Saturday, March 24, 2012

Malli Mastan Babu, the Indian on top of the Andean peaks

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.

In the picture below, he is on the Acancagua peak

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.

In the picture below Babu is on the precarious slope of Sajamas peak in Bolivia

Babu's achievement of conquest of the highest peaks of the world is commendable considering the fact that he comes from a humble farming family in the rice belt of Nellore in Andhra Pradesh. He could have climbed the corporate ladders with his management and tech degrees and personal drive and energy. But he opted to climb the mountains and pursue his passion for adventure.

Babu has taken to photography too. Here is his foto of the magical Titicaca lake of Bolivia with its floating reed islands. This is the world's highest altitude lake.

Babu's mountain venture into South America is going beyond the peaks. He has found more than mountains here. He has started liking the region and the people. He is fascinated by the diverse geography, landscape, scenaries and climates. He likes specially Argentina, which has mountains, snow, plains and beaches. He finds the Latinos warm, hospitable, charming and friendly. He feels at home and happier in their company and admires their free spirit. He has already made many friends here. He has learnt Spanish and enjoys the long conversations with the talkative Latinos. He does not eat red meat but enjoys the red malbec wine of Argentina. Latino music and dance fascinate him. Babu is planning to make several visits to the region and have a longer association.

Aha...another innocent Indian victim of the seductive Latin America...
and another one adding to his signature...passionate about Latin America....

I asked Babu, an eligible bachelor of 37 years, how he has managed not to be captured by the enchanting Latino girls. He smiled again but this time it was mischievous with a glint in his eyes. He took a deep breath and said, " Hmmm... You are right. The Latinas are irresistible. It requires a mountain of determination to resist their spell ". Then the smile vanished. His look became intense and distant. His voice became serious when he said, " The mountains do not let me. I have still more to climb". He stopped talking. His gaze went up. It looked as though he was in a trance. He was already climbing the mountain, in his mind.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Argentine Ambassador of Ayurveda

When I share the stage for speeches with Dr Sergio Lais- Suarez of Argentina, I confess to the audience that he is more Indian than me. He is vegetarian, teetotaler, practices yoga and meditation every day, has profound knowledge of Indian philosophy and traditions, has been practicing, teaching and promoting Ayurveda for the last thirty two years and is passionate about India.
Here are the Ayurvedic credentials of Dr Sergio, who is a pioneer in introducing Ayurveda in Argentina and Latin America:
-Chairman & Professor of Ayurveda Medicine at UAI University and Ayurveda Professor at Catholic University
-Founder of the First Governmental Commiitee to Study Ayurveda in Argentina. 1987
-Founder & Medical Director of SPASISIMO, the First Latin-American Ayurvedic Health Resort and Spa in Argentina. 1996
-Founder of the Institute of Natural Law of Cordoba, Argentina.
-Founder of the First Post-Graduate Training for Medical Doctors on Ayurveda Medicine in a Latin American University. 1996
-Organizing Chairman and President of the First Argentine Symposium on the Ayurvedic Technology of Unified Field, Cordoba and later at Mendoza province
-Founder of Ayurvedic Teaching Centers in several provinces of Argentina
-Has done over 50 programmes in the media about Ayurvedic Sciences.
-Founder of "Veda Press" to spread Ayurvedic Knowledge.
-Founder of NATURAL VANGUARD, Laboratory for Ayurvedic Products, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sergio's passion for Ayurveda started in 1980 when he attended the International Seminar on Vedic Science organized in New Delhi. After his return, he wanted to introduce Ayurveda in Argentina. But it was completely unknown here and he had to struggle to convince the Argentines. He had succeeded in this due to his background as a doctor himself. He is an oncologist and a surgeon. He persuaded the Universidad Abierta Interamericana ( UAI ), Buenos Aires in 1996 to open a Department of Ayurveda Medicine which started the First One Year Post-Graduate Course in Ayurveda for Medical Doctors. Following the success of this, the University of Buenos Aires opened an Ayurvedic course in 2000 and then the University of Maimonides in Buenos Aires city in 2002. Later in 2009, the Medical School of the Catholic University started a pre-degree Course on Ayurveda Medicine and in 2010 the Cordoba University also opened a Ayurveda course for medical doctors.

In 1996 Dr Sergio opened the First Ayurvedic Health Resort & Spa with a 40-room hotel at Villa La Paisanita on the outskirts of Cordoba in a scenic spot on the bank of a stream and surrounded by hills and greenery.The spa offered full fledged treatments for health recovery and antistress. This attracted celebrities, top business and political leaders and raised the profile of Ayurveda in Argentina.

Here is the picture of the spa..

In 1987 Dr Sergio was part of a team selected by the Brazilian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to train 350 Medical Doctors in Ayurvedic Medicine in a Public Hospital in Goias state of Brazil. The team included Ayurvedic doctors from India and coordinated by Vaidya Gopinath Raju from Hyderabad. The team also taught Ayurvedic Medical Meditation and Antistress techniques to the military police in several cities of Brazil. Dr Sergio recalls the incredible scene of the police,with their uniform and guns, seated in large groups with eyes closed practising Meditation twice a day.These two programmes, which became successful, have made Ayurveda popular in Brazil.

The success of Sergio's Ayurvedic work in Argentina and Brazil opened the doors of other Latin American countries. He has been giving lectures across the region and his series of interviews on FOX Latin America TV Channel has raised the profile of Ayurveda in the region as a whole.

Dr Sergio has given lectures as guest speaker on Ayurveda in universities and non-governmental organizations in USA and Japan too.

Dr Sergio's work has been recognized in India and he has been honored with "Dhanvantari Award" at the Gujarat Ayurveda University. He was Co-Chairman and Speaker at the International Seminar on Vedic Sciences and Ayurveda, organized by the Gujarat University in 2000. He has given a talk on Vedic Sciences & Ayurveda at the Benares Hindu University and in the "International Seminar for Promotion of Ayurveda Medicine", organized by the Enterpreneurship Development Institute, Ahmedabad. He is an International Advisor in the board of "Journal of Research on Ayurveda" published from Gujarat. He has signed Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration with Gujarat Ayurved University and Manipal Ayurvedic College.

Dr Sergio receiving the Dhanvantari award from Shri Ashok Bhatt Gujrat Health Minister on 7 January 2000 the picture below

Dr Sergio gave inspiring talks at the Ayurveda seminars organized by the Embassy of India in Buenos Aires as part of the Festival of India every year since 2008. The auditorium was always full and the audience had interacted enthusiastically with the speakers.

Dr Sergio' s mission is to get Ayurveda accepted officially and legally as an alternative system of medicine in Argentina and in Latin America. This is where he needs the support of India with scientific documentation, public promotion activities such as seminars and registration of Ayurvedic medicines with the local regulatory authorities.

Dr Sergio will give a talk at the Seventh Nutra India Summit 15-17 March 2012 in Bengaluru on " Ayurveda in Latin America" . He has been invited by the pharmaceutical export promotion council of India to this Summit.

In recognition of his passion for India, Dr Sergio has been made the Honorary Consul of India for Cordoba and other interior provinces of Argentina since 2007. He has taken up this job seriously and has been organizing a number of events and giving speeches promoting India- Argentina relations especially in culture and business. When Dr Sergio speaks about India, in his native Argentine accent with jokes and anecdotes, India's image gets more boost than that of any Indian speech.

Dr Sergio is an Indian in spirit, honorary consul in protocol but more than these, he is an Ambassador of Ayurveda...