I don't know too many Romanian names. One I do know, since I'm something of a tennis nut, is "Morariu". Corina Morariu played pro tennis through the 1990s, achieving her best results in doubles. In 2001, she was diagnosed with leukaemia and nearly died; but amazingly, she made a full recovery and returned to the pro circuit before retiring in 2007.
So when I heard the name Morariu in Leh a few days ago, I immediately thought of tennis, and this inspiring survivor.
Only, it was another Morariu: Catalin his name.
Catalin Constantin Morariu is a 35-year-old Romanian mountaineer and hiker. In 2005, he climbed the world's 14th-highest mountain, 8013 metre Shishapangma in Tibet. In early August this year, he and four friends, including a 32 year-old Danish woman called Henrietta, travelled to Ladakh for some days of hiking. On August 5, they pitched their tents in the hamlet of Sku, in the Markha valley.
That night, disaster struck in various parts of Ladakh. A cloudburst sent wet and massive destruction into Leh, Phyang, Choglamsar, Saboo and other places. And to Sku. The water swept away the Romanian group. Three of them managed to save themselves by hanging on to some rocks. They saw Catalin clinging to a tree. When the water receded, they found Henrietta's body, took her to a nearby monastery and eventually took her home to Denmark.
They did not find Catalin.
I know all this because of a German woman who was at the same hotel I was at in Leh. An old Ladakh hand, she runs a website about her work there. An uncle of Catalin's lives in Germany. He ran across her site on the Web and left her a note asking if she could find out what had happened to Catalin. Two of us at the hotel (oddly, both named "Dilip") offered to help, but we drew blanks.
I did not have time, before my departure, to investigate any more.
But I did stop for a chat with the founder of a travel agency in Leh. Since his agency has been around for years, various foreign embassies asked him to help find out what had happened to their citizens missing in Ladakh after the flood. In the case of a young Frenchwoman, he found out that the police, unable to identify her, had buried her body in a remote village. He sent out a team that exhumed her body and brought her to Leh, via raft and then road.
This man told me he had heard of a tall Romanian, unidentified, whose body the police had similarly buried in Sku. I left for Bombay early the next morning. I've left whatever information I had for the German woman to work with.
Sometime soon, I hope to hear that Catalin Morariu is home in Romania. If that body is really his, my thoughts are with his sadly bereaved parents.