Sunday, August 26, 2007

Been there, done that, what next ?

If I ever go on to write a 'trekologue', this would definitely qualify as one of the most eventful treks that i have undertaken. For one, most of us were not prepared mentally for Siddhagad. Secondly, none of us had bothered looking up the details about Siddhagad. Been there and done that, as i googled for more information about Siddhagad, this was one piece of advice that almost every website had to offer, 'It is very dangerous to go during monsoons as the route is very slipppery and there are thorn bearing trees along the route'. We did exactly opposite to what the doctor prescribed.

But fortune favoured the brave. And you are getting to read a trekking account full of gore and accidents that could have turned out to be fatal. The group comprised, as one passerby aptly summed up, "Typical IIT crowd. 1 girl for 8 guys". The best part was that, belying my own expectations, i did better than a few other group members. A very promising early morning start ensured that we got to the base camp pretty quickly. Breakfast comprised some Maharashtra special bhajias which for reasons beyond my normal human comprehension, most people tend to savour a lot. I had to make do with Parle G which tastes only delta better.

If i go into all the details, i might as well end up writing a travelogue which hardly anyone would bother reading . So i would talk about a few inci-dents that stand out.

Death trap1: Gawande, freshly out of a BMC (Basic Mountaineering Course), was itching to prove his superior trekking skills to the lesser mortals . And it didn't take long before an opportunity presented itself before him. There was a rivulet, not a river, flowing which had to be crossed. The villager on the other side of the rivulet warned us not to enter the waters at the point where the flow was relatively strong. Still high on heavy doses of BMC and dying to prove his mettle, Gawande entered the waters exactly where the flow was the strongest. Within a matter of few seconds, he was down in the water and the water carried him along for the next 12 to 15 feet of vertical descent . His arms were flailing wildly and there was a look of terror on his face. For a moment, we all thought that our trekking group would now be depleted of one member. Finally he managed to wriggle out of the water where the flow wasn't strong. Ego bruised but physically intact. The champion had been humbled and this showed for the rest of the trip :P This was our first encounter with death in a region full of 'death traps'. For the rest of the trek, we used the term 'maneater river' to refer to Gawande's nemesis

For the next hour, the trek couldn't have been more enjoyable. It was raining incessantly which helped to spruce up things further. Out of nowhere, waterfalls sprang up all over the place making it very slippery to tread on the rocks. But the party went on unabated, stopping every now and then at some waterfall . Getting soaked in the flowing water of the falls was pure bliss!
If you are reading this account and not getting jealous, trekking isn't your cup o' tea!

Death Trap2: Towards the summit, there was a vertical climb which was entirely made up of rocks. Monsoons had ensured that the rocks were as slippery as it gets. To do or not to do - that was the question. The heart egged us on while the head advised us against going for the kill. The two sensible ones in the group - Ameya and Shiksha backed off. Rest of the group inched forward. Time passed - minute after slow minute.Finally we were almost there. The view from the summit was awe inspiring. I have never seen something more beautiful than this. This was even better than walking in the clouds. It was a brilliant mix of red earth, the pouring rains and the ghostly clouds. We drank in all that like a heady wine

But for time, we could have stayed on forever. The mere thought of the descent gave us goosebumps. With lots of trepidation, we started the descent. And this turned out to be worse than what we had imagined. One wrong step and you would be plumetting into the valley leaving behind no trace. We maintained enough gap between each other to ensure that if one person takes a dive, he doesn't take the entire gang along with him. Sai led the descent. When we finally reached the spot where Shiksha and Ameya awaited us, we were simply euphoric. More Parle Gs followed. Strangely enough, they tasted relatively better. The last part of the descent was easily accomplished and we reached our base camp where the villagers were outrageously helpful. Few photosessions at the village followed. The remainder of the journey was not uneventful though. The group got split up into two. And the two subgroups followed two different routes. As it turned out, neither of the groups had taken the right path. Another misfortune befell our group when we were suddenly attacked by a pack of buffaloes who apparently got pissed off when i wanted to click their photographs. What ensued was a 'charge' where a few buffaloes took a special liking for Shiksha and went for her. She darted for cover and outran the buffaloes holding onto her dear life.
After following various false trails, we finally managed to hit the right track. Walking in knee deep dirty water full of excreta of all possible organisms (including humans), we finally managed to reach the base camp. The other group had not made it to the base as yet. The next few minutes were minutes full of anxiety for us. Meanwhile the news of Gawande's heroic stunt had spread like wild fire in the village. While we waited nervously for the other group, Gawande regaled the audience with stories about how he had 'deliberately' committed that act of bravery.

The arrival of the other group ended the trek on a happy note. Incredibly tasty (anything tastes incredibly tasty when you survive 12 hours on Parle G) non-veg dinner followed.

Now that i am a veteran of three treks, i would definitely dub this as the most eventful, the toughest but the most enjoyable trek of my life. Now the question is.. been there, done that, what next?

Trek Details
Date: 25th August (Saturday)
Venue : Siddhagad
Team: Sai, Shiksha,Das,Ameya,B Dot,Kris,Gawande,Mittal and I(Arunabh)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Damn! I am famous

A few lines of introduction or self flattery, call what you will, be in place.
Ahem ahem.. so this book review by me got published in 'Yuva', a tabloid catering to youth which was launched in Mumbai recently.

My review got published on the 15th of August to mark 60 years of India's independence *collars up*. So if you were damn unlucky and didn't get a copy of the newspaper, you can read that review here. I am looking forward to seeing you run to the nearest crosswords store to get your copy of the biography once you are done with the review !
Its the biography of Vikram Sarabhai authored by Amrita Shah. Its titled 'Vikram Sarabhai~a life~'. Published by Penguin India, it costs a cool 425 bucks. Now without boring you any further, here goes the review.

Vikram Sarabhai: A Life by Amrita Shah

This biography by Amrita Shah delves deep into the real character behind the name Vikram Sarabhai. The biography starts by taking us into Vikram Sarabhai’s childhood. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he had a princely childhood. His doting parents ensured that he was reared up in the best possible fashion. As a toddler, Vikram turned out to be noticeably energetic and showed flashes of his brilliance during the growing up years. His love affair with Science began in his school days when he worked in his specially constructed ‘home-labs’. With the passage of time, the interest became a full fledged passion. Coming from a highly renowned family made things pretty easy for him as he traveled world wide meeting some of the greatest scientific minds of his time. The book has some very engaging episodes of his encounters with the likes of Millikan, Raman and Bhabha.

The author very successfully unravels different facets of the great man’s personality. To his children, he was the most doting father they could have had, often taking on the mantle of a ‘single parent’ to help his wife pursue her passion for dance. On the family front though, all was not well. There was always the shadow of the ‘other woman’ looming large. He was quintessentially a man who could charm people and get the best out of them. Man management was something that came naturally to him, whether it was working with a grass root level worker or with the top brass.

A philanthropist to the core, Sarabhai was instrumental in the setting up of some of the best institutes in the country to date, including the IIM Ahmedabad. This was his humble contribution towards the greater cause of nation building. He was someone who had his own views on serious issues like nuclear technology and space exploration. Counted amongst the greatest scientists of his time, these were also the issues that were close to his heart. Towards the later stages of his life, he had a tough time handling men with political inclinations.

The author has done tremendous amount of research in coming up with this biography making it a very interesting read. Loads of amusing incidents and anecdotes are scattered throughout the book. This apart, there is also a rare collection of photographs tracing the life of Sarabhai from a toddler to the Vikram Sarabhai known to us. Once you have started with the book, you won’t feel like putting it down.