From Burj Khalifa to Operation Theatre

5 May

It all happened in a split second. It still gives me a shiver when I think about it. One day I’m on top of the world’s tallest building, and the next day I’m on a wheelchair rushed to the Emergency Room with a dislocated wrist, broken bones beneath that and swelling above that. This is definitely NOT how I pictured my holiday in Dubai.

Why is the Spice Market and the Gold Souq (market) right next to each other?? Would my selfie stick hit the shopkeeper if I clicked with his colourful and aromatic spice display? Will this holiday match up to my last Solo Trip to Georgia? Where can I find the closest Shawarma stand? These were the thoughts running through my mind that day. Little did I know how strikingly different my day IMG-1376 - Copywas going to end.

Here I was, relishing every second of being back in the Middle East that I had missed so much. So, so much. My flight to this vacation had cruised through memory lane and landed right back into my childhood. Every silly damn thing reminded me of the Arab world I grew up in – 330ml blue pet water bottles, highways with unending stretch of sand on either side, za’atar and sesame sprinkled on every loaf of baguette, fruit juice in handy packets, palm trees with dates at hand’s reach, currency with Arabic on it, even the sound of everything being pronounced from the epiglottis! And many many more mind stamps from the past…

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Just a few hours before “the incident” had I enjoyed a slightly splashy Abra (boat) ride. It was a typical sunny UAE morning, the kind that made the water look extra sparkly blue. As I watched the city skyline during the ride I realised the place had reproduced at a rapid rate. There were more buildings. More taller buildings. More tourists. And for the first time, I was one.

It was a strange feeling. Being a tourist in a land that I spent half my life. But then again, haven’t we all been tourists to our own hometown at different points of life? Tourists when we visit our grandparents. When we revisit a company we used to work. When we make a trip to Alma mater. When we meet an old friend. We unknowingly adorn that tourist’s hat and strain through those binoculars hoping to get a closer-look into a time we didn’t notice swish by. And that’s what I call, Nostalgia.

And nostalgia followed me like a shadow on this trip. Until it suddenly vanished a few hours after I got out of that boat. To give way to stronger feelings. It was a sudden slip! Too quick for me to realize what had happened. One second I was walking, and the next second I was on the ground. Close to a seemingly harmless abrupt slope on the pedestrian walk I had missed. An unfortunate overlook of my future.

“Don’t worry! We see at least two-three tourists fall here everyday!!” I did not know whether to laugh or cry when the nearby shopkeepers who rushed to help me up tried to comfort me saying this. At that time, the only thing I was fixated on in shock was my left wrist – just that, it did not look like a wrist. In sheer horror I continued to gape at how my hand had moved away from the wrist. I was too overwhelmed by the sight to understand what exactly happened to it. There were shooting pains from inside it. People huddled around me. Trying to return my bag and phone that flew during the fall. They were asking me questions. But nothing went through to my pain-numbed brain. I was fixated on my visibly deformed wrist – if I could still call it one.

Darkness kept creeping in and out of my eyes. I could feel my body growing weak. I was sweating. My face flushed. And I knew I was going to pass out in pain. Amidst a bunch of overlooking strangers in a foreign country as a solo tourist with no ID proof in my bag. In the background I could hear an Arab calling the ambulance.

And for the first time in my life, I was in an ambulance. Now here’s something that was not on my bucket list! The doctor’s obvious verdict was out in an hour – “Distal Radius Fracture on the Left Wrist with Deformity.” In human language, wrist dislocation with broken bones. My heart sank.

The doctor casually mentioned that I did had to be admitted to undergo surgery. Surgery. That word struck me like thunder. Thankfully my cousins had joined me in the hospital by then to put sense into him that I was a tourist, and I had to go. I got a seat in the next flight home. My hand had to be put in a cast so I can travel. Again, very casually, he got me into the Procedure Room for that. Along with two nurses. My brain did not have the capacity then to analyze why it needed three people’s strength to put a simple plaster-of-paris cast around a girl’s wrist. KTAKK!!! KTAKK!!! I heard the sound of my bones physically being put back into its’ socket. I let out a scream followed by an uncontrollable flow of tears.

***

Today, I completed five weeks after surgery. I’m not sure if the credit goes to my amazing sense of humour or my deep-rooted faith in the second coming of the Lord.  But just before I got into the Operation Theatre, I prayed, “Dear God, if you’re planning to end the world soon, now would be a good time.”

I don’t know if having a metal plate fixed with screws inside my wrist qualifies to call myself Iron Woman. Most of the stitches on my wrist have dried up. I can move my fingers and wrist enough to type. But with frequent breaks of course. I’ve progressed to be able to pick up an empty tea-cup. But not enough to carry the full ones. I can now tie my hair up all by myself in a high pony tail. Just not strong enough to push the office conference room door. But i’m celebrating my little wins everyday :)

I’m also grateful for the people in my life. The understanding colleagues, the caring family and friends who genuinely felt my pain as they heard my story. I’m thankful to God it was my left hand and not my right. Because that just simply wouldn’t have been right (I couldn’t resist that one :D). I’m also amazed at the number of puns I could come up with about this incident:

  • Dubai, I was floored by your beauty.
  • I had a screwed-up holiday.
  • I think I’ve fallen for you, Dubai.
  • It was a short trip.
  • How was my holiday? Nailed it!
  • You won’t like my vacation pics? Screw you! Cos I already am.
  • Last but not the least – I’ll never forget this holiday. It left a mark on me. (Sorry this was a little dark humour).

Speaking of marks, yes, there is definitely a scar. A slightly slanted straight cut starting at the top of my left wrist going around 3-3.5 inches down. I’ve heard stories of people who’ve undergone different kinds of injuries, about how much they embrace their scars and accept it as a part of them. I’ll be honest with you – I hate it. It looks scary. Ugly. Anything but pleasing to the eye. I keep comparing it to my right hand and remembering how it used to look – Flawless. Strong. And without a single mark. And I never admired it back then.

Today, when I see my scar, it reminds of a rough time I went through alone. It reminds me of how I survived unbearable pain. When I withstood the urge to faint when my mind went into trauma. Of the courage I took to get back to work. Of the confidence I had to return to living independently in Bangalore. I swear to God it wasn’t easy. But I also swear with God it was possible. And this incident revealed to me another dimension of Diana I had never seen before.

For all the tears that left my eyes,
And all the joy that left my days,
Was a carefully planted plot twist
From a sneaky silent tryst

Shadowed with sorrow,
Like there’s no tomorrow,
There is a time for darkness to peal
And later some time for soul to heal

A gushing overthrow of emotions
And unprecedented conditions
For isn’t it in our weakest,
That we scamper inside, for the side strongest?

And once you alight,
The trek of plight
You’ll meet new shine,
That is only thine

You walk no one’s path but your own,
And experience what is for you sown
For in my journey I discovered in glee,
Some brand new strength in me.

***

[The End. Or maybe, The Beginning :)]

Read another post with a punny title – Son of a Beach

My blog about Solo Trip to Georgia still remains the most popular.

I’ve also enjoyed local trips to Aamchi Mumbai .

Or just browse through my Thought Cloud, and you take your pick!

I get a notification everytime someone gives a Like and Follow here , and it always makes my day :)

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https://dianathinks.wordpress.com/

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Son of a Beach!

4 Nov

It’s strange how some absolute random incidents from childhood stick through to adulthood. I must’ve been 5 or 6 when this happened…

I grew up by the beautiful coast of Qatar, a small town named Dukhan. Today the place is a city by itself. The best part of living there, was that the beach was your friendly next door neighbour. I would waddle in the Arabian sea every other weekend. The sun, the sand and the sea were my friends. My room always had a new collection of seashells.

One night, Mum, Dad and I were driving home from the local supermarket. A few minutes before a round-about to the beach, I announced from the back seat “I wana go to the beach!” My parents turned back, bewildered. “It’s very dark now, Diana. You won’t be able to see anything,” my Mum tried to explain gently. “I WANT TO GO TO THE BEACH!!!” I screamed. They tried to make me understand why it was a bad idea to go there at night. There were no lights near the beach back then. There wouldn’t be anyone there. You wouldn’t be able to see anything. It’s not even a full moon night. Let’s go another time during the day. Their logic could not get through to the stubborn little girl who was nearing the epitome of a dramatic tantrum, getting louder by the minute. Finally the car steering wheel turned to the direction of my win.

I waited impatiently as we drew closer. It was a short drive. When we arrived, I did not feel so welcomed. It was pitch dark. I could not even see where the shore ended. It was empty. And lifeless. The sea was sleeping in a thick blanket of darkness. With gentle waves that sounded like snoring. For a little girl who had always seen the sea happy, alive with bright warm sunshine and sparkly blue water, this was a new low for me. I sat quiet all the way back home.

*fast forward to July 2017*

“I wana go the beach!” I announced. “I want to celebrate my birthday by the beach!” I told my BFF. And when is my birthday? In August. A time when no one in their right mind would go anywhere remotely close to the beach. (I’m starting to see a trend here). This is when the rain clouds make merry. The peak of moody monsoon. When it’s salsa time between drizzling and pouring. Shops and shacks shut tight. Recuperating from the traces of hyper humans who were there during humidity. But I wanted to go to the beach.

So off to the beach we went :)

“Madam abhi season nahi hai, sab kuch bandh hai” (Madam it’s off-season now, everything’s closed), the auto (tuk tuk) driver played state-the-obvious with himself. Not the best way to welcome a tourist after an overnight journey, I thought. The statement was also a poor attempt to rationalize the overpriced ride.

My heart leaped in delight as I started to smell the sea. I could sense my eyes and lips widen in unison as we stepped into the sand and soaked in the sight of the most perfect balance of crimson yellow and deep blue. At a distance, quite a distance, we saw a family of four. The only other signs of existence was a red flag left by a coast guard and a lazy dog sleeping next to it. The vast empty shore gave us a sense of ownership. We owned all the joy it could give us. It was ours.

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Blissful days followed. Days spent in the company of my familiar childhood friends – the sun, the sand and the sea. Summer beach was quite different from Monsoon beach. They seemed like siblings. Very similar, yet different. Summer beach and I go way back. Monsoon beach was, well, it was new. There were some things I had to learn to get used to. The countable number of people on the beach. Closed shops around. Hardly any autos to commute. What really wasn’t easy to cope with was, less sunshine. Sometimes I would look up and wish I could manually move those dark clouds away with my bare hands for the light to shine through.

And then, there was this moment.

It was close to dusk. My friend and I were one of the few spectators of the never-ending waves on a never-ending coast. We had made ourselves comfortable enough to grow roots into the sand. The bedsheet we were sitting on had taken the shape of us, our bags, umbrellas, sunscreen lotion bottle, sunglasses, hell even the power banks connected to our phones! And then, like in a sudden gush of emotions the clouds above burst into a downpour like we’ve never witnessed before. The wind roared breathing up the ends of our bedsheet. Water droplets hit strong. Whiffs of sand took to the air. The sky grewer instantly darker in seconds. The smell of the sea got stronger as it merged into the wind. After being in a temporary state of stupor, we scurried like little rats trying keep our things under control. We dumped everything on our sheet into our bags like it was a coir sack. And opened our umbrellas waging a battle against the wind. And then, we just sat there. Two girls. One of whom was there to celebrate her birthday. Sitting on a beach. Watching nature give us a free show of full-fledged heightened drama. We gazed in awe. At the mighty power of the beach. As we hugged our bags close to us under the umbrella, we hugged on to the very experience of being there. In that moment. On a deserted beach. Watching the storm. And being a part of it. What a sensational show.

This lasted for a while. While we soaked it all in. The heavy showers. The strong breeze. The brushing grains of sand. The smell of the sea. I still remember the sound of the water drops thumping at the roof of my umbrella. Until it became softer, and softer, and eventually, there was silence. The clouds opened up to make way for twilight. The sand settled down. The breeze became lighter. It was over. We still sat for a while with umbrellas open transcending back to reality.

I couldn’t have asked for a better Birthday gift. A spectacular show by the beach.

I also learnt a very valuable lesson. As if God was slyly injecting wisdom into my mind now that I was turning a year older. There are times when everything is bright and happy. Celebrate it. But also understand that sometimes it might be dark and gloomy. Embrace it. You never know, what it’s going to leave you with…
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Once upon a time,
In a land a few decades away,
There lived a younger You.

The You whose eyes shone innocence,
The You whose laughter was presence,
A younger, chirpier, You.

Clocks ticked,
Calendars turned,
You evolved.

Shine and shadow,
Moulded and cracked.
Choices and decisions,
Sweetened and sullied.
As reality revelled,
Your story unveiled.

Younger You, turned
Wiser You.
Wisdom from, the
Stormy nights.
Row through,
The storm and sun.
Until you find,
the very You.
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Here’s another post that exudes my love for beaches.

Oh, the hills are amazing too.

Did you know I went on a crazy Solo Euro Trip?!

Everytime you stalk me here, an aspiring writer finds hope.

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https://dianathinks.wordpress.com/

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My Georgian Journal

18 Jun

“OMG! Are you actually doing this, Diana?!” I asked myself with a sudden hit of reality. Here I was, at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, waiting for my connection flight to Georgia. And I was travelling Solo.

That’s not the only highlight. It was my first Solo Trip. It was my first time to Europe. And, to top it all, it was heading to a country where I did not understand their language.

The excitement with which I took off in Bangalore was unexpectedly joined by a gush of anxiety. As I watched the screen at the gate flash “Turkish Airlines to Tbilisi – BOARDING”, I reminded myself how important this trip is to me. I’d been planning this for months. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. Spread my wings. Fly high by myself. Discover Life. Discover Meaning. Discover, Me.

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In sheer coincidence, I got to know after landing that I had stepped foot into Georgia’s 99th Independence Day! I guess this day will go down in history as well. Almost spontaneously I took to the streets to explore the festivities. Flags, balloons, dags, cotton candy, food stalls, art, souveniers and the like. It was an absolute carnival out there. The spirit of celebration was in every citizen’s cheer.

Musical notes flowed freely in the air, with live performances every few steps. Every musician strummed cords of joy. Around each artist were listeners huddled around, grooving together. Uninhibitedly. They broke into dance so naturally :) There is a sense of unision that music brings. I paused a few times just to watch people sway together.

The traditional Georgian dance and music performances showcased that night was sensational. On that mighty stage at Tbilisi city centre, was a burst of energy and talent. The show made a spectacular ending with fireworks like i’ve never witnessed before. It was like a magician’s wand in the sky. With a rain of colourful sparkles. It lit the sky, and my heart.

Although it was close to midnight, I was quite confident on heading back home thanks to technology. My Georgian sim card had 4G and I had marked my house location before I left. Gogebashvili was on top of a hill and I headed there. Residential hill, if I may say. With an array of cute little cafes and shops during the day. Except, there was this one small thing. When I reached the hill-top, I took out my phone to check which turn I needed to take. And then, I was greeted with two pleasant notifications. 1.) Internet not working. 2.) Phone battery low. Here I was, in a new country on the first night, at one of the many cross-roads, on a dimly lit street. “Great. Just, great.”

I lost count of how many Hail Marys I chanted while I experimented different directions. The streets were empty. Occassionally cars zoomed by. A few dim yellow lights on the alley were flickering. In the cold night, I could feel sweat trickle down my back. Half an hour of getting lost seemed like eternity. After enacting my “Lost-in-Foreign-Country-On-First-Day-with-Useless-Phone” scene to my worried hosts who only understand Georgian, I collapsed on my bed.

What a Day 1.

The next few days were thankfully less adventurous and more amusing. “I wandered lonely as a cloud, that floats on high o’er vales and hills; When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze…” Wordsworth’s words sounded prophetic to me. Here I was, wandering, feeling as light and carefree as a cloud, but not one bit lonely.

For Georgia was a real-life painting, with hills and valleys, lakes and trees, and at every step I took, I fluttered in delight… There was something so poetic about this place. I embraced every minute I spent exploring the city by myself. Soaking in the sights, sounds and fragrances. It was spring. Bright blooms. Surplus greens. Flower scents. Blue sky. Sunshine warmth. My days were wooing me with visual treat.

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The eve before I take-off. One week had flown past like the breeze before monsoon showers. I got into a cozy little cafe just for its’ great view overlooking the street. I sat near the window. Relishing the last few morsels of Georgian cheese. Sipping on a caffeine-loaded Turkish coffee. Looking out of the window. In silence. Watching the world go by. A wave of  sweet calmness and contentment blanketed me.

Never before in my life, have I felt this heightened sense of serenity. Out of the blue my brain played visuals from “Eat. Pray. Love.” I smiled to myself. When I had watched the movie years ago, I wished then that I did something like what Julia Roberts did. Get away from my regular life for a while. Get out of the country. Explore a new place by myself. Taste mind-blowing different cuisines. Praise the magnificence of the bigger world, life outside what I have seen. Rekindle my spirit. My hopes and dreams. My ambitions and aspirations. This travel had turned out to be a journey to self.

Be strong, my child
For you belong to the wild,
Of hills and valleys,
With life’s ills and highlights

A venture unimagined,
Opened doors of magic
A doe-eyed tourist,
Strolled in to mysterious mist
Into the unknown,
To a land far, far away
Like the start of a fairy tale,
So was I, whisked away

Bright blue mornings,
Warmed solo meanderings
Old cobbled streets,
Greeted fresh cherry blossoms

River Kura to my right,
Lofty Mt. Mtatsminda to my left
Cultural epiphany behind,
Promising pathway ahead
And the world at my feet.
The spirit of travel surged through my soul,
The power of discovery popped-open my mind

Leaving me thirsty for more…

If I were to pour out every detail of how this trip had an impact on me, I would end up writing a booklet. What I can tell you in short, is that some adventures seep into our ordinary lives unexpected. And for me, experiencing that Solo was life-changing. It is only when we allow these events to manifest, that our lives enrich with renewed meaning. Get out there.

The End. (For now).

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My other blog posts:

Read what I remember the most from my trip to Indonesia

Read how I survived a week in a trek to the Himalayas

Fine! Be picky. Choose what you would like to read here.

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Pause.

7 May

In our relentless pursuit of questionably attainable dreams, are we losing out on acknowledging ourselves? Are our dreams bigger than, us?

Allow me to gently immerse you in my thoughts. Pardon their rapid down-pour, but once it sinks in to your mind, it will light up a tiny space that you did not know existed. So make way.

As long as i’ve known myself, I have always wanted something or the other. In raw human instinct, of course. As a kid, they were things. Physical, touchable, materials. A doll house, for example. As I grew older, I wanted more than actual things. Peer group, for example. Today, what I want is even more complicated. Genuine friendship, true love, work satisfaction, are a few examples. But there is always something or the other. You get the drift.

These “wantings” over time, have snowballed into a formidable yet meaningful part of my life which today I refer to as, dreams. The fascinating thing about dreams, is that, the more you accomplish, the more they multiply. In number, in size, in every possible dimension. I’m starting to sense it may become an epidemic at some point.

So here we are, juggling between our numerous dreams. Some more heavier, more important, than the others. But each, equally desirable. It is these that we cling on to with dear hope. That makes every churn of effort worth it. What makes us get up from bed each morning. What kindles the fire in our hearts. What simply, keeps us going.

And every now and then, some of these dreams become reality. That takes us to limitless ecstacy. An intensely gratifying feeling. Where hope resurrects, flowers bloom, and butterflies emerge.

But, is that the only time we pause? The only time we take deep relaxed breaths? And let life temporarily flow in slow-motion?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for stopping by to smell the fresh roses. And I must admit it is quite a grand event whenever I do it. But I would also like to drop by, once in a while, to see how the sapling is growing, leaves sprouting, thorns forming, and buds taking shape. Because these are what are going to make my tomorrow’s dream come true. Another meaning to my life.

I hope that little light in that little space of your mind is now lit. So while we are at the chase, my beloved fellow-dreamers, let us consciously remember, to pause. Once in a while. To see how amazingly we are adapting, evolving, and growing. The dream might be distant, or it might be close. But we are pursuing it with our every cell. Let’s make every step count.

Just,

Pause.
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About this picture: I clicked this during a trek. We were quite a big group, and were at one of the pit stops. During this break, I quietly took my book and sneaked away to have some quiet time to myself. I paused :)
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More thoughts: https://dianathinks.wordpress.com/
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Indonesian Intervention

16 Jan

I felt like a sore loser. I had gulped enough sea water to be a threat to underwater life. I couldn’t keep my head under the water for more than two seconds. This, mind you, is despite being inside a life jacket. Bright orange isn’t my colour, I must say.

I was in one of the most beautiful beaches in Indonesia. The white sands of Sandranan glistened against incredible gradients of blue. And there I was, in the middle of that incredible blue, in a not-so-flattering snorkling suit. Futile attempts to breathe through my mouth wasn’t helping my ego. Or my nostrills. For a while I just buoyantly remained at the same spot. Just, you know, floating. Helpless. But hopeful. Hoping that noone notices me like this. “Are you from India?” A young girl’s voice burst my thoughts of doom.

I paddled around in penguin-style to look at her. “Yes”, I replied. Partly guilty of defaming my country. We struck a few minutes of broken-English conversation in mid-water. But she din’t need language to understand my state. “Hold my hand” the teen offered with a smile. Her friends and I giggled as we formed a human chain and moved around the sea for a while, before we parted ways.

I remembered my mission was not yet accomplished. “C’mon, Diana! You din’t fly all the way here for this!” I told myself. With renewed zest, I put my snorkling mask back on, and dunked my face into the sea. I tried a few times. And then – at one of those attempts that lasted more than a second – I saw it! I saw a glimpse of the majestic underwater world! There was no turning back now.

I did SO much during this holiday. Road trips, street food, historical spots, art galleries, museums and many many more. But this beach-snorkling incident left a mark in me. The best part of this trip was losing track of time immersed in the miracles below sea line. Swimming with bright finned friends. Touching the coral reefs. Feeling, accomplished.

As we enter into a new year, with new missions to accomplish, let’s be cognizant that we may have similar moments. Where we start off feeling like a sore loser. Helpless, and without a direction. Look around, and you’ll find someone to offer you a hand. Or maybe, you might be the one who gets to offer. But trust me, once you get a glance of how success feels like, you will be unstoppable. May 2017 give you opportunities that help you discover new strengths.

When I landed back home, my friends eagerly asked, “How was your holiday, Diana?”

“Breath-taking,” I said.

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More thoughts: https://dianathinks.wordpress.com/

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Hello, Himalayas!

24 Sep

Baby steps. The last time I heard this, it was with reference to a baby. But this time, it was with reference to me. “Take baby steps, everyone!” I heard my trek leader say out-loud. We were on the final lap. The last two thousand feet of our twelve thousand feet journey. And for me, it was turning into a gruesome test of will power. I was no longer climbing up using my trek pole. I was fueled on emotions. And that too was running low.

We had started at 3.30 am. When the sky had covered itself with a thick black blanket, and tiny twinkles were generously sprinkled on it. If I could run my hands through that starry sky, I would have a handful of sparkling glitter :) At one point, we all switched off our torches. We just stood there in darkness, in the middle of nowhere, gazing up, starstruck. I soaked in the silence, and the shine. “I could do this for hours,” I thought to myself, as I immersed myself in the quiet silver light. It was a plethora of stars, a massive celebration going on up there.

It had taken us four days to get where we are – almost ten thousand feet from our base camp at Sari, Rudraprayag. We had hiked through dense forests, vast meadows and everything in between. Flawless scenery flowed continuously, changing by the hour. It was like being inside a real-life Windows Screensaver.

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The squishing sounds from muddy forest pathways were strangely comforting. Tall trees, thorny bushes and slushy grounds. We were tiny ants making our way through a humongous green world. A few chirps were heard at a distance, while a few other feathered friends were spotted. My excitement peaked at the foot of falling water. It was yet another first for me – Not seeing Spring Water in a plastic bottle. But in its’ native place. Pure clean water flowing from nature’s lap. We never saw their origin, never saw their end, but those sparkling streams fresh water quenched the thirst of body and mind.

Do not trust meadows. Yes, those vast, serene-looking unending stretch of open space. They look nice and welcoming. But I swear they are not easy to hike! Their breath-taking look literally does take your breath away. Huffing and puffing all my way, the more I climbed up, the more they suspiciously grew bigger. To baffle me further, I saw buffaloes double my size leisurely race me to the top. I must admit though, the pleasure of seeing vast grassy area gave me some kind of kick. It also kicked the city-lover in me.

img_4733-copyI thanked the Quechua Gods who created my trekking shoes, for keeping my grip and my dignity. Each terrain was a different chapter in ‘How To Trek Without Slipping and Falling’. With a few excerpts from ‘How to Deal with Embarrassment’. Also recommended is ‘Trekking for Dummies’.

There is special joy trekkers experience close to sunset. This feeling arises when after hours and hours of walking, somewhere in the near vicinity, we spot our next base camp! The sight of those multiple bright orange tents is an instant boost to our climbing speed. Being a first-time trekker, my biggest apprehension was about living in the woods. Tents, to be precise. I later realized that I got better sleep in my sleeping bag, than on my own bed. (Sorry, bed). Make-shift bathrooms served their purpose. Torches gave enough light. Changing clothes inside tents improved your acrobatic skills.

But none of this passed my mind while I struggled to reach the final destination – the summit of Mt. Chandrashila. My vulnerability had reached a greater summit. I could feel my calf muscles stretch with every step. My heart was throbbing at a rate I had not felt before. My throat was dry, and my lungs felt heavy. Despite the chilly breeze, I was sweating. I cursed the hyper-excited Diana who signed up for this a few months back. I paused. Tried to calm the chaotic voices in my head. It’s too late to give up now, I thought. I did not trek for four days to quit so close to the finish line.

“Baby steps”, I told myself. Let’s do this. One, small, baby step at a time.
And that’s how I touched twelve thousand feet.

***
In the darkest hour,
Saw an endless tower
The quiet stars,
Gave us gentle power.

The ascend begins,
With creaking crickets
Pacing footfalls,
With clinking trek poles

On stony ground
We climbed up proud,
Stretch of height
Was in a shroud.

An hour has passed,
Expectations surpassed
Rays of dawn,
Subtly brushed the clouds.
We were merely mid-way.

Sky grew lighter,
Body felt heavier
With sight of summit,
Eyes were brighter.
Mountain top moved like a mirage.

Unending ocean of grassy green,
Waded through its’ high and low
Steeper steps gave quite a blow,
Yet we soaked in scenic glow.
To reach the peak are miles to go
Let us for now take it steady and slow.

At the zenith awaited a dream,
A breath-taking soulful gleam
Cotton clouds a touch away,
Snow-capped mountains there it lay
Misty magical hills and valleys,
At the height of nature’s glory.
Oh, the view from the top!

The peace of simple solitude
Was to me a promising prelude
The quiet kiss of calmness
Covered me with gratitude
These emotions and sights of stunning beauty,
Will you stay, forever with me?

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Epilogue: I am back home, from a trek I will never forget. And now, when I see a mountain of challenge in front of me, I say to myself, “Take baby steps, Diana. One, small, baby step at a time.”

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Oh, Mumbai!

27 Mar

I landed. The race had begun long back. Hypnotically, I joined in. And from then on, there was no looking back.

I could feel it in every step. A spring of rapidly converging ethos. Minds that exuded volatile visions. Ancient analogies of architectural amaze. There was an unbelievable descent of stupefying valor. Focused. Distinct. Dynamic.

My palate touched paradise as ethnic sauces slurped over my tongue. The taste of traditional cuisine augmented the authenticity of Indian spices. The street food had me floored. There were chances that the Power Puff Girls would’ve made an appearance with this perfect blend of sugar, spice, and everything nice. Chaat, Pav Bhaji, Pani Puri, and related desi cousins, turned out to have a long lost connection with me. I subconsciously enslaved to those heart-warming flavours served hot.

A girl like me could not but stare, gape, and most unfemininely jaw-drop, at the unending array of all things girly. At this shoppers’ oasis, I offered the last ounce of my dignity as I bagged the lowest prices. Every bling, every texture, every hue of rainbow on cloth, bag or shoe caught my eye twinkling. Precautionary Warning: Shopping at Colaba Causeway, Linking Road, or on similarly tarred nature, may result in mild vertigo due to over-exposure to mind-numbingly attractive articles. Side effects include related monetary loss.

Majestic. Built, style, architecture. They weren’t buildings, they were history. As I unknowingly played the role of a wide-eyed tourist, I learnt what differentiated old from antique. Everywhere, I saw stories on stone. Be it at the steps of the Gateway of India, the luxury of The Taj or the massiveness of CST, which, I have to brag, was an absolute vision under a gleaming full-moon night. The sights quite simply said: there was an era before this, there were people before you, there were unforgettable incidents here before you reached. I was humbled by the magnificence of the structures. And the insignificance of our accomplishments.

Any Mumbaikar would undeniably agree that a walk along Bandstand or Marine Drive is a highway to attain your Zen moment. The Arabian Sea welcomes every thinker on it’s stony lap with fresh breeze and fine waves. Land’s End (self-explanatory) has secretive powers to put an end to your most existential questions. Just being there, soaking in your silence, listening to the waves hit the rocks, letting the gentle wind brush your tress, can cool your mind like mint leaves on a summer noon.

Personal space is a dream. Being seated is an achievement. Get out scratch-free, and you’re a winner. The local trains gave me more adrenaline gush than I would’ve got being on any survivor reality show. Repressing the memory of multiple high-decibel female voices ranting into my ears an assortment of sour words, this is probably the most adventurous ride of my life. Amusement parks can take the back seat. (Maybe even literally). The 0.032 milliseconds that I took to get off at the Bandra station, cost me heavy uncontrollable incoming women’s traffic into that Ladies compartment. After an almost-Olympic jump, I felt accomplished I landed on a platform I hadn’t caught a glimpse of earlier.

Once again, almost hypnotically, I joined in to the race. The continuously flowing crowd. The constantly bustling movement. The supremely active citizens. Overflowing, exuberant energy, everywhere.

We all have different stations to be in at different times. New locations to go. Strangers to befriend. Initiatives to take. Experiences to gain. The idea is to look forward. Keep moving. Keep going. Be, Unstoppable.

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The sea waves waved at my wandering thoughts,
The ocean looked like my mind.

Buildings built-up inspiration in heights
Heightened my dreams and aspirations.
Aspiring artists and talented tourists
Tour the city in amuse and wonder.
Wondering the secret of this land’s life
Life bubbling in every person
Personal pride being city’s child
Children of glorious past and present
Presented a view of bright sapien minds
Mindful of all the place offers
Offerings of wisdom, talent and experience
Experiences, oh, unforgettable ones.

And as for me, I returned anew
Renewed, refreshed, recharged
Sights opened my eyes and thoughts
Expedition excited every sense.
A joyous self returned,
Filled with memories to linger.
Somewhere during the journey,
I felt belonged.
Somewhere during the journey,
I left a bit of my heart behind.
Somewhere during the journey,
Mumbai,
You changed me.
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