When Captain Haddock, in Hergé’s famous Tintin comic “Tintin in Tibet,” was invited by the protagonist to join in his walk in the mountains, Haddock’s response was this question – “If we must come down again, what is the use of going up there anyway?”
It was quite difficult to ignore all the excitement about some Bangladeshis climbing high mountains successfully in the recent past. Musa Ibrahim not so long ago became a celebrity overnight after he successfully scaled the highest mountain in the world.
Before the countrymen were through savouring the pleasure of such a thrilling achievement, they came to know that two female Bangladeshis had achieved the same rare feat. While the newspapers were going berserk in telling us more about this momentous occasion, few were pondering and wondering about the practical significance of scaling mountains.
I remember one industrialist who chose to sponsor one of these mountaineers. It is difficult to guess how much money was poured in but it could not have been a small amount. Ironic it must be that this very industrialist had many labourers and workers in his company who he refused to pay more than Tk3,000 or Tk4,000 as a monthly salary.
In fact, the engineers he used to employ used to get such embarrassingly poor salaries that fathers would not willfully marry their daughters to them. It was indeed a matter of indignation for those who could perceive, for those who could feel, that the money with which they could have bought their rice and vegetables was being used to sponsor sophisticated nonsense.
Later on, a mountaineer was invited to teach us leadership. How can someone teach us leadership, when they are unable to comprehend the meaninglessness of their accomplishments?
It reminded me of a puerile television show which used to be all about absurd and outrageous records and acts such as eating with feet even though you have your hands intact, or drinking with your nose, or fifteen people riding one bicycle.
This obviously happened a year or so before the revolution in the garments industry, which is still in its nascent phase of development. Should we not have organised resistance against these brutal and heartless industrialists who would rather spend their money in having their company flag up there in the Everest rather than feeding the helpless poor?
Our resilience should not only be against garment industry owners but against all those who care more about their own personal interest, than the benefit of the entire society.
One must not forget that climbing the Everest is no easy task. It is actually a matter of life and death.
The journey is precarious and dangerous to an extreme degree. The fact that these mountaineers did reach the peak is indeed a commendable accomplishment.
We are awestruck at their resilience and determination as the triumphs indicate that they possess some very rare mental and physical attributes. But a sense of disquietude might creep in to a person’s mind when one considers the question of acceptability of dedicating your efforts and ability in climbing mountains from the point of moral philosophy.
What have mountaineers brought us? We are still facing unavoidable powercuts, people are still struggling against poverty and corruption, our leaders are still busy with their very own personal battles.
To a rustic farmer who finds that his labour and efforts are not valued economically, climbing the Everest might appear to be a childishly absurd act.
We do need mountaineers, yes. But these mountaineers must overcome the monstrous height of the mountains of corruption, poverty and ailing politics.
Without doubt, the true heroes are not those who climb high mountains, the physical ones, fatuously and then get their photos printed on the first page of the newspapers.
True heroes are those who use their abilities to do something meaningful, something of practical importance. We are tired of promoting fake heroes and making them our idols. What we are looking for are social reformers, big-hearted leaders and visionaries.
A sincere request to the Everest conquerors is that now that you have proven how blessed you are in terms of mental and physical capabilities, why do you not now employ them in climbing higher mountains?
There are bigger and more perilous challenges, like climbing the mountains of hunger, corruption and political imbroglio.