Wednesday, May 15, 2013

mane bhanjiyang

mane bhanjiyang. name doesn't ring any bells, well, it shouldn't. it isn't on any general itinerary. it wasn't even on mine, until i had to make a stopover due to circumstances - general circumstances, nothing thrilling, though. what i ended up with is a lovely family that fed me lovely food, and youth that tried matching to my wits and levels of understanding in people over a few pegs of whisky (not me, i passed). by end of the day, somewhere at the end of civilization, john lennon's "imagine" was playing over phone speakers, a moment i'd have never imagined unless it actually happened. i don't know how these things happen - human dynamics are curious and amazing. i slept with alex turner's "hiding tonight" on repeat, not caring about spending my previous ipod battery, since i managed to lay my eyes on the dorm owner's pc, which i'm using to both charge my ipod and make this post.

now 0545, i head out to my original destination of yesterday's, num, from where the greater challenge begins. i have started to like the people and the culture, but sadly i'm in the last few hours with either, as by this evening i'd be somewhere that doesn't match any version of living. over and out.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Off to the MBC

Whew, my backpack feels heavy - heavier than ever it has been. Just overnight, a few more kilos were added to the burden that I need to keep firm on my back while keeping my feet firm on the earth. As the serious/challenging nature of this trek becomes more evident, I'd keep adding things to my backpack, which in this present state of inexperience and anxiety, is the only thing I could do, since there is no time for a dress rehearsal. "The Thamel List" - stuff that I need to get soon as I get to Nepal - is already a page long, which means one more page to cram into the tiny backpack before I vanish (for a coupla weeks).

In the brief days of planning that a mismanaged and directionless soul like me could do, convictions have changed fast. My poetic take on doing this trek - in a region, and a nation that I've never even been to before - has been modified by the narrations of reality by 'friendly advice' of experts and elders. Polite people have been politely concerned about this whole upcoming ordeal, which is clearly evident in all recent conversations that have descended into survival talk.

I, however, live by the conviction that I have to, can, and will do this - for love, if not for adventure, if not for misadventure, if not for nature, if not for survival, if not for a reality check (or rather a slap), if not for the novelty, if not for the escape, if not for the compensation (to an average, dull life in the urban centers, and to years of misdirected institutionalization), if not for an identity, if not for the ego, if not for the isolation, if not for the companionship, if not for finding myself in losing myself, if not to experience a state of no-mind, if not for the death, if not for a good piece. So it goes.

If anything conveys that this trek - the whole episode - is about moi, then let me assure that I am the least significant part of it - more like the insect on the wall that sits and observes. There's already history-in-the-making regardless of my inclusion into any equation (unless I have already affected the equation in subtle ways - how and when is for explanation later). Wait for the bigger players to take over the thought-space.

I'll be missing the tactile feel of keyboards for a while. My cab is waiting. Goodbye.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

More young at the Everest

Though I'm not perched atop any [insert geological feature here] that provides a complete survey of the Everest basecamp, I get around to some interesting discoveries, right from my seat in Delhi. India is supposed to make news with the kind of numbers we have up there this season. A brash Colonel-sahib - one with such proximity to the climbing activity scene in this country that revealing his name in this context would ensure a scandal - quipped a few weeks back "Baraat hai apne gharwalon ki ab toh wahan par". But that our media stays away from what could potentially be a bouquet of accounts of daring, survival, adventure, and records - endless hours of inspiration (note: entertainment) - is shameful, and so I search more, and highlight whatever little digging I do.

First are the Malik sisters of Dehradun, Nungshi and Tashi, both 20-year-olds. If they do it, they become the first twins to have scaled the Everest. It hasn't been too long that they got into mountaineering-as-a-sport, starting only after they were out of school, but the pace of ambitions is fast, and so here they are two years later, scaling the Everest. Seeing that they are under the care and leadership of the celebrity climber Mingma Sherpa up there, I think they will. When it comes to mountaineering feats, the memory etched in Dehradun's conscience is of the Bahuguna brothers, both of whom lost their lives attempting the Everest, 14 years separated in time (in 1971 and 1985, respectively). If they summit successfully, the Malik Sisters could become the new memory. And yes, they'll make for awesome photos, too.

Then there's Samina Khayal Baig and Mirza Baig, a brother-sister duo from Pakistan. If they do it, Samina becomes the first Pakistan girl to summit the Everest. These siblings originally come from Shimshal Valley (deep in the extreme Karakoram range in Upper Hunza), with relatively poor background. Mirza - the elder brother, who is a professional mountain guide, and has 12 years of background of mountaineering - could be credited with the stubbornness with which they've taken up this endeavor. Samina is a 21-year-old student of Arts, and the only Pakistani female to adopt mountaineering as a profession. She has been climbing regularly since 2010. She, coincidentally, is doing this as a part of the same group (Seven Summits) as the Malik sisters are. I guess Seven Summits is very supportive of such ambitions.

See: [Geo TV documentary on  Samina's ascent of the "Chaashkin Sar", which was renamed to "Samina Peak" after her successful ascent]

Monday, May 06, 2013

Book A Free Man NOW!

If I try tracking one thing I've been consistent with in the years since I got out of college, it is - drumrolls - reading. If you were certain it was either among cycling or trekking, then I won't be surprised. Yes, I have been doing both, but inconsistently. Since my public face is limited (thankfully) to the context of wanderings, one could obviously be lead to think that's what I've been about, only NOT.
Besides the wanderings, are also the meanderings, times which I spend in either thinking about the phenomenology of survival and modalities of morality, or - better - flicking the imagination/mulling switch from 'broadcast' to 'receive', to read a few sincere books instead ['sincere' with the exception of "The Monk who sold his Ferrari" by Robin-something, a book I could gladly see being turned into recycled tissue paper, instead; a book which forces me into Chrome's Incognito Mode (better known as the "P0rn Mode") to search, so that my regular search history isn't polluted].

Where was I... oh, about reading consistently enough to make the fact visible (not that I had it hidden). Well, and in the continuing tradition comes "A Free Man" by Aman Sethi. To show how mature I am at making selection after all these years of reading, I picked it up at seeing the mere mention of Gary Shteyngart among the reviewers. All the more maturity reflected in the fact that I didn't even like G.S. that much, having merely read "A Supersad True Love Story". I didn't like it raving-mad types, but to guess, it was in that aura a general sincere text creates before fading away from memory, that I stumbled into reading G.S. review elsewhere and made a purchase decision based on that.

This book (AFM) had long acquired a "lost" status, it arriving (through Infibeam which-is-generally-cheaper-than-flipkart) at the time Gulmarg happened, and Ma - who was visiting - having kept it somewhere in her caring ways, and then left back. [for some reason she had to hide it so well that the book would've survive even a holocaust] It was only today, when handling a pan-residential search for a pair of binoculars for an upcoming trek in Nepal, that I found it!

I started with the book in the afternoon, and closed it after a few pages. I didn't find it boring, but I found something distracting instead. A perfect opportunity came cloaked inside a social appointment later, that needed me to travel across the city, taking the Metro for an hour's ride to some other adaptation of 'loathsome' that Delhi offers, giving me at least 40 good minutes of read either side. The book started in a very cliched joint session, but soon grew out of that, and - coincidentally - to be about Delhi. I was living and experiencing a city, while reading about someone's fictionalized/experienced version of it; nice. It vividly details on the heart of Delhi, and its fascinating 'mazdoor' populace. The dialog forces you to work a translation in Hindi, which I think is a bother?

Friday, May 03, 2013

The Everest Kids

It sounds nothing short of a Karate Kid story in the making. Only, give that an Indian context, change the title into plural, and use the backdrop of not Karate, but the all-eclipsing-all-encompassing Himalayas.

I'm talking about the Sanawar School's 2013 Everest Expedition. You read that right, school. And everest.

Our Mr. Miyagi here is Col Neeraj Rana, an ex-Indian-armyman, who after his days in the army, and later heading the HMI Darjeeling, has now set his own pace to how he thinks climbing in India should go. He is presently busy mentoring 7 school boys, all of them from Sanawar School, in Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh), towards summiting the Mt. Everest, world's highest peak (8848m), in Nepal. Right now they've successfully finished a rotation to Camp II, following which they're doing their rest and regular drills between that and the basecamp. What follows is another rotation - to Camp III - following which would come the final push for the Everest summit, which would come around the third week of May.

Mentoring a bulk of schoolkids towards something like Everest, obviously leads the curiosity if any records stand to be broken. Of course, the big one. Of these 7 climbers (yes, I'm not using the term "school kids" anymore), six are 16 years old. The seventh is 15. To put records into perspective, presently, India's youngest Everest summiteer (Male) is Arjun Vajpayee, who did this at the age of 17 years (back in 2011). That means if the expedition manages to put either of these climbers on the summit (here I give the credit to the whole expedition since it is rarely a single-man show once beyond the basecamp) India would have a new record. In case most of them summit, then we'll see a minute-by-minute cascade of records at the Everest summit.

In the meantime, we also have another 16-year-old, Nameirakpam Chingkheinganba, a North-East Indian (and first northeasterner, in case he summits), attempting Mt. Everest. Let's just sit and see in which order the records cascade.

This doesn't come as a surprise. Over 100 Indian climbers are attempting the Everest this year. Not only Arjun's record, but his compatriot, Krushnaa's - the youngest Indian female to summit Everest at the age of 19 - own record will be at stake, as an 18-year-old girl tries for the summit. In the meantime, both these folks themselves are busy writing new ones, eager to see the existing records revised after this season, sans any feelings of jealousy or enmity. No wonder people are calling it the arrival/onset of Golden Era in Indian Mountaineering. Any sort of live commentary would be exciting, but sadly, things are not so well connected during such expeditions, which is why our media hasn't gone crazy over this.

An era to not miss out on.

The two assholes

This is KV

Und this is me, here

Glad that KV and me share the same level of immaturity. Now only if mine lasts till 50 or more. Maybe I'll be doing better assholes, a very rare skill to master.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Chronos, show me love?

A very agitated day. I achieved the impossibility of existing in the paradoxical situation of picking up both, a cold and heat rash, simultaneously. This compounds the lymph node inflammation that has come unannounced just of yesterday - which, in essence, hints I could have anything - from a throat infection to cancer. So much for taking care of my physical self through unfailing daily regimen; conversely, the incorporation of new elements into this regimen, or the excess of it, could be telling the body to chill the _f_ out.

One thing it proves is, that my life needs two constants - elevation and displacement. I've already been joking to friends that I need to be above my "activation altitude" to function optimally: Back in Feb, when Gulmarg happened, the cold preceding it had me convinced I would have a miserable time. Soon as I got there, all my maladies vanished and I was ultimately the one leading others through knee-deep snows - in sandals. And seems like my body seems compensated for all the sneezing I didn't do through the entire Auli trip (a few months before Gulmarg) where I was on those snowy slopes @2800m in shorts and Nike sneakers. Confounded. Counfounded.

That this coincides with the most epic period of my travel, adventure, dreaming, and acceptance of some tangible identity is the bigger concern. 2013AD, as it has come to be, has been the most epic year in life this far. I got out of slave labour. I was forced out of my ambitions to settle for average education abroad at a premium price. I started thinking big in terms of travel; and doing things towards it. I found love (and neodymium magnets). Lot of things out of my comfort zone that no institutional upbringing could've prepared me for. And in that high had to come these two days, of uneasiness, and medical deliberation.

Align, chronos, align, with what your master desires of you, just for once!