‘Un-climbing’ the Himalayas

While climbers attract praise for scaling great heights, here is an educationist who explains that the real achievement actually lies in leaving the mountains alone.

‘Un-climbing’ the Himalayas

Representational image (Photo: IStock)

Books written by teachers may be academic in nature and content, with a focus on driving education forward. This trend has a list of various narratives, such as Being a 21st Century Educator by Sudha Mahesh or The Science of Learning: a Student’s Handbook by Devang Parekh. These are just a few examples of books written by educationists.

As a reader, I find it disappointing to not be able to read a book written by teachers who narrate their memories and experiences or the impact of changing times on their mindset. As a matter of fact, times have changed and so have attitudes, fashion trends and eating habits. But we return to the crux of the matter: Is there no book written today by an educationist who has narrated his/her thoughts and personal experiences?

Fortunately, there was one such personality —Hari Dang, who was the rector of St Paul’s School, Darjeeling in the 1970s and 80s. He compiled and equated all that he experienced concerning the Himalayas in a book, which is being posthumously released by his son, Himraj, in Delhi, on 20 August this year.


Hari Dang passed away on 23 July 2016. During his lifetime, he won many accolades, including the Padma Shri in 1976. His charisma as an educationist is fondly remembered by students; in this regard, one example comes to mind. He delivered a speech in Uttarakhand, in the midst of almost a thousand students. “Your role is the most crucial of all,” he said. “Your work is to learn. You need dedicated teachers who must impart knowledge to you. You cannot have teachers who keep looking at the clock. The level of involvement is a two-way process — it includes both your teachers and you.” His words were met with thunderous applause from his audience. Before the presentation, he had removed the sound system. “I wish for all of you to hear my natural voice. These speakers will not permit that.”

One can easily understand from these few words that he was unique in every sense of the word, and had the ability to garner one’s full attention while he spoke. This erudite personality who loved the environment, particularly mountains, spoke of it in many seminars. His love for mountains has been included in his book. In it, he says that we must change our attitude of “heroism” related to climbing Everest and other high mountains. “Mt Everest is already full of litter, so what does a climber achieve by becoming merely one more to scale it?”

He reminds us that between 1962 and 2015, all mountains in the world have been climbed, and further asks: “Why do people keep repeating this exercise?”

Dang’s advice asks us to perpetuate a different policy altogether. He asks us to begin “un-climbing” these mountains”. “Only then will it make a difference,” he says.

There are hordes of people trekking tall mountains, disturbing every living creature, from snow leopard to other inhabitants of the region. He has also warned us that verdant idyllic alpine meadows are rapidly changing for the worse. Campers light fires destroying roots of the lovely flora, turning beautiful meadows to ashes.

Following Dang’s sacrosanct advice would enable us to transform serene regions back to their original state. This noble and perceptive educationist perceived changes that immediately demand implementation in today’s world.

During his lifetime, his holidays were devoted to touring different elevations to study the flora and fauna of the region. The natural environment was almost like his natural home. He felt comfortable in it. His reflections compiled in Himalayan Rapture are a result of his observations over the decades.

Dang has explained how we take matters for granted. The intrinsic thread of his lessons is to accept this change, failing which the Himalayas will be adversely impacted. Let us leave the Himalayan environment alone, as it was for millions of years.

Dang was a senior educationist and had an awarding career, which spanned for over 50 years. His name, Hari, literally means “green”, and he only wrote with green ink. As a wildlife enthusiast and a member of the Indian Board for Wildlife, this remarkable personality has created a new pathway of thought which we dare not ignore in this volatile world for our own sustenance.