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Romancing the Himalayas

M.S. Kohli has come out with his book, "Bhutan: A Kingdom In The Sky" recently. OM GUPTA speaks to the man in love with the Himalayas.

Capt. M.S. Kohil. Veteran mountaineer. — Photo: Sandeep Saxena

IT IS said that if neighbours want to maintain good relations, they should keep on mending their fences. That goes for countries as well. The latest coffee table book on Bhutan by M.S. Kohli, "Bhutan: A Kingdom in the Sky", is an apt example of this axiom. He has sifted Bhutan inside out in this beautifully illustrated book published by Vikas with the breathtaking pictures of Dushyant Parasher and some of his own too. The book has everything on the history, culture, customs and mountains of Bhutan except the contentious issues like the insularity of the Himalayan kingdom and its problems with the Nepalese and the recent campaign against the Bodo militants of northeastern India.

Kohli is known for selling Himalayas to the world through mountaineering and trekking. Himself an avid mountaineer, he spent three nights with two other climbers at Mount Everest in 1962, that too without a supply tank of oxygen. He returned to his favourite peak in 1965 in the first Indian expedition and put nine climbers on the summit. It is difficult to count whether he has written more books on mountaineering or scaled peaks more.

Another recent book co-authored by Kohli, is "Spies in Himalayas" by Harper Collins. It is a chilling chapter in the history of international espionage set in mid-1960s soon after Chinese invasion of India.

Kohli was born in North Western Frontier Province in undivided India and took a fancy to the hills that continues till date at the age of 74. Why does he like mountaineering? "Because, it is a perfect holiday. Scenic view is fabulous. You are in the company of flora and fauna. One eats and sleeps better after climbing down." Having lived in the company of rocks and tents, you learn to love life more, bondages with family and friends becomes stronger. The total impact is overwhelming, he says.

Himalayas is one of the unique selling propositions of India. And Kohli knows them like the back of his palm.That was why Air India asked him to sell Himalayas to the world. He went there and gave a series of four lectures on mountaineering and trekking. The instant response was that 270 Japanese tourists got themselves registered. Kohli has not looked back since then.

Every book should have a targeted readership. That is how publishing works. Kohli's book on Bhutan should be seen and read by anybody interested in our neighbouring country about whom so little in known. Bhutan is a close friend, was amply manifest in acceding to our request in wiping out the Bodo terrorist camps from its terrain, a point which India fully demonstrated at the SAARC Summit in Islamabad last year much to the discomfiture of the hosts. But that is not Kohli's constituency. He is interested in mountaineers and trekkers to map Bhutan the way they have done to Indian side of the Himalayas.

Kohli says, earlier, Bhutan was not generous in welcoming foreign tourists. Sounds a little incongruous when tourism has become the largest earner of wealth and creator of jobs. But that is what Bhutan is. It doesn't want to pollute its age-old culture and environment. However, it is opening up, especially for Indians. Though, it is still costly even for a friendly neighbourhood. And so is the book. Needless to say, those who can afford going to Bhutan, will find the book worth it.

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