Categories
snaps travel

Uganda Diary 3 – the first visit to an African slum

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

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On our second day in Kampala, Pita picked us from our hotel in a Makerere University vehicle. We met the professors there and they took us to a slum area where a data collection was scheduled. I shot videos for my 3MS for most time there but did manage to take some pictures as well. Of the slum children who were very excited to see so much action around. I also realized that children in Uganda love doing flips in general.

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Our second half was free. So we captured more pictures from the streets and bazaars of Kampala. I will let this diary be more about the pictures than text.

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No one arrested us on the second day but we did get bothered by a vendor in a bazaar who told us ‘photography is bad’. He was kind of intimidating but cooled down and things mellowed down in a while. Shanta wondered if for Ugandans, seeing foreigners take photographs is like for Indians, seeing foreigners kissing in public. Most take offense, some just look the other way and few feel like bothering you look here. ‘Kissing in public is bad’. Different places, different cultures may be? But I was not too sure. Rest of our days would tell us more about Uganda.

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

Categories
snaps travel

Uganda Diary 2 – the day I got arrested

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

It was about eleven in the night. Our first day in Uganda was coming to an end. We were walking to our hotel. I saw a broken down car on the other side of the road. The hood was open. A man was standing next to it, apparently waiting for someone. I found it an interesting thing to capture on camera. I bent down to get a good angle. And clicked. But some motorcycle just passed by and filled my frame. I waited to get a clear shot before I could click again. And then suddenly someone grabbed my camera from behind and tried to take it away. Shouting ‘you taking pictures, eh, why you taking pictures’. I realized they were two of them. They pulled me away from the road. Into darkness.

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The day – the first day rather – started well. Shanta has a friend in Kampala. His name is Oscar. Oscar is a documentary photographer and his name appears on a recent list by BBC on ‘photographers to watch out for’. Shanta had met Oscar in Ethiopia earlier. They both were there showing their work in a photo festival. Oscar has been focusing on documenting brake-dancing in Uganda presently.

So Oscar came over to our hotel and took us to to an Ethiopian restaurant nearby. And we had some Ethiopian food. It is served on lines of wazwan, in the sense that people share the same plate. And eat without spoons and forks. Oscar told us about an art auction being held the same evening. Shanta and I decided to attend it. For the fun of it, not to bid or anything. A print of one of Oscar’s photograph was up for bid as well.

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Shanta and I took a bodaboda each to travel to the hotel in central Kampala, where the art auction was to start. Fred, my boda-boda driver asked me where I was from. I told him. ‘Ah India, this bike is from India, right’? he asked me. His bike was a Boxer. Every bodaboda bike in Kampala was a Boxer. Papa had a Boxer for few years. But I wondered if it was a Kawasaki bike. Or Kawasaki Bajaj Boxer. Just Bajaj Boxer, I guess. ‘Yes, this is an Indian bike. My dad had one’, I told Fred. He wanted to know if bike-taxi business happened in India. I told him it happened only in one small part of India, where I lived. And then we were at the art auction.

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This was the first art auction ever, to be held in Uganda. A bid-war ensued between two ladies, one of them on phone, bidding on behalf of someone in Europe. The war was over a metallic sculpture of a penis pointing towards an ear. The European won. For about three and  half million shillings or so. That is, about INR 50,000. Just 800 bucks for the European. The auction seemed never ending. Our friend Oscar had come and gone already and Shanta and I did not want to wait till every art piece was auctioned. So we left. And decided to walk down the four kilometers to our hotel. And take pictures when we felt like.

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I saw a broken down car on the other side of the road. I bent down to get a good angle. And clicked. But some motorcycle just passed by. I was waiting to get a clear shot before I could click again. And then suddenly someone grabbed my camera from behind and tried to take it away. I realized they were two of them. They pulled me away from the road. Into darkness. I held on to my camera very tightly but was kind of sure that it would be gone. I called out for Shanta’s name to make sure he knew I was in danger.

‘What you shooting, what you shooting? We police. This is police station’, the guy showed some badge as he still held me. They took me to a small 10 feet by 8 feet room on the side of the road. A sign said it was a police station. Shanta followed me inside, still unsure if this was some kind of a trick or if these guys were really policemen. What followed next was about an hour of interrogation. Apparently we were few steps away from the American Embassy where photography was not allowed. So though technically I had not broken any law, I had raised their suspicion. We listened to them, they listened to us and finally at the end of it, we were let go. ‘We don’t want foreigners to think we are bad people. But when we see someone clicking a picture late in the night in a sensitive area, we have to ask questions. If we had not asked questions, we wouldn’t have known you are photographers from India invited by a University here. And that you were walking down to your hotel, from the art auction, and taking pictures as photographers’. The guy explained as he wrote a summary of the same and got it signed by both Shanta and I.

‘We are friends now’? I asked them as I offered a hand-shake.

‘Yes’, they replied, as they shook hands.

‘So can I take a picture of the two of you’, I tried my luck.

‘No, not on duty. But may be tomorrow when our shift gets over’.

As Shanta and I walked away, we realized Uganda clearly has a terrorism phobia. Everyone gets more suspicious and intimidated than you would expect, if you take pictures on streets. Almost every restaurant, club and big shop has a guy with a metal detector to frisk you before you enter. If the place is high-end like a big shopping mall or more sensitive like a petrol pump, you will also find armed security men keeping a watch. And in spite of all of this, the night life is brilliantly active and full of energy and you can listen to music and watch glowing lights till the early hours of morning. Women walking alone in amazing dresses at all times is a very common sight.

This was just our first day here in this country and we already had so much to experience. We reached Club Cheri, got frisked there, took a table, ordered some food and drink and wondered how the remaining several days in Uganda were going to be.

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Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

Categories
snaps travel

Uganda diary 1 – the arrival

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

‘I like you’, an African babe in shorts that had NYPD written on the behind, said to me after asking for a seat next to me in a night club at about three in the night. ‘Thank you’, I told her. The night club was right next to Salama.

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The above is how “Guest House Salama” looks like on a cloudy morning in August. Shanta and I stayed here last night because hotel Acacia where I had originally booked our room, didn’t keep a room for us. It had been a difficult few hours finding the hotel in the middle of the night. And once we finally did, there was no room for us. Great. Not sure what fuck up happened. The manager apologized and got us a place to crash at Salama, a 2 minute drive down the road. We were picked up from there, once we were up today morning and transferred to Acacia. Acacia looks good. And orange.

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The gate-keeper guards the gate at hotel Acacia.

 

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The babe in NYPD shorts told me she was from Tanzania. She also did tell her name but that I have forgotten already. I have been finding it hard to remember names of anyone here in Uganda for that matter. I was having ‘basic chicken’ with chips. I asked her if she wanted to have a bite. She said yes. She had few bites. She offered me her drink. But I did not feel like drinking. Shanta and I already had a pint of Guiness before the food had arrived. And enough alcohol on our Mumbai-Nairobi-Entebbe flight.

At least two more women approached me / us last night. They just asked us how were we doing. And we told them, we were doing good. We had just arrived in Kampala after about eight hours of flying and had not slept the night before. We were doing good. In any case, we didn’t feel too tired once we stepped out of Salama at around 245 AM. We were slightly hungry and wanted a quick bite before we went off to sleep. The Afro dance music from this club attracted us the moment we stepped out. A security dude frisked us and we entered the club. The club was throbbing and had quite a crowd for a Tuesday night. We saw dozens of girls swinging their bodies. And bums. Women here have amazing bums. They swung and grooved often alone. And once in a while, with men. Men would often feel up the bodies. But not in a violent forceful way. Very gently rather, almost like a lover. I wondered if these women offered sex and that if this is what this was all about after all. But it was difficult to tell. Never saw any couple walking away from the club. Dancing and gentle feeling up of bodies is all that I saw. May be this is just a part of the Kampala night club culture. I don’t know the answer but will try to find it before I leave Uganda and this diary closes.

Series link: Diary [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]

Categories
travel

Funny memories from a Jaipur trip

I called up Kanhaiya to tell him that I wanted him to come over to Choki Dhani for dropping me to the Jaipur airport. Kanhaiya was a cab driver. Two days ago, I had taken his cab via the pre-paid counter at the airport. That’s when I had first met him. I had arrived in Jaipur to shoot a wedding in the Chokhi Dhani resort.

After landing, I was waiting for my luggage to arrive. I had flown down from Goa (to Mumbai) to Jaipur on a single Air India ticket. I had a aircraft change in Mumbai. My luggage was to arrive directly to Jaipur. But it did not. It had my clothes and a monopod (to be used for shooting video). Few co-passengers and I kept staring at the luggage belt even after everyone else had collected their stuff and left. It was hard to believe that our luggage hadn’t shown up. An Air India lady staff came over to us and in the most matter of fact tone, said, ‘you guys have come from Goa, right? Your luggage will arrive at 5 pm’. She didn’t look worried. She didn’t say sorry. The way she broke the news to us, was almost the same way a secretary of a senior IAS officer would tell you how sahib is busy and that you have to wait for 5 hours minimum before he gets free, even when you arrived at a time allotted by the same fucking secretary. But then this was Air India. What was she supposed to say, huh? ‘We screwed up and your luggage went to Delhi. We would have it here in Jaipur by the evening flight. So sorry for the inconvenience caused sir’? Really? What do you think Air India staff is, Arvind Kejrival? Air India guys have an attitude that they need to live upto. I am sure this staff would be promoted soon for her ability to make a screw-up sound like a daily routine.

It was 11 AM then and I was not going to have my clothes or monopod till five in the evening. Hmm. The evening function was to start at about the same time. It would be a pain in the ass to shoot without the monopod. I did have another stabiliser but it was still going to be a pain. I had no idea how much time Air India was going to take to get my stuff to me after this Delhi flight landed. There was nothing much that I could do, except letting the kind lady know the address where my luggage was to be delivered, whenever it arrived. All’s well that ends well. The Air India staff did end up delivering my stuff by 6 pm, in my hotel and though I could not find time to change to fresh clothes, I could definitely use my monopod while shooting the sangeet ceremony.

Next day was the wedding. After few small functions during the day, the wedding started at around 6 in the evening and went on till almost 6 in the morning. That is when I finally got to hit the bed. I had my return flight to Goa in less than four hours, so of course I couldn’t seep much. I got up still sleepy and called Kanhaiya. While driving me to the resort two days ago, he had remarked that it would be cheaper for me if I called him for the airport drop, instead of asking the resort guys to arrange for the same. This, I later found out to be true. Choki Dhani’s charge for airport drop was 700 bucks, while the pre-paid rate that Kanhaiya offered was 400. As I was confirming the time with him, Kanhaiya proposed to me an even better offer – if I was willing to share his cab with another guest staying in the same resort (who too wanted an airport drop at the same time), he would charge me 100 bucks less. ‘Yeah sure, whatever’, he made 600 from the same trip and I paid less than 50% of what the resort would have otherwise charged me – pretty much win-win for both.

An uncleji was already seated in Kanhaiya’s cab when I arrived with my luggage. Kanhaiya helped me load my stuff in his car and I took a seat next to uncleji. I asked the uncleji if he was also a wedding guest. Yes, he nodded. He asked me what I did and where I lived and I told him I was a photographer and a film-maker and that I lived in Goa. By this time, we had reached the airport and said our goodbyes to Kanhaiiya. While at the boarding counter, uncleji told me he wanted to talk to me, once we had cleared security. ‘There is so much time to kill’, he remarked. The flight had been delayed by 45 minutes – the second time since morning.

I had almost assumed the like most people, uncleji would have the standard set of questions for me (how I left my job, life in Goa etc.). But I could’ve never imagined, what he finally did ask me.

‘Next week, a friend of mine and I are visiting Goa. I visit Goa often you see, but this friend of mine, it will be his first visit. Can you tell us few places that we should check out? I have been to Titos once. And one of those casinos on the river. Any other place that you can recommend?’, he started off. I told him about LPK. But before I could come up with more options, he quickly came down to the point. ‘And also, which is the best beach for finding Russians?’. Tharki uncle.

Our flight to Delhi kept on getting delayed over the course of next few hours and to my delight, once I had given a vague answer to Tharki uncle’s question, he did not have more insider info to get out from me. It was a tiring full day of travel, flying from Jaipur to Delhi and then back to Goa. I had gallons of coffee to keep me going. But as always, it felt wonderful to be back. With funny memories from the Jaipur trip.

Categories
Shaadigrapher travel

Nagpur days

Last Sunday (that is six days ago), I took a long flight from Goa to Nagpur (with a change at Mumbai – the reason the flight was long). I have been in Nagpur since then. There were two weddings to be shot, with a gap of three days between them. Going back to Goa after the first shoot would have meant more or less wasting two days traveling. Didn’t think it was worth it. So just booked myself a room in a reasonably good hotel in Nagpur. And pretty much stayed inside for three days. The next wedding starts today and ends tomorrow and then finally, the day after I will return to Goa. After having spent 8 nights and 7 days in the city.

In the three free days that I had, I had thought I would do a lot of ShaadiGraPher related work (mostly processing pictures from December shoots and dispatching off pictures to the clients). But I did absolutely minimal work. May be 2/3 hrs of work overall from all three days! I also though I would run regularly. But I did just one 8 Km run on one day. That doesn’t mean I kept sleeping all day. On the contrary, I used to sleep late and still get up early enough (at least early enough to not miss my free breakfast).  😛

 

The hotel (Nagpur Ashok) was pretty nice and all that (in terms of hospitality, room-size and ambience, cleanliness, location, promptness of service etc.) but the room did have a basic problem. It did not have any window in it. There was absolutely no natural light. Reminds of that room Neelabh and I shared in our cruise-shoot last year in Singapore. What it meant was that you could never make out what time of the day it was, unless you saw the time on ph0one / laptop. Or unless you stepped out of your room, which I hardly did (room service zindabaad). No wonder I lost the discipline to sleep or get up on time (it’s always good to blame something else, anything else, for your failures 😛 ).

I sometimes get in these phases, where when I am doing something (especially reading things on internet – including updates on FB of course), I just don’t feel like letting it go for a long long time. And that long long time is significantly greater than the typical hours in a day. And that means at some point I do have to let it go so that I can catch some sleep or have some food. But that also means, I let it go only when it becomes almost unbearable to stay awake any more (or hungry as the case may be). And that is what fucks up my routine. So all these three days, I was reading (and watching videos) on a  lot of other lenses (yes it is like an addiction to imagine that one more lens that you may have and what value can it bring to your pictures), microphones, Gopro aerial flying systems and all that stuff. There are two important things happening in December where I can leverage upon any new film-making skill / techniques / equipments that I can gather – 1) Subbus’ wedding and 2) biwi and mine New Zealand trip.

For Subbu’s wedding I want to focus only on cinematic movie – it’s been a long time that I shot one myself. I made Subbu shoot three cinematic movies over last two months and I think it’s time I make him see how it’s really done (for his own wedding). I also plan to take Neelabh’s help. So a lot of time I mentally keep thinking about how to take a particular shot. Wedding film-making is absolutely fascinating and the more you shoot, the more you learn. After not being very happy with just one person shooting cinematic video in a wedding, I have even changed the policy at ShaadiGraPher. We have increased the fee for cinematic move and will shoot with two of us at the venue (compared to just one person earlier). I think that’s the first step towards improving the production value. With one person, we are simply not being able to effectively utilize all the awesome equipments that we have. And to add to the list of equipments, guess what I ordered today? A RC quadcopter that can fly a gopro and take aerial videos. And that means Subbus’ wedding and our NZ trip will have some kickass aerial footages.

I often tell people that I am good at photography but it is definitely not the thing I am most passionate about. However, I must say I have become very very passionate towards cinematography and film-making at least. Creating stunning moving shots and weaving them together to bring out a story is as fascinating as anything can get. And it’s so easy to do a bad job. Even with all the equipments that you may have. I am loving its challenge. And I am so glad my photography is helping me with both time and the money to indulge in these otherwise costly experiments (the quadcopter to fly the Gopro came for 1.5 lakh for example). I would never had done these wicked-ass cool things had I been working as a consultant and they are days like these, here in Nagpur (where I can afford to lock myself up in a hotel room and do whatever I get driven by) that keep me so happy and so excited!

Alright, let me go back and process some pictures till its time to go shoot the Sangeet in the evening. I will have to see when the wedding starts tomorrow morning and if I have time, I will probably go for a run at least tomorrow. See you guys soon.

Categories
sports travel

Let me start this year’s marathon story with Goa

I missed running last years’ Goa half marathon. For lack of practice (didn’t feel comfortable taking up the challenge on the race day). That wouldn’t happen this year. Although after having been dormant for like 4-5 months, I finally went running at least thrice this week (easy 6 Km jogs). Today was the first time from the new house that we have moved to. Following was the running route (from west to east and back). Though the sea is almost parallel to the route, you can’t really see it from the road. Irrespective of that, Goa is an awesome place to go running with all the greenery around.

 

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The race is on 9th Feb. So technically I have around 21 more days to train for it, which is more than I need really. However, let’s look at my travel plans. I will leave for Nagpur tomorrow evening and then come back to Goa only after a week. There are two different weddings to be shot there. And then I am shooting back to back from 31st Jan to 8th Feb (31st-Chennai>> 1st-Mumbai>> 2-3-4–Udaipur>> 5-6>>Chennai>> 7-8-Goa. That’s a lot of work and I will need to garner all the discipline that I can, to be able to keep running regularly. Given that I would be running in so many different cities, it would be fun to share all the running route maps from here on.

Happy running everyone! Do consider running in Goa on 9th if you can – would be fun.

Categories
events family.friends travel

The calf died

What a dirty beach this is. I told MRP. So muddy. Kashid was better I guess. Why does anyone come all the way to Murud? For this? I kept annoying her. Sometimes I love annoying her. There are various ways of exhibiting love. This is one – annoying your partner. A little annoying way though. 😛

Because Bakrid fell on a Monday, the weekend became long and so she asked me if we wanted to go somewhere outside Mumbai and have a good peaceful time together. I said ok, please make a plan. She said, no, you make a plan. I said, baby, I am feeling very low and energyless this week. I will make plans some other time. This time, I can only join. In whatever you plan. After a little longer sequence of no, you make the plan, no no, you make it, she relented. She made a plan.

The plan was to take an auto to Bandra station, catch a local to Church-gate, join a shared taxi to Gateway, hop on a ferry to Mandwa, adjust inside a ‘free’ shared auto-rickswaw to Alibaug and then ride on a ‘paid’ auto to a resort in Murud. The entire exercise took us between five to six hours. And then, only when we reached Murud, and saw the beach, we realized what a fucked up beach it was. The way to Murud was nice though. At least some of it. Even when the road was pathetic. So pathetic, that we (and more so she) could not fathom the bumpy auto-ride again (for the return leg of the journey) and so, when we returned the next day, we booked an Innova that picked us up from our resort and dropped us off directly at the ferry station in Mandwa.

Because the beach didn’t look worth swimming, we ran. For the first time after our mountaineering fun in Darjeeling, I ran with her. And it felt good. The same evening I got to know something. Which did not feel good at all. A calf had jumped over papa when he was returning home from office on his motorcycle. The calf died. Papa fell down and inured his left shin. Multiple fractures.

Categories
travel

We flew on our own. In the air. Like birds. And we didn’t shit over anyone.

I think it was in Gulmohar where I had read a Tom Sawyer story for the first time. Gulmohar was the English literature book my school had. St. Karen’s. All the way from class four to eight.

Today is a sunny lazy Saturday. When I think about sunny lazy Saturdays I think about that Tom Sawyer story. How he was asked (or rather commanded) by his aunt to paint some fence around her house. And how fucked up Tom felt about it – about getting his sunny lazy Saturday screwed up you know. So he tried luring some of his dumb friends to do the painting shit on his behalf, by offering them sweeteners such as a chance to have a look at this sore toe.

Ah, so this is what consulting does to you? It makes you use words like ‘sweeteners’ like these were every day words? Holy shit I say! I mean really, I hardly write or speak like an asshole these days. Always acting smart and serious and predictable. Yes, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Welcome to my life. No aunt around to screw up my Saturday, no fence around to be painted anyway, and definitely no sore toe. What’s around me are sets of things that combined together form the disorganized room where I am seated.

I am at Subbu’s place. This is Mumbai in late October. To my right is a single bed with two bare, thin and cheap cushions laid flat over the bed surface. Two more cushions, equally thin and cheap, cylindrically-folded, lye over the flat ones. An unfolded, unwashed, faded black jeans rests over the folded cushions. A clutter of old newspapers spread over the rest of the bed, pages flipping under the fan. ‘Knorr Soups with 100% Real Vegetables’ – reads a front page, second quadrant advert. And I am staring at all of these sitting on this extremely skin-unfriendly, ugly-light-brown coloured synthetic sofa that if I guess correctly, belongs to Bullu uncle. But has been claimed (and molested) by Subbu ever since Bullu uncle left for Canada. More than an year ago. And no, I didn’t get to meet him when I went to Canada myself last year. Because Canada is a friggin huge country. And mostly population less. Because life is long. And mostly pointless.

Sharing the sofa with me are a steel bowl with few milliliters of milk (that few hours ago also held chocolate corn-flakes, the most disgusting breakfast one can ever have), a ‘Big TV’ remote control, two shiny sealed yellow packets of Maggi noodles, a Physics booklet from a 2002 edition of FIITJEE’s Rankers Study Material and yet another remote control – this one for controlling the fucked up AC of this room. When you switch on the AC, it stops cooling every few seconds. It starts shouting instead – blurting a noise that reminds you of the background score played by the old age cathode ray tube based TV sets, when signals went off and all that the screen had to display were a zillion black and white zinging dots. I am busy when I am working. I am busy when I am making love. And then sometimes, the signal goes off. The mind goes blank. Only a zillion black and white zinging dots. Sorry for the interruption. Rukawat ke liye khed hai.

My single room rented apartment, located a few kilometers towards the south of the city, can never ever look this disorganized. This cluttered. I live with MRP and she cannot stand things lying here and there you know. She went home for Diwali and she hasn’t returned. Since she went home and I had holidays and no work, I thought let me spend some time with Subbu. I hardly get to do that. Even when both of us live in Mumbai. The irony is, papa and mummy believe that Subbu and I live together. Obviously! I mean who would ever try explaining it to them that live-in relationships are ‘okay’? Some cultural differences be better left unbridged. That’s a personal opinion anyway.

Subbu and I went for a three day gliding course. If you ask Subbu, he would say it was a six hours course spread over three days. Which is actually true. As long as you count only the effective time spent handling the glider that is.

The place was Fly Nirvana in a village near Kamshet (about 30 Km from Lonavala station which Subbu and I covered in an auto). There was a beautiful silent peaceful lake just before the Fly Nirvana guesthouse. We were the only men on the first day of the course. We had four women for company. And just like us, they had come in pairs.

The first pair comprised of a slightly overweight chatter-box and her light-weight small marathi girl friend. The second pair comprised of two young advocates. Had I been single, I could have tried flirting with one of the advocates. I wouldn’t say relationship has changed me or anything. Good looking girls still attract me. I do imagine things at times. And there is always this fantasy of having crazy passionate one night stands with random strange chicks. But yes, there is an intuitive check for sure. There is this feeling that I am pass that stage. That I cannot afford to upset MRP by doing anything silly. It has worked so far.

On day one, we put on our harnesses, hooked up our gliders to the harness and ran on flat terrain. No flying. It was the day of learning how to lead the canopy to hurl over our heads as we ran and then how to apply the brakes and bring down the flapping canopy as we stopped. ‘Turn around. Pull both brakes. Kill the canopy.’

There were a large number of unfinished buildings in that otherwise houseless, humanless flat land. ‘What are these buildings?’ I asked one of the instructors. ‘Ashram’, he said. ‘They look abandoned’, I remarked. I was explained – ‘the construction had begun 15 years ago. And then the guy who was developing this Ashram died.’ ‘How did he die?’ ‘He was flying a two-seater plane close to the lake. The lake near our guest-house. Taking pictures and stuff. And then the plane crashed. And he died.’

‘Is the aircraft still lying inside the lake?’

‘No, no. They took that out’.

‘Hmm.’

On day two, we repeated the stuff that we did on day one, except that this time the ground had a gradual slope. ‘Running would be easy today’, told the instructor, ‘focus on balancing the canopy when it goes up. That’s more important.’ What we did was called bunny hopping.  As you ran with the glider over the slope and the canopy swung over your head and hurled, your feet would leave the ground once in a while. Like for few seconds. Gliding in the air. And then thumph. Back to the ground. And then some more running downhill. And legs would go up again. And then back again. And up. And back. Running and hopping. Like a rabbit.

The third day was the day of real gliding. From over 100-150 ft above ground, hands pulling the risers attached to the canopy, we ran towards a hill’s edge. The glider furled open. Risers were released. We ran for few seconds. And up we were. Gliding. Floating in the air. ‘Turn to you left’, the instructor asked over the radio. The right brake was pulled down gently. ‘Pull some more’. The right brake was pulled some more. ‘This is fine, keep both hands up. Keep coming. Keep coming.’ It was pretty neat I must tell ya. Gliding in the air. So much above the ground. Enough to break every bone of your body if you fell down at regular ‘g’. Except that nobody fell down.

‘Now turn to your right. Some more right. Some more. Good. Good. Keep coming straight.’ When you were about 10 – 15 ft above the ground, you were supposed to pull both the brakes equally. And hold the brakes there. The feet would then touch the ground. And then you turn – stretch both your hands backwards, pulling the brakes even further. And there you go. You have killed the canopy. Time to coil the lines once again. And seeing the canopy take the shape of a mushroom. So that you can carry it back to the top of the hill. So that you can jump off one more. And fly. Again and again. Except that we could do it only four times. The lawyers did even less – three. And yet, what mattered was that we did it. We flew on our own. In the air. Like birds. And we didn’t shit over anyone.

Categories
travel

The couple that went climbing – part 9

Link to part [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

It snowed heavily for most of next day. Everything went white. I went to brush my teeth in the morning. There was no water. Only ice. So I used my drinking water to brush my teeth. This is what I would do every morning that I would stay at the base-camp. We did side-rappelling and stomach-rappelling later in the day. Was easy. And then in the evening, it snowed again.

The next day was the first time we walked to the glacier. Cold, white, pure, shining, bright hard ice smothered with soft-snow. The kind of place where Shiva sits. And that same very day, I got inflicted with snow-blindness. Well, kind of.

I was feeling quite great and healthy in the morning when we started walking towards the glacier (where our ice-craft training would commence). It was a two hours walk. I was using goggles borrowed from Video-camera. Video-camera was an Indian vagabound who had worked in US for a while, had chucked his job and was roaming around the roads of India on his Bullet. He had even reached the HMI campus in Darjeeling on his bullet itself. And he carried a tiny but good quality video camera that recorded everything on memory-cards. So I was feeling quite great and healthy and I started climbing up very fast. Overtaking people and stuff. I started panting soon. And then coughing. And then coughing badly. I weakened myself like shit by the time we reached glacier. And then, just when I thought it was time to collapse, we were asked to put on our crampons and get roped in.

Getting roped-in meant groups of eight being hooked to a common rope – at fixed intervals. That also meant, each roped-in member necessarily walked at the same pace. And if someone roped in ahead of you walked faster, the person tied behind would get dragged. This roped-in glacier walk was such a pain in the ass I tell you. I mean I couldn’t keep my eyes open most of the time. I would feel like collapsing and then suddenly I would get a good jerk because because Northy tied to my front would just not reduce his pace. Siachen sir was in the front. He was bloody dragging us all. Itna zulm to Ghayal me Danny ne Amrish Puri pe bhi nahi kiya tha. MRP would latter tell me she didn’t like Siachen sir because he kept on pushing and was rude.

Once we were done with the glacier walk, it was time to descend down after a tea-break. I couldn’t feel any energy within  me. I still felt like keeping my eyes closed. Everyone was having tea. Garma garam chai in the glacier is all that one can ask for. And poor me. I wanted to have tea too. But I just couldn’t. I was motion-less. Energy-less. I kept my eyes closed. And kept sitting. Like a stone. Like a fuck-ass frozen stoned stone. And I kept sitting even when everyone started moving down. The instructors took notice. And so did she. The instructors passed on a medicine or two. Gaoma sir – the chief instructors, asked if I had severe headache. I didn’t. But I nodded anyway. I didn’t want to say that all I wanted to do was close my eyes and keep sitting there, just like that. So I took diamox and whatever else that I was given. I did have a vomiting tendency. The medicines didn’t really help and the 1.5 hours downhill walk that followed was painful. MRP walked with me. Real Estate and Adventure Sports Shop (ASS) also stayed around and ensured that I didn’t trip or fell down. ASS was a professional rock climber from Delhi and also operated an adventure sports shop in the city.

I met the doctor after reaching the Base Camp MI room. His name was Major Bond. And when he met someone, he asked ‘aur bhai – kya hua’.

‘Aur bhai – kya hua’, he asked me. I told him jo hua. I still didn’t want to open my eyes. Then Major Bond went out and inquired with MRP. When he returned, I found that Video-camera’s goggles were broken. I had snow-blindness, he informed me. I assumed that he had broken Video-camera’s goggles, because they probably sucked and were the reason why my eyes had got fucked. Only the next day would MRP tell me that she had accidentally broken them. LOL. Pehle maine apna chasma toda, aur ab isne maanga hua chasma bhi tod diya! Andhe ko kaala chasma bhi naseeb nahi?

I kept my eyes closed for rest of the day. The doctors offered me more medicines. And eye-drops. And MRP kept getting for me Parle G. And chai. And soup. MRP was my nurse for the evening. I loved her. The head-ache first went up and then went away. By evening I was alright. She took care of me like a mother takes care of a child.

If you are thinking snow-blindness was the worst thing out there, you are wrong.Ye to ek din ka pain tha.

For the first few days, we were so totally unable to sleep well. I would get up after every few hours. Same with her. Same with many others. The instructors told us this happened at high altitude. But if you are thinking this was the worst thing out there, you are wrong. Ye to do-ek din hua.

The worst part, out there at the HMI base camp was washing the mestin after every damn meal. She and I did that together most of the time – probably the only thing we did as a couple. And we cried together as we did that. Every single day. Vo bhikarion vaala tin ka ganda bartan. And that icy cold water that froze you till inside your core. That was the biggest pain we would go through three times a day. Every day. Aaj bhi sochta hoon to raungte khade ho jaate hain.

Categories
travel

The couple that went climbing – part 8

Link to part [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8]

We did see each other at three thirty in the morning the next day. Holding hands we walked into the woods, letting our headlamps light the path in the otherwise dark pre-dawn. The hugging and kissing had to be done with, before the gang of shitters could arrive. The hugging and kissing was done with. It had been a long long time. We liked it. And before the gang could arrive, we were back to our respective halls, inside our respective sleeping bags. We slept for a while. When we got up, it looked like we had just had a nice dream. And then we joined the gang of shitters.

Except for a not so short trial trek (but thankfully, without our rucksacks) in the morning and everyone-please-introduce-yourself session, sitting over green grass, under a glimmering blue sky for the rest of the day, we didn’t do anything much. The day after that, early in the morning, we left for Zongri. With our rucksacks.

The trek was as painful and difficult as had been the first day of trekking. Also, taking too many breaks really fucked me up by the time I reached Zongri. But then, what matters is that I reached Zongri. And so did she. And so did everyone else. Like Orange for example. That Israeli security guard, remember?

Orange talked to us about skiing. ‘You don’t come straight down. You go side-ways.’ He also shared his Mt. Kilimanzaro climbing experience with us. How he had layers of clothes on him and how he had still shivered. How it cost him 1000 USD fee of which the government itself retained 100 USD per day of stay within the range, while the rest went to the coolies and other helpers.

As the evening set, MRP and I had maggie and chai in one of the few shops that existed at the otherwise habitation-free Zongri. We had maggie and chai sitting in the kitchen, sitting right in front of the burning stove, seating with each other, sitting together with half a dozen other students. That night, we stayed in tents. All of us. I shared mine with Movies, Rocky, Orange, Film-maker, and Oxygen. Next day Rocky and Kunti packed off. They both had fallen ill. Kamal Nayan accompanied them down. Apparently he had become a father. He was returning home. ‘Pahad me hamesha muskarate rehna chahiye’, he had kept saying on the first day of trekking.

The following day, we treked from Zongri to the HMI base camp. I followed my own pace and found trekking easier compared to the previous days. We crossed plenty of snow around the pass. It started snowing on the way to the base camp. And then we were there. At the base camp. With the snow still falling, we were made to fall-in. We fell in. The snow hardly bothered us that evening. The first evening at the base camp. The snow was beautiful rather. ‘My first snow-fall’, she chuckled. She was delighted. We were on top of the world. Quite literally. And we were not lonely.