The media reports that a team of Sherpas have been employed to bring down the mortal remains of Gautam Ghosh and, if possible, Paresh Nath, who had perished high on the slopes of Everest last spring.
This tragedy, in May 2016, has been widely talked about, written about and discussed, sometimes ad nauseum.
Every one has been kind and sympathetic when talking about the family, friends and loved ones these two climbers have left behind, and are still in mourning, and awaiting a " closure " to what surely must have been a shattering experience.
No one can teach you how to mourn. One can try and be prepared for it, but when the time actually comes one can find oneself falling down a steep slope without a belay, not knowing how best to arrest the fall.
Mourning is a " process whereby the bereaved gradually undoes the psychological bonds that bound him to the deceased ". The first acute stage is one of shock, disbelief and denial. Then comes the much harder and longer chronic stage that Freud called the " mourning work ".
There are four herculean tasks of mourning which must be done to avoid " abnormal grief ". The tasks are i) acceptance of the reality of loss, ii) to continue to function through the pain of grief, iii) to adjust to ones environment where the deceased is missing and iv) to emotionally relocate the deceased. Only then can one carry on with ones life with any semblance of normalcy.
This final " emotional " relocation must of neccessity demand a " physical " relocation ; a closure of what had once been a living presence. This explains the desperation of the family and friends of Gautam, who want to bring back his remains for the final rites, which surely must help this process of physical relocation.
In 1982, Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker went missing from the North-East Ridge of Everest during their summit attempt. Tasker's then girlfriend,Maria Coffey, writing six years later, says, " at thirty years old, I had never before considered the rituals around death, but suddenly I realised their importance. I understood the need to commit a body to earth, fire, water or air. I longed for the finality of such a ritual, the positive proof that a shell is gone and the person you loved can never inhabit it again."
Boardman's widow, Hilary,joined the Divine Light Society of Swami Chidananda, to try and ease the pain. After several years in the Ashram she would still find it difficult to return to the mainstream because Peter was still missing. She admitted, " I had to absolutely know for certain that he was no longer going to come home."
Ten years later another climber discovered the frozen remains of a climber high on the North-East Ridge.The photographs he took of the body were carried to England by Chris Bonnington. Hilary and her mother-in- law identified them to be those of Boardman.
Hillary took the photo back to her home in Switzerland,burned it, collected the ashes, came to India and immersed them in the River Ganges. She says, " the picture is in my mind, but the actual burning of the picture is also in my mind. It was a very integrative moment when I did that.It meant that he could physically disappear."
I pray,may the Sherpas be successfull, may the climbers come home, may the family do justice to the departed as they so badly want to and then when the last ashes float away, the last mantras chanted, the last guest departed may they all find peace.
Till then, I too am in mourning.
In the Pics: Goutam Ghosh (Right) and Paresh Nath (Left)