An eventful, though at times scandalous, year for Indian mountaineering draws to a close. The silver lining, if we are generous to call it so, to the Avoidable Everest Tragedy of 2016 was the recovery of the lost climbers. The Sherpas did a great job in bringing their frozen remains back to their families and friends. The tenacity of Mr. Debasish Ghosh, who despite his constrained circumstances, left no stone unturned in his single minded pursuit to get his brother Goutam back left us shamed. We can but guess the agonies suffered by these families and friends this past year, and then the emotional trauma of performing the last rights, howsoever longed for, must have been shattering. It may have brought about an emotional closure but the scars are still fresh and will remain painful for a lifetime.
The local mountaineering community was quite seized with this ill-fated expedition, its aftermath and fallout, and even the international media sat up and took notice. So much so that the New York Times published an illustrated article, more than 13K words long, on a Monday in December.
This was a revelation in more ways than one.
The readers will remain grateful to John Branch and his team for an article which will proove to be a bench-mark for reportage on the human element of a tragedy.
The tone and tenor leaves nothing to be desired and the undercurrent of empathy which runs through the article does justice to the victims, their families and friends.
This empathy is marked when he writes about the callous behaviour meted out to Mr. Debasish Ghosh at Kathmandu airport, and even more significant when he writes in objective detail about the funeral rights and its associated rituals that a widow performs thereafter. This may be mundane for the Indian reader because of its familiarity but the western reader would find it poignantly significant.
This is ethical and competent journalism. One realises that Mr. Branch and his team have not only put in a lot of hard work, they have also collated and corroborated all information from primary sources and not resorted to second-hand arm-chair guess work and sensationalism.
There is a lesson to be learned here somewhere; specially when we come across such local media reports like the ones which relocate India's highest peak Kanchenjungha to Nepal, confusing both cartographers and readers alike, or the summit photo of the first Indian on Mt. Moebius in the Rwenzori captioned as Mt. Kilimanjaro or even the very reports about these ill-fated climbers if 2016.
In the days after their summit attempt, when everyone was frantically worrying and awaiting news of their safe return, a daily headlined," 'Lost' Everest Climbers Safe.....are on their way down, escorted by Sherpas". Imagine the devastating effect when the same daily published the next day," Everest takes its toll..............one presumed safe is dead......another is in Kathmandu Hospital.........two more are missing".
For some the calender stopped at May 2016. But the inexorable sands of time kept slipping through both the fingers that froze and even those that stayed warm. Mr. Branch has meticulously gathered these grains and built a castle that will stand the test of time.
This was a story worth telling, and it has verily been well told.
Thank you Sir.