Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ignorance and such other things

There’s a good reason why I never repeat a climb or a route in my life with very few exceptions. It simply boils down to ‘fear’.

Once back I would realize how tormenting and nigh terminating my endeavor had been and I would be afraid to let my body and mind undergo the ritual one more time. Therefore, always a new route, new summit and a new trail that would pull me into the world of maddening mountains. If I hadn’t experienced it, no matter how the guidebooks or someone else who had, described it, then it couldn’t be that difficult; my asinine belief always convinced my wayward mind thus. Though it can be added safely that nearly half of my adventures did not find an earlier mention in any guidebook nor had they been marred by any human presence prior to mine. Curses and expletives were certain to follow but then ignorance is indeed bliss. And if at a later stage (that always happened) I would feel that I had once again been duped into something nearly impossible, that stage often occurred well after I had crossed the ‘point of no return’ when it did not matter anymore. That’s precisely where my life’s dictum of ‘no option being the only option’ would surface and keep me going on the face of complete and total opposition. What else could I do! I have never accepted fate (it doesn’t exist for me) but I have shaped my destiny; helped nature weave it around my actions so that at the end of the day I and solely I am responsible for where I was or where I wasn’t.

What perhaps would seem most intriguing to you, as it is to me, that how come I relied so much on my ignorance and still succumb to these urges that are certain to get me killed sooner or later.

I choose my adventures based simply on ignorance. The lesser known the better, unheard of was best. Unseen, uncharted, unclimbed, unheralded, etc were words that often occur in my expedition reports and presentations. While amazingly rejuvenating, such endeavors have a down side as well. In a manner of speaking I have more failures than success, fewer peaks climbed than attempted and more trails lost than found. Like a friend’s daughter told me amidst the august gathering in the US where I had just finished one of my most technical presentations, ‘Uncle you are not a good climber at all, you keep falling all the time… my dad never falls.’ My friend, the poor guy, hid himself from me over the next five days. But his daughter was right in her perspective; I am not really a good climber and I wonder if I am or have ever been good at anything at all.

It is easy to lose your thoughts and ways within nature even when you have reliable maps at your disposal. So I am constantly lost and often lose the trails intentionally since I believe that only when you are lost do you begin to look and discover what was unknown before. How boring life would be if all of us only stuck to the known lanes and paths. So come and join me and lose yourself only to find what you did not know you had lost. On the topic of losing I must offer my views about what I call as the technological invasion of the outdoors. Without a doubt I am thankful to science and technology for making our lives safer and with lesser perils but at what cost! I severely detest using any technological gadgets, be it for communication or trail finding or anything at all, in the mountains. I rather prefer to rely on good old nature, the celestial bodies, clouds, the animals, the mountains and my own instincts for self preservation. I am often called regressive in such matters. I am yet to use a GPS and have only used the satellite communication under direct orders of a superior officer, failing which I would have been court-marshalled or worse face a firing squad.

Imagine my horror in 2004 on the summit of Mt Everest when I found an American boy of twenty and half calling his mother from the top of the world and inquiring what she was supping on. If I was permitted I would have booted him off the top without the benefit of a parachute. People carry their mobiles, iPods, PDAs, GPS, etc into the mountains as if the world will stop functioning without them.

I remember once I was ambling along with a friend and his family through a familiar trail, while his two young boys had fallen behind by no more than 50 meters. We could see them clearly. Suddenly my friend pulled out his GPS and Motorola radio set and spoke to his elder son, ‘Rajiv, we are at co-ordinates XXXX North and YYYY East. We will be waiting for you at XXXX North and YYYY East. At your present speed of walking you would be with us in the next four minutes. Mark the way point and follow your GPS. God bless and god speed. Over and out!’ I didn’t know if he had done it to impress me or irk me or that was how parent’s today behaved, but at that moment I deliberated between the choices of kicking my friend on his ample butt or just leaving his company. A man who has never lost himself has not known paradise.

Let me reassure you all techie geeks that no one wants to kill or maim or make your life unnecessarily difficult including Mother Nature; specially Mother Nature. She is a life-giver and preserver. Just listen to her humbly accepting what she offers. Do not demand more than you deserve and no harm would come your way. And if something did go wrong then that was or is your destiny, which in turn signifies that it wasn’t wrong at all. Extinguishing your life’s flame in the laps of lofty mountains is a privilege reserved for very few chosen ones. I would certainly like to be one of those.

How can we break down nature and its vagaries into terminologies and metaphors, data and graphs! Why make it all so complicated. Just go up, what the hell! Are you measuring every step you take or every breath you labor as you walk through your daily life! Tell me of one single scientist who counts the number of calories he is partaking with every bite of food. On a mountain why do you need to measure anything at all, since your aim is to reach the conical top and when you reach there, you will know that you are there. No GPS or satellite phone has to confirm what your eyes and mind can see and your feet can feel. I miss those heady days when we could simply disappear from civilization at will and return after months without a care.

No one inquired or need to know what happened. I still remember that many of my foreign friends and Indians as well believed that I was a secret service agent since I would disappear so often without a plausible cause and they had no way of knowing where I was.

Though a camera is a must for the outdoors and mountain climbing, I often prefer to pocket it when it might deem to be most useful. My best action shots and finest moments on the mountains are framed only in my mind. I take pictures only when my heart stirs and tells me to, not just because I have to. Often in those ethereal moments my heart bids me to stay still and soak in the sight solely for my individual pleasure. And then there are moments when a camera is the last thing on my mind. It’s only later, when back on solid ground, would I lament at my lapse. I still belong to the old school of transparencies and have only just started dabbling with a digital camera which I find is a good tool to learn the basic skills and to polish your existing ones but it is no match for transparencies.

Well I could go on and on about such things but then I must pause here today, lest you be bored by now with my random ramblings. Though I am not sure what this post is about or what had been my intent on posting it for the public but to return to the title, I must admit that ignorance is indeed a bliss, how else would you learn if you do not accept your ignorance.

I am often asked what I really gain or would anyone else gain from such senseless and apparently harmful activities. I have no definite answer to this query. To each his own, I guess is what seems most likely. You tell me what I really gain. Though I know exactly what I lose. I lose weight and the top layer of my skin.

With that I will bid you goodbye and ponder about the next adventure into my ignorance.


  1. Technology is a pain in the butt and the less we use it the better our lives are, though the sad part is we really can't do without it! guess, each one of us should just define our limits to its usage.
    Ignorance is bliss, but I don't think I can ever leap towards it in a way that could lead to my death. Life is meant for living, so why would u direct it towards a 'maybe death'????
    My dream is to extinguish my life's flames in the mysterious depths of the oceans! hope u achieve yours and me mine!