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Obituary: Arun Veembur

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Local and international residents of Kunming and Dali are mourning the tragic passing of Arun Veembur, a young Indian writer who died from injuries sustained after falling during a solo hike in Dali.

1447The Hindu#http://beta.thehindu.com/news/international/article46982.ece#.

Veembur was born and raised in Bangalore, where he first took interest in writing before becoming disenchanted with the constraints of conventional journalism. Prior to coming to China, he worked as a reporter for the Deccan Herald.

While on holiday in northeast India's Assam state, Veembur learned the story of the Stilwell Road, the World War II supply route connecting Ledo in Assam with Kunming via northern Myanmar.

Veembur's obsession with the road compelled him to travel its full 1,600 kilometer length, including unstable regions of Myanmar, for a travel history book project. He ended up staying at backpacker hostel The Hump before getting a job working for the Yunnan provincial commerce department for two years. He was a welcoming face for many Indian businesspeople and journalists visiting Kunming.

After his government stint, Arun joined the management of The Hump Group, owners of the hostel that was his first home in Yunnan. The Hump Group recently opened a hostel in Dali and in late August, Arun launched dalichina.info, an English-language website focusing on Dali prefecture. He wrote nine articles for the site prior to his passing.

Known among his friends for his big smile, sharp intellect and unique brand of humor, Arun described himself as a "half-baked journalist and much-less-baked writer" on his dalichina.info bio. In addition to enjoying travel and a good party, he was also active in the promotion and organization of the Hump Group's charitable ventures.

Arrangements to return Arun's body to his family home are being made.

All of GoKunming's staff knew Arun personally and will miss him. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and close friends.

Image: The Hindu

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Just started to get to know you.

RIP Arun

Arun was the nicest guy. His often weird sense of humour made me laugh many a times down at the Hump. Last time I saw the lad must have been several months back doing his horrible but funny Charlie Chaplin impersonation. I can't believe he is dead tbh. A reminder to us all that life can be taken away so swiftly and unfairly.
I'll miss you Arun as I suspect all people who knew you will.

I used to hang out with Arun often at the KM Hump bar. I was looking forward to seeing him again in Dali in a couple of weeks when I go back to get my visa renewed. He was a super cool guy and will surely be missed by all who knew him.

Namaste Brother Arun.

I won't say any more that danmairen, I feel the same way. Arun was so full of life, I can't believe he's gone. I will miss him very much.

Please keep us updated on any arrangements or events that we can participate in to say our goodbyes and remember the good times we had with Arun.

Condolences to all his friends and family


I met Arun when he first arrived in Kunming, telling stories of his overland trip across Burma on the roof terrace of the Hump. He said he didn't know how long he'd stay in Kunming - probably a few weeks. We became fairly close, and I watched him fall in love with Yunnan. He stayed long after I left. The happenstance of him even being in Yunnan - and his willingness, like the best travelers, to accept unplanned serendipity - is why his death seems so cruel to me. All those chance encounters that seemed so fundamentally right have led to this. Senseless.

I take heart in the fact that he was extremely happy in Yunnan, at least when I knew him. That's something.

Someone should bury a Tigers' propeller blade on that mountain.

Will miss your wit, Arun.

I had the honor and the pleasure to know Arun Veembur and I was very sorry to hear about his passing away. I had the greatest respect for him and will miss him.


Can't believe he's gone. He was my junior in college in Bangalore.

One fine summer holiday, without much persuasion, he came with me to my place in Assam. And just pass my house, ran the Ledo-Kunming road. He saw a road sign saying Kunming, i forget how many kilometers. Think my mom gave him a book about its construction during the IInd World War. And the idea of going to Kunming was something he fell in love with more than 2 years before he finally managed to make a move. He talked about it constantly.

In the meantime, to gather money etc he picked up a job and I saw him getting thoroughly bored.

But he finally did manage to reach Kunming. And I am so glad that he did.

I knew he loved that place, and even though so far from here, for so long, he will still be sorely missed by all of us here.

And my regards and gratitudes to everybody in China who took him to heart.

Arun was one of my best friends. I came to China because Arun had made it his home. To say Arun loved Yunnan was putting it mildly. He tried his best to convince me to stay and I nearly relented. While I know the rescue team tried their best I can't help but feel a little frustrated at the way things worked out.

He was alive till (around 10am I believe) the next day on his phone but they couldn't locate him. I and a friend of ours had told him plenty about the path as we have both done the trek solo before. But Arun tried a short cut on his way back. I guess it was inevitable but I can't help but wish things worked out differently. Also people who did know that Arun was going for the trek and knew the path he could have taken weren't contacted. To be fair no one knew and Arun didn't mention the friend either while trying to guide rescuers to where he was.

My point being,

Chris and others, if you ever work in/around Dali or anywhere else please do try and get people to train and think more about rescue work. There needs to be a community of people who have the physical stamina and intelligence to get involved in rescue work.

Arun's accident came at a time no one was prepared, communication was poorly handled (I understand only 8 people went on the first rescue team) and no one really knew what to do. We owe it to Arun to make sure this never happens again.

Having said that I still do believe everyone tried their best and no one should feel any sort of overriding guilt or blame for what happened. But to prepare to make sure it doesn't happen again. We all loved our little oddball of a friend and we will miss him much.

Please forgive me if I've said anything that might cause further grief or pain to people. It's been hard getting the news but I am fully aware that I am not the only one grieving but I feel I had to be honest about how I feel. As much as it might hurt we will have to face the facts to avoid anyone else going through this pain.


Arun Veembur was full of passion for life and all it had to offer, the Ledo-Kunming road and the Flying Tigers was part of this passion, to tell the story of unknown heros and a part of history forgoten.

Arun and I flew tandem at Xi Shan, actualy the first passenger ever to soar along the sheer cliffs, it was peaceful.

This was a very special moment for us and I will never forget it
To me Arun is imortalized within Xi Shan ....I miss you already Arun..bye.


I know Arun Veembur as an oddball with soiled pants folded half way up to his knees, smiling a full metal brace smile, riding his beloved RD350, with his school bag trailing behind him, half open and revealing a tiffin box filled with lemon rice, his mum had made so lovingly for him. He could practically strike a conversation with anybody he met. And had a famous appetite for adventure and misadventure alike. It's terribly sad... all that has happened. But I'm sure he's in some happy place, writing another instant classic limerick or two.


I distrusted my own ears, he's gone. When i came to Kunming, i knew Arun from my friend. He was a nice guy and fun, he told me he enjoyed to stay in Kunming but he would move to Dali to live, this is also a nice place. God bless him. He'll be alive in our heart. Deepest sympathize to his family.

I last saw Arun about five months ago when he was telling me how excited he was to be going to Dali to his new job there.I wish I had the words to express my sorrow at the passing of a wonderful human being,he was such a nice guy,always full of life and a ready smile for one and all.A candle was blown out on that mountain and we who new him are poorer for that.
God Bless you Arun and Your Family



Veembs as we all came to know him eventually was one buddy who I can't imagine spending my college days without! From scamming half the priest-lecturers to getting our 'hall-tickets' to write our examinations to going for a wee shot of rum or two between classes to scamming dad to buy us beer the night before Psychology examinations, he was the man with plans!

His cherubic smile and the banter with that crooked 'thought' finger, don't think I would come across someone like again.
Despite what people say, and my dad's thought's on "THis is how things go wrong son" thought, a Kudos to the man who had the balls to do what he wanted to best! Cheers Mate! Happy Days as the Irish would say :D


Arun was a good friend of mine and of The Tribal Moons. He always treated us with so much love and respect. When he helped organize the music festival in Dali last April he worked hard for all of us and patiently took care all of the details to make the weekend a success, and to make all of the musicians, helpers and friends feel comfortable.

He never got uptight about anything, but rather, Arun really knew how to work with and communicate with people.
This Saturday night Nov. 14th The Tribal Moons will be playing at The Hump in Kunming. Arun was working with us to plan and organize this gig. He knew that it was drummer Ma Tu's birthday party, and also that guitartist J.P.'s mom and uncle are visiting from Quebec and would be attending the show. He was working hard to make it a special night for everyone.

Arun will be with us in our hearts and in spirit, and we will be dedicating a couple of our original songs that he liked best, "Steel Blues", which he liked to boogie to, written by bassist Da Ma Ke and "Forever" written by me.
I remember him telling me in a very animated conversation how wonderful he thought my song "Forever " was. I wrote it and usually dedicate it to my lovely wife Cas when we play it. He said something like this to me and I'd like to pass it along for everyone as I think it sums up who Arun was and who Arun is to all of us:
"Nevada, you're right. Forever. How long is forever? Love is forever. Love never stops, never ends. Love always is..."


I was his colleague for about 5 months at Mid-Day. We used to ride home together at about 2 or 3 every morning after the late shift. He was a really cool guy, always smiling and witty. He used to talk about this road project all the time. Last met him at the Jethro Tull concert in Bangalore in November '08, I think. He told me he'd yet to start on the project...


Always living on the edge.....and never gave up.....
miss you Arun


I got a message form Arun on the 7th of November, the exact words being " hey, you got any money for a trans-himalayan phone call ? I am more broke than San Anders fault... " and then we spoke for half an hour about the relevance of Charlie Chaplin in the modern day and age. Then on the 11th of November I get a mail explaining what happened. I really couldn't believe it, as a matter of fact I still cant believe it. I am still hoping to get one of those witty mails form him. Arun was a very special person, for me and for every body who got to know him. The image of Arun on his bike after after one of those sessions in Tavern, with Arun bent forward pressing the throttle to the maximum his bike could achieve, is still so clear in my head. Out of most of us, he alone had the spirit to dream and follow his strength to follow his dreams till the end. He was very happy in Yunnan, he was doing what he wanted to. I miss you very much Arun ! Condolences to all his family and every one who knew him.

A memorial service for Arun Veembur will be held at the Dali Hump on Sunday (Nov 15th) 4:30 pm until Monday 7pm. All friends are welcome to attend and pay their respects.

Dali Hump address:
Hong Long Jing, near west gate




For a family that has plunged into grief, these beautiful words from you all - Arun's beloved friends - have been so uplifting. We knew he was special and was living life on a different level. But to imagine that he has tried to do the same to those he met and befriended is so heartening.

On behalf of his folks and his entire family, I want to say a big thanks to all of you. All we can do now is to wait for him to reach home. There are many out there who are trying all that they can to ensure that the body reaches home at the earliest - our heartfelt gratitude to all...his colleagues at the Hump Bar, everyone he knew in Dali, Kunming, Bangalore, Kerala...well, most everywhere - for that's how widespread he had spread his magic.

Arun, we all love you and believe you lived life to the hilt. Without you, we can only try.


Arun was my cousin on my mother's side and I for sure am gonna miss him. I remember the good times when i would visit him in Bangalore and he would take me out to the city to enjoy the different kinds of food. I shared my first ever beer with him.

I'll always remember you letting me drive your bike, even though my feet weren't long enough to make it to the ground. You were my feet on those rides, and you'll be sorely missed.


We siblings of Arun are trying to collect as many memories of Arun we can lay our hands on to understand him, his life, his experience, his thoughts... everything about him.

We invite everyone to send any and everything about him and his life (notes, discussions, pictures, videos, scans, articles) to a mail id we have created for this purpose: arun.stilwell@gmail.com

We plan to organise all what we collect and bring them out in form of an online or print memoir.

We would thank you for all your thoughtful contributions.


I was staying at the Higher Land Inn for a few days last week while on vacation for the week, and I met Arun as he stopped in that morning to pick up some food for his hike. Though we only had a brief chat that morning, I got a good vibe from the guy and was shocked to hear that he was injured and stuck on the mountain when we heard about it that night.

A few people spent a long night searching for him and a long next day before they finally found him, and I hiked up the mountain the next day with another hiker to try and assist in the search effort as well. But not being trained or familiar with the area myself, there wasn't much I could do besides help look around a bit while hiking. And hope and pray.

I agree with PearlyJ's comment above, what the Dali hiking community could do to best honor Arun's memory is try to set up a better search and rescue situation there. I also believe the trails could be better marked and maintained, my impression while hiking was that the only maintanence that happens is what a few local hikers have done themselves.

It's also worth acknowledging the support the staff of the Higher Land Inn contributed, especially A Niu (Liu Yun), who I understand spent that first night and entire next day searching the mountain, and the other 2 staff who maintained the Inn's regular business while also providing a communication base for the initial search efforts.

Nice to meet you brother. Rest in peace.


Arun was my first friend in Kunming. His quirky sense of humor immediately fit with mine as well as his love of history, his desire not just to travel, but to explore.

I was lucky to have spent many hours on the back deck at the hump pontificating with Arun, we were going to ride the route of Francisco Vasquez across the mountains of the US & Mexico on dirt bikes.
I am deeply saddened by this tragic end. My most heartfelt sympathies to his family, people all around the world will be toasting to your son/brother/cousin's life and the energy he so generously gave to everyone near him.


I too was staying at the Higherland Inn for a few days last week, and I had a quick chat with Arun as he was stocking up on supplies for his food. He seemed very determined to do the hike. He thought he had already seen me somewhere in Kunming in the past, though I didn't remember his face or name (and I'm sure I would have if I had actually met him, for he had a nice, big smile and was very friendly and open-minded). The following day I stayed at the guesthouse the whole tiime and followed the news as they came through the staff's telephone and search team people posted there. I was relieved to hear they had found him, but was later shocked to hear about his subsequent death. By the words people who knew him well used to describe Arun, I feel honoured and lucky to have met him, even for a few minutes. May your soul be at peace, Arun.


Arun was my childhood buddy...pretty famous in school for taking us to the National Level Bournvita Quiz contest semi finals -single handedly.....nicknamed Channel V or soda was always buzzing with weird ideas and sense of humour....I still remember we use to clamor out for a bite in our recess time or giggle during our class hours with our pranks played on our class mates.....having spent the best days of my life with him...he wil remain in our heart as the one who lived his life on passion and not following the mundane norms of life:-)

I am smiling ..thats what u did when you were around.....make us smile :-)

Arun was for me (and presumably a lot of others) the original rock n rolla, the guy to emulate from early school days. Days when we would visit each others families on weekends, and immediately after exchanging pleasantries be off on a cycle, he riding, me on pillion, in any direction, till hunger got the better of our vagabond spirits.

He would chaperone me to Kerala for the summer holidays when I wasn't old enough to travel on my own. Train journeys were never so much fun, when we would share our berth, sneaking away in the middle of the night when his parents were asleep, patrolling the aisles end to end till the vestibules prevented us, pestering ticket collectors into parting a share of groundnuts and other eatables.

His incredible stories bring back tears of laughter even today, especially of one where he convinced some of his classmates in engineering college into believing that Jim Morrison was the 4th President of the USA.

I last met him at the Tull concert, where he entered the grounds with trademark bag on back, hunched over his Yamaha. A conversation on longitudes and latitudes and the free spirit of life in Yunnan ensued before we decided to meet the next day for some drinks…never to happen.

He has "gone up the country, where the water tastes like wine."

Will miss him and his randomness.


Back from the funeral, Arun Veembur has finally been laid to rest at Thrissur, am at loss for words, May you soul rest in peace mate, we for sure miss you.


RIP Veembs - Your riding mate and football buddy forever.


This is the first I have just heard of my friend Arun's passing. It has been nearly a year since I left Kunming but it seems like only yesterday that we had so many good times together there.

It is truly a tragic waste of someone so smart, vivacious and charming. I cannot imagine Kunming without him frankly. Indeed he was mainly responsible for me deciding to stay there at all.

As with so many of you, I will miss him sorely but never forget.

My commiserations to his familly and all of his many friends there. He will be sorely missed.

It is now one year and 2 days since. We were about to embark on a journey here on earth as brothers. A part of you decided to part ahead of time (whatever time is).........

Perhaps time travel will unite those who have a will to.

For Arun, wherever you are, a link to a newly discovered observation of a scene in the Documents section of the box set of Charlie Chaplin's films.

It is my hope that all of you behind the great firewall can access this link: www.disclose.tv/[...]

If not then at least try to create your own "worm-whole" and search "time traveler charlie chaplin" or something to that effect. It seems the "observer/subject" has something to share.

Lest we forget.

In and of love, honour, trust, loyalty and peace,


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