And Set Free……

Waterfall Rappelling

>It was one of the ‘To-Do Things’ in life. And after a day of ups and downs I was finally able to do it. The ‘thing’ is rappelling and it happened in a wonderfully awesome way – not like the ordinary rappelling which you do down a dry hill. This was off a cliff with water from an angry waterfall gushing on your side. Opening eyes was difficult and you couldn’t hear a thing.
Things actually started a lot earlier – at 4.15 AM when the alarm went off. The start of a incredible day was hard to believe too – well.. I took a bath in cold water at 4.30 AM when it was pouring heavily outside!! Anyways, we (4 guys) were at Dadar station by 5.30. And it was truly a surprise to witness a huge rush at 5.30 on a Sunday in the middle of the heavy downpour there. The train journey carried on to Kalwa (near Thane) where other groups joined in and we packed off in a bus to Kasara. Into the wilderness, we reached a small village (again like Malshej Ghat experience, there was no electricity in the village – this, for a place just 3 hours way from Mumbai). Thankfully there was a school (the only pakka building in the area). The rain was on its onslaught – for the whole day. And in a few minutes it was forgotten that something like rain did exist.
After the round of introductions and some photo sessions, we were taken down the 120 feet hill where the professionals were to give a demo of how to rappel down the rock. It was an unforgettable scene when we reached the bottom.

There it was – our huge waterfall, in full force, aided by the incessant rain. In fact, more than the rain, it was the water from the fall hitting us that was a problem. It was tough to open eyes and we had to talk in sign language. Things started to get bad here. Due to the heavy rain, the flow had increased and even the professionals were finding it tough to rappel down and cross the stream in front of the fall to reach the good end of the hill where they could climb back. The water flow was tremendously strong. Anyways, discussion took place. The event was almost called off. All had lunch. And then a final decision was to be taken. After some more discussion, it was decided to have some volunteers go in first and share their experiences with other, based on which they could decide, if they wished to risk their lives. Precautions were in place for the climb down but the problem was crossing the fast flowing stream in front of the fall and there were plenty of rocks there where you could bang your head. Another problem was the rope which was tied to cross the stream was a very strong and sharp one which could cut in your throat if not careful. Anyways, I obviously volunteered along with 5 others. 3 people, with prior experience went down initially. The rain had stopped for a while and the flow was lesser now but the rock was slippery as hell – the algae, not helping the cause. Tejinder went in next. He was the first first-timer (non experienced in rappelling). And unluckily he lost his balance and slipped while doing down. He hit the rock and got hurt. So had to be pulled back up. I was padded up to go in next. And it was an out of world experience for the next 10 minutes. Fully focused on keeping my legs straight and yet fully aware of the awesome beauty of the waterfall by my side, I made my way down. Next part was actually the tougher one – Crossing the stream. 2 times I got flown away by the pressure of stream – my legs moving downstream with the flow and my hands (and mind) holding on to the rope. Though there was a carabiner holding me to the rope but the fear of letting your hands go in a high-pressure situation is something which you don’t want to experience. So after a heady experience, it was some hard work keeping your feet on the ground. Within minutes which were like hours, I was on the other end, exhausted. A long climb up the hill from there and back to bus – it was time to change to something dry after 7 hours of being soaked.

Strange that it is .. we get sleepy in a 2 hour class even after a full night rest.. But the excursion for 22 straight hours was not tiring at the end of the day(except for a cramp here and there ;))

The only sad part was not much of photography could be done as the camera had to kept in due to the rain..

Irony amongst the greenery

The Mahabaleshwar Trip…

>In the geography lessons in our ‘bachpan’ we learnt that the central India was a plateau. In exams it was generally followed by a definition of plateau. Till this weekend, it was only a picture of plateau that I had in mind. Some 15 years later, on the trip to Mahabaleshwar, I saw it for real!
A Text Book definition of a Plateau on display

The place was magnificent. Hills plus water form a deadly combo and it was on display in plenty. The rivers originated and meandered at a leisure pace through the flattened hills, providing abundant photo ops.

The Meandering River from top

The view reversed. In the middle of the river

Another highlight of the place was Strawberry. There were numerous farms growing the red fruit. There were different utilizations – in jams, ice creams etc. But the favorite was strawberry cream. It is tough to resist despite being relatively high priced. Needless to say, we had more than one.

Strawberry Fields
Along with geography we also had history lessons. A visit to Pratapgarh fort highlighted the violent, brave and strategic history of the place. Guess modern architectures have plenty to learn from the old forts of India. Also, MBA’s can learn a lot of strategy from the history. I wonder how the meetings took place at those times. I am sure concepts of Team work at those times would have good theories which could be used in the modern era.

1 thing that I sorely missed was Para gliding. It was first on my To-Do List on the visit. But unfortunately we went during off season and the para gliding was off. So have to wait for it.!!

A Rare Holiday

>A rare holiday after exams. It was decided to go for an excursion. Though it didn’t turn out to be as planned.. but there were enough memories – both in mind as well as in form of 200 photographs..

Never in exams had we got up at 6.30… But had to do it to catch the train in a non-rush hour…
Breakfast @ Churchgate Station
No Autos in the poshest area of Mumbai…. so a Taxi ride to the Gateway..

The Taj – Mumbai one… can be said to be one of the wonders among the hotels…

‘Chal dhano…’

With Dhano on the move.. its time to enjoy the serene surroundings

A magnificent view of Taj and Gateway together

The kafila moved to Haaji Ali after the boat ride…

Beautiful Nakasshi inside the structure

‘Dhal gaya Din… Ho gayi shaam’..incidentally the previous evening was also spent at the same place

Catching up with the lost sleep of 10 days… The train is a lovely lullaby

Amchi Mumbai

A view of the sea at BandStand, Mumbai
Get out on the road here on peak office time and places like Delhi, Bangalore seem comfortable.
Luckily we had a deadly combo of Michael Schumacher and Valentino Rossi. The 4 wheeler and 2 wheeler champions seemed to have merged to form our 3 wheeler auto driver. He was bent forward like a bike racer, precise like formula 1 car racer and maneuverable like a Fighter Jet.
I don’t think we could have made it to Andheri station within the 1.5 hours we did, if it hadn’t been him.
The stairs of Andheri station is a jaw dropping experience if you are seeing it for the first time. You get to see such an enormous number of people in your 1 eye span that it is difficult to fathom. It’s like a big huge wave. When you – a non mumbaiker, are at a Mumbai local station for first time, mind often wavers to the Train blasts a few months back. But thinking practically – is it really possible to have some security setup on stations to cater to such a gigantic number of people. It may be possible if you think sitting in an office or home but when you stand for 5 minutes and see the numbers, all plans seems to wane away.
After around 2 hours of bad traffic, vehicles with zero road sense, sense numbing screaming of horns and car engines, we reached Juhu Beach. And as you touch the waters of the sea in the lovely breeze, all your tensions, the difficulties fade out…Its very similar to the waves of water coming.
At some distance, a huge wave is formed. It’s seemingly violent, creating lots of noise, threatening…
Then as it comes closer, the retreating water slows it down; the noise becomes a mild Sussshhhh… And it comes and gently kisses your feet..
And if you sit there for some time, you experience continuous cycles of violent whooooshss followed by mild Sussshsss..then again wooooshh.. and then susssshhh…Amid these you are busy – happily building home like structures in the weak sands on the beach. That, I think is Life!

A visit to Mumbai

Sun Set at Chandigarh
It was a trip to the land of Sachin Tendulkar – Mumbai for me last week.
It was a rather tiring flight which delayed by 1.5 hours landed at 8.30 PM at the Chatrapati Shivaji international airport. As I came out, there was a sea of people, with names displayed in front of them, looking expectedly at a steady stream coming out of glass walls. Soon this stream will merge into this sea. It was tough experience, finding the person with my name on the paper. There were literally hundreds of them and it felt quite odd to go through each of them. And as my luck would have it, I found my name at the end of the row. The hotel I was putting up in had offered a free pickup and drop to the airport. But it seems the concept of outsourcing has penetrated deep into our society now. Many hotels had outsourced this pickup thing to an agency. So as I waited, 3 more customers were assembled, packed in a maruti van and we hit the roads of financial capital of India.
The driver seemed like a die hard fan of Michael Schumacher. But as I later realized over the next 3 – 4 days, he was not alone in Mumbai. The traffic sense is literally zero there. And yet surprisingly, I didn’t even see a vehicle touching another during my stay. I cannot help admire the driving capabilities of people. But seriously, mumbaikers need a lesson in driving sensibilities. I assume, whenever Sachin takes out his Ferrari, he would have to concentrate more than on a cricket field.
Some years ago when I had been on Mumbai (and Delhi on the way back), I had thought that Mumbai was where traffic flowed smoothly whereas in Delhi it was a chaos. But this view has reversed now (It may be the case that I had been to marine drive quite often during my last trip)
The morning I had to come back, there was a big breaking news on channels that there has been an intelligence report that there may be a terrorist threat on airports and security had been considerably beefed up specially at Delhi and Mumbai. Hence, I expected some hassles at airport. Just outside the security check, there was a board saying that items like toothpaste, deos, gels, creams etc should not be carried in the hand baggage. I contemplated removing the stuff from my bag. But then decided to keep them and see what the ‘beefed up’ security was like. Not surprisingly, I was cleared without any problem and I had almost all the things specified on the board. To add to it, I couldn’t find any indications of alertness to the threat. The policeman checking me was chatting away with his colleague while metal detecting me. Again, I can’t help compare the attitude of personal in similar positions at Delhi and even at a small airport like Chandigarh. They try to interact with you, get into some discussion and most of the times, try to get some info out of you. It must be part of the training as I don’t think so many policeman I have encountered are so outgoing type who like to get into conversations with strangers. One more thing at the airport, the Public Address system was rather poor. You couldn’t get at all what was being said. Though there were plenty of visual translations available but the PA system is a basic foundation of a railway station/airport. Even if some important announcement has to be done, it would be useless there.
Well, I guess mumbaikers would be vying for my blood after they read this piece which is all about negative aspects of the city. But it’s only a translation of my experiences this time. Had I been writing a blog some years ago, when I last came here, there would have been a post on why I loved Mumbai.