Aspi Moddie (1921-2014)

Aspi Moddie lived several lives in his long life of 93 years. He was part of the British army and fought in the Arakan mountains in Burma. Being injured he returned to civil life soon. Starting as an IAS officer in independent India he was posted at the India-Nepal border. Nepal was closed to outsiders then, but using his proximity to powers he managed to get permission to reach the base camp of Everest a rare achievement then.

On return from Nepal he joined the Himalayan Club in 1949 and devoted many years to help the Club later. His most enjoyable visit to the Himalaya was in 1959 when, with Gurdial Singh, he trekked around the outer wall of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. During his several trips he met famous mountaineers like Eric Shipton and Sir Edmund Hillary. Trying to talk on a different subject, Aspi once asked Sir Hillary if he could suggest a good book of Maori poems from New Zealand. Sir Hillary replied: "I am a bloody farmer", thus declaring his ignorance about literature!

Aspi became Vice President of the Himalayan Club 1972-74 and later President of the Club for nine long years (1975-1985). As the President he introduced many changes that rejuvenated the old spirit of the Club as it shifted its main office from Kolkata to Mumbai around same time. He used his administrative acumen to benefit the Club, to promote membership beyond static 600 then, made five year financial forecasting, raising membership fees to a realistic level and developed closer international relations with Clubs the world over.

His interest in various aspects of mountains was evident. He accompanied the Basic Course of training at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering to introduce mountain poems to the students. Many of these poems were written by him. He had a vast collection of maps and books at his residence. I have fond memories of spending many hours looking at his rare collection of maps, artefacts and books, at his Mumbai residence.

In later years he developed an active interest in the Himalayan environment, and with three international colleagues promoted a movement to protect the environment. It took them eight years to give their vision concrete shape and in 1983 ICIMOD ('International Centre for Integrated Mountain Developments) was formed at Kathmandu. This centre flourishes today as tribute to likes of Aspi.

In later years, old war injuries began to trouble his movements and the loss of his son also caused great sadness. However whenever we met, he would enthusiastically talk about the Himalaya and Himalayan art with my wife Geeta and myself. We will cherish those days.

For the last couple of years he moved to Pune to be near his daughter. He passed away on 9th January 2014 after a long illness. The Himalayan Club has lost a pioneer and supporter, who was member of the Club for 65 years!

Harish Kapadia