Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Fiction Library.... all catalogued and ready to go into storage.

Agatha Christie’s
1. Crooked house

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I believe I can soar....the pictures...

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?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength."
- Jack Kerouac

No woman either.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


The roads wind, go up, go down and open into views that take your breath away. The morning jog route is lined with trees and quaint little houses which look like they’re straight out of a six year old’s drawing book. Every morning, as I run among these lovely hills, I thank God. But I also wish that my shoe lace would come undone so I could stop to tie it and take a few extra breaths before my lungs explode.

Monday, July 27, 2009


When a patient who has received treatment (radiation and chemotherapy) for carcinoma cheek develops a hoarseness of voice that persists for weeks, it has to be taken seriously because ENT cancers have nasty habit of wanting to go everywhere. That much is simple. An intern fresh out of med school knows as much. But what is difficult to learn is how to explain this to the old man who persists in pretending that he has no idea what you’re talking about. His doctors told him, last year, that his cancer was gone. This heaviness in his throat – couldn’t it be just infection? A sore throat, for God's sake? Why am I making a big deal of it? Who am I, a non specialist youngster in a small hospital in Lonavala, to doubt the wise old oncologists who treated him last year? I draw diagrams, explain concepts like metastasis as simply and as kindly as I can, but he’s just bored.

All I want to do is to write a referral to the Onco Deptt. All he wants to do is to get the hell out of my office, go back to his life and completely forget this unpleasant conversation. We reach a compromise; I let him go, after making note that his son is a junior sailor in the Projects Department. I call the son to the hospital to tell him that he needs to take his father to the Onco Specialist again. Father and son turn up together, looking like yesterday and tomorrow of the same face. I say the same things to the son that I said to the father – that it may just be an effect of the radiation, or it may be that the carcinoma has spread; either way, the hoarseness in his father’s voice needs to be investigated. He listens with a polite resignation and agrees with everything I say. The father listens with the same irritated skepticism as before. I write the referral and call up the boy’s boss so he can get leave. 

I would like to believe I did everything that needed to be done but I keep remembering the look of angry despair the old man gave me as he left and keep wishing I had handled this better.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


The group of 31 is divided in to six groups, or ‘Ropes’ as they are called in the mountain lingo. Each rope has a ‘Rope Leader’ and a ‘Rope Instructor’. I’m the rope leader for Rope no. 1, also the Course Senior. The morning begins at with a PT at 0600 hours. First a 2km run on these spectacularly beautiful roads, then we stop near a park and do some strange exercises whose benefit we will apparently know when we start climbing,
and then the 2km run back. I am losing most of the long cherished belief that I’m extremely fit. Running on the roads and tracks in Lonavala hasn’t prepared me for this mountain workout; I huff and puff in pain through the morning, among the last in the group to reach back at the institute.
Breakfast at 0730, followed by classes.
So many classes..
1. Lecture on Ropes – their types, uses and maintenance
2. Demonstration of Knots.
This one was maddeningly funny. Suraj Gurung (Rope instructor for Rope 2) would demonstrate a knot with a Piece Rope( ref to lecture on Ropes; a Piece Rope, also known as a Sling, is 5-6 feet long, has a diameter of 5-6 mm and is used to tie harnesses, Jumars, etc. It can take upto 150 kg wt. Ha! My Rope Instructor will be proud of me). The rest of us would watch, transfixed with concentration – and then attempt to make our own. Ok, pull this one, make a loop, put this end through the loop, umm… other end through this, and…What happened? Looking at each other with frustrated confusion…”Did you get it? “And then so much sheepish laughter. It was a riot. No less than nine type of knots. It was a long class.
3. Lecture on the Himalayas – their origin, six main divisions, important peaks. Fascinating class. Phuchung took this one methinks.
4. Lecture on Avalanches - What causes them, how many types there are, what to do if caught in one. Exciting, interactive session.
5. Lecture on First Aid. The less said the better. The medical assistant may be a good guy (he is, actually; he managed a lot of mountain maladies quite well in the trek) but he is no good with teaching.
The morning run today was followed by a Yoga class. Our instructor, Dheeraj, looks like everybody’s idea of Little Buddha. Very cute. But this is not one of those popular, breathing type of Yogas. Terrible, painful contortions.
Classes of the day –
1. Principles of Rock climbing
2. Mountain Terms. From Bergschunds to Verglass, I love all the mountain jargon.
3. Mountain Hazards

Thursday, July 23, 2009

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.

- Alfred d Souza

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The steps feel damp as I sit on them
a cup of warm adrak chai in my hand
The garden looks like the dream of some mad painter
the puddles are blue, sometimes grey
it's so so beautiful
the mists roll beyond, and I want to sing some song....have no idea which one.

I sip my tea
and realize I feel gratitude,
and making lists has always been a hobby-

near perfect health
loving family
dreams as big as the universe
a friend's visit to look forward to
memories that warm me up, instantly

freefalling at 14000 feet,
jogging in the rain
the view from Renoke
.."You're my best friend..."
..."We're so proud of you..."
..."You can everything you want, you can be anything you want to be....It's you after all!"
..."You're so beautiful..."
the patient who said with tears in her eyes today-"Thank you, I feel better.."

I take another sip
and say it, out loud

Thank you, God


It has been a month and a half since I returned from Darjeeling and the cry “Why are you not writing about the mountaineering course?” has become too loud and too shrill to be ignored anymore. It’s flattering ; and the reason why my coursemates want me to write about the course is that my blogposts on the skydiving course were such a hit (those posts also probably made sure that my skydiving career with the Indian Navy was short lived, given some of the too - candid observations I made, but that’s another story. One lives and learns.)

In many ways,writing about mountaineering is nothing like writing about skydiving.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rakhi ka Swayamvar

With science and scientists exploring and deromanticising (is there such a word?) everything, there does remain one area which continues to baffle and that is - “What makes people laugh?”

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