Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ten Reasons why Flying is riskier than climbing Everest

Crossing crevasse on Everest

I often have discussions with friends and well-wishers about the element of risk involved in my ordinary day to day life and I always insist that my life has far less risk than a regular city dweller; where she crosses the roads, drives, drinks tap water, etc each such so-called mundane activity that is actually very high on risk element. We simply do not realize this that your life is at a much higher risk than mine, especially when I climb those stupendously steep walls of ice or step into the death zone. So to give you a point by point comparison, I have picked up two supposedly diametrically opposite activity that can be grasped by all. Let’s say I am climbing Everest and you are just boarding a flight to a vacation or work; here are the ten reasons why you are taking a much higher risk than I: -

Saturday, November 15, 2014

All about Self

Two days back I received a message from a friend who I hadn’t met or communicated for a good number of years. We were in love once. I still am and I am guessing she too is though it’s now more like you love a fool since he is a source of entertainment. The message in exact these words –

“People say you are still alive and I hope you are, yet I think you must be dead frozen stiff actually stuck to one of your silly vertical ice walls in some silly godforsaken corner of the planet. I don’t think you would ever read these words, at least not in your earthly avatar and being dead why would you even care to read mails even if you had the technology to do so. Do they have internet in heaven or hell or wherever in between places you might be? Oh goodness, what a silly question. Now the real question is if you are already dead, according to my presumption, why I am even writing this message to you! I am writing to you because I need to write to my own self, to my soul and I can only do so by writing to you; the only man who reached into my soul and discovered me to me. I cannot write or talk to my own self since it doesn’t listen but when I write or talk to you it goes silent and listens. You are the only one who can silence me into hearing what I need to say to myself. You fathomed me you discovered me you expanded me you buried me annihilated me made me extinct and only after that did you bring me alive to show me what it is like to be me. It was never about you or us, it was always about me, even when you told me your stories of madness and laughter, they were all about me. When you glorified your mistakes and underplayed your triumphs it was still about me. When you kissed me and held me in your arms and whispered that you loved me it was all about me because only by making it all for me made any sense to you. When you left me for the mountains not telling me where you went and if ever you would return it was again for me and when you returned or appeared like a ghost out of my dreams into my life it was all for me. As long as I had you with me I didn’t realize that all I had to do to keep you with me was to keep me with me so I suffered in anguish and pain each time you left and since you never said what was meant to be. I realized all this when you were gone without promise to return. Faced with an emptiness I knew not how to handle or if I even needed to I turned to every word you had ever uttered and to every gesture you ever made or words you wrote and slowly like an archaeologist sifting and brushing through immense debris of time I found that I had you always with me even before I knew you existed since I always had me. You may ask do I need you now and honestly I must tell you that no I don’t need you like I need air to breathe or water to live but yes like I love the scent of a fragrant rose in the air I breathe it would be wonderful if I could breathe you. If you are dead I wish you eternity of love and life and if you are still alive then I wish you many more years of silly craziness. You will never be me and I will never be you; I will always be me. Since I don’t thank the air I breathe every moment I am not going to thank you, acknowledgement of the obvious is neither needed nor desired. It is only to be acknowledged as being there. You are there because I am there. You are not there for me because you are there for you as I am there for me. If you ever read this message then perhaps you would smile and think of me but I know that you will never reach out to me since I already have me. When we love someone or something even beyond the point of necessity then it is enough to just love and be. Let us just be.”

Sometimes even that is obvious must be stated, so as you can see – I am very much alive, I will not respond to this mail, I will not correct or edit her grammatically challenged message and the only reason I put this here is to increase the number of posts in my blog by one. As it so happens I have so much to write in so many platforms these days that my own blog is suffering my procrastination so there it is. Like they say (I still don’t know who this ‘they’ is) – live like you will die right now and love like you never will.

I am out of here, seriously!

Live UP Don't Give up

Einstein once said that we truly fail when we give up; as long as we do not give up we continue to progress and learn and even if we do not achieve the desired outcome at the end of the day, we do not fail.

We can pause, we can ponder, we can change our tactics and strategies, we can rest and recuperate, but we can never give up. Giving up is a finality like quitting, to not continue to pursue what you truly wish to achieve leads to real failure. As long as you do not give up you are on the journey of discovery.

Life is such that almost nothing would ever happen exactly the way you plan or wish it to happen. You never made a plan to read these words, but you are here right now reading this post. And you have no idea how far or close you might be to your goal. You don’t know when things will start turning your way and which doors will open when you knock hard enough. You do not know what the horizon will bring you unless you have climbed high enough to peek beyond. The goal of having a goal is only so you begin the journey. The journey is important and the only way you can keep it going is by never giving up.

The initial goal with which you might have started your voyage would eventually shift, transform and modify, so even if you don’t achieve that goal it is not a failure since it isn’t a goal anymore in the present. But what is important is the journey that you began and upon which you are embarked right now. There’s no way you can give up on the journey just because you didn’t find the milestone on the way that you wanted to cross. Because I am sure you have crossed that milestone already or soon you would but your eyes didn’t sense it or you crossed it far high above. If you walk along a meridian in a perfect straight line; you would keep crossing latitudes every moment, which means that you are crossing every point on earth that lies on that latitude. You won’t see most of these points, yet you have crossed them.

There is no fixed goal there is no constant ideas or unchanging dreams. The failure in life is to believe that there are. All we have and would ever have is the journey upon which we are. Upon which you would always be no matter how fast or tardy you move or in which direction. Just do not willingly stop the journey. As long as you live the journey must continue and there is no giving up on it.

Like the rabbit told Alice: if you don’t know where you want to go then any direction you walk is fine and you will certainly reach a place that you don’t know if you want to go if you walk long enough.

The walking part is vital in our lives. Everything emerges out of it.

Once someone asked me if all my philosophies on life and living comes from the mountains and nature and I assured him that they most certainly do.

Look at a trickling stream that emerges out from the snout of a Himalayan glacier; when it did, I am sure it did not plan nor did it have any idea of where or how it is going to go. The cliffs it would cascade from giving birth to enchanting waterfalls, gurgling brooks through the alpine meadows, sinuous trails through villages and then forming a frothing river through valleys and towns finally joining the great oceans of the world.

The entire journey happened at random yet it is perfect. We cannot plan a better journey for that little trickle from the glacier snout.

Perhaps physically it is not possible for humans to be like this trickle but mentally and spiritually we should strive to be such. To be ready to follow the fancies of nature and mind and to keep moving and forever changing; expanding to embrace horizons as well as shrink into a snowflake if necessary. Who can tell if you succeeded or failed? What could define if goals were met or not? How can we say if you lived for a cause or in vain?

All we can say is that you lived; and that my friend is more than what can be said for many of us.

If you truly lived you succeeded. Don’t give up. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Who Defines your Reality

Many years back I met a recently crowned Ms World, whom the media had touted as the most beautiful woman in the world (obviously). So I asked her if she really believed that; and she said an emphatic ‘Yes’. I took another ten minutes to show her that it wasn’t an objective truth and there’s no way that she was the most beautiful woman on Earth. Her title was true only after applying so many variables and factors and limiting criteria that by the end of our discussion the poor girl was literally walloping in her real tears. So I consoled her by saying that it really didn’t matter what I or anyone else said, and she really did not have to go for a breast lift or dental fix to be truly the most beautiful woman; all she needed was to believe and that’s all. We became friends and very soon she totally felt as the most beautiful woman ever in the history of mankind and didn’t give a damn to her title or to the media or to anyone saying anything at all. Even after all these years, with a twenty year old kid and a belly line that slightly bulges around her bikini bottoms, she believes that she is still the most beautiful woman on Earth. And I totally agree.

That’s the power of positive belief that creates your own realities. Your reality is what you want to believe.

Man of Leisure

When I was still in my teens (I am still there mentally though), I had read a short story about a man of leisure; it was a great story of a Scotsman who simply lived a life of leisure, doing or not doing anything that he did or didn’t want to do. He wasn’t tied down by any other conditions of life; everything depended upon his wish. That to me had seemed a charming way of living; live the way you wish, do what you want and do not do what you do not want to – very simple. Over the years in search of true freedom I never realized that I too had become a sort of man of leisure. And just few days ago a distant friend (distant in distance) pointed out to me that I was a man of leisure; which, she promptly added, was the pipe dream of most men and women anyway.

Due to my faltering and blistering grasp of the language, I first checked the online Oxford Dictionary (don’t tell me you still own and consult a paper real dictionary) for the definition and it proclaimed – a person who does not need to earn a living. Which in effect means he or she can do whatever he pleases and hence whatever he does is his leisure activity and doesn’t have to bother if the activity gets any money or not. So if your activities are not bound by the need to earn money then whatever you are and do becomes leisure (or so I suppose). Consequently, which means, that everyone who has to earn a living is not a person of leisure.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why Possession is self defeating

Today let’s look at one of the greatest lessons nature has taught me that possessiveness is self-defeating; you cannot possess without losing and when you do not possess you cannot lose.

What do we really need to live, I mean ‘really, really’ - air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. Can we possess any of these things; and come to think of it, do we ever even want to possess them. Have you ever thought, when you breathe in the sweet mountain air or the invigorating ocean breeze that this air should belong to you and only to you, or when you drink water (perhaps you feel possessive of the water bottle in a hot summer day) that only you should have the privilege to clean drinking water, or that all food should only be for you. I don’t think any of us have ever thought about these things, even though without these three we cannot be alive. Despite being absolutely essential to live, we do not feel possessive about these three. We don’t mind when 7 billion other human beings and countless other animals breathe in the same air from the same atmosphere, or drink water, or eat food. Similarly when the sun rises each morning we do not feel possessive about it and do not want to own it, so is with any other celestial body or the ocean or the sky.

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.