adventure, College, description, travel

Footwear, Kitchen and Ropes 

Somewhere in the middle of the 30 feet descent, I walked backwards, araam se, like I do every once in a while. Only I was hanging on a rope. My legs stood firm like they had never been – for once they decided to listen to me. But only a few minutes ago, they had been quite an oxymoron – on vibrate mode.

Outbound Training Programme it was called, and true to its name, it was outside bounds. From rock climbing and rappelling, to crawling under rocks, it was as exciting as it was scary – one slip of the foot, and you could end up in an AC room for a decided amount of time – in a hospital.

The climb left me quite breathless – I don’t even bother to climb stairs. Sheeet, how it made me wish I had climbed all those floors in my apartment. The beauty of the place — right in the lap of nature – was that if you stayed still, everything around you came alive. Everything that you had assumed to be still, is not so anymore.

But at the top, everything around me was still, except for my own body, with my heart gasping for breath. So loudly that I could hear it everywhere– including my arms and legs. Here, one of the instructors divided the eight teams into two large ones: Spartans and Warriors. After a few breathing exercises, and a few games out there, we decided to return.

Games ©NM

Now if anybody ever thought that climbing down was easier, I urge you to think again. The hill, combined with the Earth’ gravitational force, has only and only one aim in their lives – to pull you down; literally. At one point, we had to slide down a bit. How I wish they had actually made a semi cylindrical depression, with bars to hold on to. But this was more of strategic sliding. You had to slowly almost sit and crawl, sitting in the tiny craters so as to not slip. But unfortunately, my body weight easily pulled me down, and if those two guys had not been standing at the end of it, I am sure I would have effortlessly made it to my destination in lightning speed.

This was followed by walking on a slope — through it. The only thing around were bundles of lemon grass; comfortably rooted, sitting like fountains, laughing at us while we struggled to get a grip. And right after this, was a big rock – and we were to go under it. I began contemplating whether I will fit in there at all. Finally I did manage to fit in — barely. I crawled out of it as fast as I could, during which I wondered if anybody would know if something or somebody had died in there. Once out, one of my teammates apologised for having scrapped my bag a little – the only two girls in our seven member team decided they wanted to carry their bags; and we all took turns carrying them (only two bags were allowed per team). That poor guy did not realise I was too happy that we all had managed to get out of that tiny cave in one piece.

In spite of having such co-operative and supportive classmates, as well instructors, I had been carrying all this while the one most uncooperative thing with me — or rather I should say wearing them: my shoes. The soulless creature’s soles were coming off. Sadly, irrespective of whether the footwear I am wearing belongs to me or not, they are most rebellious – this definitely was not the first time this had happened.

Three years ago, in the last year of schooling, I was on a study tour with my class. A hosteller at that time, for some reason that I don’t remember now, I ended up borrowing somebody’s chappal. We had stopped somewhere near a beach, in the nattucha veil (burning hot afternoon). The chappal decided to die on me; and since the only support in it had fallen apart, I had no option but to walk barefoot. On the sand. Till the bus.

At a point in the descent, he asked us to stand with fellow Spartans and Warriors. He then asked us to find our way back to the kitchen. A beta version of human GPS managed to find another stone underpass. Thankfully, it was more spacious than the previous one. It did not really matter to me, as long as it took me to the kitchen.

The kitchen. (http://gurufreddyacademy.org)

After a satisfying meal, we all chatted for a while. None of us really had any idea what they had planned for us. All I wanted was a nice spot under a tree and a good nap. An instrumental version of the All India Radio whistled away, while we relaxed. And then two instructors, went into a room for equipment. Equipment??

I dragged myself, following others to another part of the campus, where military and police recruits trained. While others ran and jumped through the first obstacle, which looked like stepping stones on land, I preferred walking through it. Then there was one where slabs of stone projected off a wall: you had to climb through a side and get down the other. I don’t really recall how, but I managed to climb up, after which I was stuck. The instructor suggested I watch somebody else do it, and I agreed. I called out to a girl and warned her that I was already up there — hence it was not a good idea to climb up. I did manage to turn around and keep my foot on one of the projections, but after that I could not see anything except for the huge slab I was holding on to. I climbed down a little, and then jumped. The instructor said I was lucky to not have been hurt by a pointy slab.

It seemed wiser for me to simply stare at the rest of the obstacle course, while a few others tried some out. From there, we were taken to the cliff, or rather a 30 feet rock, where the Spartans were climbing down, with ropes and harnesses. Warriors had barely begun, when it started raining, and we were asked to return. I walked around in my Sherlock Holmes raincoat, even though the rain stopped the moment I had put it on. I had to consider the effort I had taken to put it on. Five minutes later, we were called back, as the weather seemed to have improved.

Heights of cracking jokes. ©NM

I sat down, looking at others climb down, and another who stood at the bottom to help them. Though, I was extremely tempted to try it, I did not trust my shoes at all. My classmates encouraged me to try it out nevertheless, and one of the instructors (who was sitting with us) reassured me the shoes were not a problem. Since the shoe was still in one piece – somewhat, I decided to go ahead anyways. One of my other classmates, also changed her decision: she decided to give it a try.

I knew that walking down backwards was not the challenge, it was to begin smoothly from the edge of the cliff. And that was the only thing that worried me. I collected the harness and gloves, and climbed up. Here, I almost lost my way— which I had suspected I would — but managed to climb up. It was then that I realised that it was less spacious than it seemed from down there. Three of us were waiting for our turn, two instructors were giving a fourth instructions, and there was another who clicked pictures.

I tried to stand still, so I would not tumble down. Looking around, or looking down was not a good idea, because this cliff was on top of a highly elevated landmass. As I waited for my turn, one of my classmates started thinking out loud, “What if I leave this hand?” I begged him to shut up. As he climbed two steps down, he paused to ask, “Are you not clicking pictures?” The other girl decided to go back, but nevertheless she did not move. And then, one of the instructors told her, “There is only one way down from here.”

I was initially standing so still, that I could barely move. I walked towards the edge, and one of the instructors spoke to me in Malayalam, while the other tightened the straps of the harness. For the first time, my knees were dancing — even though I didn’t ask them to. As if to show one last sign of rebellion, my shoelace came apart. I thought it could go die, I was not going to tie it.

Just hanging in there. ©NM

I managed to begin smoothly, holding on to the ropes real tight. As I climbed down, I felt as if I were riding my office chair in reverse, back home – which I do when I am too lazy to get up and open my door.

 

travel

Bus to Bangalore

Long back, around six years ago, I had boarded a bus to Bangalore with my parents. It was probably my second visit to the city, and though I was not a Kannadiga, I was closely attached to the city – because I was born there. So, my first visit obviously had been when I had come out of my mother’s tummy crying. Or perhaps giggling. Who knows, what if me giggling sounded like me crying because that was what was expected.

I was so proud of Bangalore, the city where I, the whacko who never shuts up, was born. I was so excited – as if I was going to meet my brother, who had been separated from me at birth. I didn’t feel like I was going to be a tourist there, it felt as if I was going home. After a long time. Since I was barely a year old when I had stayed in Bangalore, I didn’t remember any of it. I wanted to discover the city, know what it looked like, and listen to my parents discussing as to how much it has changed.

We stayed in a room, above a supermarket at Brigade Road. That was the Bangalore I saw. I looked at the street in awe, with starry eyes and watery mouth, all my junk food at one place! Incredible! And so many options to choose from! It was simply paradise for me.

At the room, I danced in the AC, jumped on the bed, and then laid down to charge myself. And then, once I was completely charged, I unplugged myself, and freshened up, all ready to hit the streets. Right outside the supermarket, there was this stall selling momos.

Awwwww, I thought. What a cute name! MO-MOS. It vaguely reminded me of this cartoon I used watch, in Animax perhaps? I don’t remember, but there were three girls who had pixies named DoDo, ReRe and MiMi. And now, I was eating MoMos. It was perhaps the first time I had had momos, and I fell in love with it. Especially that chutney – I wanted to eat it, as if it were soup.

And then, I went shopping – and more importantly – bargaining. I watched as my mom negotiated with the shopkeepers in Hindi, highly influenced by Malayalam, her mother-tongue. But some of the shopkeepers themselves were not so fluent.

And then, I had all my beloved junk food, extremely happy that my mother didn’t mind me having so much of junk in two days. But on such occasions, she always made sure I enjoyed. McDonalds for lunch, and Dominos for dinner.

“No more junk food till I say so,” she said.

I made a sad face at her.

“What? You had so much of it today, I didn’t restrict you did I? Now you have to be a good girl, and eat good food too, like fruits and vegetable. I let you have all that you want here, didn’t I?  Didn’t you have an awesome time here?” she asked.

I flashed all of my teeth at her, and said, “Yessssssssss!”

And now, I live in Bangalore. I study here, and I realised Bangalore was bigger than the one I had seen. And every time I pass that supermarket in Brigade Road, I want that chutney!

family, travel

The Drowsy Drive

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You were sandwiched between your aunt and your dad, grumbling at your dad because he stole the window seat where you wanted to sleep. He was wide awake, busy on the GPS trying to reassure us that we’d not lost hope. This is when you wish your uncle wouldn’t have thrown tantrums at you to not to go via Mysore. And now you were lost, in the middle of nowhere, farther from your destination than you initially were. As if that was not enough, you couldn’t fall asleep because of the continuous banging of your head on the seat, and you wish to could just keep your head in your lap and rest in peace – headless. Tears of boredom roll down your cheeks, while you squint at the sunlight trying to figure out where you’ve reached – not that it makes much of a difference. And your uncle teased you at your occasional comments, that you were not coherent enough. Your uncle who probably was Sherlock Holmes’ disciple, who would try his best to cross-examine and post mortem everything that crossed his attention – except for all that was his- conveniently overlooked the fact that you were too sleepy to be bothered by him. But because he was your uncle, you politely advise him it’s about time he visited the ENT.

After hours and hours of boredom and traveling and irritating GPS noises, you are finally there. The rain, the trees, and house that reminds you of your grandpa’s place, cheers you up. You can’t wait to get in, to click pictures, watch the rain and run around the house like a 5-year-old. They all drink tea, their second tea, and you’re left out – you hate tea and nothing else is available. Your stomach is already grumbling, and you become a purple minion for a while. You throw tantrums at your dad, as you hadn’t eaten anything after lunch.
And then, your assignment -which you procrastinated for so long – pops up, hitting you on your nose. Ouch.
So you dump your hunger on the sofa, get into a bed and start typing on your phone, till you smell food, and you go into a trance which sings “fooooooooooooooood”.
You forget your assignment for a few minutes, and run into the varanda to eat. You hungrily dig into 4-5 pieces of chicken, and suddenly feel full. So you run back to your assignment, and apologize to it for abandoning it midway. And then you type, type, type and type. Your mom pops in now and then, calling you to come have dinner. But you’re already too far away in America, talking about their first amendment and freedom of speech .
And finally when you’re done, you realise you’re too lazy to eat, and not hungry enough to get rid of that laziness. So you let it pass. You play on your phone for a while, and then off to sleep.

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The next morning you wake up at 10, monstrously hungry, because you didn’t eat anything since 7:30 p.m. the previous night. It’s poori masala, and you’re about to eat it, when you’re uncle starts making noises at you,” Ooohhhh, your mom was worried you would start screaming, because she says you don’t like poori masalas, and that you would refuse to eat. ”
Stuffing your mouth with poori, you reply, ” Well, I don’t like poori masala for dinner. I don’t like to have wheaty food after a long day at college. That’s all.”
Does all of this really matter when you’re hungry? You would have refused to eat it , yes, but only when you are not hungry or when you have another option. But then, obviously your uncle hardly noticed you were missing the previous night, among all the food he ate. Sigh.
You’re too lazy to get ready, but you somehow do get ready. And then, finally you’re on your way back home. Another never ending journey, before you reach home. Before you can see your sofa, or your bed.

food, travel

Ragi Mudhhe

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One of the professors had asked the class to go to a military hotel and have ‘ragi mudhhe’ compulsorily. Because I felt the lunch break was not long enough, and I would be fast asleep as soon as I hit my sofa (I don’t require a bed) I couldn’t go. Until the weekend.

I had been searching for a Saturday that would also be a holiday. And that was this weekend – 17 July. There were 9 of us -me, mom, dad, my grandma’s, uncle, aunt and 3 of my cousins – in two cars. We were on our way to Coorg, and my uncle was adamant that if we’re going via Mysore, then he’s going to get down. Maybe I should have let him. Or maybe not, it was his car after all. But as a result, we lost our way and went around in circles, even squares perhaps. I’m not sure, as I was happily half asleep at the back seat, between my dad and my aunt, registering the occasional GPS noises, especially the “GPS is lost”one. It would make me laugh in my sleep, it sounded so ironically funny – even the GPS can get lost.

I thought we’d reach by lunch. Nope. Tea? Nope. It was finally 6 by the time we reached – we’d started at 7:30 a.m. And then I started blowing bubbles in all directions, until my cousin said he can clean his cup (of tea) himself. I need not help him. My father reassured him that there were enough bathrooms, he need not worry.

Then I was frantically typing an assignment on my phone -which I planned to complete once I reached, but it took forever for us to ‘reach’. And then I went to sleep.

The next day, we all woke up late, and has an even later breakfast.  And started back to Bangalore again. It felt like we’d travelled more than we’d stayed at the house (we’d rented it for a day).

On my way back, I did notice a board saying ‘ family military hotel’. But then the building looked like it was about to fall off next time it rains there. And I missed it by this much.

Maybe I should have mentioned earlier that this was not about the ragi mudhhe I ate, but about the one I couldn’t eat.

On asking one of my friends about ragi mudhhe, what he said reminded me of something I’d eaten once. Just once. But I remember it so clearly, because I’d thought it was Gobi Manchurian, and greedily jumped into eating it. But alas, once in my mouth, I realized my mistake. Neither was it Gobi, nor was it Manchurian. Ever since I made sure what I was eating was what I thought it was.