BOOK REVIEW: The Man and the Mountain

BOOK REVIEW: The Man and the Mountain


Author: Imtiyaz Khan
Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: Notion Press
1st Edition published August 19, 2016

The Man and the Mountain’ by Imtiyaz Khan is the story of a believer and a non-believer. It is also a story about mountaineering, and the lessons of life that one learns from mountaineering. A banker has been blamed for someone else’s wrongdoing. He thinks he has lost the means to live a dignified life and so he decides to commit suicide. He thinks the best way would be to jump into the fast flowing waters of a mountain river. He hikes a long distance up lush green mountains so that there is no one to stop him. He has lost all faith in God and in himself. He reaches a place where the flow of the water below him is so strong that it can smash a big boulder to pieces.
He jumps into the water and surrenders himself to death. But later he regains consciousness and finds himself beside a man, who is sitting near him with a book in his hands. He thinks at first that the man is an angel and he is in heaven. But as he comes to his senses, he realises that the man looks old and seems to be from another faith. The old man tells him, “You being alive is the biggest miracle that I have seen in my life.”
Our protagonist talks rudely to the old man and resumes his journey towards Narang, a place deep in the mountains. The old man starts walking with him and tells him that everything is in the mind; if the mind is strong and determined then there is no obstacle and everything is possible.
The name of the old man, our protagonist learns, is Samsar Chand Koul. He is a teacher by profession. The name of our protagonist is Sabir Ali. Samsar Chand Kuol turns out to be a very knowledgeable person who can discuss any subject in detail, and his love for the mountains is immense. The way he walks on the mountains, his knowledge of plants – Sabir nicknames him as the ‘mountain man’.
Upon reaching a place, Sabir is shocked to see a pistol in the hands of Samsar, the man who talks philosophy and non-violence. To explain this, Samsar says, “It is in a dog’s nature to be friendly with humans while it is in a leopard’s nature to pounce on humans. It is in our nature to protect ourselves. Knowing all this, if I will not protect myself, then I am the most stupid man on this earth. It is good to believe in God but at the same time it is not good to blame God by having acted in a ridiculous manner and not applying the mind. The same God has made fire to keep us warm but we cannot blame God if this fire harms us as a result of our negligence”.
Far away from cities and towns in these beautiful mountains, shepherd children early in the morning assemble near the tent of Samsar to take lessons from him. Samsar says to Sabir that he teaches them to be good and responsible, which is more important than anything else.
One day sitting in the lap of these mountains, Sabir tells Samsar the reason why he wishes to his life. Sabir says that his mother had brought him up despite hardships and poverty after he lost his father within a few months of his birth. He managed to get an education and after completing his studies, he got a job in a bank. Life started to move towards prosperity and happiness. One fine evening he was as usual travelling back to home from office when two elderly persons waved their hands and asked for a lift. He stopped his car thinking it to be a service to humanity. When they had covered about half the distance, he was stopped by the police, who searched his car and found fake currency notes. The next morning, the headlines in all the newspapers read, “Banker caught with fake currency notes”.
Samsar tells Sabir a life lesson using the metaphor of mountaineering. He says, “Mountain climbing is for those who are willing to accept challenges and are brave, confident, patient, strong-willed and hardworking. It requires of a person not only physical strength but more importantly, mental strength. Physical strength as we know wanes with time, whereas it is mental strength which overcomes everything and enables one to move ahead.”
Samsar narrates his own life story to make Sabir understand the nature of ups and downs in life. Samsar says that mountain climbing has taught him how to live in the most difficult of times. He tells him how he along with his team of mountaineers was caught in a snow storm in the middle of a glacier while climbing the world’s highest mountain peak. He says they survived purely on mental strength and faith in God.

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