“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience”.- Eleanor Roosevelt
I must have recounted the instances a hundred times over to any person who would (or wouldn’t) ask me about it, narrated jokes and episodes and learning in deranged sequences, picking the best or my favourites from the horde of memories and experiences I’m clutching like a miser. Though I joined the course with no pre-notions or expectations (far from demands), I was right in thinking that I’m going to have to scamper around trying to grasp everything in a span of three days. Yes, Christmas had arrived a month earlier 🙂
I was uplifted and unnerved by this very thought- though I had been looking forward to being initiated into Rock Climbing, this was finally my first tryst with the rock face; and I really doubt if I could have gotten a better chance than this one. The volunteers there did make my acquaintance with them from the front page of a Marathi daily to the telephone and finally in person, way easier than I had anticipated though! Their humility and easygoing nature and willingness to give were lessons I picked, unintended.
Since the moment we got into the bus, I was in a way thrown in an abyss of new faces and unanticipated experiences; (funnily enough, the only other participant from Nasik was one I had only just met 10 mins. back). We were introduced to Usha tai on our way to Sinhagad, her bio data and dynamic personality, being intimidating in itself is overlapped by her simplicity and charm and warmth and she accepted us all- having moderate or minimal experience in trekking and mountaineering (well, even if we were absolutely at the rock bottom!) And she began to get us acquainted with the flora-fauna, geography and history of the place.
The stay was almost luxurious compared to what I had in mind and in the evening was the fort walk with Mr. Sachin Joshi, who, having been a part of the Archaeology dept. of Deccan College for over 5 years, knew Sinhagad at the back of his hand and it’s story in his heart. It was only after the evening that we realised there was more to this fort than it gave away on weekend our visits and there was yet another ‘face’ of it to be explored..
But we amateurs had to get acquainted with the gear before stepping out. Sessions on equipments, knots and hitches, first aid, back-packing, map making among other were organised, as were several unofficial ones ranging from survival on Everest to survival in Pune! And it was hard to jot down all those mental notes at the end of the day.
Come morning, we were all braced for our first introduction to climbing. The baby step towards the mother of all adventure sports! Trying to muster all the strength we could on rock patches and boulders all morning, was a lesson effectively learnt that scaling peaks is no joke and it takes years of persistent practice to come even close to where you see your heroes.. All the same, there was the broken hallelujah that you nailed what was at hand.
But at the backdrop of these thorough sessions was also laughter, chatter, songs, conversations and a mélange of varied backgrounds and ideas. That instance might have appeared most prominently the night we camped out. Trying to get 29 people to agree on any one thing is never easy, especially in an unfamiliar setting and with minimal resources. Yet, getting things organised and leaving little to chance, we participants managed to scrape up a meal and an experience I would forever cherish! (the bread n jam were kept handy, just in case ;)) A brief introduction to jumaring, rappelling and belaying followed, and an unexpected rock face-off awaited at the close of the course.
It’s times like these, where exertion becomes an endeavour, persistence becomes commitment, acceptance becomes happiness, giving becomes learning, meals become feasts, people become friends and relations become bonds, that we are introduced to the best of ourselves and others. And I would urge all to spend more time exploring these corners of ourselves, our cities and our environment.
It isn’t easy writing about times like these, yet, i would say that this was the perfect setting, and the perfect company to bring you face-to-face with the realities of your infatuation with a skill like this and give you enough to take home to ponder upon and be contended with for a few days, all the while breeding the longing to come back for more.