Kekoo Naoroji Award

On February 16, 2013, I was honored to be presented the Kekoo Naoroji Award for mountain literature at the Himalayan Club in Mumbai, India. Instead of a traditional introduction, award sponsor Nadir Godrej created a poem for the event. I’ve never had an intro like this and probably never will again! Thank you to the Himalayan Club and the Godrej family for the award, and thank you Nadir for the lovely poem. Enjoy…

Kekoo Naoroji Award 2013

By Nadir Godrej

I think the planning’s somewhat flawed

For on the day of this award

All of us will find it hard

To proceed without Rishad.

Rishad has flown from the nation

On a rather long migration.

Let him indulge in raptor rapture

Since his time slot we couldn’t capture.

Some think it an old fashioned notion

Espousing filial devotion.

One day while going through his stocks

Rishad found a treasure box

Of his dad’s photographs and notes

And as a loving son who dotes

On Dad, what does he do but sets

His opus, “Himalayan Vignettes”,

Replete with tales of mountain sallies

And photographs of peaks and valleys

In Sikkim, when few ventured there.

And I think it only fair

That we should commemorate

His contribution which was so great.

The Himalayas had to be the nub

So Godrej and the Himalayan Club

Instituted a book award

And the scope is rather broad.

The Himalayas must be a part

But they’re relaxed about where to start.

With Karakoram and Hindu Kush

And neighboring Tibet at a push.

And mountaineering’s a major theme.

The environment’s part of the scheme.

Natural history, exploration

And culture in their estimation

Are worthy themes for this award.

All past winners we should applaud

Including of course Bernadette

And I for one would willingly bet

That thanks to her exciting writing

The Himalayan Club will be inviting

Ms. McDonald again and again.

And everything that she does pen

Is worth a read and wins a prize

And she is gracious and she is wise.

And mountaineering’s been her theme

Thought it wasn’t part of any scheme.

For chamber music, she was trained

But today we won’t be entertained

By her melodies but by her prose

And this is how the story goes.

Her studies lead Bernadette to enter

The artistic shrine that is Banff Centre.

This glorious place where art meets mountain

Proved to be a prolific fountain.

The Rocky Mountains were inviting

Rock climbing proved to be exciting.

The first few times, she says she cried

But Bernadette still tried and tried.

And after just a little time

She learned how to trek and climb.

Like Kekoo, Bernadette did veer

From musician to mountaineer

And very soon she had the vision

To start the mountain culture division

She learned the craft, she had the art

And all of this played a part

In carrying Bernadette so far

As a mountain writing star.

And today we’ll take a look

At her, “Freedom Climbers” book.

The title is both crisp and short

With much meaning it is wrought.

Freedom for Poland, freedom from strife.

Climbing mountains, climbing in life.

The cast has many a mountaineer

And support from all their near and dear.

The mountaineers raise the bar

But their nation is the real star.

Now natural borders make a nation

In geographers’ estimation.

Poland happened to be stuck

On a vast plain without much luck.

There were large neighbors West and East

Repeatedly they chose to feast

On this somewhat pesky nation

They considered beneath their station.

Twice Poland totally disappeared

In ’45, though it reappeared

The Soviet Union kept its grip

And Poland went on a terrible trip.

But the Polish people weren’t subdued.

In fact the people were imbued

With revolutionary fervor

They refused the role of server.

They learned how to pretend to play

The official game and have their way.

Now alpinism fit the bill.

It did require strength and skill

But it could garner some support

And a little aid could be sought.

In the Tatras they could start

But later they could all depart

To higher mountains out of sight

And escape the Polish plight.

They supplemented meager aid

With proceeds from private trade.

Some might want to call it smuggling

But they preferred it to just struggling.

For every Pole life was tough

And while mountaineering’s very rough

The Poles all saw it differently

It was their way to be quite free.

Adversity gave them the drive,

Adversity pushed them to strive.

But Tatras training taught technique

That could be used on a higher peak

And winter climbing was a skill

That gave the Poles a special thrill.

Zawada was the mountaineer

Called winter climbing’s pioneer.

And Wanda went where women rarely did

For all 8000ers she made a bid.

Though eight were in her bag she still tried

And on Kangchenjunga she died.

Carsolio tried to make her descend

But obstinacy caused her end.

Jurek’s claim to fame was strength

And he could go to any length.

Though Reinhold Messner won the race

Jurek got there at a slower pace.

All 8000ers were done

Though oxygen was used on one.

Now Voytek chose the beautiful line

Good aesthetics were his sign.

Krzysztof was known for his speed.

For years the Poles were in the lead.

For twenty years they dominated

And Bernadette has collated

Every detail of their lives

And of their husbands and their wives.

We’ve learned adversity is fine

If we rise up and learn to shine.

This book is sure to inspire

All of us to climb much higher.

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