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Jul 16, 2010

3 Cups Of Tea


Greg Mortenson

How much difference can a person make? If ‘Three Cups of Tea’- an account of Greg Mortenson’s life is anything to go by, plenty.
When American mountaineer Greg Mortenson blunders into the Pakistani village of Korphe after a failed attempt at conquering K2, his life changes. As he begins to see the impoverished village in Pakistan through a non-mountaineer’s eyes, he promises to set up a school for the children of the village, and thus begins his journey across Pakistan.
From learning to handle Balti culture to corrupt Pakistani middlemen, from writing 580 letters to American celebrities for donations to traversing war-hit South Asia in a Land Cruiser, the journey is a painstaking and a path-breaking one, and you can almost picture schools sprouting, like dots on a map, across Pakistan as the story of Greg Mortenson’s work is recounted. As the story weaves through, and is shaped by, extraneous events like the emergence and eventual overthrow of the Taliban, the 9/11 bombings, and the launch of the war on terror, the book offers an interesting, if not in-depth, look at the geo-politics of the region as seen by the people inhabiting it. As an Indian, a few viewpoints jar- India always referred to as the ‘Hindu country to the East’, references to the Indian army being the first to shell Pakistan, and to shell indiscriminately- but it must be kept in mind that these opinions are meant to be biased- they are simply an account of sentiments from the other side.
Where the book fails is with the personal- as a reader, I didn’t warm to Greg Mortenson. I respect what he has accomplished immensely, but that didn’t translate into the emotional attachment one associates with biographies. Perhaps this is a deliberate effort to focus, as Greg Mortenson does, on the mission and to spread it, and to stay away from hyperbole. Commendable though the intention might be, the narration leaves you wanting. At one point in the book, Greg Mortenson wonders how much distance matters- would a high-ranking official sitting in the Pentagon be as affected by orphans in Pakistan and demolished schools in Afghanistan as someone who has witnessed such events? The book has not managed to bridge the distance- the horrors that the author talks about do not seep into the heart.
Three Cups of Tea is a gripping story that could have done with a better narrator. it isn’t great literature, but despite its flaws, read it for an inspiring tale of what human resolve can do, and how anyone armed with it can make a difference.

Rating 3.5/5

Soy Latte!

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