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Obituary: Tribute to Omkar Krishna Mazumdar

Romola Butalia, Editor, India Travelogue pays a tribute to trekking legend of the Himalayas, Omkar Krishna Mazumdar, who lost his life on 2nd June '03, en route to Rudranath. He will remain an inspiration for the many trekkers who met him in the high Himalayas, where he wandered every trekking season for six decades.

Omkar Krishna Mazumdar is a trekking legend of the Himalayas. A familiar figure who spends months wandering the Himalayas every year, regular trekkers come across him in the high Himalayas, wearing a cotton T-shirt. He says, "I have already told God, next life I will be a bird in the Himalayas, and if I have not done it right, then I will be a porter. Either way, I will be in the Himalayas".

This was the introductory blurb about the trek to Kalindi Khal, one of the toughest Himalayan treks. Sumanta RoyChowdhury, a regular contributor to the site, wrote out the account of the trek as told to him by Omkar Krishna Mazumdar.

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A year ago when I was at Kolkata I went to meet my old friend, known as Mataji, who was staying with Omkar-da. When I met Omkar-da, it was like meeting an old friend - someone I should have rightly met several years ago. Our paths had crossed often but not at the same time. We greeted each other with the familiarity of Himalayan neighbours - which is what he will always be for me.

He spoke of many treks and trails. We poured over his treasured albums. We shared the wonder of having known, loved, and lived in the Himalayas. I wanted the world to meet him, because looking at him, I had been inspired to believe that I had decades of wandering yet to complete. Wiry, fit, agile, he had miles to walk before he slept, he had dreams to fulfil.


Vasuki Tal We talked of the Panch Kedar trek, which I had recently completed. We talked of Kalindi Khal, which I would like to visit. We promised each other that we would walk those high mountains together -we would reach for the clouds, we would camp in the meadows, we would cross those gurglings streams.

I was leaving Kolkata in a couple of days. I wanted to start putting Omkar-da's trekking experiences together. I figured I should introduce him to Sumanta, whom I knew would be delighted to meet him. And so Omkar-da and Sumanta met. Thereafter, I was redundant. They had too much in common - too much to share.

I met Omkar-da several times thereafter. The last time I met him, he ran out to buy a burger and a pastry for me. He said simply, "I wanted to welcome you with food." And then he told me, "Once when I was staying in the Himalayas, I learnt that a child had been born in a friend's family. I told him I would come to join the celebrations. My friend said, we do not celebrate the birth of a child. Some months later, he invited me to his home saying, today I want to invite you for a feast. My grandfather has died. We celebrate death - because the soul is freed." Referring to 'he incident, Omkar-da said, "I want my friends to celebrate my death. I want them to celebrate life in the celebration of death."

Ansuya Mata temple A few weeks ago Sumanta wrote to me that he was going on the Panch Kedar trek, and could we meet at Haridwar en route? I said I would be in the Kumaon Himalayas at the time. A couple of days ago I received an e-mail from Sumanta. It simply said:

have to give you this sad news ... Uncle died on 2nd June while trying to climb Atri Muni Cave near Ansuya temple on our way to Rudranath. He slipped and fell down about 60' below on the rock bed of the Amrit Ganga water fall. I cremated his body at Chamoli on 3rd. Can't think of much else to write.

Today, 14th june 2003 is Omkar-da's sradhha or memorial service. In silent tribute, I salute a fellow-traveller. There are no tears to shed for one who would not have had me cry in bidding him farewell. I wrote to Sumanta, "I saw in Omkar-da a truly wonderful person, a rare human being - one who symbolises what mountain living is - I hope he always remains an inspiration to you. One who is capable of inspiring so much caring is in truth, an evolved being."

I believe that Omkar-da's was a blessed death - he would not have wanted it any other way, but simply to walk over that last cliff and remain forever in the Himalayas that were his very life and breath. His death is the death of many an unknown sage who wanders the Himalayas - the body is shed, the light remains.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.