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Book Review: ‘Three Cups of Tea’ by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

May 13, 2014


Way too late to review this book I know but I buy books only on sale.  This one was clubbed with Khaled Hosseinis in my favourite book shop in the city ‘Landmark’ (which has had the distinction of having those like Jeffrey Archer read to fans).  Anyway, my city loves reading books and in my case, this is sort of my first non-fiction.  I think ‘Landmark’ combined Hosseini and this one because both have Af-Pak background lolz.  Really these guys are funny!

Sad that I learned of Mortenson before i could read his book still he did enjoy the benefit of my doubt – up until he talked about India and Kargil war.  What a white lie.  After crossing this point,  I felt like losing major trust in him but continued reading anyway.  What is the need for this mountaineer to spew so much venom against India?

1. From page 211 in chapter 17, Mortenson blahs blahs about ‘Hindu’ country on the east India and Kargil conflict without cross-verification from Indians/the other side.  First of all I take a strong objection to his calling Indians purposely Hindus.  Ofcourse I will be happiest if India would be proclaimed a Hindu country (which will never happen i know with some sad certainty).  India has always constitutionally been a secular democracy and will remain so to eternity (hopefully unless ofcourse it is turned islamic by next century).  It is therefore not right to refer to Indians as Hindus generally as Mortenson has done with a definite (damaging)purpose  ( i mean looks like his intention was to cause damage in the outset.  but alas, hindus are successful and respected whichever part of the globe we may live in, and who knows the reason for Mortenson’s angst against hindus could be that perhaps he was reporting to an Indian doctor in the US hahaha?!  after all, one learns, over 30% of doctors in both UK and US are Indians, especially those who did their MBBS in India – and a good majority of them being hindus!) (no kidding!)

Anyway, referring to us Indians as Hindus with a deliberate purpose is akin to calling Americans, chrisitan. While I am proudly a Hindu always, I am an Indian first and foremost.  So this is the essential difference between India and Pakistan Mr. Mortenson. Personally I may or may not like Islam or Muslims, but everyone in this country has the right to choose his or her way of life and enjoys equal measure of freedom as birthright.    Mortenson could have instead referred to us as ‘Hindu majority nation.’

Or may be Mortenson did this to get into good books of Pakistanis?!

2. Despite whatever Mortenson says, the truth is that the Kargil war was inflicted by Pakistan on India and not vice versa.  Pakistani regular army fought this war as it was evidenced by their uniforms and unposted handwritten letters their dead carried in their person along with identification.  Indian army still gave their dead a decent burial.  But Indian army men  captured by Pakistan were beheaded, with all their internal organs pulled out and returned to India.  Truly Islamic in style!  Whereas Hindu dharma talks about decency and clemency even in death.

3.  Cross-border shelling is regular practice by Pakistan army, not Indian.  Mostly there has to be return fire to keep them in line.  Even in 2013, 5 Indian jawans were shot dead in cold blood by Pakistan army to name one of the many such incidents.  And these are peace times, remember.  Kashmir is the proxi war that Pakistan wages against India, not the other way.  If it is only the other way Mr. Mortenson, then Pakistan and India would be in each other’s places today..  The  martyred Indian jawans too had families.  What ethical standing do you have to talk about India or Indians in the first place.  You think a Pakistani visa is the licence you need to blabber about India at your will? At the outset you say, you support the War on terror by America. Then you go back and claim it is not quite right. So what is your exact position Mortenson?  Which side you are?

4.  Indian soldiers are hindus, muslims, sikhs and chritians together.  It is together that they fought the Kargil war Mortenson just like they fought the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars as well as the Indo-china war of 1961.  How cheap you have rendered everything that is secular and democratic with your crude summation?  So in your lowly view, only Hindus are enrolled in Indian armed forces or what?  What a short-sightedness.  This is like saying US army enrolls only whites against blacks, is it not?  

5.  Who the hell are you Mortenson to state that India seized Kashmir?  Have you heard of Kashmiri Pandits?  The islamic terrorists in Kashmir have ethnic-cleansed the valley of these native Hindus and what do you have to say to that?  Who is asking you to poke your nose into Indian affairs of which you have Zero  knowledge?  Why don’t you write in detail about the horrendous crimes US committed in Vietnam and Iraq and Libya and so on.  Or about the condition of minorities in Pakistan.  How minority Hindus in Pakistan are force-converted, beaten, murdered, with their properties and temples taken over, with their women raped? 

6. And if Kashmir is a matter of contention for you, why do you not write about Balochistan in Paksitan.  After all, Balochis are crying for independence from Pakistan since 1947 and you do seem to have a soft spot for all Pakistani tribes especially.

7. Why don’t you write about the role of Indian doctors and engineers in re-building Afghanistan with Indian government pumping in several hundreds of thousands of dollars?  You think only Americans do service everywhere?  India could be poor, but we still serve in whatever way we can.  And how much oil is your America taking back from everywhere Mortenson?  How much of lithium and other mineral ore from Afghanistan?  Shame on you guys!  Not only you wage nonsense selfish wars but you also indulge in daylight robbery in poor nations that cannot defend themselves.  And you Mortenson are no better.  I have read about your exploits even before I read your book.

8. Have you heard of Ladakh, Mortenson?  It is buddhist monastry in Kashmir belonging to India.  What do you have to say about that?  You want Ladakh to be overrun by islamic terrorists as well the way the Kashmiri Pandits were scared and bulldozed and evicted out of their native soil?  Atleast you are honest about onething:  about how the mosques in Baltistan were all originally buddhist monasteries. 

9. Another major factual error:  Prime minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan until today denies knowledge about Kargil aggression which he accuses General Musharraf of initiating behind his back.  May be there is not truth here, but that is atleast the government stance in Pakistan.  And here you are big man, not mentioning even a word about Musharraf’s role in the entire war and implicating Sharif in his place, what a cunning.  This is nothing but a deliberate misguiding attempt on your part to save Musharraf’s skin what else, may be because he patronized you?  What a shame.  How can you twist truth like this?  This one Kargil episode by you is enough to understand what stuff you are made of and how easily you can lie and mislead people.  Poor Americans who pledged their loyalty and donations keeping their trust in a low character like you.  When you have the nerve to omit Musharraf out of all this when the general himself admitted that Kargil adventure was a mistake, it shows you can be trusted in no matter.

I mean what is the need to go out of the way to save/keep a devil like Musharraf out of Kargil?  He was the very architect of Kargil.  In a conventional war, have no doubts India will always win over Pakistan anytime, any day.  It is the nuclear conundrum that gets Pakistan anywhere on the same plane to India.  Are you an ISI agent Greg Sa’ab?

10.  Time holds answer for everything and time proved that your beloved Pakistanis  did indeed finally hide Osama Bin Laden after all.  Time proved India has always been right and Pakistan is trouble right from 1947.   Just like Indira Gandhi brushed aside your Nixon and Henry Kissinger (who were even then lavishly investing in Paksitan) and cut Pakistan into 2 pieces: Pakistan and Bangladesh.  So what could America do about that?  What could they do about Vietnam?  Know your limits and respect others’ sovereignty which will alone beget you return respect.  One woman of steel – an Indian lady – Indira Gandhi did it.  Learn your lessons right.




Mortenson comparing himself to Mother Theresa is the biggest joke of all.

First of all India would never allow someone like Mortenson have a free-run the way he does in Pakistan. Mother Theresa entered India much before our independence from the British in 1947.  Unlike Greg Sa’ab who preferred flying between America and Pakistan a hundred times at the expense of the charity board he headed, she took Indian citizenship. To the knowledge of average Indians, Mother Theresa never ran an empire the way Mortenson seems to have done in Pakistan.  It was submission and service all the way for her.  And Mother Theresa could be one of those rarest of foreigners to enjoy such a status in India.  Almost there has been NONE ever since. India is not like Pakistan to allow someone like this mountain climber to build school or bridges.  We have self-respect even if we are poor and whether tsunami or earthquake we refused foreign aid.

I still cannot get over how a foreigner could manage to command so much power in Pakistan even if he could be at their service. This is not right and this goes against the very grain of sovereignty of a nation.  We Indians would rather drown in our rivers and die than let an American build a bridge for us frankly. 




I do agree to some extent, this nonfiction book is interesting and inspiring at the same time.  I think if not for the Kargil chapter, I would have liked it better.  After reading the Kashmir-Kargil pages, I am convinced this man Mortenson is a mixed-up character. Either he is really brainwashed by Pakistanis or he thinks he is a demi-God in Pakistan.  The way he is stressing his closeness to political bigwigs in Pakistan is nauseating.   And his supposed airtravel with former Shah of Afghanistan.  Sounds most boastful.

Exaggerations and lies notwithstanding, I still appreciate what this big man has done for the poorest in Pakistan even though Pakistan is my enemy nation and as a Hindu, I have this inborn fear and hatred and reservation always for muslims/Islam (that i am good at disguising).  May be Mortenson took some money and made neat profit, but considering what he still managed to do – like change some lives for the better – I think it is also time to forgive him.

To be fair, I also wonder whether Americans who did not like him serving Pakistani causes worked overtime to trump up charges of corruption against him.  Some or all of it could be true or untrue.  But finally Mortenson does emerge the winner.  As Mrs. Wilson or someone in the book says, everyone must want that when it is time for them to leave,  they must feel like they are ‘thoroughly used up.”  In fact I do.

So big man Mortenson, this is what India is you see.  I still can see the good thing in you which is why I am forgiving you for your grave slip on Kargil.  This is how my country has raised me.  If i cannot think about you rationally as an Indian, then it means there is no difference between me and an average Pakistani.  My text books taught me only equality and justice, so i have learned to come to terms with my feelings for muslims/islam.  I can live with them.  Peace for all.

I am yet to read the second book which is a sequel.  Wondering whether to buy it or not.

My love for innocent Balti people.  Hold nothing against them, why should I?  After all, Gilgit-Baltistan is the country that Pakistan annexed from India and not the other way dear Greg Sa’ab.  Even otherwise, there is no reason for anyone to hate these pure mountain people.  The poison is in Pakistan plains and has hopefully not reached its higher ranges so far.  Politically i am an enemy of Pakistan, but that does not make me blind to what is good there.  Balti is one such good thing on the other side of the border.

So this is where Malala comes in I guess.  I hope she is not as fake as you sound at times Greg.  Be a natural, man. What you are doing despite yourself (!) is commendable, not possible humanly for a majority of us to do, for we neither have the energy nor resources.  No need to exaggerate anything, you can do without that.  I wish i could cross-check with someone from Pakistan about the factual and functional details of CAI schools in present day Pakistan.

And I happened to see the picture ‘Vertical Limit’ one more time after a while.  This time after reading this book, i saw it with freshened-up eyes.  It all looked different.  My respect for the Balti grew after this and for the first time I could also see the mighty gallantry of Pakistani airforce in such hostile conditions with unbiased eyes.  Indian terrain has to be much softer and kinder – that much i can guess. But i think it is about time the westeners got out of the area clearing all the debris with them.

Nice to know that hindu names of Himalayan peaks  like Annapurna and Nangaparbhat have survived for over 6000 years despite the islamic onslaught.  Even Himalaya is a sanskrit name.  (And then Kailash.  Manasarovar.)  Mortenson, do you know that the Kashmir capital Sri Nagar goes by the same name for over 4000 years atleast and has found mention in our sanskrit slokas (Hindu prayers).  Before talking so much about a place’s geography, learn its history first.




From → Books

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