Mumbai: Family, friends bid adieu to the 'Mountain Man'

Sep 10, 2015, 11:10 IST | Shailesh Bhatia

Ten days after he fell into a gorge during a mountaineering expedition in Himachal on August 29, Richard Kher was finally laid to rest yesterday

Richard Kher aka Richi, to his friends, would often joke that when the grim reaper comes looking for him, he would like to be somewhere high in the mountains. While his prayers were answered, the questions that haunts his family, friends and well-wishers is ‘why so soon?’.

Friends and relatives attend the memorial service at Church of Our Lady of Dolours, Wadala, yesterday. Pic/Sharad Vegda
Friends and relatives attend the memorial service at Church of Our Lady of Dolours, Wadala, yesterday. Pic/Sharad Vegda

Ten days after the 28-year-old Wadala resident fell into a 300-ft gorge while descending Castle Peak in Miyar Valley of Lahaul-Spiti district, Himachal Pradesh, his body was recovered and brought to Mumbai yesterday. Richard’s body was retrieved with the help of the Army, after the efforts put in by the local administration to do so failed.

Final goodbye
A memorial service for Richard was held at the Church of Our Lady of Dolours, Wadala, a stone’s throw away from his residence, where he lived with his parents Judith and Brij and brother Chris. The body was later taken to Shivaji Park for cremation.

“He was my brave son, who loved the adventure sport and in a way we supported his passion. He was adamant about finding new mountains to scale and would invariably have the last laugh.

I have no hesitation discussing his demise if it helps other mountaineers to cultivate a more cautious approach towards the high-risk sport and upgrade safety standards associated with it,” said Judith, putting up a brave front, while seeing off all those who attended her son’s service.

Friends speak
Richard’s friends from his mountaineering club Girivan have planned another memorial service at the Podar Climbing Wall, an artificial bouldering facility, where they would meet to practice rock climbing.

Franco Linhares, a friend and an expert climber who first introduced Richard to the Miyar Valley in 2012, said his partner was so mesmerised with the landscape that he promised to be back. But he had never imagined that it would be Richard’s final climb.

“He was a cautious climber. While rappelling down, it is possible that a person, who is exhausted after a tedious climb, to suffer lapse in concentration. Every seasoned climber knows that nature must be dealt with humility, but at the same time knows what chances to take under given circumstances.

We all climb, without any reason, though it is an outrageous sport, and so did Richi,” said Linhares. Richard’s friend and climbing partner Sunny, who captured Richard’s final moments frame by frame on his camera, bravely descended from the mountain and trekked for almost an entire day to the nearest village to seek help for his fallen friend.

Unfortunately, Sunny could not attend his friend’s funeral as he was in Delhi arranging logistics for the dismantled base camps in Himachal.

Out of the box thinking
Professor Sanjay Ranade said Richard was not satisfied with what he was taught within the four walls of a classroom. Richard personally visited every location mentioned by U B Damle, who in the early 60s did an extensive research on seven widespread villages in India, to understand the effect of modern ideas and communication, as thesis for his PhD and discover its relevance in modern times.

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