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Updated: November 11, 2009 20:17 IST

Young writer and intrepid traveller dies in China

Ananth Krishnan
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Arun Veembur
Arun Veembur

A young writer hailing from Kerala and raised in Bangalore has tragically died while trekking in southwest China. He was working on a book here.

Arun Veembur, 28, sustained serious injuries from a fall on Monday while hiking in the remote mountains near Dali, a city in the Yunnan province where he lived. It took a rescue team until Tuesday night to locate him. When the team arrived on the scene after a day-long search, it was too late, his friends and officials said.

Arun was the only son of V.K. Godan, a Scientist with DRDO in Bangalore, and Usha Godan. Mr. Godan is from Veembur Mana near Thrissur and Ms. Godan is from Polpakkara Mana, also near Thrissur. He was born and raised in Bangalore.

Arun came to China in 2006. He was in Bangalore prior to this and worked as a journalist with an English newspaper, and moved to Yunnan, a hilly province in China’s far southwest, to follow an unlikely passion – an obsession with the history of a little-known road.

While on holiday in Assam, Arun happened to hear the story of the Stilwell Road built by the Allies during the Second World War to ship supplies from India to China. It runs from Ledo in Assam through Myanmar to Kunming, Yunnan’s capital.

The inquisitive and impulsive journalist decided at once to traverse every inch of the road and write a first-of-its-kind travel book based on its rich history.

In an interview with The Hindu in July 2009, he had recalled how he came here “on a whim,” to get away from the humdrum routines of Indian journalism which he said, had left him disenchanted. He landed up in Kunming with little idea of how long he would stay, limited resources and unsure of how to go about his project.

He never expected to stay as long as he did. In the three years here, Arun became something of an institution in Kunming. He was a familiar face for visiting journalists and diplomats and a valuable guide for the regular trickle of Indian businessmen who frequent China’s southwest.

He was deeply knowledgeable about an often-ignored part of the continent. He travelled wherever his research — and the Road — took him, even to the remote interiors of Myanmar to the heart of its ethnic strife.

He spent the last year helping promote tourism in the ancient city of Dali, where he wrote vivid portrayals of the region’s little-known minority cultures on his blog.

But the Road was his passion. He would sign off on all his e-mails quoting from a poem from a British officer who was stationed in Assam. It read: “Did our job, though, like God willed. We had the Ledo Road to build.”

Arrangements are being made to bring the body home with the aid of a designated Chinese agency.

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