Nepal plane crash ends Kolkata doctor’s book dream

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : The plane crash in Nepal that killed all 19 people on board Sunday triggered waves of grief from Trichy in south India to Kolkata in the east.

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Ten of the ill-fated passengers were Indians.

Eight among them were engineers and other professionals associated with the construction industry, who came from Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirapally town, also known by its shortened form Trichy, to enjoy a brief vacation after a convention in New Delhi.

The other two, Pankaj and Chaya Mehta, were a doctor couple from Kolkata working in Nepal.

While Chaya was an ophthalmologist in her mid-50s working with Kathmandu’s Kist Medical College, Pankaj was a health advisor with the Unicef regional office in Kathmandu.

During his five-year stint in Nepal, Pankaj had been hailed for his contribution to reducing child and mother mortality in the country.

It was to have been the Mehtas’ last week in Nepal as he was scheduled to leave for the Philippines to head Unicef’s health division there.

Farewells by friends and colleagues had already begun and the Mehtas said they were sad to be leaving Nepal, a country that had taught them much.

Though Pankaj had been on a mountain flight earlier, Sunday’s trip for a magical glimpse of Mount Everest was his gift to his wife, who had never been on such a ride.

The couple are survived by two sons. The elder, Keyur, is studying medicine at the B.K. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in eastern Nepal and the Mehtas were planning his wedding in November.

The younger, Dhawal, studies in the US.

Pankaj’s 90-year-old father, Chandulal Mehta, who lives in Kolkata, is shell-shocked.

Unicef had planned a farewell for the Mehtas Friday. Nepal’s heath and population ministry had already hosted one.

Pankaj Mehta had told his colleagues he wanted to write a book on his Nepal experiences.

“I came to Nepal during Dussehra five years ago,” Chaya Mehta told her colleagues at the Kist Medical College. “I will be leaving during another Dussehra.”

But fate ordained otherwise. They did not live to see this year’s Dussehra and Pankaj’s book will never be written.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])