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Fitting Tribute

(by Dilnaz Boga) Bombay Times on 15th July 2002

What could be a fitting tribute to Lt Nawang Kapadia, who fell prey to enemy bullets and died a national hero, at Kargil last year? Conquering a virgin 7,030 mt peak of Padmanabh and descend to the Siachen Glacier, thought his father, renowned mountain climber Harish Kapadia. Kapadia, with a team of climbers from the Japanese Alpine Club, planned to trek the Karakoram Pass, where no foreign climbers have been allowed by the government. The trek lasted from May 8 to July 9. Said Kapadia, “The trek was not only a tribute to Nawang, but also a celebration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Japan.” The team comprised of 57-year-old Kapadia (leader), Lt. Commander S Dam, Motup Chewang, Huzefa Electricwala, Rushad Nanavatty, Hiroshi Sakai, Yasushi Tanahashi, Hirofumi Oe, Tadashi Fukuwada and Ryuji Hayashibara. He elaborated, “It was a difficult trek, as it took us 20 days to reach the base camp, after which, we started climbing.” “It was 20 degrees below zero. If you thought about home, you’d be in big trouble.” They had to be up by 1 am to prepare food, so that they could climb from 3 am to 9 am, to avoid walking through soft snow during daytime. Climbing rough terrains, and enduring harsh climatic conditions require well-planned logistics. “Every detail has to be worked out. You can’t fall short of a matchbox, or you have to call the expedition off,” he said. Siachen, being a war-torn zone, the team could hear and see guns being fired. “It is amazing to know that our Indian soldiers brave such intolerable conditions all through the year, only to defend us,” said Gita, his wife. She remembers her son as someone who not only died a brave death, but as one who enjoyed working for the good of the Kashmiri people when he was posted there. Kapadia emphasised on the importance of physical training and the selection of the right people for the team. He added, “The Japanese were very disciplined mountaineers.” After reaching the peak of Padmanabh, the team placed Lt Nawang Kapadia’s photograph, celebrating his life and his work.