The Professor and the Mountain
Dr Aniruddha Babar
“If you have the high spirit of the high mountains, even the greatest powers of the outer world will respect and admire you.” ― Mehmet Murat ildan
With a dramatic conclusion of Nova Iter”22 Mt Saramati Expedition that became tea time gossip and hot topic of discussion in Nagaland and outside; Tetso Mountaineering Club decided to take rest for a while. However, its leadership remained restless. It is a proven fact that once bitten by a Mountaineering bug its after effects remains forever. The support that Tetso College Mountaineering Team received from Indian Army through Tetso Friends like Lt Col. Joy Chowdhury (Retd), Col Rajeev Sharma, Col Md Raza Israel was only possible because of a common bonding of zeal for adventure and exploration that Army and Tetso College apparently share. Under the modern and visionary leadership of Kvulo Lorin and Hewasa Khing, Tetso College has been gradually transforming into a happening space for adventure sports and allied activities. With this vertical growth and transformation of Tetso College, the academician and an adventurer in me too has been growing.
I learned about Mt Khulioh (also known as Mt Khelia) for the first time when I went to Noklak solo on my Royal Enfield from Dimapur in December 2021. It was actually a big surprise. Nagaland was never an alien place for a man like me who did his PhD on socio-political dynamics and governance of the region. However, this name ‘Mt. Khulioh’ was never being brought to my notice. With a hearing of the name a researcher in me started researching in every corner of virtual world and to my surprise even internet has extremely less information about this iconic mountain which stands tall on the Indo-Myanmar Border, in Noklak District-the land of Khiamniungans. I wanted to explore and climb the great mysterious mountain in December-January but that could not have been made possible. Good things DO takes their own sweet time to happen.
Fast forward- April 5 2022. I was having a discussion with Tumchobemo Y Kithan, the President of Tetso Mountaineering Club about the possibility to conduct ‘Blitzkrieg’ style Mountaineering Campaign during short Easter vacation. However, during discussion we figured as to how difficult it is to build a ‘motivated’ team at short notice for climbing expedition to a completely unknown Mountain. The meeting ended with a ‘promise’ to climb the Mt. Khulioh in future.
However, I could not discard the idea of exploring Mt Khulioh from my mind and I decided to attempt to climb the unknown mountain solo in ‘Alpine Style’. Soon I discovered that there are two routes that can take me to the mountain top. One route goes through Choklangan Village and another route goes through Wui Village. I developed a ‘Peak Assault’ plan through Choklangan. Collected all the information that was possible to be collected. However, the major issue was that of a weather condition. I was getting latest updates about the status of Dimapur-Noklak-Choklangan road condition, Khulioh terrain and the weather conditions therein from our Tetso friend Col. Rajeev Sharma. The first advice I got from him was not to take Motorcycle as it was extremely perilous to ride during heavy rains. The second advice I got from him was to avoid the mountain completely as it could be infested with leaches with very slippery, dangerous approach due to intermittent rain. However, needless to mention, I was not in a mood to listen any advice from anyone. I politely rejected age old wisdom of Col Sharma and then those golden words came from him. “..But Sir, I still I want to go”, I stubbornly said. “THEN YOU MUST GO!” exclaimed the Colonel.
I started my final preparations. However, a thought came to my mind to talk to my friend Sir S. Meyo, an administrator of Christian High School, Noklak. The conversation took a surprising turn and in no time I became a part of an all Khiamniungan Team that was ready to brave the great mountain of my dream in heavy rains. A group consisted of teachers of Christian High School was formed, which further joined by three more people from Sanglao village as our guides. So in all Khiamniungan Team of climbers, I was made an integral part of the expedition. The mystery of the mountain was about to be unfolded.
The original Choklangan route that I was suggesting was cancelled as our Expedition Commander S Meyo decided to take up route from Wui. Why did he do so, that remained a mystery for me until I learned the reason from our friend, Sister Miss Chongtin, HM of Christian High School which raised a storm of thoughts in my mind. The climb was not as eventful as I visualized, however, I continuously felt something strange and mysterious about the dense forests through which I was going. Undoubtedly, Mt Khulioh is far different Mountain than Mt. Saramati and Mt. Japfu both of which I already explored and climbed.
Mountaineering and Jungle exploration is not unusual for me. Jungles of Nagaland (especially Frontier Nagaland) and the mysteries therein are well known to my soul. However, what was I then experiencing throughout my approach to the top of Mt. Khulioh and moments thereafter was extraordinary which is difficult to explain in words. There are certain things which can only be felt and witnessed, neither explained nor described. Mountain has its rules, distinct language and the soul-not all mortal humans can have access to it and those who have, becomes a ‘MOUNTAIN’ themselves.
During our short stay in the protective embrace of Mt Khulioh I learned that the terrain is relatively virgin and untouched but a home to rich bio-diversity. Thankfully, due to its remote location and labyrinthine accessibility the purity of the region has been able to be remained ‘protected’ in the most natural form.
Noklak- the land of Khiamniungans is very close to me, not because of the family and friends that I have there but also because of their virgin forests and the mountains. Ever since I have visited Noklak for the first time in the cold of December, I have been shouting against the road condition in the region. Journey from Noklak to Wui and back we made in Tata Pick-up Truck which was eventful. It is shameful to admit that the roads does not exist anywhere in Noklak, but at the same time I consider it a blessing too. With roads; access to the jungles and the mountains becomes easy and their destruction too. Why should so called “ADVANCED” mankind be trusted?
The great Mt. Khulioh gave a message to me which I am sharing. There are mysteries in the ‘creation’. The Oceans, Rivers, Mountains, Forests, Sky, the deep infinite Space have something to say to the humanity. The rising Sun and its golden shadow, strong evening breeze of the wind and shining Moon of the night have a message to convey. We human beings have forgotten who we are.
We mistakenly believe that the Supreme Creator has created this world for us-for our consumption, we wrongly believe that the entire world is a gift given by GOD to us for our pleasure, for our enjoyment.
Mt Khulioh says “The perception that humanity carried for millions of years is wrong. World is not for Man, but Man is for the World. It is not Human who alone is a child of God, in fact every seen and unseen creature is a Child of God and Man is one of those creatures. Man is merely a small part of the ecosystem constructed by divine hands. Man is not at all placed at the center of the ‘creation’ but ‘inserted’ as a small ‘link’ in the same. Man has no right to have any pride in his existence, rather he should surrender his ‘ego’ and strive for the ‘Divine Wisdom’- to protect himself and his destiny from his own evil, destructive hands and be ready to leave the Earth in search of new world in the vast expanse of infinite universe when the right time comes”.
As I was climbing down with heavy Boots filled with sludge and gravel, I promised myself to come back again to the land of Khiamniungans to visit wise Mt Khulioh. Next time I will come from Choklangan route, preferably alone and thereafter with my Tetso Mountaineers.
As I was losing my inner self in the divine wisdom of Mt Khulioh King I was finally made to realize that, in the world of tribalism, casteism, racism, religious madness and material insanity, in the times of fractured humanity, some handful of lonely individuals are silently busy in building ‘bridges’ and destroying ‘walls’ in different parts of the world- I MUST consider myself as one of them-THE MASONS- echoed the silent chaos through the dark depths of mountain wilderness.
Should I get scared of the dense forests, the tall mountains and the mysterious silence of the divine chaos? Probably not. I recall what my Father said once, “There is nothing to fear in jungles and the mountains, enter blindly, wander freely-fearlessly with holy curiosity and you will be enlightened. However, beware when you enter the assembly of Earthly MEN”.
(Dr Aniruddha Babar is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Tetso College in Dimapur of Nagaland)
April 22 2022