ONE OF NEPAL'S best known expatriate Britons and a leader in its trekking and mountaineering scene, Michael John Cheney, known as Mike to all his acquaintances, died in his sleep at his home in Kathmandu in the early hours of the morning of 20 February 1988 apparently from heart failure. He had been ill for the previous week or two after having had what doctors suspected was a stroke. He had also broken his left arm close to the shoulder at about the same time while on a trip in one of the more remote areas of western Nepal.
Mike was only 59 years old but had had several episodes of serious illness during the past two decades which had taken a severe toll of his strength. He actually should have died years before, but his fierce will to carry on the work he found all-absorbing kept him going against great odds. But finally his strength gave out. He was buried in the hillside cemetery maintained by the British Embassy in Kathmandu with about 200 Nepalese and expatriate mourners at the graveside.
Although he kept his ties to his family back in England and considered Beckford Grange, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, one of his homes, it was his wish to live and die in Nepal, where he spent the last 22 years of his life. He never married — women seemed to terrify him — but he was generous with his kindness to Nepalese children as well as to adults in distress.
After obtaining his school certificate, Mike served in the British Army from 1946 to 1957 in the Royal Armoured Corps and the 10th Gurkha Rifles. During these years, he saw active service in Korea, Kenya and Malaya and rose to the rank of Captain. He then became a tea-estate manager in the Darjeeling area of northeastern India. In 1965 he moved to Nepal and spent two years in tea there before ill health forced him to stop working for two years.
When he was able to resume work, Mike returned to Nepal and took a job in the fledgling trekking industry with the world's first trekking agency, Lt Col Jimmy Roberts' 'Mountain Travel', which had begun sending mountain lovers on treks in the northern regions of Nepal just four years previously. He remained in trekking till the last day of his life, although he left 'Mountain Travel' in 1976 and was an executive of three successive other agencies. His last post as General Manager of 'Rover Treks & Expeditions (P) Ltd.'
Mike was a champion of the poorly paid porters who carry heavy loads under difficult conditions for expeditions and trekking groups and he actively promoted the employment, as trek leaders and mountain climbers, of men who belong to tribes other than the Sherpa clan. He was certainly no desk-bound trekking organiser. He spent many weeks each year out in the hills scouting new trekking routes in central and eastern Nepal for clients who wanted to travel away from the paths that have become greatly overcrowded in the Everest and Annapurna areas. And he some-limes went with the mountaineering expeditions whose logistics he helped to arrange, most notably as a member of Chris Bonington's 1975 British Southwest Face Everest Expedition, which he served as base-camp manager. He was very proud of having been an actual member of that historically successful team.
Mike was an active member of the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal and of the Himalayan Rescue Association in Kathmandu, the Local Hon. Secretary of the Himalayan Club, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of The Alpine Club. He followed the mountaineering scene in Nepal closely and was correspondent for several alpine journals and mountaineering magazines in Europe and the United States.
OR BISWAS WHO passed away on 10 September 1988 was one of the Vice-Presidents of the Himalayan Club. He was ailing for a long time and the end came after a massive heart attack.
He was born at Chandpur in Commilla district, Bangladesh, on 8 July 1911. After graduating from the Calcutta Medical College in 1935, he became one of the first Indians to obtain the Diploma in Child Health in London. He was among the second batch of its recipients. In the late thirties, he became a MRCP (London) and MRCS (England).
He served during the Second World War as an army doctor in I he Middle East. In the forties, he was intimately connected with the undivided Communist Party of India. He was attached to Chittaranjan Sishu Sadan, Campbell (now Nilratan Sarkar) Medical College, B. R. Singh Hospital and Calcutta Medical College, where he was the Honorary Senior Pediatrician. He was among the first Indians, to set up an independent practice in pediatrics. He was one of the promoters of Students' Health Home. He was also a member of the Indian Medical Council. He retired from service in 1970. He was a man with varied interests and was close-to Bohurupee, Indian Peoples' Theatre Association, Srimancha, Ali Akbar Music College and Jhankar Music Circle.
He trekked extensively in the Himalaya, between 1958 and 1972. In 1963 he became the Vice-President of the Himalayan Association, while J was its Secretary. From then on our friendship grew, despite the fact that we were politically poles apart. He then trekked from Gangotri to Badrinath via Kalindi Khal along with his wife Bhakti Biswas, and Uma Prasad Mookerjee, the famous Himalayan trekker and writer. We were then co-Vice-Presidents of the Himalayan Association. In July 1964 Dr and Mrs Biswas had taken the initiative of organising a rock climbing course, which was held at Susunia in January 1965.
We were together in the Himalayan Club. Dr and Mrs Biswas became life members in 1965. He became a Vice-President in 1983, in which position he continued till his last day. Although ailing, he took all the trouble of coming down and opening the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of the Calcutta Section of the Himalayan Club on 5 March 1988. This was probably his last public function.
Kamal Kumar Guha
DR M. L. BISWAS BREATHED his last on Saturday, 10 September 1988. In his death the Himalayan Club has lost a valuable member. He joined the Club in 1965 and was elected Vice-President in 1983.
After the death of his third son in 1957, he went to Kedarnath, Badrinath area alongwith family members and few friends. This was the beginning of his mountain love. He became a member of Himalayan Association in 1961 and trekked to Jamnotri, Gangotri and Gaumukh. Again in 1963, he organised a trek to Badrinath temple from Gangotri, Kalindi Khal with the help of Swami Sundarananda. He became associated with mountaineering clubs of Calcutta and was elected Secretary of the Himalayan Association.
He organised the Trisul and Hardeol expeditions. He trekked to Muktinath, Gosain Kund (Nepal), Sikkim, Arunachal, Amarnath Cave, Tarsar and Marsar lake, Bhutan, and some parts of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. At the time of his death, he was the Chairman of the Himalayan Club's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.
All, his friends, well-wishers deeply mourn his demise. He was a very clear-cut and straight-forward person from all points of view. His sudden death was the perfect end to a long active life,, but we have lost an energetic mountain lover.