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Deliverance from 27,000 Feet

In May of 2016, four mountain climbers from India went up Mount Everest with four local guides (sherpas). When the group ran into trouble near the summit, the sherpas left. Only one of the climbers from West Bengal, woman named Sunita Hazra, made it back alive while the three men lay frozen on the world's highest mountain. A team of hired sherpas found and recovered the body of Subhas Paul just before the mountain was closed for monsoon season. That left the remains of Goutam Ghosh and Paresh Nath to stay on Everest as other frozen bodies do, some dating back as far as 1924. The Indian climbers were not rich. They had saved up for ten years to climb Mount Everest, and ended up cutting corners, which may've contributed to their deaths. An expedition retrieve Ghosh and Nath would be much more expensive than their original expedition.   

There were three major reasons the Ghosh family desperately wanted Goutam’s body returned. The first was emotional. The idea that he lay near the summit of Everest, alone, exposed to the elements, left to serve as a tragic tourist marker for future climbers, was nearly too much to bear. And they wanted answers about what happened. Maybe his body could provide those answers. Maybe that video camera around his neck, if it was still there and still worked, held clues. Maybe there were memory cards from his camera in his pockets or backpack. Maybe a message for the family. Something.

The second was religious. Hindus believe the body is merely a temporary vessel for the soul. Once the soul is severed from the body through cremation, it is reincarnated in another body. Like most in West Bengal and across India, the Ghoshes were devoutly Hindu. To them, closure required a cremation, and all the ceremonies that came with it.

The third reason, as important as the others, was financial. Legally, in India, Ghosh was considered a missing person. Only when a body was produced, or seven years had passed, would the Indian government issue a death certificate, which the Ghosh family needed to gain access to his modest bank accounts and to receive financial death benefits like life insurance and the pension he had earned as a police officer.

Indian government officials said they would consider funding a recovery expedition, but only if they had proof that Ghosh's or Nath's remains had been located. Gosh's family pressed on, without adequate funds, to bring his body home. Nath's widow couldn't even begin to raise the necessary funds. Recovery would require many sherpas at the height of the climbing season. Read the story of what happened to the expedition and how the last bodies were brought home a year later at the New York Times. -via Kottke 

(Image credit: Sunita Hazra)


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