People of mountain are mountain of people

I could not resist getting up from my seat in the second row of completely packed modernly built auditorium of Islamia University Bahawalpur, when the name of Nazeer Sabir was announced. A loud round of applause inadvertently compelled me to glance back to witness the whole hall in standing ovation. A gentleman of average height and built in grey suit gracefully climbed the stairs of the stage with a humbly bowed gait. He stood on the podium with one hand kept over his broad chest in gratefulness when the radiogenic voice of the master of ceremony proclaimed his citation.

“Ladies and gentleman, the first Pakistani who has conquered K-2 and Mount Everest……..”

While receiving the Cholistan Award he maintained a humble demeanor yet despite many yards distance the depth of a sea and grandeur of a mountain could be seen glaring through his child-like innocent eyes.

The ceremony continued but I could not focus much and continually went on visualizing and feeling the killing cold wind trying to disquiet a 5 feet 6 inches human being who put his life in danger to step over 29,000 feet gigantic roof of the earth for some moments and erect the green lunar flag as a witness there. The applause and the loud voice of folk music interrupted my imaginations time and again till the function finished.

Nazeer Sabir was surrounded by young university students endeavoring to get his autographs on whatever piece of paper they could grab and despite the tiredness due to usual delay of domestic flights, converting a 2 hours journey to 8 hours misery, Nazeer Sabir was inscripted his long bankers like signatures on invitation cards, shirts and even on the back of hands of loving and enthusiastic youth with a broad smile spread on his face like a snow on Rakaposhi top.

 It was 1:30 AM and being a long time habitual of early slumber, though I was foreseeing a tough operating day ahead, yet I had a strong desire to somehow sneak my way to at least salute him, which I ultimately managed to do. That was all I wanted but perhaps my grey hair and wrinkles around neck somehow distinguished me from the exuberant young boys and girls. Nazir Sabir held my hand for conspicuously longer period of time than what he was doing with others and almost in a whisper asked ,” Sir, are you a professor in this university?”. I told him my connection with Quaid-e-Azam Medical college and he politely acknowledged it with a desirous tone, “I wish I could deliver a lecture to the medical students like I did to the students of Oxford University”.

Valuing my sub-conscious, I suddenly realized as to why I wanted to see him. Therefore, on the next morning he was standing in front of jam-packed lecture theater of Quaid-e-Azam Medical College.

Expectants of a formal start with sentences like, “It gives me great pleasure to be here……” were compelled to give hundred percent of their ears when Nazeer Sabir started with a low but indigenous and authentic tone.

“I am an ordinary human being who is lucky to be in front of you, after witnessing 58 of his colleagues disappearing forever in the unfathomable silence of snow-clad blameless mountains, including his real brother sleeping in eternity in the feet of majestic K-2.”

The talk was in no way of a vigorous orator’s speech, yet it created a hum of silence not only in the hall but inside the souls of its occupants.

Words at the most, only convey the knowledge and that too in a deficient way. The originality and authenticity is beyond knowledge and comes with “knowing”.  Knowing is not an articulate-able entity. It roots in deep spiritual experience and can only be felt by those acquainted with the language of silence. Mr. Sabir’s talk is difficult to be scripted as it was rather a knowing base recounting than a mere knowledge base intellectual description.

He started with his early childhood story when he was living in suburbs of Sakardoo in a village of 24 families, walled off by tall mountains on three sides with Rakaposhi guarding the fourth.  A hidden desire to see and discover the world outside this enclave was born with him along with a sorrow, as to why his sky was so small. The only obstacle to free himself was a wall of mountains which he decided to climb so that he is able to see, what is on the other side of it. It was later when he found that climbing the mountains will not only free you physically but spiritually too.

He said, ‘Mountaineering may be a sport and an adventure for others, but for me it is a spiritual pilgrimage. A human is a tiny creature in front of even a small mountain. He can never challenge a mountain but what he challenges are his own weaknesses.”  Risking one’s own life to so called conquering a peck is actually to conquer one’s own weaknesses. This is the true freedom of which I am lucky to have some glimpses”.

His narration about K-2 expedition was listened with excitement, exhilaration and at times with wet eyes, especially when he was describing the incidence of encountering an unexpected snow storm which hit him along with his two Japanese friends. He was supposed to lead this team of three but due to physical reasons he was kept behind the other two. The place where he had to be was hit by the storm.  Not all the audience understood when he said in a deep low tone that he saw a splash of red snow in front of him, till he completed his sentence after a painfully prolonged pause, “ and after a hard struggle of hours I was able to bring two bodies to the base camp, headless off course”.

The rest of the story of climbing the K-2 from a new and unknown side for the first time was full of spur, thrill and motivation which captured the conscience of the audience to make them listless listeners. Thanks to the slide in which he had his hands lifted in prayers while standing on the ceiling of the globe, that the sacred silence in the hall was replaced by a thunder of applause. Otherwise it appeared that nothing could thaw us from that freezing meditative experience.


His message was very clear. Climbing the Mount Everest or K-2 is a symbol. Everyone has his own Mount Everest waiting to be conquered.  It is up to him to identify it and challenge his weaknesses by trusting his strengths and start climbing. No matter how hard and demanding the journey is, the persistent perseverance ultimately leads to the destiny.

All of us were sent in this world with an equal potential and ability. Majority of us vanish after completing their biological cycle as if they had never been here. However, there are few fortunate from whom the mother earth has the honor to ask their autograph, which they inscribe on it to be seen and acknowledged by generations to follow. Nazeer Sabir, like all of us has to leave this world one day. But he is one of those blessed ones who could write his name on the forehead of this earth as an autograph.

I had prepared a speech to conclude the session but words became so hollow and empty that I just could not say anything to the audience except that today I understood the meaning of an Arabic saying, “People of mountain are mountain of people”.

Javed Iqbal

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