Keep the faith on top of the world

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By RAJRUPA GHOSH
  • Published 21.08.04
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He has lived with Inuits in Greenland, been seal-hunting with them through icebergs, warmed his hands on lava just beneath a snowy peak…

But what this “Bengali Sherpa” had always wanted was to be on top of the world. And Howrah boy Anindya Mukherjee looks all set to be just there, in the spring of 2006.

The 33-year-old has been chosen for a multi-faith peace mission atop Mount Everest. The Climb for Peace, organised by the California-based Everest Peace Project, will for the first time see representatives of eight major faiths of the world attempting to scale the world’s tallest peak, in the name of unity in diversity.

“The idea behind the peace project is to highlight our similarities, despite differences in our religions and cultures. While I have been chosen as the Hindu representative, there will be an Israeli Jew, a Palestinian Muslim, a Vietnamese Buddhist, among others, in our nine-member group,” explains Mukherjee.

For the ex-student of Ramakrishna Mission, mountain-climbing was merely a pastime till he graduated in botany and then took up work in a pharmaceuticals company.

Inspired by uncle Sujal Mukherjee, “one of India’s first-generation climbers”, he took up a month-long course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. Having already quit the pharmaceuticals company, Mukherjee decided to follow his heart into the hills.

From then, he was on his own trip. “I launched my company called Adventurewala (the name has now been changed to Adventuremania) to help foreigners take guided climbing tours up the Indian Himalayas. Most climbers from abroad are unaware of the great belt of the Himalayas that lies within India,” he says.

So, Mukherjee started to take tourists up the Himalayas for what he calls guided-climbing. “You can call me a Bengali sherpa of sorts,” he smiles.

Starting out from Dalhousie, Mukherjee has now opened up an Adventuremania branch in London to handle queries from Europe and America. That he did on his way back from an expedition to Greenland and Iceland.

“In Iceland, I climbed Mount Hekla, the most active volcano in Europe — with its snowy peak and warm, hard, molten lava a few metres below. Seal-hunting and taking part in a seal-auction, just like we have for ilish, were other fun parts of the trip,” he smiles.

In the run-up to the Everest Peace Project climb — for which he had applied in 2002 and was selected last month — Mukherjee is off to the US for promotional campaigns, including a climb up Mount Shasta, an active volcano in California, on September 21, World Peace Day.