Monday, September 14, 2009

Trek to Naneghat - An Ideal Week end Get away

Published in The Times of India - Chembur Ghatkopar Plus on 26th Sept2009

We started our journey from Mumbai at 630 am and reached the base of Naneghat by 930 am. The place is about 2 hours from Kalyan (approximately 55 kms). Since it had started raining while we were in Mumbai, we knew we were in for a treat at Naneghat. It is essential to have a nice breakfast before starting the trek and we did just that. This is important because it provides a lot of energy required for the trek and secondly the trek doesn’t offer any food on the way. What Naneghat offers is lush greenery and abundance of natural beauty. It was drizzling when we started moving upwards. A few minutes’ later clouds allowed us to view the glorious and the magnificent thumb shaped peak of Naneghat and next to it was the V-shaped Naneghat pass. We stared at them with reverence and anticipation. In a way, it also appeared like the beautiful woman, who appears unattainable and thus depressing.

We, however, a group of 19 decided to stretch our ambitions to 3000 feet (as that’s where the pinnacle lies), take the uncertainties head-on and started moving slowly, steadily and firmly amidst dazzling surroundings. Most of us were first timers and were in awe of the amazing landscape this place was offering us. The trek is labeled easy but an amateur has to be cautious because of the slippery surface. Moments later it started pouring again and as if it was time to shut the doors to the magical view on the top, the zinc colored clouds covered it. We continued moving forward amidst desultory and dangling conversation, and exploring the post card worthy landscapes around.

As we continued our pursuit, the slightly wider road turned itself into a much narrower one. Since it was raining heavily, the path upwards was completely water laden, with the water hardly allowing us to view the rocks beneath it to step on them. It was alike walking amidst a waterfall. The decision to step on any rock was based on sheer intuition. The path may not have been difficult otherwise. The flowing water did two things to us; firstly it slowed us down and secondly it robbed us from watching the breathtaking views around.

The perseverance ultimately paid off as we reached the top of Naneghat and were in for a big surprise. Little did we know that the path on which we were walking assiduously was of historical importance. The cave’s on the top has scriptures written on its walls in Brahmi language and the V-shaped pass was once upon a time used for trade. It belonged to the famous Satavahana rulers and the presence of a huge pot made of rocks confirms this. It is believed that the traders using this path used to insert a gold coin in the pot as toll. It seemed like a chapter straight out of one of those history text books. It was an enthralling experience for us knowing how unknowingly we stumbled upon such a historically significant landmark. It was a trip back to time. The isolation of such a beautiful place was however a bit aching.

After lunch, we started moving skywards - towards the top of “The Thumb” - a cliff from one side and accessible from the other. The valley had however decided to not let us view it and therefore remained enveloped in the fog. Standing at 3000 feet, I got a feeling of déjà-vu. I recalled standing at 18000 feet at Khardung La in Ladakh last year wondering how much higher, the sky could be. I wonder about it every time standing at great heights.

We shared a few unforgettable moments of solitude; away from the crushing monotony the urban life offers, till it was time to head back. As we started moving downwards we realized that the water was flowing downwards at a great speed making it difficult for us to walk. However, as the rain stopped and the water receded we started moving more comfortably. The thick dark clouds which tested us earlier also parted and we were in for a magnificent view around the ghats. We were thus able to view top of the famous Kalsubai, Bhimashankar, Harishchandraghad and Siddhaghad. The mountain ranges of Matheran also were peeping amidst the clouds.

We finally reached the place where we had begun and soon started heading home. While the vehicle moved, I kept staring at the Naneghat, with a feeling of conquest. The reverence before the journey had turned into a meaningless ego, a trait that resides in every human. To my surprise, the mountain quite at peace with itself smiled back at me, as if it was happy to let me conquer it. So powerful yet so humble, I told myself. Suddenly the ego seemed trivial, and I stared at the peak again, this time with affection and bid it good-bye.

Trek To Naneghat -

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monza - 2009

It was a day of huge anticipation for Force India. After the superb performance at the Belgium circuit where Fisichella managed a podium finish, a lot was expected of them. Adrian Sutil, who was never touched by history before, didn’t disappoint. It was a professional performance from the German but he got the rough end of the pineapple. He finished 4th and was denied a podium finish by the Brawn GP who pulled off a 1-2 finish. The bar for this race wasn’t raised too much but Sutil will definitely agree that sometimes the difference between the best and the rest is a matter of only a few seconds. He unfortunately lost 2 valuable seconds because of a small error in the pit stop when he lost control over the brakes slightly knocking out two pit crew. He managed to earn points because Hamilton spun his car in the second last lap.

Rubens Barichhello the eventual winner of the race managed to reduce the lead from 16 to 14 for the driver’s championship. Kimi Raikonnen continued his fine form by finishing third, though the difference was between Ferrari and Force India was only paper thin.

This race once again showed us how crucial the KERS is. Both Hamilton and Raikonnen used it to their advantage to keep their cars adrift from Adrian Sutil who was driving exceedingly well in his KERS less car. Sutil never gambled, but his duel with Raikonnen was the highlight of the race.

Earlier, Hamilton also ensured he take a maximum advantage of the pole position. He drove the McLaren wonderfully well and looked set for earning points till the penultimate lap when he lost control on the car and hit the side walls, thus bringing out the safety car on the track. This ensured the Brawn win and there were no more challenges for Sutil.

Sutil’s partner Liuzzi looked aggressive throughout and looked set for points, but a mechanical failure ensured he retired after 22 laps. Giancarlo Fisichella had a quite race but managed to finish 9th eventually and Fernando Alonso of Renault came 5th.

The race belonged to Force India who has shown that the win last week was not a fluke and from now on would be taken seriously by the leaders. It is a wonderful phase for the team which comes rarely and hope they consolidate because it would be good not only for them but also for the longevity of the sport in our country.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Getting Green

I woke up with a feeling of relaxation, envisaging a lazy day. The thoughts from the previous day at work were still there. They normally stay with me for the entire day, at times ensuring I am only physically present at home, not mentally. In the evening, I reached the dojo – my Karate school, which to me is a perfect get away from the stress of the entire week. The thoughts I had made me oblivious of the proceedings at the dojo. After the regular jimi ondo session in which we warm up our body and ready it for the arduous training, Sensei Bahadur announced my name. I suddenly realized I was going to get a Vidori Obi - the Green Belt. I passed the Ro Kyu, the 6th test a couple of days back and when the results were announced I was told I did pretty well.

Having left the training midway 5 years back, the Green Belt to me appeared as attainable as a Film Fare award to Vivek Oberoi. Sensei Mahesh told me I was a half Kuro Obi – a Black Belt. I felt his words would act as a catalyst for me to yearn for more and so I told him this was indeed a huge motivation. Of course, the next goal would be an Ik kyu – the coveted Brown Belt and then the glorious, the magnificent and my ultimate dream - a Sho dan, The Black Belt. To me there is romance associated with Karate and thus with a glimmer in the eye, I took off the orange belt and wore the new Green Belt. I felt I was the centre of the universe with every student staring at me and clapping enthusiastically. I still hear the sharp echo while I write this article (it was the first time I received a belt in front of the entire dojo). The journey was thrilling so far and the testimonial convinced me of my own skills. The anger and deprivation that I may have carried from the daily disappointments of the previous week appeared trivial and the new belt seemed soothing like a balm. Being pertinacious paid off. I would now be setting an example for the younger lot. They’d be looking up to me as a senior. In other words I felt like a super-star, conscious of the significant landmark of my life. I was ecstatic.

I was soon asked to initiate the training where the senior students normally train in the dojo. The senior’s stood in a row facing the junior students so that they can watch them and emulate.

While training, a delicious thought passed my mind. I realized that
I was doing the same things that I did last week and perhaps weeks before. The new senior student testimonial had not made much of a difference.

After the ephemeral ecstasy of the acquisition of the new belt downed itself, I realized that inspite of being a senior student now; I was still learning and trying to perfect the basics. Sensei ensured that we learn new things but still remain in touch with the basics. This was an inescapable fact. We kept doing the standard Tzuki Waza, punching basics and Geri Waza, kicking techniques not once or twice but hundreds of times till we became energetically bankrupt, weary with the battle at hand and the next conquest seemed daunting, but we still continued. I thought I always knew this but was amazed at the way I re-discovered it.

I realized that in Karate and in life, this balance is a key to success. Every time we have to explore unchartered territories, learn new things, and acquire new skills while remaining grounded. Many things are to be learned from here on, I told myself. I would however need to be aware of the high flying thoughts popping up every now and then, capable of distracting my mind and would need to shoot them down. The training would become stringent and I would need to break physical, mental and emotional barriers, set by none other but myself. With the Green already in the kitty, the real act begins now.