India’s youngest Everest hero now an author

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Delhi schoolboy Arjun Vajpai, who added a new chapter to mountaineering history six months ago by becoming the youngest Indian to summit Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world, is now set to join the ranks of his iconic mountaineer-authors by becoming an author himself.

Support TwoCircles

The 16-year-old athlete and climber turns an author this month with his debut book narrating his awesome Everest expedition, “On top of the world: My Everest adventure”, published by Penguin India’s children’s imprint Puffin Books and co-authored by up and coming children’s book author Anu Kumar.

The book was written in between school, Arjun’s attempt to raise funds for a new expedition to the Poles, and his “dreams”.

He started working on the book just after his ascent of the 8,848m peak in May and returning from Nepal.

According to the quietly confident 12th grader from Noida’s Ryan International School, he wrote the book because he wanted to tell the world his side of the Everest story, his experience, learning, and what he took back with him so that it could inspire his peers – “to have a seemingly impossible dream and daring to chase it!”

“Arjun started to record all his feelings and thoughts on a recorder as soon as he returned from Nepal,” says his mother Priya Vajpai, who accompanied him to Kathmandu from where his expedition with Everest legend Apa Sherpa, who has climbed Mt Everest an incredible 20 times, began.

“We told him to do so because as time passes, all the little incidents that happened then would fade. Then we got in touch with Penguin Publishers and asked them if publishing Arjun’s book would be a good idea. They were very supportive.”

The book talks about Arjun’s brush with death, the mistakes he made and the emotional moment when he first saw a dead climber’s body lying frozen on the way to the summit.

Since the Everest ascent, as he became a known name in India, Arjun has been receiving a lot of books on mountains, his mother says.

“He spends his nights reading about his favourite explorers: Reinold Messener (the Italian legend who was the first to climb Mt Everest solo without using oxygen cylinders), Conrad Anker (the American explorer), Sir Edmund Hillary (the first man to tame Mt Everest) and (Italian alpinist) Simone Moro.”

When Arjun climbed Mt Everest this summer, several records were made. While he became the youngest Indian to achieve the feat, soon afterwards, a 13-year-old American boy, Jordan Romero, also reached the top via Tibet, becoming the youngest Everest hero ever.

Also, the leader of Arjun’s 12-member expedition, Apa Sherpa, broke his own Everest record by summiting the peak for the 20th time.

The Indian teen took to mountaineering like fish to water, experiencing none of the usual difficulties in high altitude where breathing becomes difficult due to the rarified air.

He joked that his appetite actually increased and he put on weight, while at night his expedition members would bemusedly listen to him snoring away without any worries.

Life changed immensely after Everest, says his family.

Besides becoming a celebrity, Arjun is now more responsible and in charge of his life, say his parents.

Also, he now faces more challenges than his average peers.

While they are bracing for the board examinations in March, Arjun has the double challenge of roping in sponsors so that he can go on an expedition to the North and South Pole.

Indian climbers complain that they have a hard time trying to get sponsors. While corporate houses are ready to fund cricket matches, there is little money forthcoming for adventurous expeditions.

However, Arjun is also receiving feelers to appear on reality shows, his mother says. Perhaps they and the book, to be launched this month, would give sponsors the push needed.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])