delight to imagine them seated there;
There, on the mountain and the sky,
On all the tragic scene they stare.
One asks for mournful melodies;
Accomplished fingers begin to play.
Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay. :::

it is not looking down but looking at them, recognizing the futility of the tragic scene and song of humanity. The mountaineer is an everyman who breaks from the 'pattern' and seeks something that most of humanity cannot see because it is wrought in human condition. It is not being cocky or patrozining but realization. Of course, he has come from the same sea of humanity but has found nerves to break free from the pattern.

Jarnail said...


As he trudged along to school,
It was always Johnny's rule
To be looking at the sky
And the clouds that floated by;
But what just before him lay,
In his way,
Johnny never thought about;
So that everyone cried out,
"Look at little Johnny there,
Little Johnny Head-in-Air!"

Running just in Johnny's way
Came a little dog one day;
Johnny's eyes were still astray
Up on high,
In the sky;
And he never heard them cry
"Johnny, mind, the dog is nigh!"
Down they fell, with such a thump,
Dog and Johnny in a lump!

Once, with head as high as ever,
Johnny walked beside the river.
Johnny watched the swallows trying
Which was cleverest at flying.
Oh! what fun!
Johnny watched the bright round sun
Going in and coming out;
This was all he thought about.
So he strode on, only think!
To the river's very brink,
Where the bank was and steep,
And the water very deep;
And the fishes, in a row,
Stared to see him coming so.

One step more! oh! sad to tell!
Headlong in poor Johnny fell.
And the fishes, in dismay,
Wagged their tails and swam away.

There lay Johnny on his face,
With his nice red writing-case;
But, as they were passing by,
Two strong men had heard him cry;
And, with sticks, these two strong men
Hooked poor Johnny out again.

Oh! you should have seen him shiver
When they pulled him from the river.
He was in a sorry plight,
Dripping wet, and such a fright!
Wet all over, everywhere,
Clothes, and arms, and face, and hair:
Johnny never will forget
What it is to be so wet.

And the fishes, one, two, three,
Are come back again, you see;
Up they came the moment after,
To enjoy the fun and laughter.
Each popped out his little head,
And, to tease poor Johnny, said
"Silly little Johnny, look,
You have lost your writing-book!"

Jarnail S said...

"Moral of the story:
Never attempt mountain climbing with out some experience"

Aisa bhi kaha ja sakte hain:

Gehraion mein mat jaa Ghalib
Nahin to doob jaye ga.

Ya phir:

Tujhe doobna hi tha
To kisi ki ankhon mein doobta.

Anonymous said...

Suhan Allah! Suhan Allah!

Susan said...

so has he actually reached the peak or is he still on his way? just out of curiosity and on a lighter note, what does he do for a living since mountain climbing may not fulfill the needs of survival.

Harmanjit Singh said...

No matter where he is, he does access email though. :-)

Di said...

What...Harman has sense of humor, after all....LOL....

Di said...

hmmm, so it was autobiographical piece after all. I was wrong to think it was all wonderful fiction straight from imagination!
And you did successfully shoo off Jarnail...which means that you indeed want to be lonely and may I say miserable like the protagonist. My humble request would be not to chop off absolutely any comments, however dump/lurid/stupid/rubbish unless they hit someone below the belt or are utterly offensive....IMHO.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Di:

The piece was self-referential insofar as it referred to the rarefied terrain as one continues to plough one's depths. I don't claim to have reached the peak.

As for Jarnail, it would be unfortunate if he stops commenting or communicating on this blog. I only requested him to post his poems on the Bazm page since they were not very relevant to this post.

Jarnail, come back yaar!

Di said...

"...rarefied terrain as one continues to plough one's depths..."
That is height of pretentiousness, don't you think that climbing "up" (or climbing up alone) is the only way to go "up" and be better,superior than others and thus have inflated sense of self and ego.

Not you. But your interpretations are faulty.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Climbing is an analogy because high up in the mountains there is solitude.

I talk from experience, that as one disowns one's being and proceeds, it is well nigh certain that one has little affective ground to share with the rest of humanity.

Di said...

as one disowns one's being and proceeds,....

Escapism, pure and simple.

BTW: Unabomber and Gandhi, shared something in common, at least one is your idol and another you think lowly about.


Anonymous said...

'Not you. But your interpretations are faulty.'

Can you separate the dancer from the dance? If the person is correct and faultless, his interpretations are likely to be correct as well. The mountaineer is not looking down. Refer to the poem by Yeats, quoted in the comments. The climber recognizes the sad song of humanity ( for he came from that), just that cannot participate in it any longer. He has fellowship regard that is why he shares his songs and Blog aka his experiences. It takes confidence to be able to share so much ( and some of which is self-referential). What other evidence is required that the blogger and the mountaineer care.

Fiction and imagination: fiction springs out of experiences , whether fantastical or imaginative. No writer can conceptualize without experiencing it first( and in that sense all fiction is autobiographical).

Rarefied terrain is not an ivory tower but a space where one breathes freely. It happens automatically to those who dare to break the pattern, not out of hunger for the fame of being different, but because they ARE different. Not following what is laid out but finding the path on one's own is exciting, challenging and not for a weak heart. But understanding of such a hunger can come only from someone with a similar streak... another Deer, perhaps, not a Duck!

Jarnail S. said...


Yaara mein koi kithe gaya thori siga. Mein aale dwaale hi siga. Sunan wich aaya si ki tun Gandhi da chela banan waala hein. Kholiye pher adhiya?

Di:Humme bhagane waala kahan paida hua hai darling? Waise yeh mujhe pata nahin ki mein hoon bhi ya nahin--mujhe kabhi kabhi aisa bhi lagta hai ki shayad mein bhoot hoon. Leki Modiland ki shernian bhooton se thori darti hain?

Ab suniye kalam-e-asad:

"Nakaida gunahon ki bhi hasrat ke milen daad
Ya rab gar karda gunahon ki saza hai."...Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan Ghalib

Lord, I must be praised for the sins I did'nt commit
If I'm to punished for those I did.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Jarnail: Sunan wich aaya si ki tun Gandhi da chela banan waala hein. Kholiye pher adhiya?

Maharaj, eh tusi kitthe sun leya? Zaroor tuhaade jasoos galat khabar leya rahe ne.

Kade chandigarh aao te darshan deyo, adhiye te nik suk da prabandh saade te chhad deyo.

Jarnail said...

Na mein sapna hoon na raaz koi raaz hoon
Ik dard bhari awaaz hoon...

Unknown said...

Jarnaillllll Sweetheart.......tu vapas aa gayo!! Jai Kanaiya Lal Di. Modiland ki Sherinya bhoot say nahi par moderator kee kadak censoring kenchi say bahut ghabarati hai ...LOL. I am not in Modiland BTW. I live far-far away, saat samundar par. Harmanjeet-baba kay ideas thoday gool hai, par terey mere saath rahey kay, he will grow up....LOL

About Harman and Gandhi, I have a deep feeling and suspicion that Harman is secret admirer and follower; inadvertently. What with celebacy, aceticism, obstinacy, I can go on.... just like Bapu, don't you agree?!

Harmanjit: Manu teh invite nahi bhajiyo, Devi mata de dharshan vastey?! :(

Jarnail said...

Yes I certainly like you ,you seem to be such a frank simple straightforward gutsy and honest gal. You and Hemang are one? Hemang is a nice unusual Indian Gujarati name. Harman to kafi mazboot haddi hai, jis baba se chipak jai das bees saal to apna khoon choosvaye ga hi. But the guy has a craze for learning and that will ultimately save him. Take care. Bhoot Jarnail to ek vastvikta banta nazar aa raha hai. Aaj ki couplet:

Tere waade par jiye hum yeh tu maan jhoot jaana
Ki khushi se mar na jaate agar etbaar hota.

Mera Urdu aur Hind poetry ka seemit bhandar khatam hone waala hai!

Nyote lai lakh lakh shukriya. Baih ke parshade paran da mauka Waheguru noon kabool hoya(just using an expression, not indicative of strong religious affiliation) tan zaroor main vi look forward karan ga. Phasla tan koi khas nahin lekin phasle sirf gazan de hi nahin hunde. Anyway thanks again and maybe it comes true.