Pakistan mountaineer Ali Sadpara K2
Noted mountaineer Ali Sadpara and two climbers from Chile and Iceland were reported missing on February 6 after the three lost contact with base camp Image Credit: Ali Sadpara (Facebook)

To go to the top, which path would you choose? One laden with luck? Or one signposted ‘hard work’? If truth be told, most of us would cut to the chase and pass the green channel of luck leaving the sweat of the brow for those who are either too nutty to take the easy route or are too unlucky to have access to the shortest cut to fame.

In Pakistan, two different cases showcase that both roads can lead to glory and fame but the one that is dug with the bare hands lasts longer than the one that you may simply chance upon.

Muhammad Ali Sadpara, Pakistan’s legendry mountain climber, who was declared presumed dead along with two others on a winter mission to K2, the world’s second highest mountain, wasn’t lucky to claim his fame of completing the mission and returning home.

But the way the nation and his peers have mourned and honoured him makes you wonder if he had wanted more out of his professional life than what he received at the end. Ofcourse no one wants to die, but Sadpara was made differently; he was indifferent to concerns of mortality.

'When mountains love you, they keep you'

All he wanted was to live, love, and dance on top of the mountains. “When the mountains love you, they keep you,” said his mourning son in an interview.

It is tough love and not for the weak-hearted. For Sadpara, a life of poverty in the village north of Pakistan never looked too opportune except that he was cradled by the world’s tallest mountains. And that was enough for him.

Just consider his achievements: The only Pakistani to have scaled eight of the giant peaks above 14,000 meters; team world record holder for climbing Nanga Parbat in the winters and K2 in 2018.

When he first went up the tallest peaks he did not have proper gear including shoes and extreme weather protective suits. He did most of his climbing either without oxygen or with marginal support.

This scribe has been on the Siachin Glacier (in full gear) and can honestly tell you that moving one’s feet a foot is akin to pushing boulders uphill. What lungs, heart and body go through above 14,000 meters can’t be imagined.

In his death the man has risen to heights that he wouldn’t have dreamt of while he performed these mind-boggling feats. Yes, he was a known, decorated commodity in the country and much sought after as a companion and guide for the foreign teams but wasn’t a national hero that he has become now.

That’s hard work paying off. That’s labour of love yielding fruit. Too bad he is not in this world to see himself being crowned as Pakistan’s most cherished son.

An audacious and celebrated climber
Ali Sadpara is the only Pakistani to have climbed eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, and he made the first ever winter ascent of one of the world's highest peaks, Nanga Parbat

The case of Dananeer Mobin, a 19-year old YouTuber, could not have been more different from Sadapara’s. She has become the talk of many towns only because she uttered three lines in a jaw-locked accent and posted the short video online.

“This is our car; this is us; and this is our pwrty.” Not an announcement of antidote to cancer nor a free vaccine delivery advertisement for the world’s poor, and yet the few words have caught the country by a storm that has moved across into India as well. The refrain has shone such a blaze of attention on the girl that many would pay millions to fetch and yet not succeed.

Her Instagram has already touched a million followers and no TV show is complete without inviting her to share her publicity fortune. Her aims remain, for now, fairly mundane. She wants to be a singer and aims to complete her studies, but she is acutely aware that she has got a platform of attention that can be harnessed to open exciting doors for her.

'Pwrty' goes viral 

She does admit though that her deliberately skewed accent was meant to mock the upper-class kids who visit hill stations and speak in affected accents. That she would be catapulted to instant fame was never her plan.

This speaks to the power of the social media, whose content can produce remarkable resonance with the viewers and in her case also become a reference point for even serious conversations and messaging — sportsmen, politicians, advertisers, singers, even government institutions are now using the 3-line format to reach out to their audience.

This is incredible. And unpredictable. There is no set formula to work the social media’s innate power to promote an ordinary utterance into a public anthem cutting across boundaries and getting endorsed and accepted by millions in such a short time. A copycat effort to catch up with Dananeer’s trail of success is unlikely to succeed.

For all the study of algorithms and optimising of eyeballs science that defines debate around the social media, we still are not aware why and when the ordinary becomes the extraordinary in the virtual world. What we do know is that luck does not always shine on the brave but showers its favours randomly, something that the 19-year old Dananeer is relishing to the hilt.

A slice of luck would have brought Sadpara back home but that was not to be. He now perhaps lies buried in snow somewhere in those terrifying slopes thousands of meters above sea level, receiving salutations from these giants of mother nature that he defeated every time he took a step up.

Syed Talat Hussain is a prominent Pakistani journalist and writer. Twitter: @TalatHussain1