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.