He, the greatest of them all, grunted in apprehension. There was an aura about him matched by none. He was not the eldest, but they all went quiet when he spoke, for he was the greatest of the siblings.
No, there was no doubt regarding the superiority of Mount Everest.
Of course, there was a group of left-wingers who swore by Mauna Kea, but they were generally dismissed, more so after Hillary and Norgay had immortalized Everest.
Godwin-Austen never had that glamour. Worse, they referred to him as K2, merely one of two peaks marked by Thomas Montgomerie. As is often the case, Montgomerie had referred to the other peak as K1.
When they found out that K1 had a name (Masherbrum) they stuck to it, but K2 never had an indigenous name. He was named after a man with a double-barrelled surname, something K2 was never happy about.
K2 wanted to become the tallest. Had that wretched Everest not been there, or even he had lost a couple of hundreds of metres worth of snow caps (which did not seem likely), K2 would have snatched the glory. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
Kanchenjunga was perfectly fine with the situation. The girl was happy with the third place. She knew her X-factor lay in her exquisite beauty, and not her height. While they associated Everest with rigour, Kanchenjunga has forever been synonymous to beauty and glamour.
K2, on the other hand, reminded nobody of anything. K2’s life was full of an infinite flow of nothingness. People never acknowledged his existence. Even Kilimanjaro or Matterhorn or Elbrus or Aconcagua was more famous.
No, something had to be done. This was getting out of hand. This was really getting out of hand.
K2 cleared his throat. Everest, as proud as a peacock, looked at him with disdain, but K2 did not bother: “Brothers and sisters…”
“Dude, we don’t have all day. Cut to the point. God isn’t going to hang around all day.”
“Fine, but I get to place the first prayer. I had lodged a request ages back before anyone else had logged in.”
Everest was feeling annoyed. These summit meetings (Everest laughed at his pathetic pun) with God typically involved some lowly peak whining about lack of snow or too many people. There was once a delegation from Antarctica. The volcanic mountains kept complaining of stomach pain. Popocatepetl had insisted on a more user-friendly name.
But K2 looked like he meant business. Must be the sort of stuff losers crave for; maybe another two hundred metres or something. This God dude has never entertained those height-enhancing requests.
“Lord Almighty, I ask of thee…”
Everest was bored, more bored than he ever was of thousands of years worth of retaining the title. The title came with glory; this was going to be sheer torture.
“Dude, K2, come to the point. Shakespeare was dead long ago.”
K2 frowned. Everest might be the coolest, but the world could do with niceties, he thought, as Kanchenjunga looked at a mirror. She had to be at her gorgeous best. They had predicted a cloudless morning. Even Mauna Kea had a
peak peek from his massive bathtub.
Fine, I will come to the point.
“Dear Lord, I, am tired of being bullied by Everest. Why should the world judge us only on height? Why should that be the only parameter while deciding the champion?”
God was confused. What on earth was going on?
“I feel I am at par with Everest in every other aspect, if not better,” K2 droned on. “I can take him on in any other contest. In fact, I want to challenge him right away.”
Nobody looked bored anymore. Everyone, including Kanchenjunga, had their eyes on the second-highest peak on the third planet of the solar system.
“I want to challenge Everest in a contest where height will not be a parameter. Take altitude out of the equation. Take this one advantage away. I can assure you that he won’t stand a chance.”
God felt awkward. Everest was his favourite, for sure. He had backed Everest for millennia without protest of any kind from anyone. K2 had never looked happy, but the donkey’s back had probably snapped this time.
“What exactly are you talking about, K2?” God sounded curious.
“It’s simple, provided you want to listen carefully. I simply want another parameter in which I could be pitted against Everest. You cannot declare him winner just like that, year after year, just because he is taller.”
“What do you propose?” boomed the voice of Everest.
K2 turned towards Everest. The effort pushed a glacier by about a micrometre. “Let us explore the plains, Everest. Let The Almighty reduce our heights to nothingness.”
“Start from ground zero, eh?”
K2 ignored the obnoxious pun. “If you have the guts…”
“I have already won it, you know, dude. They’ve already named a brand of spice after me. Are you aware of all this?” Everest smirked.
K2 looked furious. “You can get away with the branding gimmick, Everest, but when it comes to substance you do not stand a chance.”
“Are you willing to take the challenge, Everest?” God interrupted. He had to address Nanga Parbat’s request of a change of name. A disgruntled Makalu II wanted an identity of his own. The Pyramids wanted a quota in these summit meetings. And so on.
“Of course. I want to teach Kate a lesson.”
K2 turned red, almost Vesuvius-red: he hated being called K2. It must be that Kanchenjunga, who knew this, who always took Everest’s side…
“Fine. I give you two twenty-five years each on the plains. I will level both of you to ground-level. You will have to start from scratch. Do you have a parameter in mind?”
“Let Kate choose,” Everest guffawed.
Nanda Devi interrupted as one of K2’s lesser peaks exploded, sending little hillocks scurrying for cover as snowflakes fell on them.
“What about the people?”
“What about them?” God echoed.
“I mean, the world will take notice if two major peaks vanish overnight, won’t they?”
“You have a point, as always. I guess I will have to create three-dimensional photocopies to replace them for a quarter of a century. They will be destroyed automatically.”
Summit. 2016 AD.
The Pyramids had had their say, which had not gone down well with The Sphinx and the temple of Angkor Vat. Makalu II and Popocatepetl had kept on appealing, but in vain. Most things remained the same.
They all waited with bated breath. Everest looked as regal as ever. K2 was grumpy yet defiant. Fuji burped lava and went quiet. Kilimanjaro mentioned something about trekking routes for no reason.
K2 stood still, his magnificent head nodding in acknowledgement, even appreciation, as his face curled into a wry smile. “I concede.”
That is it?
“Yes. I concede. I tried my best, but I was simply not good enough. I agree that Big E here is the best.”
That is it?
There was a general murmur across the enormous hallway. “Tell us about it! We don’t know anything! We have been standing here for twenty-five years while you were having all the fun! This is not fair!”
K2 sighed. Living it was bad enough. Having to re-live it was exactly the kind of thing he did not need…
“Fine,” he sighed. “We went to Calcutta. They changed the name to Kolkata somewhere down the track, but that did not matter. We tried a lot of things, but he came out on top every single time.”
Even God paused now.
“Then we decided to pick something and call it the decider. In other words, whoever would win that final battle would seal the tie. But he won again…”
Even Nanda Devi was curious now. “What did you do? What was the decider about?”
Everest responded. “Since K2 has been gracious in defeat, I guess it is my turn as well. Though I kept winning, I think he came a very close second every time, and pushed me to remain at my toes all along. I had to be at my absolute best day in and day out. He gave me a fight as tough as I could ever imagine.”
K2 smiled. “Well, I tried. Especially on the last occasion.”
Everest acknowledged. “Yes. In that final encounter, the battle to end all battles, there were moments I thought you would run away with the title. But I kept edging past you, just about managing to keep my nose ahead…”
“But I never won…”
“I know,” God interrupted. He had no plan to let this go on for an eternity. “I hereby announce Everest aka Arsalan the champion, albeit a decimal point ahead of K2 aka India Restaurant…”