The Nanda Devi Affair
There is a kind of brotherhood between man and mountains.... The inescapable logic of desire leaves the mountain traveller no choice but to plan his next expedition to the very peak that may have just rejected vociferously the most singleminded of advances.' In his thirty-year sojourn in India, Bill Aitken has had two serious affairs"one, essentially spiritual in nature, with the country's rivers, the other more earthy and passionate, with her mountains. In this sequel to his first book for Penguin, Seven Sacred Rivers, he talks of his second great obsession"Nanda Devi, patron Goddess of Kumaon and Garhwal. Spanning more than a decade, from the Seventies to the Eighties, Aitken's attempts to explore the sanctuary of this most beautiful of Himalayan peaks were not, he admits, those of a professional mountaineer, but of a romantic. Accordingly, what he gives us is, in his own words, -neither a book about Himalayan climbing nor a treatise on hill theology but a diary of mountain relish.' Aitken's deep-seated study of the cult of the Goddess and the folklore and customs of the Kumaon Himalayas is chequered with deliciously acerbic asides on bumptious bureaucrats, the bane of Indian mountaineering, while the true nature lover's concern for the environment is manifest in his anger over the destruction wrought by political motivations and the ambitions of so-called professional mountaineers.
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