There are books that are chronicle the stories of great men that are un-put-down-able. There are other books that seem like they go on for ever and finishing it becomes a bit like running 10 km for the first time. After the 5th km, it becomes a question of mind over matter. The fit to finish is overwhelming and you push yourself over the line. Three Cups of Tea falls in the 2nd category of books. Yes, the one liner – “One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time” is compelling. There is not much more that needs to be said about it. Many a time through the reading, I was left wondering where all of the story was heading towards.
The travails that Dr. Greg Mortensen went through to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan are immense and humbling too. If true, the man deserves the highest accolades for being extremely selfless in his drive to go back to Pakistan after a failed attempt at scaling the K2 summit, only to build schools for the boys and girls of the remotest villages of Pakistan. The book talks of how he had next to nothing in his pocket as he made his way back to the United States, having made a promise to return to build a school for the village of Korphe, in Pakistan. He had no house, sold his car and had almost no job as he found a way to collect money from donors to pursue his dream and the dream of the uneducated boys and girls of Korphe.
While the story is humbling and inspiring, it does become a bit of a drag. About halfway through, you realize that there is not going to be a fulfilling denouement. There are sections with tremendous detail and some others, with just a passing, high level detail. The instance where he met with Donald Rumsfeld, who was the Secretary of Defense at the time, is one such story. There is a chapter named after him and the anti-climax is palpable. Such instances abound in the book.
Even before I Googled his name, I thought that Dr. Mortensen’s story was worthy of a lengthy news article and nothing more. After the results showed up, I realized that his story was being disputed by news media outlets who found only buildings at the locations that the Central Asia Institute claimed to have built schools. Obviously, sustaining teachers is more challenging that just building brick walls and a roof.
A story worth knowing about, without the need for a book.