The 30th death.
[Text by Roger Choate; photo from private collection]
Longtime journalist and Ganges campaigner Roger Choate disappeared recently while tobogganing near his home in snowy Sweden. When last sighted, the old guy was wearing a battered straw hat purchased in The Hebrides.
Early on, he was a civil rights journalist in the American South for The Associated Press. This somehow led to Reuters in England and, later, as Stockholm Correspondent for The Times (London). Mr Choate probably wrote more about Swedish lore than any other living creature before a distinguished Indian turned up at his doorstep.
The house guest was the late Dr. Veer Bhadra Mishra (”Mahantji”) – leader of the Swatcha Ganga movement in Banaras to clean up the filthy river. The issue sparked Mr Choate’s interest. A few years later, and armed with modest foreign aid funds, Mr Choate moved to Tulsi Ghat in the holy city.
From 2000 until 2006 he coordinated a team of volunteers, together with Mahantji, to create heightened national and international media awareness about the polluted waterway – direct lifeline for nearly 600 million Indians. During his sojourn along the ghats he subsisted mainly on Dependal tablets to which he initially became addicted during long R&R breaks at Delhi’s South Ex, Part II.
“I think we succeeded in moving the Ganges issue further up on the national agenda,” he said later. “But I’m not at all convinced that any sort of cleanup will happen during my lifetime.”
At length he returned to Sweden to devote himself to favourite hobbies such as collecting remanufactured ink cartridges. Mr Choate is survived by his wife, daughter, and three lively grandchildren who live just up the street.
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