Book Talk: Becoming a Mountain

Released in November last year, Stephen Alter’s Becoming a Mountain is one of the most recent additions to the Himalayan literature or escapades. The author talks about his experience and inner-healing through treks and climbs in the Garhwal region of the central Himalayas.

Stephen Alter

Having hit by a tragedy at home, the author heads to the Himalayas in search for his inner peace and soul. Although an American by origin, author Stephen Alter has always been a Himalayan lover – having grown up in Mussoorie, a Himalayan hill station near Dehradun in Uttarakhand. As established by his previous books, his love for Himalayan spirituality is not a fresh one or born out of the recent misfortune back at home. Trekking and camping under the shadow of holy snow-clad peaks of Garhwal Himalayas, he hoped to overcome that tragedy.

The author talks about his love for Himalayas and expresses his frame of mind while he relates his repeated rendezvous with Flag Hill at Mussoorie, the revered Nanda Devi, the holy Kailash Mansarovar and the Bandarpunch. With the intention to overcome the mental fatigue resulting out of the attack, the author decides to rekindle his engagement with the holy peaks and attempts the Himalayan treks one at a time. While recovering from the injury, climb to the Flag Hill reignites the memories of his childhood.

Stephen believes that walking is not only the best exercise but also the most effective way to overcome depression or mental fatigue. He next attempts the established trek to the Roopkund Lake. Just as an unprepared college adult who is forced to camp in the jungle, the author too is lily-livered high up on the mountains. His candid expression, in fact, becomes a source of entertainment on his heftily paid pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar from Nepal border. Later in 2013, the arrival of the catastrophic monsoon weather denies him a chance to climb the Bandarpunch; much in agreement to his hesitation.

Author Stephen’s happenstances with the Himalayas as he gets surrounded by the snowy peaks and his encounter with the wild flowers, birds or animals that he comes across on his journeys are all but a fulfilling delight to be read. He often correlates his sojourns with the accounts and anecdotes of earlier travellers. All through his travels, he intends to relate the outcome of the attack on him and his wife with the serenity and beauty of the Himalayas. It is with the energy and wisdom emanating from his travels through the Himalayas that he has shaped and penned his thoughts in the current book.

Just as his previous books, the travel-accounts presented in this book would make for an interesting, entertaining and fulfilling read. With his expert expression and control over the language, the author, this time a victim of violence who approached the hidden Himalayas for healing, has successfully showcased his love and admiration for the Himalayas. A rare and rather realistic mysticism makes this book a rich as well as an informative memoir that knuckles under the limits of both mountain and man.

A hardbound edition of this 262-page book is currently priced at Rs 495. Published by the Aleph Book Company, New Delhi, the book is available at Amazon as well as Flipkart.

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