Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Goofiest Mistakes of My Life

People often ask me what have been my worst moments in life, when I almost died, or felt that I wouldn’t get back alive, when everything seemed hopeless and totally lost. My answer normally is that despite anything nothing is ever hopeless. As long as I have my last breathe within me even if I am totally lost and on the verge of dying. There is hope as long as there is life. And then I embellish it with saying that there are no worst or best moments in life; it all depends on which side of the fence you are looking at it from that decides if it was worst or best; albeit it was certainly a MOMENT.

Whereas it is said that you should count your life by how many moments that took your breath away, I normally count them by how many mistakes I made and therefore learnt something out of it and in my case my mistakes are always goofy since I laugh about them upon my own silly attitude. Oxford dictionary defines goofy – ludicrous or foolish; and mistake – a wrong action attributable to bad judgment, ignorance or inattention. Hence the title of this post signifies – Most ludicrous and foolish acts of mine that is attributable to bad judgment, my ignorance (I love this reason) and my inattention. Obviously in most of these instances I was alone. I have divided these acts into several categories with top 10 in each category in order to make it more specific, in case some of you are inspired to follow my path of ‘untrodden’ trails… read and follow at your own peril!

Goofiest Mistakes with Wildlife – these are essentially encounters with the wildlife in very wild and remote places. Now read on

Stepping on the tail of a sleeping lioness with cubs playing nearby – Kenya

Surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves with nothing to defend myself with – Himalaya India

Camping right next to a hippo watering hole and waking up in the morning totally swamped by a massive herd of Hippos all around, few even squatting on the door of my tent; totally unaware that there was a human and a pink tent among them – Zambia

Stepping on a sleeping Malabar Pit Viper while walking through one of the largest rainforests in dark and then being bitten by it and almost dying in the process – India

Wandering right into a herd of African female elephants and their babies all alone and then being chased by them – Kenya

Stepping into the gob populated by Anacondas and then being pulled down by one such giant (thankfully I was with a team of experts on such matters) – Amazon

Falling overboard into the ocean right in the middle of a pool of whale sharks – Indian Ocean

Swimming in a lake full of Nile Crocodiles with the crocs barely few meters away with eyes visible above the water – Ethiopia / Kenya

Being preyed upon by a hungry polar bear for a week – Svalbard, Norway

Stumbling almost into the lap of a feeding Himalayan brown bear right next to a glacier as I thought it was a big rock (since I had a back view) – India Himalaya

Goofiest Mistakes with Mountains and Wilderness – as the name suggest, these mistakes happened in wild areas like jungles, mountains, etc and had no human (except myself) or animal element to it. Now read on

Jumping off a high cliff into the void that had heavy mist with zero visibility, with no idea how far will I fall or upon what will I land; my truest leap of faith ever – Himalaya (I had no options but this one left)

Running down a glacier full of crevasses unroped and then falling into a big one just when the sun had set – Patagonia, Argentina (this was me at my stupidest)

Dropping my anchor runner while hanging 1000 m above nearest horizontal ground on one of the world’s longest and severest rock walls – Arctic Canada (a climber’s worst nightmare, thankfully clipped to my rope I had one of the finest rock climbers as my partner)

Not clipping into safety static rope while zooming down the sheer slopes of many 8000 peaks; one tiny tumble or crampon snuff or just about anything could have hurtled me to sure death – Nepal Himalaya (I know I should not be doing this, but somehow keep doing it)

Walking knowingly on to a heavily corniced ridge, just so I could step on the highest spot on the summit, to keep a promise I had made to a girl, and then falling right through the cornice dangling over 8000 ft of empty air – India Himalaya (I have never repeated this again)

Falling off a raft while doing grade 4 white water rafting just before we hit a waterfall; the raft almost fell on my head, which would have smashed me into pieces – Venezuela (I swore I will never raft in my life again)

Getting caught in a massive avalanche while taking pictures and totally unaware of my surroundings – French Alps (I had never rebuked myself so vociferously as that time)

Jumping across a huge crevasse just to get a good picture while there was the option of walking around it, like the rest of my team – East Karakoram, India (I just made it to the other side and if one of my members hadn’t extended his hand in anticipation, I would have surely slid back into the bottomless icy pit)

Plunging off a cliff along with one of world’s top base jumpers without really knowing how to do such things; we hit the freezing water in seconds that nearly killed me – Norway (I couldn’t talk or turn my neck for a week thereafter)

Agreeing to climb on-sight with a pissed drunk Italian in the middle of a Scottish winter storm night – Scotland (I still marvel about the fact that on that night I didn’t kill him or vice versa)

Goofiest Mistakes with Civilization and Humanity – these are incidents that happened due to other human beings being where they were and where I should not have been. Now read on

Spending my own money to visit Luxembourg for a day (I wouldn’t visit it again even if someone paid for the trip)

Not buying a ticket from Barcelona to Ljubljana 3 months in advance when the bargain price was below 30 Euro (a month later it was 440 Euro and therefore I never took that flight)

Getting stuck at Times Square on New Year day – New York

Declining the lift offered by a solo motorist (who looked like a serial killer) in the northern part of Iceland (I had to walk thereafter for 3 more days before I found any transport or human)

Letting the steward convince me to order ‘day’s special’ in an uptown joint in Beijing. I had presumed the price tag of 30 US $ equivalent would ensure it is a decent something to eat; of course I wasn’t footing the bill (I won’t even mention here what it was that finally lay in front of me)

Playing ‘ball con game’ to win easy money with an Albanian ruffian right beneath Big Ben – London (I lost 40 pounds in 10 seconds; and though I often gamble with my life and limbs, I never before or after did anything so stupid with my own money)

While walking at dead night, stumbling into a knife fight between two rival gangs – Turkey (I was inches away from one of the knives, they finally let me go after ensuring I was an Indian)

Sharing cup of tea with Talibans brandishing AK 47 and lying through my teeth of my true identity – Afghanistan (I told them I was a poor cook from India in search of job)

Being imprisoned by civil war group and about to be beheaded as they believed we were foreign spies – Sudan (I still don’t know what saved us)

Hijacked by Somalian bandits – Kenya / Somalia border (I was saved by Samburu women)

Goofiest Mistakes with Travel – these are mistakes committed while traveling around the world using different modes of transportation. Now read on

Believing that I could get a public bus from JFK airport to downtown in the middle of the night – New York (there were no bus and none of the advertized pick up services either. I called several such listed numbers but was told gruffly that at such an hour my only succor was a taxi)

Asking for an aisle seat in the rearmost row of a Mongolian Airlines flight of 4 and half hours (instead of the galley and company of lovely airhostess, as it normally happens on a normal airlines at such a location, I was stuck next to the stinkiest airborne loo ever. Only my iron hard constitution prevented any major calamity)

Flying JSC national carrier in less than a year after it’s separation from USSR – Kyrgyzstan (to call it a ‘flying coffin’ would be an insult to a coffin and to call the only airhostess aboard a woman or a hostess would be even worse. As the flight took off, her only words were – now we surrender you all to the gods)

Buying a return ticket on Tajik Air for Delhi – Dushanbe – Delhi sector (Onward sector was ok, but when I returned to Dushanbe after a month long adventure and tried to reconfirm my return flight two days before departure, I was told that the airlines no longer existed. I almost had a heart attack)

Presuming that a pretty girl behind wheels would be safe and honest – Mexico (a taxi ride that cost me all my money, possession, almost everything except my passport and travel documents. I was literally robbed at gun point)

Believing I could find my way through the labyrinths of Italian catacombs on my own – Italy (but for a kindly soul, I would now be another skeleton in those catacombs; I still believe that soul was a real soul who whisked up a human form just to get me out of there)

Forgetting to check the last ferry timing between an offshore island (believed to be haunted at night) and mainland – Northern Scotland (I had to shiver my way through one of the coldest and tortuous nights of my life in company of ghosts and ghouls and nocturnal animals of all kind)

Taking lift with a drug and gun runner (I had no idea who he was) and then being chased by cops through hair pin bends and precipitous roads of Andes – Columbia (this must rank as among my scariest experiences of all time, I was never sure what or who would kill me eventually – the driver, his foul language and breath, the road, the mountains, or the cops)

Walking into a Thai message parlor (you know what it is) just for a look and coming face to face with a married friend who was visiting with his family and we all were staying at the same hotel whose wife I knew very well

Telling an Egyptian belly dancer that her belly should have been narrower (that is the only instant in my life that a woman has slapped me with vicious intent)

I am now going to conclude this post, even though the goofiest mistakes of my life are so many that it would need a book to capture them all. I have only named 40 of them under four categories as I could recall now and they for sure rank among my worst or best; depending upon how you view them.

As you would realize by now that almost all of these mistakes could have been avoided, were also attributable to my own disregard to normal rational standards that a normal human is normally constrained within; but then to get out of the ‘normal’ zone is my specialty. Most of them were potentially hazardous and could have killed me though some of them were harmless enough but what underlines and connects each is the inherent silliness and the fun part they all share. 

We cannot savor life’s craziness by staying normal and the only way to live life fully is to surrender to your impulses, no matter where they hit you, how hard they hit you or how bizarre it may be; if you feel like doing something just do it. Like I do every time, each time, without fail.

And be like the wise man who said – mistakes are stepping stones to success.  


  1. you could very well turn this post into a book, S.. lol... so here's another idea that will soon get shelved since the author is too busy making one goofy mistake after another ;-)

    the mistakes in the mountains share are creepy/scary/silly... am glad you survived each and every one of them!

  2. Most of these deserve further elaboration ---