The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lost to the world, not to the wife

The streak of vermilion is a silent but striking reaffirmation of Ivy Banerjee’s faith that her husband is out there, somewhere.

Two-and-a-half months have passed since Arijit Banerjee, 32, disappeared in a swirling skyscraper of snow as it came tumbling down on members of climbing club Arete’s expedition on way to the summit of Kedardome, in the Garhwal Himalayas.

Rescue expeditions by local sherpas and an Indo-Tibet Border Police team began four days after the accident, on September 21. Arijit, and fellow climber Tusharendu Kabi, were declared “missing” after foul weather foiled attempts to locate them.

At her Garia home, poring over survey maps of the mountain during meetings with mountaineers and corresponding constantly with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) and a Manipur-based club, through letters, Ivy seeks answers to one single question: what happened to my husband'

“Accidents are part of mountaineering, but how effectively a team regains control of the situation shows their ability to deal with emergencies,” says the woman in her late twenties, bitingly. Not without reason. A member who did not want to be named said the team had evacuated summit camp “in a hurry” the day after the accident and did not even attempt to locate the missing members.

“I think that was a wrong decision,” says Kanchan Dasgupta, development officer of the Jadavpur branch of the Life Insurance Corporation of India, under whom Arijit worked.

Dasgupta, who was at Gangotri coordinating with the Indo-Tibet Border Police rescue team, adds: “The weather held out from September 18 to 20. There were four fit climbers, a high-altitude cook and enough rations. They should have searched.”

Ask team leader Kajal Dasgupta and he insists a search operation would have “endangered the entire team”.

His climbing comrades may have given up on Arijit, but not his wife. “I cannot give up. I will do whatever it takes to find him. With or without help,” promises Ivy. But the frustration is building up, as she has not being allowed to make much headway. The IMF has not responded to her queries and the Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association, which claimed to have video footage of the ascent, has not sent her the VCD.

“All I want to do now is ascertain the probable path of the avalanche and narrow down the search area, just in case another search expedition can be organised next year,” says Ivy, a wistful look in her eyes.

“I do not know how things will go for me, but I know Arijit would never have left a fellow climber to...”

The word remains unsaid.

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