By Maliha Safiullah
ISLAMABAD: A book written by a German author on high altitude porters of the Shimshal valley in Gilgit-Baltistan was launched by the Oxford University Press (OUP) here on Tuesday.
The book, ‘And Death Walks with Them: Above Eight Thousand Metres with Pakistani Porters from Shimshal’ has been written by Christiane Fladt, a German tourist, mountaineer and an adventure enthusiast.
Speaking on the occasion, Ameena Saiyid, the managing director OUP, expressed her gratitude to Ms Fladt and her unrelenting spirit of adventure and devotion to Pakistan and its people.
Ms Saiyid narrated how in 2002 on a mountaineering expedition Ms Fladt first came to Pakistan. She spent a day passing through the Shimshal valley in Hunza-Nagar and felt immediately connected to the nature of the valley.
She returned to Pakistan in 2003 and began teaching English and built a shelter to accommodate travellers and locals with the intention of contributing to the people of the valley.
The author has written four books in German on the Shimshal valley each deliberating on the various socio-cultural aspects, perspectives of the local children besides a biography on the first lady health worker of the area.
Speakers at the event congratulated Ms Fladt on her remarkable effort in highlighting the struggles of the people of Shimshal and providing them with the recognition that they deserve.
“Though I’m not a writer and not even an amateur mountaineer, I am honoured to be here since Christiane and I both share a love for Pakistan, especially a love for the nature of Pakistan. Collaborating since we have recognised how waste has been one of the main concerns of the valley and preservation of its natural beauty remains as one of our agendas,” said Dr Almut Besold, the country head of Friedrich Naumann Foundation Pakistan.
Shehrbano Saiyid, a documentary filmmaker and an amateur mountain climber, narrated her experience with Ms Fladt and the stories of a recent incidence of porters dying on an expedition while attempting to save a mountaineer’s life. She acknowledged Ms Fladt’s book and spoke highly of how imperative this venture essentially is.
Farman Ali, journalist and author, couldn’t make it to the event but on a telephonic conversation lauded the author’s efforts.
“It is unfortunate that these porters who are guides and climbers of some of the loftiest mountains in the world and often succumb to death in the process receive no mention or praise. Christiane’s book is an effort in changing that scenario and she’s making progressive strides in highlighting Pakistan’s nature, promoting tourism and owning Pakistan more than even a local. For this she deserves every appreciation and support.”
Narrating her love for Pakistan and its beauty, Ms Fladt said: “The mountains and the many cultures found in Pakistan are unique, especially among them is the Shimshal valley. I believe that the Shimshali high porters deserve adequate recognition. The Sharpas of Nepal, who do the same job, have long before emerged from anonymity. It is time for the Shimshalis to also step into the limelight.”
Published in Dawn on Sept 13, 2017.