Despite my twelve years of living in South America and so-called expertise on the region I looked blank and perplexed when Malli Mastan Babu rattled off the names of the places he has visited in this region. In fact, no Indian has ever been to most of the places where he has gone. The reason is that these places are at altitudes of over 6000 metres. They are the tallest mountain peaks in the region.To reach those places one has to be an expert mountain climber.
Babu has climbed the famous Aconcagua peak in the Argentine side of the Andean range three times. At 6962 metres height it is the tallest peak outside the Himalayas. Aconcagua is challenging because of windy conditions and unpredictable weather. He has climbed Huascaran( 6768 m) peak in Peru, Sajama peak ( 6542 m ) in Bolivia and Chimborazo ( 6310) in Ecuador and Ojos del Salado ( 6800 m ) in Chile.
When Babu went to climb the Cristobal Colon peak in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of Colombia, the local Indians would not allow him to go up. They consider the mountain as sacred and would not let outsiders on top of it. But Babu did not give up. He stayed on there and established dialogue with them over several local drinks. He told them that he is also an Indian and that the people from India too worship many mountain gods. This made the Colombian Indians to relent. They have asked him to come again and would send one of their tribes to accompany him to go up the mountain.
Babu's plan in the current trip ( He is here since december 2011) is to reach the top points of all the twelve countries of South America including Paraguay and Uruguay whose highest points are just 814 m and 514 m. To reach Pico Neblina , the highest peak in Brazil ( 3007 m) he has to travel by boat in the Amazon river from Manaus to reach the base of the mountain.
In his next trip, he wants to climb all the fourteen peaks above 6000 m in Argentina. He will undertake this with his new Argentine friends and spend six months from October 2012.
Babu has spent about nine months in South America in his four trips since 2005. I asked him how he managed the language problem. He smiled and said, " Mountains all over the world speak the same language". They speak to him one to one when he reaches their summits. They welcome and cheer him up and open out their hearts and soul to him. The peaks, which feel lonely and cold on top, are thrilled with his company. That is why Babu prefers to go " solo" in climbing. He likes the privacy of his one-to one dialogue with the summits and treasures this intimate conversation. It is pure ecstasy for Babu who struggles for words to describe his feelings, emotions and joy. He experiences an incredible sense of liberation and consummation.
Babu does more than mountain talk. He also does management talk. He is a management graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkatta. He has given lectures on leadership and management at companies ( GE, Intel, John Deere ), professional, cultural and social organizations and management schools In US, Dubai, Kenya and India. He was one of the speakers in the Second International Conference on " Igniting the Genius within" organized by the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad in 2009. The title of his talk was " Dare to live the dream". He motivates and inspires students and managers with his impressive achievements. He tells the managers that a CEO is like the man on the top of the mountain peak. It is lonely out there. The CEO and the climber must have the personal courage, take the risk and stretch themselves to achieve things on their own. Business managers can learn from the mountain climber's rational planning and risk analysis and the passion which overrides reason and carries them beyond the perceived physical limit. Managers can plan and reach the base camp but it is the leaders who make the ascent to the summit. A bit of craziness is needed from the last base camp to the peak.
Babu has a solid technological background too. He has got a BE in Electrical Engineering from NIT Jamshedpur and a MTech in Electronics from IIT Kharagpur. He had worked as a software engineer with Satyam for three years.
Babu should be one of the most highly qualified mountain climbers in the world. With his tech and management skills, Babu has added a new mental dimension to the physical world of mountain climbing. His perspectives and expressions are obviously different from those of the normal climbers. It is with this special combination that Babu is going to make a difference in his books, which he will publish soon.
Babu has climbed mountains in other parts of the world and has in fact a Guinness record for having climbed the seven summits of the world in 172 days in 2006. This included the Vinson Massif peak ( 4887 m) in Antarctica. This was one of the toughest challenges for him due to the extreme cold. But he enjoyed the view from the top savoring the unforgettable view of the immense white snow and ice touching the clear blue sky all around.