20
Mar

Trekking up to God

Review of Limping To The Centre of The World; Timeri N. Murari; Penguin 2008; pp 287; Rs 350

– Shana Susan Ninan

Timeri N. Murari’s Limping To The Centre of The World starts with a present continuous sentence that gave me the feeling that I was right in the middle of the action. A self-confessed ascetic and atheist, and having never trekked in his life, Murari goes on the Kailas pilgrimage for the sake of his adopted son of a few years, who’s to undergo surgery. As oxymoron-ish as the previous sentence sounds, he does discover God – not as a seen image or power, but in the mountain, in the valley and as an energy all-encompassing the universe He created.

The Kailas trek is said to be the hardest pilgrimage known to man. And, rightly so. It involves a 200-km trek across the western Himalayas, a parikrama of the Kailas at 5,550m and a tiring walk down the slopes back into India. If this is not inhospitable enough think of the high altitude sickness you can suffer from, the scarcity of food and water up there, coupled with a group of diverse and unknown people as fellow travelers! Lasting almost a month, the trek often ends up being a survival trial rather than a search for the divinity, as many successful pilgrims will acknowledge. By the time the harshness sets in tight, you nearly forget that you’re there for the darshan of the mighty mountain and to regain/reinforce your belief in your god.

Murari’s words are visual to the point where the reader can see, smell and sense his surroundings on this trek. Like this:

The Kali isn’t a river. It’s a raging, pounding, hissing serpent of water that smashes into boulders the size of houses, buses and cars which have slid down the hills. It twists and turns, thrashes and heaves against its banks and, over time, it has sculpted the boulders into grotesque and wondrous shapes… If I am to make it to the end of the ledge before the year’s end, I need my pony. Far, far ahead, threading the mist like ants on a web, I glimpse the younger yatris, those in their twenties, scurrying along the narrow path quickly being gobbled up by the mist.

Showing strong shades of his journalistic side, Murari delves into massive chunks of historical information, dissipating it to the hungry reader in smaller and more understandable bits. He’s quick to give tips to probable Kailas trekkers as well as throwing caution at us often about how hard the trek is. But then, he himself is battling a hurt knee and except for a slip or two, manages quite well till he returns to Delhi.

Murari is not the bhajan-singing kind of devotee. In fact, he even doubts the existence of God. But unlike some of his fellow travelers, he does not get bored of watching the mystic mountain or relaxing to the music of nature. He believes in a higher energy which transcends the worship of stones and images. By the end of his trek and more so after he returns to his normal life, he realizes (so does his wife and friends) that he’s at peace with himself and is not attached to any worldly materials like other around him. Also, after living with and tolerating a weird group of people as travelling companions, his level of patience has increased much and doesn’t seem to mind irritable people.

The book is insightful, vibrant and thought-provoking on many levels. It is not a philosophical piece that might drive away the non-religious. Murari writes with passion and it rubs off on the reader, certainly.        

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rating: 9.0/10 (3 votes cast)
Trekking up to God, 9.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings

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This entry was posted on Sunday, March 20th, 2011 at 8:50 pm and is filed under Non-Fiction, Reviews, Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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