'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Seems Times Have Changed

Long back, when I was in school, Reader's Digest brought out a volume titled 'Discovery'. It was on the historic feats of exploration and adventure - an alternative title of the book was 'Adventures that changed our World'.

All adventurers were white men (about the only exception was Mrs. Florence Baker who accompanied her husband Samuel White Baker in his search for the source of the Nile. And there was also something on the ancient Phoenician voyager Hanno but Phoenicians are not exactly non-white!). There was NOTHING on the great medieval Chinese navigator Zheng He or on the namelesss Polynesian navigators who populated practically every island in the Pacific well before the Europeans 'discovered' them - and zilch or thereabouts on Arab or Chinese travelers like ibn Batuta and Al Beruni or Fa Hien and Hiuen Tsang - not to speak of Tamil seafarers who reached Malaysia and beyond.

Moreover, it was obvious that 'Discovery' was not the right title for a volume in which genuinely scientific explorers like Captain Cook, Lewis and Clarke or Vitus Bering had for company brave but disgusting characters like Vasco Da Gama (he certainly was disgusting from an Indian viewpoint) and Balboa. And some of the stories were, from any viewpoint, gruesome chronicles of invasion, loot and murder - 'Pizarro *destroys* the Incas', for instance.

But a chapter that caused special irritation was titled 'Hillary climbs Mount Everest'. No Tenzing! Even in the text, the Sherpa appears as little more than a trusty sidekick to the intrepid New Zealander. There was the photograph of a triumphant Tenzing on the summit (taken by Hillary) with the wistful caption 'Tenzing had never handled a camera before so Hillary could not get himself photographed atop the Everest'!


Cut to the present. Britannica has published a solid tome: 'Learning Library' for children. It contains among other things, short life-sketches of 30 or so prominent people, chosen from all over history (a very balanced collection; Gandhi is there and is neatly balanced by Jinnah - or was the balancing done the other way round?). I was surprised to see Tenzing in the list; Hillary does appear but not to play Crusoe to Tenzing's Friday; and there is a photo of the two mountaineers together, preparing for the climb of their lives.


  • At 4:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    am bck from hibernation.
    good to see ur blog buzzing!

    So how ya been mate?

  • At 10:45 PM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    hi iceman,

    guess you are now in hyd - heard from folks here about your move.

    i see you have killed off 'kautilya'.

    apart from what you see on this blog, there is precious little happening to me these days.


  • At 5:48 AM, Blogger Ananya said…

    You have such a fanatstic memory. Great piece.

  • At 12:16 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks ananya for the appreciation.

    about memory, nearly half a lifetime spent in adding to and stirring up that witches' cauldron has not made me any wiser about its working!

  • At 3:26 PM, Blogger nepalwriter said…

    To learn more about the Sherpas, read Beyond the Summit--the first work to dramatize the lives of this amazing tribe in fiction. Details of the culture and religion are interwoven in a tale of romance and high adventure.

    Barnes and Noble Review
    Average Rating: *****
    "Best book on Nepal ever... This is the book to read before you embark on your pilgrimage to Nepal. The author knows and loves the people and the country, and makes you feel the cold thin air, the hard rocks of the mountains, the tough life of the Sherpa guides, and you learn to love them too. This is a higly literate, but also very readable book. Highly recommended."
    -- John (college professor)

    Amazon Reviews:

    ***** (5 stars) Truth and fiction
    September 14, 2006
    Reviewer:Bernhard Fassl (Utah, USA)
    This book covers the daily lives of people in the Himalayas. It not even goes beyond the summit but beyond the Shangri_la image often painted by visitors, people in search of spirituality. The story in itself is immensely spiritual but not the circumstances under which life has to take place.
    I represent a volunteer organization IPPG (International porter protection group, check us out at [...]) that gives high altitude porters a voice and I am depply touched by Linda LeBlanc's account which is more truth than fiction.
    Bernhard Fassl MD

    Below are selections from reviews. To read the complete ones and excerpts go to

    A hard-hitting blend of adventure and romance which deserves a spot in any serious fiction collection. Midwest Book Review

    LeBlanc is equally adept at describing complex, elusive emotions and the beautiful, terrifying aspect of the Himalayan Mountains. Boulder Daily Camera

    LeBlanc's vivid description of the Himalayas and the climbing culture makes this a powerful read. Rocky Mt News Pick of the Week

    A rich adventure into the heart of the Himalayan Kingdom. Fantastic story-telling from one who has been there.

    A gripping, gut-twisting expedition through the eyes of a porter reveals the heart and soul of Sherpas living in the shadows of Everest.

    Memorable characters and harrowing encounters with the mountains keep the action moving with a vibrant balance of vivid description and dialogue. Literary Cafe Host, Healdsburg, CA

    This superbly-crafted novel will land you in a world of unimaginable beauty, adventure, and romance. The love story will keep you awake at night with its vibrant tension and deep rich longing. Wick Downing, author of nine novels

    The book is available from,, Barnes & Noble and Borders Stores, and the web site for an autographed copy.


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