Into the High Ranges
Cold and forbidding to some, a comfort and solace to others, India’s mountainscapes are a testimony to the endurance of the human spirit. From the Himalayas in the north to the Nilgiris in the south, there exist a diverse range of physical, cultural, and aesthetic lifestyles. Into the High Ranges brings together essays and creative works by some of India’s best-known contemporary writers as well as fresh writings by other authors whose imaginations have been fired by these high reaches. Covering a broad spectrum of themes that delve into literature, history, culture and politics, these narratives present an intimate view that differs from stereotypical musings on mountains.
Namita Gokhale writes about returning home to the Kumaon Himalayas to search for calm and meditative silence, while Agha Shahid Ali’s poems long for the solace once provided by his home in the Kashmir Valley. Jamling Norgay risks everything to retrace his father’s historic journey to the top of the world, and David Tomory reminisces about the seventies and his rock and roll youth in McLeodganj. Ruskin Bond shares his passion for ‘the great trees of the mountains’, even as Suketu Mehta points out the hazards of their rapid depletion and exploitation. Gita Mehta traces the relationship between the river and the mountains just as lucidly as Allan Sealy describes the magic of the rains in the hills.
Also contained in this collection are stories that highlight the culture and lore of mountain communities, descriptions of the daily labours of mountain folk, articles on the havoc created by war in border environments like the strife-torn Siachen glacier, and many such thought-provoking accounts.
Ravina Aggarwal is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Smith College. She is the editor of Into the High Ranges: The Penguin Anthology of Mountain Writing and the editor and translator of Forsaking Paradise: Stories from Ladakh, by Abdul Ghani Sheikh. She was a founding editor of the journal Meridians.
Ravina Aggarwal graduated from St. Xavier's College in Bombay and received her Ph.D. from Indiana University , Bloomington , in 1994. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, border cultures, anthropology of media, performance studies, narrative ethnography, gender, politics of travel, and community organization. Her scholarship is based on extensive field research in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh. In her recent book, Beyond Lines of Control: Performance and Politics on the Disputed Borders of Ladakh, India (Duke University Press 2004), she examines how cultural performances, such as state festivals, popular films, and rites of passage ceremonies, become sites for shaping political identity and border subjectivity in Ladakh. Her work illustrates the complexity and importance of including decentralized frameworks in Indo-Pakistani boundary negotiations over the status of Jammu and Kashmir , where Ladakh is located.
Among Ms. Aggarwal's publications are articles on feminist theory and practice. Through archival and ethnographic research, she studied the changing role of women in the expanding marketplace of Leh, Ladakh's capital, and documented oral histories of laborers, refugees, politicians, and storytellers in the region. She is one of the founding editors of the journal, Meridians: Race, Feminism, and Transnationalism .
Ms. Aggarwal has also edited and translated an anthology of stories entitled Forsaking Paradise (2001) by the Ladakhi historian and writer, Abdul Ghani Sheikh. The narratives in this volume deal with situations that affect contemporary Ladakhi society such as religious discord, border tensions, tourism, and social stratification. Building on her interest in literature, she edited Into the High Ranges (2002) for Penguin India , a collection of contemporary writings by environmentalists, journalists, poets, and anthropologists on the mountainous regions in India .
Her ongoing projects include editing a book on Kargil (forthcoming, Seagull Press), articles on militarization and peace in Ladakh, and a new ethnography, My Life on AIR: Broadcasting Nation and Region in the Ladakh Himalayas , where she analyses the life and works of Morup Namgyal, Ladakhi radio's chief music composer, interviewer, and playwright, to assess how local producers and performers use the medium of radio to negotiate their relationship with the Indian state and re-inscribe national agendas to create a regional identity based on local struggles around language, religion, and political economy.
At Smith College , the courses that Ms. Aggarwal teaches are Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Culture and Conflict in the Himalayas, Borderlands, Gender, Media and Culture in India, Performing Culture, Writing Lives, Representing Culture, and Travel, Tourism and Anthropology.