Monday, September 15, 2008

Water and Ski!

I have never skied in life.
When I imagine skiing, I imagine pristine snow capped slopes, with adept individuals moving graciously in between, at slow or rapid pace. They fall sometimes, but snow doesn't hurt, does it?

When I skied for the first time in my life, it was on water.
This water activity called jet skiing takes place on a motorized scooter-look-alike that moves at tremendous speeds on water bodies. One, two, three people can sit at a time atop this thing, while one person drives it. The number of bodies is directly proportional to its instability.

On a chilly windy morning in Lake Tahoe, I decided to go for it. To dampen my beginner's unsuspecting spirit, the jet ski rental owner tried scaring me. "It's cold you know - the water itself isn't that bad, but when you topple in the water, which obviously you will given the lack of expertise, the winds will chill you to the bones". He paused after this , for special effects.
I stared back at him.

During the long stare, I pondered.
I was here already, I had never done this thing before, I would never come this close to bringing myself to do it again , and once I manage to get over with it- I can boast about it for life!
Next I knew, I was renting the boat, the sun goggles and the wet suits from the owner.
Dressed and armed, I ventured out into the lake.

I am not a great driver. The closest I came to driving something resembling a jet ski, was a bicycle. My Indian bicycle didn't have those fancy gears. As I started out in the water, trepidation set in. I recalled "fun facts" I had read about Lake Tahoe. It was the second deepest lake in United States. This fact were not fun any more.

Wobbling away, and moving at snail speed, I headed out to the water. I was told to stay away from boats, humans, steamers, and coast. In plain terms stay deep and stay out. Turning the jet ski in the direction I wanted, almost made me topple! (They charge 50 bucks extra when you topple their jet ski)

My friend sitting behind, wanted more speed.I tried. For a whole one minute I moved at 5mph and stopped suddenly coz it was making me nervous! After spluttering for what-seemed-like-eternity, in the water, getting chilled and numb all over, I decided to head back. We had booked it for an hour - I felt I had gone way past it.
When we went back, I was told it had only been fifteen minutes!

My friend decided to take matters in his hands this time. Sitting behind felt much better. As we went out into the lake, much smoother, I appreciated the beauty of Lake Tahoe from such close quarters. I recalled movies I had seen of people astride on a jet ski. They looked so cool! Chattering in my teeth, wishing for the wind to stop, I felt extremely cold- a degree ahead of cool! This time the jet ski was actually moving and at much faster pace. I wasn't comfortable with speed, and I made my point clear.

Next I knew, my friend left me at the coast and went off to have some "real fun" all by himself. As I stood woebegone on the sand, I tried concentrating on the positives of my situation. I had been able to enjoy a whole 40 minutes of my one hour rental!
Standing on the beach, I was definite he was freezing in the water. I was definite he would have toppled. I was definite he would be back, any minute. He did come back, right when the hour was up; extremely exhilarated by his experience!

Jet skiing was the most memorable part of my journey to Lake Tahoe.The feeling of cutting through water on a jet ski was amazing. Taming nature in such adverse conditions, with such skill as mine, made me proud of myself!
I doubt I will do it again too soon.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Lonesome Lockout!

In my pursuing attempt to remain fit that ceremoniously began six months back, I join anyone making hiking plans. The few people who make them invite me - in their words, "they don't have the whole day for it!"
Last Saturday, I got invited to one such hike. To garner additional brownie points for myself, I volunteered to drive all of them there. The idea was to drown them in gratitude. It didn't quite work that way. The mountaineous roads and my super-awesome driving didn't go well together.

We started early - by Indian standards. 10am. On a weekend that means getting out as soon as you have gotten up. It also means hardly any breakfast. "The hike won't take that long and we would have plenty of time to fatten ourselves at lunch".
The closer I came to the destination, the worse my fears got. I suffer from acrophobia - in plain terms I am afraid of heights. On the narrow steeply climbing mountain road, with one side ending in a deep gorge and the other a tall stone wall, I chose to stay close to the wall. That meant driving on the wrong side of the r0ad. The passengers panicked! The choice was simple - getting hit by incoming car or falling off the cliff. I chose for them.
As soon as we reached, everyone jumped off the car. I followed slowly. We gathered our bags, energy bars, water bottles and were about to start the hike. At that precise instant I had a brainwave. "Why carry my heavy purse? I won't need it." Boom! I shut the trunk on my purse with my car keys in them!
My friend realized my folly before I did. He wanted to keep the car keys in a safe place. With very little to do, we decided to continue on the hike. I could hear muttered mumbled indistinct voices all around me. I didn't dare look at them directly.
It was a strenuous hike. We took 3 hours and were completely exhausted.
This remote place had no cell phone reception. The nearest one was at the base of the mountain. I hitched a ride from a fellow departing hiker, went to the base, made a phone call. I was told to get back up to my car, in less than an hour. Hitching a ride back was tough. I almost asked fire fighters to help me out when an old lady with a dog took pity on me. As soon as I reached the top, the wait began.
What was to take less than an hour, took more than two hours. We had no food, no water and sunlight was fading. Meanwhile I sent another friend down and never saw him back!
Finally, the car got unlocked, my friend was found and food was eaten. We combined breakfast, lunch and dinner into one meal. I paid for it - hoping it would alleviate stressed nerves. The hike that was to last 3 hours took 12!
Since then I have been thinking of ways to make myself lock-out-proof. My friends have suggested strapping the key to my body, strapping the key to the car, strapping the key onto a friend and million like that! I am still looking for a sustainable solution!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Safar to Swadesh!

After one and half endless years, I reached Swadesh. I am no Mohan Bhargav, but I do miss mom's cooking.

The moment my flight touched Mumbai International Airport, I woke up. The long flights make me sleepy. What I don't like is the fact that attendants push me awake and deliver me food. No exercise and constant feeding- it starts in the flight and ends only in the flight back.

My parents were standing at the gates, at that wee hour to receive me. They recognized me instantly from my dishevelled looks. I was all smiles. Dad looked older but mom seemed the same. I expected them to gush and fuss over me. (I had been religiously visiting a nearby gym to look better). They didn't. My parents nodded their head in disapproval and uttered unanimously, "You need more exercise!" No amount of convincing from my side helped. I gave up and morosely munched on the delicacies laid in front of me.

Mumbai - the land of dreams and Bollywood. Everyone here seems to be in a rush. Early morning I went to Marine Drive with Dad. Joggers, walkers, idlers flocked the area. Surprisingly it was very clean. Breathing in the ozone rich Arabian Sea air, felt great. Except a few super slim runners, the rest were plump married housewives waddling along the drive with their chattering friends or spouse.

Having a driving license(after enormous struggle) I paid more attention to traffic rules and driving this time. The traffic lights in Mumbai stop functioning from 12am to 8 am. God help you then. And perhaps your luck. The concept of lanes exist but are never followed. When rushing to the Mumbai Airport in the busy evening hour, I saw how our driver maneuvered through cars, bikes, autos, men and animals to get us there. Indian lanes always make room for more - for more than what it was designed for.

Watching a movie at Eros theatres, I observed the college kids. Their fashion sense seem to have been directly lifted from the movies. I wonder when all these kids do their home works, or was I too studious? Everyone carries a cell phone -from the roadside tea seller to the rich businessman. It's a necessity. And it's not just any cell phone, it is the latest gizmo out on the shop. I hardly saw kids come in with their parents, except myself.

Mumbai appeared advanced - in the rich tea restaurants, mocha cafes, super malls, discos, clubs that have cropped up all over the place. Smoking and drinking are ubiquitous among all sexes. Life moved fast.

Kolkata was a stark contrast to this advancement. People, routine and rituals were as I had left them before. Change creeps in slowly and stealthily, not interrupting or taking anyone by surprise. People are mild and tempers mellow. I met a Jadavpur University professor this time. From pin to politics to Einstein and Tagore - he discussed everything. What was going to be a 15 minute thing became a 2 hour discourse. People love to talk in Kolkata. They ask questions, they take pride in your achievements and flaunt theirs in return. It's missing in US. No one really cares or takes up so much time.

Walking through the streets of Kolkata, I finally felt at home. Watching kids with heavy back-packs brought back fond and heavy memories. Eating egg rolls from the unhygienic side stalls at Gariahat tasted delicious. Shopping from the street hawkers honed my bargaining skills. The lights, the sounds and the delights of Kolkata amazed me yet again.

Coming back to an empty apartment and joining work with jet lag wasn't easy. If technology could advance so far as to take me home in one second, I would embrace it. Till then lemme imagine.


Boot Camp

The original name referred to young men training for battlefield-readiness.
I am not going to war in US, but it feels much the same.

A vacation to India (yes! I went back home after so long) changed the way I live life. It reduced me to a eating and sleeping machine. Of course the food was filled with glorious calories and delicious taste. While my mother's cooking rocked, my calories mocked. They had a field day. They made home in the nook and crannies of my body and by the time I caught the flight back, I resembled a rolling ball!
I took matters in my own plump hands and registered myself to this Boot Camp. When asked by the online form, why I wanted to join it, I wrote, "From fat to fit!" It sounded nice and catchy. Who knew what lay beyond.
It begins at 6:30am in the morning, which forces me to open my eyes at 5:30am. That struggle is mild compared to the regime itself. Two trainers, clad from head to toe, to keep the cold away, train the 10-12 women who registered. The cold is always there. Only recently rain added itself to it. However that doesn't deter the spirits of the coaches or the campers. I am not talking about myself here.
The boot camp is enlightening. I have realized exactly how fit I am. Before I can start any of the excruciating exercises, others move on to the next. Every run around the block, ends with me. While people run their second lap, I find myself struggling midway in my first. The coaches are relentless. They make sure you get your money's worth. Every cent I have payed them, they return it to me in sweat!
Wednesdays are Track days. We gather around in the tracks of a school and timed laps are run. Needless to say, I take the longest. Every now and then, the coaches become sympathetic to my plight and utter, "Are you OK Meena?" Oddly, that doesn't make me happy or relaxed.
In the weight training, I discovered, while I carry a total of 6 lbs, others happily lift twice as much in one hand! While my muscles start hurting almost as soon as I begin, others can go on endlessly. Sometimes I wonder. "Did these people come to the Boot Camp just to show off?"
Honestly, I think boot camps should be filled with people like me. Gyms should be filled with overweight and unfit people too. But it's just the opposite in life. I have hardly seen more than one obese person frequenting a gym. Am I to believe that every fat person loses the adipose tissue as soon as he joins the hallowed gym?
Jogging, running, crunching and stretching, I have managed to survive two whole weeks of this paid torture. Two more remain.
Hopefully I shall survive it to tell more tales in my blog spot!