Thursday, June 17, 2010

Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado

In October 1972, a plane carrying rugby team from Uruguay on their way to Chile, crashed amidst the treacherous, icy terrains of Andes. Miraculously, several of the passengers survived the crash but found themselves stranded at about 12000 feet above sea level. Nando Parrado was one of the survivors who spent 72 days without proper food, shelter and any help, some of them seriously hurt, some succumbing to injuries, cold and hunger. This book is a first person account of Nando Parrado, on how they overcame all odds to survive.

The story of these survivors can send chills down anybody’s spine! Here were a group of people, completely inexperienced to such terrains, putting all their efforts initially in the hope of being found by the rescue party and later to cross the Andes and get help.

Though a little slow in the beginning, the book starts getting its grip after a couple of pages. Nando has given a built-up of the incident by some background on the various people on board, their journey route and also about rugby as a sport. Nando was unconscious for the first 3 days after the crash. He loses his mother during the crash and his sister after a few days. The book dwells on the leadership and spirit demonstrated by a lot of his friends in trying to make things work for them. With only the wreckage of their plane to protect from cold, seat covers to shield them, meager food items and some liquor to satisfy their hunger; on the face of it, it is completely unbelievable how so many of them eventually make it to beyond Andes.

First of all it was shocking to know that they had to resort to eating the flesh of their dead friends, and you tend to get judgmental, but what happens to you several degrees below normal temperature and in the back of beyond, could be only understood who have lived through it. Definitely, it would have been difficult for them to resort to eating the flesh of their friends, but perhaps they did what they had to without dwelling too much on what was right or wrong! I am still not comfortable on whether it is better to embrace death rather than eat the flesh of your friends. People die for their friends but who can decide what is the right thing!

What works for the book is the unbelievable story of survival against all odds and how the survivors rescued themselves. What slightly disinterested me in a few places was Nando’s constant proclamation of his love for his father. He loses his mother and sister in the same crash. He does dwell on them, but in the later days, not much! The qualities he highlights in his co-survivors are repetitive. The book also inclines towards making Nando the unlikely hero. Perhaps, what I as a reader wanted was the triumph of this group and therefore, I was reluctant to consider Nando Parrado as the one person responsible for their rescue. Perhaps, to some extent, he did play a crucial part, but some of the others also played as much important role. Nando definitely treads on a diplomatic path and accredits a lot of people and their efforts during their stay in the Andes.

So, go ahead and read this amazing story. 

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  1. Hey I have read this story. It was narrated by Piers Paul Read in his book ALive. But I never knew Nando had written a first person account. I must say Alive is one of my favorite books. I think Nando was the one who went to search for civilization knowing he could die on the way. Riveting story!

  2. @coolkamikazecat - Hey, don't know how I missed this comment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    I read about 'Alive' after I had read this book. Indeed, 'Miracle in the Andes' was a great story by a survivor. It just shows how one has to go to extreme measures for survival. You cannot even imagine the scenario and what lengths you yourself would go to survive!