A tiny book that can be read in an hour or two gives us content to mull over for months. Amitav Ghosh presents this magic for the readers through his no-nonsense, simple yet majestic craft Living Mountains.
Living Mountains by Amitav Gosh
The book is set against the background of two friends reading about the Anthropocene. Like one of them, I had to google the term too. Further, the author takes us seamlessly to the foothills of the mountains that respond to the worshippers with their feet. The mountain that moves, the mountain that lives. While the tribal inhabitants are content with their life, a bunch of foreign trespassers changes their lives irreversibly and how the mountains respond to it is the crux of the story.
A new story from internationally renowned author Amitav Ghosh, The Living Mountain is a cautionary tale of how we have
systematically exploited nature, leading to an environmental collapse.
Recounted as a dream, this
is a fable about Mahaparbat, the Living Mountain; the indigenous valley
dwellers who live and prosper in its shelter; the assault on the mountain for
commercial benefit by the Anthropoi, humans whose sole aim is to reap the
bounty of nature; and the disaster that unfolds as a result.
The Living Mountain is especially relevant today when we have been battling a
pandemic and are facing a climate catastrophe: both of which are products of
our insufficient understanding of mankind’s relationship with nature, and our
sustained appropriation and abuse of natural resources. This is a book of our
times, for our times, and it will resonate strongly with readers of all ages.
If we think deeply it is easy to realize that we are the inhabitants that the author refers to. How in the name of infrastructure and development, we dredge the heart of nature pulling the life out of it without realizing that we are slowly squeezing out our own life force. The book is a dystopian fantasy that in the near future will prove to be prophetical as human actions are responsible for the downfall of nature.
One has to approach the book with an open heart and widened perspective so as to fathom the metaphor.
When the tribals climb up the mountain along with the trespassers, the readers are forced to introspect. How in the rat race we forget our roots and where we came from is depicted in no uncertain terms. It is an irony as to how we blame the universal power that we call God for the repercussions of what we do. The book is about that old woman who grimaces at us when we land up where she expected us to and we are forced to hug her and say I should have paid heed to you.
However, the author got carried away with the fictional fantasy that we want the readers to tread and missed where the plot took off from. Be it a dream or a story within the story, the characters, in the beginning, are forgotten and are not mentioned in the climax. Had an extended scenario of the effects of the dream or reality been pitched into, the effect of the book would have been manifold.