May 30, 2011

Rafting Trip - Part Three :: Three Blind Mice

Previously :: Something stared at me as I got out of the thunderbox hut...


I slowly backed into the thunderbox hut and zipped it up. The thing outside growled some more and then after a while, it stalked away. I don’t know what it was. Someone later told me that jackals sometimes frequent the camp and in the morning we saw the footprints of jackals in the sand.

It was Saturday morning and it was the day of rafting. We filled into a van which was loaded with two rafts, two guides and one kayaker who was to be the safety guy while we battled the rapids. We went up in the mountains where the river was calm and the spot from where most of the rafts were starting out. Our guide, Mr. Ram and his assistants inflated the rafts and gathered us up to give us instructions. Now, Mr. Ram was a funny dude, to say the least. Kept saying “sunny day, happy day” again and again. Kept joking while giving us instructions, and in all, it felt good to know that someone in the raft knew his business. It was a sunny day, didn't look much happy, but it was sunny.

Some People In Rafts
I was slightly nervous on the prospect of rafting, as anyone would be when doing something for the first time, but the river looked calm and I hid my nervousness by clicking pictures and joking with people in our group. We got all the safety instructions, how to pull a person in when they’re holding the safety line on the side of the raft, where to keep the oars when pulling a person in, how to hold the lifejacket in case we fall in the river, what to do if the raft capsizes, what are the injuries that can befall us in case the raft capsized. The nervousness I was hiding too well returned. But there was no looking back. Not now. The rafts were inflated and we pushed them into the water.

Got in the raft, got instructions on how to row. Which commands to follow. Did a few practice runs with the oars. It was fun. Then the guide told us all to put our cameras, goggles and other valuables in the plastic watertight bag that would be ziplocked to the front of the raft. We sailed along the calm river and our guide told us that we’ll be approaching the first series rapid soon. I looked ahead, but there was no rapid. The river looked calm as far as my eye could see. Then Mr. Ram told us that the first series of rapids is called “Three Blind Mice”. Nervousness and fear sat on my head and it was pretty justified. The first rapid was like a slap from God who is hiding behind a corner. It was horrifying. There was noise of water, I never thought it could get so loud, so cold and so hard. The raft spun around in the water like a toy duck in a washbasin that is swallowing water at speed of light. The raft went up and down like a see-saw, the sharks in the water smelled our fear and crowded the raft. Our guide hit a shark on the head with his oar and it swam away. All of us in the raft were screaming row row row but I saw the water and realized how puny we humans are in front of forces of nature. Someone hit me on the head with an oar and I bent down to hold the safety line. Land looked like the sweetest thing ever and I fantasized about setting foot on solid, hard, land again. The deafening sound of the rapids was all around us. It was hell, but full of water and cold.

Image via Google. Our rafting exp was scarier than this.
And as soon as the first rapid struck us, it was over. The river was calm again. We all looked at each other. Everyone was wet to the bone, scared and exhilarated. One person from our group started to laugh and the guide was screaming at us all because we all held the safety line with our heads down and no one was rowing through the first rapid! He told us that if we didn’t row, the raft would capsize and it would be more trouble for all of us. I took a deep breath and decided to row no matter how scary the next rapid looked. Little did I realize it was just the beginning. It was going to get worse before I set foot on land and one of us was going to fall in the river. The river with sharks in it...


In part four, rest of the rapids and a fall...into the river.

May 28, 2011

Rafting Trip - Part Two

Rocks By The River

The first encounter with the river was on the riverbank. The water was as cold as the sand was hot. It was a strange experience. One foot in the hot sand, one in the cold water and bob is your uncle. Whatever that means. 

We frolicked around the water for some time. Getting our feet wet, clicking pictures, exploring the shore, etc etc. It was nice for a change. There were some big rocks further off and we sat on them with our feet in the water. I felt like a mermaid or something. Saw some sharks swim by in the river, but they were far away so it was ok. Pretty safe. Unlike the people in the picture below. From some archives. 
Old Image of a river shark (2006). The raft that didn't make it.

The water was cold and it was nice. Then Angie, the co-camp manager, called out to us and told us that lunch was ready. We were all hungry like pigs after eating the shitty food in the train. Bless the cook there, the food was amazing. Now, I mostly don’t know the names of things I eat and this case was not any different. My rule for eating is simple, if it goes down your throat and stays down, its good food. This food at the camp was really good food. 

There was nothing much to do on the camp and after eating we retired to our tents to sleep for a while. It was not easy sleeping there. The tents were burning hot. I went out of my tent and spent some time with my feet in the cold river. Then the heat on my head drove me back in the tent. The sand stuck to my floaters and if I went back in the water to wash the sand off, and back to the tent through the sand, it was the SAME story. There is no escape from the sand when you camp at the sandy shore of a river. There is too much sand and it gets inside all the important places.

Evening fell and all was quiet by the banks of the river. There were a few birds chirping here and there, the sound of the river flowing in the background and other than that there wasn’t a sound anywhere. It was too quiet. I could hear the shrill whine of silence which just made me feel weird. There was no electricity and just a gas lamp in the “dining tent” where we took our dinner. I had eaten a lot that day and I felt like taking a shit. This was my first encounter with THE THUNDERBOX.

Now, as there was no plumbing in the camp, the toilet stuff had to be done in thunderboxes. Why is the strange conception called the thunderbox? I guess that’s cuz its pretty thunderous taking a shit in the jungle. Its primitive and as close to nature as one can get. The thunderbox is a box. A wooden box with a western seat on top of it. The box is open from the backside so that you can throw sand over your business once you’re done. This is pretty cool thing about the camp. Anything you do wrong, you can put sand over it. You don’t like the tea, throw it on the sand and out sand over it. Don't like people making noise, chop em up and bury them and put sand over them. All cool.

Anyway, sitting on and shitting in the thunderbox was a new experience. Not as thunderous as I was expecting, but thunderous enough. It was sweaty and clammy inside the little hut type enclosure and I had to sit while holding the zipper on the door in case someone else wanted to use the thunderbox and didn’t have the common courtesy to ask if someone was already in there.

That done, I got out of the thunderbox and there were two bright yellow eyes staring at me from the woods where the thunderbox was set up. And something growled.

It getting weird, no? More tomorrow. Did I make it safe from the thunderbox area? Or did I not?

May 27, 2011

The Rafting Trip - Part One

Broken Railway Bogey on Way to Haridwar

Hey all, I recently took a rafting trip which changed my life and changed me as a person. This is the account of that trip.

I wanted only a chill trip. Where I could sit by the river, eat good food, talk to friends, watch the fish in the water, see the sun rise/set from among the hills and such idyllic stuff. What I got was a raft on some of the most dangerous waters I’ve seen in my life, cold waters, hot sand, irritating sounds of the river, drunk people on the sandy beach, and a weird journey back home. In all, it was as awesome as it can be.

I started for Haridwar with a detour to Delhi because the friends I was going with had booked all our tickets from there. I could have gone by bus to Rishikesh and caught up with them, but for the sake of simplicity and pure feeling, we decided that we’d all leave from Delhi together. I left early night, reached Delhi early morning, and from there, we got on a train for Haridwar. The journey was OK, even though the people from NOH 2011 (some group in absurdly yellow shirts) did their level best to make the trip hell for everyone present in the compartment. They were playing a stupid game called Mafia. Only one person in their group knew the rules and rest of them just floundered along. They were loud, obnoxious people. I had the misfortune of talking to one of them and who told me that they were also going for rafting to Shivpuri, but fortunately not at the camp where we were going.

We reached Haridwar. The railway station was like any Indian railway station, only with more people. I saw all the people just sprawling where they could find space and felt a part of my heart go out for them. There were no babies to accidently kick around on the railway station, so that desire was left unfulfilled. We exited the railway station, stepping carelessly over the people who were sprawled here and there. An old man was standing near the gate with a piece of cardboard that had the printed name of our tour leader. The name was misspelled, but we excused that little instance of misdemeanor and went with the guy to the tata sumo that was tastily warmed in the harsh sun for our journey further towards the camp on the shore of river Ganga.

After a horribly hot, sweaty and sleepy sumo ride, we reached our camp. It was below the level of the road. A series of broken and unmade steps led to the camp. The first thing I noticed there was the sand. There was too much of it. And it was hot. Some of it got in my shoes with the first few steps I took on the sandy beach. The camp manager was a skinny dude who informed us about the camp. The place to take a shit, the unavailability of electricity or mobile signals, that we should not trip on the tent ropes and fall, and we should not enter the river without life jackets. They showed us our tents that were also roasting hot. I could have cooked an egg on that sand, it was that hot. I had to spend almost the next two days here. With no mobile signal and the battery of my phone almost down to three bars out of seven. I switched off my cell and put it in my bag. Changed into a pair of Bermudas and floaters. I was ready for the river. Or was I?

Ganga River, near our camp
Part two tomorrow.

May 4, 2011

Bored People Have Deaf Souls


This is the de-facto complaint of the people in the digital age. People write this shit on facebook, twitter, their status messages on gtalk and anywhere and everywhere they can write this. I hate these three words as much as I hate chocolate cake. How can a living, breathing human being be so out of wits that they get BORED?

I think I know the reason why people get bored. I'll share it with you. 

People get bored because their souls are deaf. 


... say, that makes no sense! Souls? Deaf? 

It makes sense. Come closer to the screen and we'll find out together. 

See, the bored people can't hear the Tick-Tock. And that is the reason they get bored. 

The Tick-Tock in question is the sound of our life bitching out on us. One second at a time.

We're all gonna die. There is no escape from that. 

And there is so much in the world we'll never see. So many books we'll never read, so many songs we'll never listen to, so many works of art we'll never get to experience, so many people we'll never meet.

So, I ask you, where is the time to get bored?

Don't you hear the Tick-Tock? Next time you "feel bored" try to think of everything you'll miss once you're dead. 

Might help you get things in perspective. 

Column:: Why You Should Not Say The Word Fuck Casually.

People swear a lot these days. It's in the movies, its on the printed page, its the beep beep on MTV. 

Its casual to say fuck. 

People don't raise an eyebrow when someone says fuck. Ten years ago someone saying shit was considered offensive. Now, even when people say fuck, no one gives a fuck. 

In my village, if someone said words like shit or fuck, we used to brand "asshole" on their forehead with a hot poker, but these days, people say fuck like its Diwali and fuck is the sound of crackers.

This is fucking wrong. 

Fuck is not a word that should be said so fucking casually. Why? Because the more you say it, the less it will sting. 

Fuck is a special word. When it has to be said, it should be like a sledgehammer on a nail. Repeat it enough and it will be a sponge hammer on a nail. Fucking useless.

Just like this post. By the time you read this sentence, you are desensitized to the word fuck. 

This word is a weapon. Use it wisely.

Go forth and rock!
Another column tomorrow.

May 2, 2011

About April

Hello all, 

Hope you enjoyed the April story. I did. As far as writing something everyday goes, it was a satisfying experience for me. Because, even though one day I hit 'send' at 11.59, I updated all 30 days. Which was my intention. I took the story somewhere, from beginning to the end, at I am sure that at all times there was at least one person reading what I wrote. So, hats off to you. Thank you for reading. It means a lot of me. More than I can explain here. 

Now, some thoughts about 

The Story.
It started as one thing, and it ended as something completely different. I wanted to write a simple story about a farm life where a family reaches a farm and goes through the trials and tribulations of, well living on a farm. The trouble which I faced here is that I've never lived on a farm and I was not able to relate the experience in real time or write about it honestly enough. One thing led to another and after the first three chapters, the story took the reigns and it led me, and you, where we stand today. This happens a lot. I write the first few chapters and then its out of my control. The story dictates itself, I am just the typist. 

The Twists
I tried to include a lot of plot twists and cliffhangers in this one. If it was a book or a story without daily chapters it would have been different type of writing. But here, I have to make sure, from my side at least, that the readers would come back tomorrow to read. Also, I have to keep the story moving forward, keep 'developing' the characters, take care that all the loose ends are close to wrapping at anytime the story demands. So, there is lot of things going on while taking care of twists and interesting points. Some times, a twist's seed has to be sown in some chapter very early on. But its like Chekhov's Gun "If a gun is shown in first act, it must go off in third act" or something. You can google the quote for exact words, I've a blogpost to write, which I am doing right now.

The Characters
I fucked up here. I normally don't include too many characters in a story. Because, I am yet to polish my technique well enough to give time and attention to every character in a story. Its a tough thing. I am fine with 3-4 characters, maybe even five, if i keep killing enough to keep them out of the story. More than five needs proper planning and this rapid storytelling, works so fast that I don't have time to catch up, let alone putting all the characters in their places and make them do things that matter. I am learning though. Yup. Some of the characters in the story didn't get any mentions, except few times. I am thinking of giving them their own stories in this month. I'll see how it goes. 

The plan in May is to write columns on the blog. Talking about this and that. Like a regular blog, I might tell you about my day, or about creativity, or about writing, or about anything I hate. There will some stories interspersed within posts, but it will be more of a kickback and chill kind of month in May. The daily stories take their toll on me. And with the pressure of work and life, it gets tough at times.

So, once again, thank you all for reading. Keep checking this space, there will be more and more here.