Mumbai family waits for body of ex-Ranji physio who died in Nepal quake

Dr Vipul Chavda, a former Mumbai Ranji Trophy physiotherapist, died during a trek in Langtang Valley in Nepal; while his injured trek-mates have been airlifted to safety, his body has not been recovered yet

Losing a loved one to a natural disaster is a tragedy. But the Chavdas from Andheri are experiencing something worse they know their son breathed his last when the devastating earthquake struck Nepal last week, but his body is still lying somewhere on the cold Himalayan mountains where he had gone for a trek.

Vipul Chavda was an avid trekker and also a long-distance runner and cyclist. File pic
Vipul Chavda was an avid trekker and also a long-distance runner and cyclist. File pic

The reason? In a situation where thousands may still be alive under piles of debris, the dead figure last on the priority list during the rescue mission. 39-year-old Dr Vipul Chavda, who consulted with a private firm in the city, had earlier been a sports physiotherapist with the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team for nearly five years (2001-2006) and a consultant to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

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Mumbai cricketers said Dr Vipul Chavda (inset) was very honest about injuries and was also very helpful. File pics
Mumbai cricketers said Dr Vipul Chavda (inset) was very honest about injuries and was also very helpful. File pics

He had gone to the Langtang trekking trail, a popular trekking destination near Kathmandu, reaching the Nepali capital on April 19, and leaving for the trek thereafter. “Vipul was a long-distance cyclist/runner and a high-altitude trekker. He had previously trekked to the Mount Everest base camp as well as several other trails in north India.

The earthquake in Nepal hit when Vipul and his other mates had just crossed the halfway point in the trek. From what his friends have told us, he died on the spot,” Dr Ketan Chavda (34), Vipul’s brother, recounted, the sadness evident on his face.

With no point of contact in Nepal at present, the family got as much information as possible from one of Vipul’s friends from Mumbai, Dr Harshada Rajadhyaksha, who was also seriously injured in the incident. “The magnitude of the earthquake made the entire mountain shake. Fearing for their lives, all the trekkers ran towards the sea.

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However, some boulders started falling from the mountains and one of those boulders bludgeoned Vipul to death,” added Ketan. All those injured in the incident were airlifted and moved to a hospital in Kathmandu. Rajadhyaksha was then shifted to a hospital in Delhi on April 28 and finally brought to a hospital in Mumbai, where she’s still undergoing treatment.

Lying in the cold
“Vipul’s body is yet to be recovered. We have already shared a copy of his passport and other details, through a guide that was with the group, with the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi. I have also been in touch with the disaster management team as well as the Indian embassy in Nepal, but to no avail.

We are still waiting to hear from them,” added Ketan. Vipul had studied sports medicine and done an advanced course in rehabilitation post replacements from institutes in South Africa and UK. “On several occasions, he has been successful in preventing permanent damage to many athletes’ bodies.

He was passionate about his work as well as other physical activities. Today, his body is lying somewhere in the open in inhuman conditions, waiting to be brought back home. All we want is to give him a respectful farewell,” Dr Ketan told mid-day. Many cricketers who played both for India and the Mumbai team expressed their shock at the death, and also praised Dr Vipul for his work.

'He will return'
While Ketan took a few hours to come to terms with the loss of his brother, mentor, and best friend, his parents still refuse to accept his passing. “On Sunday, I finally broke the news to my parents. They refuse to believe me and are still hopeful they will see Vipul walk through the doors soon. All I can do is pray to God,” said the brother.

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Every day, Ketan’s hopes rise when he gets a call from the disaster management control room, only to be dashed when he is told there is still no trace of Vipul. “I know that my brother is no more. But, in my heart, I’m hoping my parents are right and I’m wrong,” he said.

Cricketers mourn

Ajit Agarkar, former India and Mumbai all-rounder
Ajit Agarkar, former India and Mumbai all-rounder

Vipul was definitely one of the better physios I’ve worked with in India. He was a real nice guy, whom I would speak to whenever I had a problem.

Chandrakant Pandit, former India wicketkeeper and Mumbai coach
Chandrakant Pandit, former India wicketkeeper and Mumbai coach

I am deeply saddened by Vipul’s death. As we speak, I can visualise him waiting at the boundary line for me, with a note which has fitness updates of players. He believed in being brutally honest about players’ injuries. I remember we were playing Delhi in the 2002-03 season and Sairaj Bahutule’s shoulder was playing up.

Vipul informed me two days before the game that Sairaj was in no position to play. I stressed to Vipul that we must have Sairaj. He told me if I use him sparingly, he would pull through. We did that and won. I will always bring up his professionalism when I speak to other physios.

Nilesh Kulkarni, former India and Mumbai spinner
Nilesh Kulkarni, former India and Mumbai spinner

I am really sad to hear about Vipul’s death. As late as a month ago, I had sought his help for my troublesome back and he made arrangements for me to be attended to at his Powai clinic. In my playing days, when my back troubled me, he spent a lot of time massaging it and giving me the best rehab programme. He was my go-to man.

Sairaj Bahutule, former India and Mumbai leg-spinner
Sairaj Bahutule, former India and Mumbai leg-spinner

He was very good to me and the players, when I was Mumbai captain. Vipul had a great work ethic and used to discuss injury issues with me openly. We got on really well. The news of his death is very sad. It’s crushing.

Dr Anant Joshi, Sports medicine expert
Dr Anant Joshi, Sports medicine expert

The news of the tragic demise of Vipul in the recent earthquake in Nepal came as a huge shock. I have known Vipul and worked very closely with him for over 15 years. He was a skilled physiotherapist and particularly passionate about working with athletes.

Though he helped rehab several high level athletes back to the playing field, he preferred to keep a low profile and did not hanker to be in the limelight. He practised what he preached, was an avid cyclist and had taken to trekking in recent years. I shall definitely miss him both professionally and as a friend.

- Inputs by Clayton Murzello

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