A quiet farewell in a far-off land | delhi | Hindustan Times
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A quiet farewell in a far-off land

delhi Updated: Jun 09, 2009 23:59 IST

After eight sleepless nights, Kuldeep Wali's family is finally at ease. They can now mourn Kuldeep (57) who died in Antarctica.

“Though I am shattered, I am finally at peace. Since my father died, our family was afraid that if he was not cremated before June 10, we would not be able to complete his last rites,” said Ranshu Wali, 25.

“But now that his cremation has taken place, we can carry out the mandatory rituals," she said.

Assistant meteorological officer Wali was cremated in Antartica on Tuesday. His became the continent's first cremation.

Though the family could not receive a live recording of the cremation due to technical constraints, they were in constant touch on the phone with his apprehensive expedition team.

“Team leader O P Malhotra asked me—‘Should I? Can I?’— I told him the expedition team was Kuldeep's brother, mother and family now, and they had our full consent,” said Shubhan Wali, Kuldeep's brother.

"I was very touched at the way the expedition completed all rituals according to the Hindu tradition and held my brother's dignity and honor. Our whole family is extremely grateful," Shubhan said.

Goodbye, Antarctica

While icy winds blew at the speed of 80 kilometers per hour, and temperatures touched minus 18 degree Celsius in the dark continent of Antarctica, Indian scientists at Maitri station consigned to flames the mortal remains of their team member Kuldeep Wali, 57.

Meteorologist Kuldeep Wali died of a massive heart attack last Monday.

“I lit the pyre and performed the last rites,” said Pradeep Mathur, leader of the 28th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica and Commander of Maitri Station.

“It is a difficult job. As there is no priest here we sang bhajans and some of us chanted mantras,” he said.

The team had been looking for a suitable place for the cremation during the last few days and found a huge rock about two-storeys-high two kilometers away from the station.

Antarctica is experiencing its six month long winter right.

“We have tried to get a video but we do not know what the results will be. In the minus 20 degree Celsius temperature ,if you take out your finger for half a minute from the glove to press the shutter, it gets stiff and painful,” he added.