Sunday, June 1, 2014

TEDx Thessaloniki - events of an EVENT

This story is part fantasy, part fact and part fiction and then some. Many of the things described here happened, some didn’t, some I wish had happened and some I wish hadn’t plus the people are real as my imagination could conjure them up but some are more real than others and some are more imaginary than their real counterparts. So please exercise caution and discretion not necessarily in that or any order as you skim or sink or swim through this one. Life without pun is no fun and I take intentional dig at everyone; that they approve the victims of my dig, I am not sure but I presume they do and also allow me literary digression as well as liberty. So here goes a first hand and totally true account of something entirely fascinating, alluring, charming and decidedly desirable that I am willing to experience again and again.

Everything that begins or happens has a genesis and mine was in a mail written by a beautiful Amazonian woman I happened to chance upon in the by-lanes of Zurich near the end of previous year. Don’t ask what I was doing in so drab a place and I have no idea what she was doing their either, but fate made our paths cross and then collide into close proximity. We exchanged mail address and mobile numbers and became FB friends just like it happens to anyone these days you even remotely meet anywhere across the planet. And then everything quietened. I went away winter climbing, trying to kill myself in various ways, while this woman of my dreams disappeared into her own world perhaps trying to kill someone else in her own ways. Long story short, I never heard back from her and neither did I drop her a line till a fine morning I found a mail from her in my inbox asking me to be the saviour and pathfinder (Moses like) for the vagrant and disillusioned Greek youth. Oh, did I forget to tell you that she was from Greece!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Everest Climbing and Death - An Objective Summary

Everest Base Camp from South with Khumbu Icefall in the center
People have been dying on Everest ever since human started attempting to reach its summit. Number of people who have died on Everest as on date stand around 265 with number of people who have summitted at 4042. This gives us a 6.5% death rate; which is not such an alarming figure at all. On 18th April this year, 16 Sherpa guides died in one avalanche making this the worst accident on Everest ever, plunging the climbing world into a raging storm of debates. Among the dead I lost three very close friends, whom I had known for decades.

Even though high altitude mountain climbing is among the most dangerous activities on Earth, people do not die proportionately to the risks involved since mountain climbing is a very specialized activity that is undertaken by experienced and qualified climbers and since we know that it is dangerous, it is done with utmost caution and after all due training. Whereas millions die crossing roads annually around the world since it is not perceived as a dangerous activity and anyone and everyone is attempting to do so. In this post I will address all the major concerns about Everest and Sherpa and commercial guided clients, climbing ethics and many such things, which may help in understanding the complex game of climbing the highest mountain in the world. This is my personal view and I will neither quote nor site anyone else and whatever I would mention below are all from my firsthand experience that I gained after multiple Everest summits through different routes, employing different styles of climbing. In doing so I hope I would be able to offer you an unbiased, practical, no-nonsense take on Everest climbing through the traditional South Col route, with bits about the North Col route.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Snowboarding in Fideriser Heuberge

Just showing off before I started

Every day I ask myself: when was the last time I did something for the first time. Even though the answer is obvious (which is everyday), this is true on most days at a subliminal level, but on a physical level, when I asked myself the question, the answer was: almost to this date, last month. And what I did can only be a summary of my life’s motto ‘go with the flow’ since what I did could only happen if you let yourself go with the flow – snowboarding. It might come as a surprise to many that even after spending most of my life in, around and within snow, I had never done snowboarding in my life, not even strapped on to one ever. During my Swiss trip last month I learnt that a dear friend is also a champion pro-level snowboarder and hence ensued the adventure and I loved every moment of this sport even though I fell countless times; since only by falling do we learn to get up.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Write A Love Letter

This is just a sample love letter, not the one I refer in this post... 

Thank God there is love, thank God there are women in love, thank God there are women who are in love with me, thank God there are women who are in love with me and are old fashioned, thank God there are women who are in love with me and are old fashioned enough to believe in old style love letters written on pieces of paper and thank God even more for making at least one such woman who is in love and with me and is old fashioned enough to believe in love and in expressing her love through old style love letter written on high grain solid bond stationary and that one day she indeed put her heart and thoughts upon such sheets of papers and sent it my way across a distance of a million mile; because if she wasn’t and hadn’t then I would not be here today writing this post.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Boy with the Bike and his World

Armand in the middle with his cousins Henry to his left and Tom to his right
In an inexplicable twist in the tale, I recently found myself by the languid lanes of Trieste in Italy, knocking at the doors of a Mediterranean Villa with a splendid view of the Adriatic Sea below and a hill full of forests above. And within this villa, I found the boy with the bike. Armand Monnoyer is Belgian and he had celebrated his 20 years of existence on our planet only two days before I met him. A nephew of my hosts, Armand could well be my son and what endeared him to me right away were his shy open smile and his current occupation of biking through Europe in search of his own true self. A yearlong project that he had started around August last year; of which he was now in his final leg of five months hoping to return by the end of 2014 summer.

I spent few days with him taking long walks by the sea, helping together in the kitchen, eating homemade breads and jams, sharing stories and laughter and dreams both old and new. He reminded me constantly of my youth, of my biking through some of the most inhospitable and non-bikable terrains in the world and I wished every moment that I could throw my worldly caution into the wind and go biking again to the end of the world, forever free and footloose and reckless as a sweeping gull in search of supper. When he left us finally I promised that one day I will tell his story and here it is; Armand this is for you wherever you may be, whether you read it or not, this is your story and your voyage and your dreams, of which I had the privilege of sharing few moments.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Why do I Climb Why do I Love

Almost akin to the question that every lover dreads being asked ‘why do you love me?’ is the question, ‘why do you climb?’

Just like the lover who fumbles for the right answer, not wanting to hurt the feelings of the beloved and at the same time feeling totally inadequate to offer an answer that would match his / her joy of being in love; I too face the dilemma.

When in love, you know how you feel, and you can describe that quite lucidly but why do you feel like that; why does the object of your affection create such amazing euphoria at their mere thoughts and images, and their physical proximity driving you to the insane brink of existence; why, the eternal WHY...?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Treat Human like animals

I have been engaged in an experiment for the last one year, since I had nothing better to do, in order to find something that we see each day almost everywhere in the world. Finally I have enough evidence and statistics and demographic distribution to release the results of my finding.

For long we have been told that we must treat animals like human, with love, kindness, without bias and give them the kind of empathy we would bestow upon a fellow human. And my experiment was to find out if that is the correct way or should we be treating our fellow human as we treat animals. So as I went around the globe charting my vertical world, I asked few straightforward questions to all that crossed my path, both friends and strangers.

I asked, ‘do you love animals?’ the universal answer was always affirmative; barring a few who said they love all animals except the venomous and slimy slithery ones but they had no desire to harm them or molest them in anyway whatsoever and they simply preferred to stay out of their way. In effect they did not love such animals but neither were they malicious or wished them any ill.

I asked, ‘do you love dogs?’ again the universal answer was always affirmative. I followed this with, ‘which colour?’ and they said, ‘any colour’ and I asked, ‘what shape or size’ and they said, ‘any size, any shape’ and I asked ‘what will you do if you find an abandoned, starving, ill dog or a bird’ and the answer almost always was ‘will take care of it, give it food, water’ and I asked ‘what about the animal’s country of origin, will you love an animal more if it is from your country’ and they said, ‘animals do not have citizenship or nationalities, they are same everywhere’ and then I asked ‘when you feed a dog or take one home or gave one medication and love, whom you had never seen before, will you first ask the dog or the bird or the animal what its religion is or preferences or a photo id’ and they said, ‘what nonsense, animals don’t have religion and even if they did, we don’t bother’.

I went around and found countless animal lovers, countless animal loving organizations like PETA, countless organizations working against animal poaching, countless people advocating for animal rights, all the world outrage against nations that allow animal cruelty, people are turning vegetarian, dogs are being fed on the street, strange dogs are being brought home, unknown birds are being fed with water in summer heat, in short we human are treating animals (known and strange ones) with kindness and curiosity, with empathy and love and with our acts we prove each day that we truly care about animal welfare.

I know many households where the husband’s simple wish ‘wish I was the house dog’ proves that certainly the house dog is getting more love and care and tenderness than the man of the house. Vice versa is true too, where the wife wishes she was the dog.

I think I made my point that when we can treat animals with universal love and empathy, when we do not discriminate dogs by their colour or size or nationality, when we unite to protect animals from acts of cruelty why can’t we extend the same courtesy and decency to our fellow human beings! Why do we shun a hungry, strange looking, ragged human on the street and hug and feed a dog with similar outward appearance. Why do we judge a human by colour, nationality, religion when we don’t judge animals in such a manner!

I think it is time that we start treating our fellow human beings like we treat animals. Of course humans have many vices that animals do not and I can totally understand why that would deter us from treating humans as we treat animals. I rest my case. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Finding Love

I am a firm believer in the dictum that there are certain things in our lives that we all already have, from the day we are born and we don’t need to look for it to find it since it is already there, but what we need to do is to create the right condition within ourselves for it to reveal its magic. And Love is perhaps the first such thing that we all have. Yet it is for love that so many of us crave and search and often die in despair of not having found it.

We just crossed the day when most part of the world celebrates Love; including those who are looking for it to arrive. It hasn’t gone anywhere so it will never arrive if that is what you are waiting for. So in today’s post I will write briefly about one of the main reasons why many of us are unable to create the right condition within ourselves and hence do not realize that love is staring right at our face each time we look into the mirror.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How Life will Treat You

Today is a good day (just like any other) to renew my blog presence since today I complete 49 years of three dimensional existence on our planet and what day can be better to prove to my distracters that I am still very much alive. With real friends (not FB friends) hailing from all the 7 continents, predictably the wishes started arriving before I arrived into the day. So the first wishes came all the way from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea, Singapore etc then the ones from India, east Asia, Gulf, slowly nudging into Africa and eastern Europe and now as I write this from western Europe. I am sure by evening / night they will be coming from across the Atlantic and then from the Pacific shores. Few wishes have already arrived from beyond the Andes though.

Each one of the wishes contained the word ‘happy’ most of them contained ‘exciting’ and many contained ‘inspiring’ and some contained ‘amazing’ few ‘adventure’ some ‘rock’ some ‘party’ and quite a few ‘smile’ and ‘love’ and ‘kisses’ and one even contained ‘climbing’. As the wishes poured in through the ether and electronic medium such as FB, email, LinkedIn, Viber, Skype etc and as the above words started falling in place I realized that not one of the wishes or words that my friends have sent my way, not only now but even otherwise, contain anything that can be construed as negative or contrary to the way of my life. Though I must agree I do not party much but yes I do treat life as a party. And this brings me to the crux of this post; how does life treat you depends upon how you treat life to begin with. It’s like playing tennis against a wall. What you give is what you get.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Summing up 2013

The year of 2013 is nearing its predestined end. Even though we are still a fortnight away, I am offering my regular year end post bit early as from tomorrow I would be in situations from where a post may not be practically feasible; and perhaps where a post or internet would not be a part of my itinerary at all. Yes, you guessed it; I am off into my mountains.

Barring a few, who have sighted me recently, perhaps most of you out there who know me only vicariously by now presume that I am no more, not in the physical sense since my last post happened more than three months ago. But I am here once again to disappoint you. I am alive, very much so, and laughing at the paradox of it all. Though I must say if not for the year end post, I would have written another post only in 2014, since till now I had written exactly 13 posts, and that seemed beautiful for the year 2013. But alas, as so much in life is unpredictable, you will now have 14 posts in my blog for the year 2013. And why did I want to keep 13 posts for the year 2013? Well, if you reverse it, it spells my birth date – 1302 or 13th Feb. So 2013 has been a unique numerological year for me. Such a year has never been before and will never again be in the history or future of mankind, no matter how far or long that future is. And I am one of the lucky ones living right now, who could have a year of such significance. So now read on and discover what I did this year, where all did my wandering feet take me and how it once again turned out to be as much as a nail biting adventure as my perennial soul searching quest for what I know not what I seek!