Monday, November 16, 2009

Post Script: A tough goodbye to a dear friend

I may have unwittingly made a few grave errors in recounting what may have happened to Arun in terms of the route he may have taken and also that in implying it may have been a mistake that cost him his life. I would like to redress some things after a mail I recieved from a close mutual friend who had also trekked the mountain. Some excepts

"He seemed intent on hiking the southern ridge to the top, beginning from the Highland inn.
I remember commenting that I didn't know anything about that route, or whether one even existed, and that I (and I believe Pearly as well) had hiked the northern ridge instead, which was conveniently trisectedfirst by a tourist path, and higher up by an access road."

And the last paragraph

"Throughout this situation I've often found myself recalling an episode from my first time climbing the same mountain. In a foolish attempt to avoid what I thought, incorrectly, to be a checkpoint (wanted to avoid paying that measly 30 kuai) I wandered off the beaten path and began climbing an increasingly treacherous and confusing bit of the mountainside. I was sitting in the middle of a thick reed forest (at an altitude very close to that of Arun's accident), on a steep mossy mountainside with no visibility of what lay around me and aware that I could easily wander onto a brittle overhang without warning. While cursing my newfound stubbornness (thank's a lot Pearly) who should call but Arun. After patiently fielding a few questions about laptops and viruses and how to install this and that, I gently explained that given my current situation, this probably wasn't the wisest use of what little credit remained on my phone. We both had a good laugh at this, he wished me the best of luck, and I went on my uncertain way.
That day I could have met a similar fate. I wasn't being any smarter, or any more cautious. I was lucky, Arun was unlucky, and I don't think there's anything more to be said about it."

At this point I can only paste what I replied to the friend and I feel compelled, more by strong emotion than lucid reasoning, that I have to add a few things with regard to my own experience on the Changshan mountain...

"I don't really know what to say....but I feel you must be carrying the burden of grief a lot heavier than us. The distance from Dali helps dilute some of the shock and though I often pause and sigh, it's been going a little better for me; as hopefully it will eventually for all of us. I can share that I was a little bitter and was firmly convinced that rescue work was not carried out properly. I'm afraid there is still a faint tinge of resentment especially since you've thrown some light on the people involved in the rescue work, especially that of the proprietors of Highland Inn. But it will not help to carry this taste in my mouth.

As for your slight reference to my stubbornness which I might have forced on you on more than one occasion, I have to admit to it. I have been incredibly lucky in many situations I'm deliberately put myself in. My run with luck has often made me reckless and confidant in my recklessness. During my run in with the mountain, you might recall I called you twice to confirm my route and to be honest, to calm my near point of panic at a point when the fog moved in thick and the top seemed so close but I couldn't see a peek of it. Again luckily for me, the mist lifted abit and I once again gave in to my often cocky self and set out to reach the top. My heart was thumping during the descent as I struggled to hurry and reach before nightfall. I entered the town's gate after 9 pm, closer to 10 pm. I seem to have forgotten much of the dicey moments I faced with the rush of adrenaline and cocky pride that comes from knowing you met a challenge and came back safe.

I need to thank you for your mail for it has refreshed my memory and I have to take back my thoughts that Arun may have made a mistake. It could have been me as well. I think I didn't share any of the doubt and fear I faced in the mountain for it was the exhilaration and blissful tiredness I chose to remember the most. I even ignored to talk of the sweet relief once I was safe in bed. I was even too tired to stop long enough to pick brochets, the only late night food available at the road side stalls and relied on instant noodles.

As for your latter note, there are no apologies of any sort required. From the consortium of friends Arun had in Dali and Kunming and everywhere else, you were probably one among the few who I could sense was, if I may, a better friend and one I was genuinely happy to meet and get to know somewhat.

Hope you don't mind me sharing this mail with everyone else but there are some things I have to redress and would like to share as well."


Maya said...

Thanks Pearly for the update. Is it possible for us to contact you offline? We have a mail id created that was posted on your previous blog. Also did he have any other blog besides the dalichina? 3 years back he had one, which he stopped updating once he got into his travel mission. We are just clinging on to memories we have of him and any that we can get from his close friends. That is all we are left with.

wormwood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mesjay said...

It's traumatic to lose a good friend in such circumstances. But...our continuing to live is only by God's grace, not that we deserve it.

Spell check: 'confident' not 'confidant'. Meanings are different.