Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I believe I can soar….

Before officially putting 22 Nov 09 in my list of 10 Best Sundays Ever, I would like to send out a proper thank you into the universe for introducing me to Dilip Kotecha and his brood. These are four perfectly ordinary people five days of the week – going to school, managing a business and a home. But come Friday, they pack their car and drive up to Panchgani where they set up tents and spend the weekend paragliding. I met them on Saturday and was invited to take a whiff of their exotic weekend.

But first, about the drive from Lonavala to Panchgani. I still live in the dark ages and do not have maps on my phone. So I figured the route out on Google Maps on Saturday night , and - I blush to say this – took a 3 page printout of the map along with the instructions , which I consulted every half hour as I drove. But what a great concept - Google maps. The instructions read something like this: Take a right, drive 55.8 km and then take another right. This thing was made for people like me.

I rediscovered how much I enjoy long solitary drives. The solitary part is important. For one, I can sing cheesy Hindi film songs as loudly and as unselfconsciously as I want. And for the second, no guy gets to criticize my driving. In the last seven years that I have been driving, the one consistent thing has been that no guy over the age of ten sitting in the passenger seat has been able to resist telling me, in great detail, about the flaws in my driving style. I hate clichés and I never find it amusing when people say that women drivers are the most dangerous things on roads; particularly since I know many excellent female drivers. But there is a subset of this species which IS extremely dangerous - a woman driving with her teeth set together trying not to murder the male passenger who has told her for the nineteenth time to Take Her Foot Off The Clutch. How would you like me to take the foot off the clutch and use it to kick you, buddy?

Anyway. The drive from Lonavala to Panchgani is a delightful three hour thing – 160 km of good roads, winding in and out of the Sahyadri Ghats. I started at 0800 and following Google’s and Dilip’s instructions to the letter reached Camp Echo at 1100. I wonder if it is a good idea to not write too much about the camp; would not want it to become too popular. The place is like a dream and we will let it remain that way.

Much of paragliding is “parawaiting” (It is a rather nifty little word, but I can't take credit for it). One needs to wait for the right winds, the right time and the right place as well. Dilip took me to a place called Harrison’s Folly where we spent about three quarters of an hour, with the canopy all spread out and ready, waiting for the winds. It was time well spent, because I learnt much about ‘thermals’, cross country flying and about how useful birds are to a paraglider because the way they fly on any particular time helps him plan his flight(no kidding).

At about one o’clock in the afternoon, my instructor decided to leave Harrison’s Folly and we arrived at a place called the Ravine where the winds were better. Paragliding looks simpler than it is. You harness yourself to the canopy, run towards the edge of the cliff …..and just take off and fly. Since this was a tandem, it was completely zero stress for me. No worries about canopy flying, wind directions or landing. Maybe I didn’t know enough to be scared or maybe I trusted Dilip completely - whatever the reason, I wasn’t scared at all. All I felt was the pure joy of flight for a very short fifteen minutes. Even when we landed just at the edge of a very dense tree line and Dilip made me get up and walk to mak sure I was all intact, my primary concern was – did the camera survive such a hard landing? It did and the pictures are great. I’m hooked.


  1. WOW, this makes me want to go on a long drive !

    Look forward to seeing more pictures ...

  2. i cant believe that ur not out there signing books...if u have the talent(which u are so generously endowed wid)thn u must share it wid the mere mortals...

    neways the drive sounded fantastic..

    n ur the new thing in chicklit!!


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