The old man and the mountain

THRISSUR: Age is just a number for P. Chitran Namboodirippad, who turned 99 on December 19. The former Additional Director of the Kerala Education Department made his 29th trip to the Himalayas earlier this month. He wants to make his 30th pilgrimage to the mountains in 2019, the year he completes a century.

“My ambition is to do 30 trips,” says the National Award-winning educationist. He completed his 29th trip to the holy shrines in the Himalayan ranges, including Badrinath and Kedarnath, in the first week of December as part of a 118-member group from Thiruvananthapuram.

Mr. Namboodirippad’s relationship with the Himalayas started in 1952, when he was in his thirties. “I was still in service then. However, my first trip was a flop,” he recalls.

“I went with one of my friends. But we couldn’t go beyond Rudraprayag as both of us were hit by food poisoning.”

His next trip in 1956 was successful, and the snow-capped peaks called to him again and again. “Travelling to the Himalayas back then was really tough. Roads and other infrastructure were not developed like they are now. We had to walk through forests for more than 90 km from Rudraprayag to reach Badrinath.”

Mr. Namboodirippad is a former Communist baptised by none other than K. Damodaran, one of the founders of the Kerala unit of the Communist Party.

So what draws him to the Himalayas? “They were an attraction for me right from my childhood days,” he says. “An old man named ‘Kashi’ Nambeeshan used to live near my Pakaravur Mana [home] in Mookkuthala village in Malappuram district. He had gone to Kashi 10 times. On one of his trips, he went to the Himalayas too. He used to tell us stories about his Himalayan adventure. This sparked my interest in making the pilgrimage to the Himalayas. Its peace will attract anyone.”

What is the secret of his fitness and sharp memory? “Moderation in food, words and lifestyle,” he says. He is a strict vegetarian, goes for a walk every day, and does yoga.

Mr. Namboodirippad established a high school at Mookkuthala in 1947, soon after his post graduation from Pachaiyappa’s College, Chennai.

After running it for 10 years, he handed over the school to the Kerala government for a token amount of Rs. 1. “I consider that moment as the proudest one in my life,” says the mountain man.

Source: The Hindu