Sunday, October 18, 2015

THE BAG THAT OUT-TRAVELS ME

Date: August 20th 2014. Place: Hyderabad.

A bag came into my life. It was a green colour Quechua Forclaz 60 litre bag. The bag was pretty and I was immediately hooked. The bag belonged to Majid Siddique who worked with me at Deloitte then. I borrowed it from him for a trek to the Jhindagada peak, the highest peak of Andhra Pradesh. He also gave me trekking shoes that I would rather not talk about. I was astounded at how much the bag could fit. I was so excited that I put everything in it that I could carry. The result was that on my very first 3-day trek, I carried a load of 12kgs on my back. The problem, however, was that I weighed almost the same as the bag (See photo below for reference). Carrying the bag was an honour that came at a big cost. I was depleted by the time I returned from the trek. Truly Madly Deeply spent. 


Skinny Paradise

(Left) In front of the Peak - (Right) On the peak(Literally on cloud Nine. I counted)

But as they say, the first time is always special (Trek or otherwise). I returned the bag back to to Majid. Less did I know that the bag would come back to me. Over the course of the next few months, the bag was carried for a few treks. The bag had already been on about 3-4 treks before I took it on my first. Majid offered to sell his bag and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I accepted the offer and the bag was mine.

The first place I took the bag to was Hampi. While my other fellow travelers carried hefty suitcases, I literally lived out of a bag. All my stuff came out and went into the same bag. Result: I took at least half the time that anyone else would take to pack their stuff. Stuff it, zip it, forget it. The bag made me feel like Superman. The T-Shirt in the picture below is a mere coincidence.

Clarke Kaul

Meanwhile, Naveen, who also accompanied me on the Hampi trip, needed a bag to go to Leh, Ladakh and he borrowed the Green Quechua awesomeness. Cognizant of the remarkable advantages of the bag, he was keen on saving some energy while packing in the oxygen depleted atmosphere of Ladakh. I graciously offered it thinking that that even though I couldn’t go to Ladakh then, at least my bag would. Naveen could literally live out of the bag as well. The bag had now seen heights of 16000 feet and above. The bag was initiated to the Himalayas.

Come May and I went on my first Himalayan trek to Roopkund. The bag faced a heavy challenge. I had to pack upwards of 15 kgs into the bag. If my bag were Sita, this would be its Agni Pareeksha. I stuffed things everywhere possible. I also discovered that the bag had 2 additional pockets by the sides. Desperation is the mother of life-saving discoveries. This was a tough trek demanding an uphill climb of around 30-40 kms. I travelled with truckloads on my back but the bag was utterly faithful. Not once did it fail me. I walked in winds, in rain, in the chill of the night but the bag was sturdy and intact. I came back with fond memories and the bag was a witness to it all.



(Trying to be Alexander Supertramp

The bag isn’t visible. I’m just flaunting here. It’s a good picture en route Roopkund

In the coming months, the bag was taken by Naveen to Coorg, and by Suboth to Hampi(Again!! The bag has some connection with that place. I’m planning a solo trip to Hampi soon. That’d be a third for the bag)

A very interesting thing happened when Vivek Gupta borrowed this bag for his
Mullyangiri trek. On the 2nd day of the trek, news arrived that Vivek (our Roopkund trek organizer) and Sashi were lost in the jungles of Chikmanglur(Read here) . At first, I was worried about Vivek but after 5 minutes, I was worried about the bag. This was shallow on my part. I was told that Vivek and Sashi set out to search for the trail after leaving the bags behind with the other members of the team. I was not sure how to react to the news as I was still sad that Vivek was lost. I was worried that I would not be able to ever look at the bag if there was a tragedy on the trip. Luckily, both Vivek and Sashi made it out of the forest with a few scratches and leech bites, long after everyone had written their chances of survival off. The bag now had the tag of a survivor's bag.

In the month of August, I took a trip to Pondicherry and the bag followed. The bag was getting some serious miles under its belt(s) (like literally).

Now, there is this thing about me - If you know me, you’d know my love for mountains. Himachal Pradesh is one place I have been wanting to visit for quiet some time. As destiny would have it, my bag beat me to a trip to Himachal as well. Praneeth Nadella recently took the bag to Himachal Pradesh on the trek to Triund and Indrahar pass, a trek I’ve been planning since December 2014. I had a deal with Praneeth - I wanted a picture of the bag on the summit.

A moment of sombre reflection for the bag, thinking of all the days gone by

 Praneeth not only sent me pictures of the bag, he also took a picture of the bag with Shoib Akhtar (Yes, the fast bowler from Pakistan). My bag not only beats me in travels but it also meets celebrities along the way.

Praneeth made the shoulder hoops count

The bag is pretty special to me. It has become a part of my identity and the life of my travels. I hope to take it to Himachal, Ladakh - Stok Kangri and East India in the near future. If not Everest, this bag will at least go to the Everest Base Camp during its lifetime. For as long as it lasts, it shall be my travel companion and will always be my Trekking bag that out-travelled me, in style!

Come to think of it, I should have a name for the bag now. #Now_thinking


Peace. . . 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

PEACE IN THOSE MOUNTAINS

Dedicated to our guide Pushkar Singh who led us through the Roopkund expedition. He recently passed away trying to save a trekker who slipped on the trail. The news saddened us immensely and reminded us of our own trek. Pushkar hand-held us through tough stretches after we slipped on the trail ourselves. May your soul rest in Peace in those beautiful mountains, brother.

Edit(on 20th September): After a phone call recently, we got to know that Pushkar is alive. This was great news for us. The Roopkund memory shall still remain a sweet one. :)





In the midst of those cold windy paths,
Lies a valley surrounded by those beautiful clouds
The clouds sweep around the valley pouring down rain,
When they do move away, they bring in the bright sunlight




The paths I walk are long and arduous,
They ought to be for they lead to harsh terrains,
Beyond these terrains lie the lands of extreme beauty,
The view shall more than make up for the hardship, I hope





I take one step and then the other, careful not to tread too quick
With careful precision, I ensure I stay within the boundaries
A slip may prove perilous here,
For it may take me tumbling down into the valley down below



The valley below looks as breathtaking as they come,
Lined with ferns, flowers and splendid trees
While a descend into its arm might not seem that awful
The elevation of our mortal selves so far high turns that into a grim fancy.





Slow progress is much appreciated on these turfs,
Hurry may get you nowhere in the territory of mountains,
For the purpose of it all is lost upon you,
If you neglect the sheer brilliance of the view and walk indifferent.








When I finally reach the valley, it is as if we were meant to meet,
The radiance of this place has caught me spellbound,
The mountains surrounding it seem like a protective fortress,
It is a moment that is now etched in the confines of my mind




The breeze flows by with the fragrance of the earth surrounding me,
It’s time to leave but do I hear a serene song in my ears?
I shout through the valleys to the mountains promising to be back someday,
To experience once more the overwhelming peace in those mountains.




Peace!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

OH BARBER, MY BARBER

To give you a background on the whole issue, the barber shop I frequented for hair-cuts no longer exists. The building it was in, was broken down for road extension. The government has triumphed. The shop is no more. What has remained, however, is a hollow structure that shall be brought down very soon. The horror/hilarity of all the hair-cuts gone wrong and my love for Dead Poets society has resulted in this poem. Here goes:





You stood there majestic on the bottle-necked road,
In the stark cold, in the dry heat, even in the torrential rains did you open
Gentlemen, some bearded while some with long hair frequented you,
Coming out child-like was treasured by one and all.

You stood there with open arms, wide doors and sharp scissors,
Welcoming anyone who'd come to look more civilized,
You made us wait with the odd newspaper,
The pictures of beautiful women on Page 3 more than made up for the delay.

We waited for you to wield your artwork on us,
Ever so patient in making us look outrageous at times,
Your profound art made me look like a lunatic sometimes,
But I took it as a growing phase in our chop-full relationship.

They tore down your building, it broke my heart,
The barber shop I frequented has been reduced to rubble,
Where would I pay just 70 bucks and get a hair-cut?
I'm not sure what feels more morose, my hair or my wallet?

There are too many unanswered questions in my mind,
The summer heat is making my head spin,
My hair are facing an existential crisis of their own,
My wallet is threatening to lock itself down.

You may be "hairstylist" or "hairdresser" for others,
They give you fancy names while they can,
But you'll always be that barber from Jabbar building,
My hair shall forever be indebted to you for the mess ups.

Hope to see you in some other building on another street,
Praying that building is not brought down ever, by government, earthquake, flood, or tsunami
Hope you treasure all the hair you chopped off my head,
The bits that were chopped off and locked in your symbolic vaults.


Farewell, barber shop! See you in Shyamlal building (I heard they are opening up 1-2 kms from my home. Now I will walk and get a hair-cut. Health included :D)

Peace!