Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Bawaraas

It’s like life goes on in loops, they are always more curvier and steeper n scarier than before, but it goes in circles. At the end of 2011 I was somewhat in the same position that I was in 2008, the difference, in 2008 I was anonymous, no one knew me n no one had an opinion, suddenly by climbing Everest and the 7 summits I had invited everyone to judge me, to have an opinion on what I was doing. It annoyed me to no end, only to realize I was looking at it the wrong way. Nothing had changed, in 2008 I was going around like a lost child looking for sponsors, today in 2011 I was doing the same, only now the response was, “Oh!! I cant believe u find it hard to get sponsors!!” really!!? So many times in the 1000 conferences I attended since 2009 did people come up to me and said we will sponsor u and then backed off completely?? A few million times. Every single time!! Everyone would promise to go back from that conference a changed person that was going to do something different, but u call them a week later and u have to introduce urself again!! Haha! I had started to believe that something was majorly wrong with me. That I had lost something. There was nothing around me that could tell me the kind of environment that I was surviving in. I was back to not knowing what my life is and what it is going to be. This time was a lull, nothing excited me, nothing interested me, even books became dry, and music meaningless. I went through tunes that had changed me at some point, but they just were noise now.

I met people who asked me what my plans were, and mostly I had no plans. This was the time I ODed on seriels, starting with Friends and Grey’s Anatomy, and how I met your mother and Big bang Theory and Modern Family and Make it or Break it. I would just lie in bed and watch tv, eat food, and watch tv. To bounce from this, coz I knew I was sinking I started cycling, again. I joined a Dance class. But it felt stupid now. Since that conference I had met Shantanu a few times, and we were becoming great friends…….actually he was being my shrink, I would just tell him of all the anguish my brain was going over, what I was feelng about climbing, what was holding me back, and everyday I felt a little better.

These meetings gave me a chance to see something else. A chance to see someone create music. From scratch, to make a basic tune, to add that soft background beat, and change the feel of the song, that tingling alaap in the end, as if the song never ends. The magic of the beat, and to then see the larger picture, the symphony of all those sounds played together, and u were right there listening to its birth! It was magic. Those hours in the studio would melt away the reality and all its problems. In that studio there was just music. I was soo envious of Shantanu, what he loved, what he needed, what he was meant to do, was only a hour ride away from where he stayed! He could wake up every morning and do what he really felt like, in his studio he was the creator! I wanted to feel like that everyday. And for me that would only happen in the mountains.

And again this over powering urge would take over and all I could think was about the mountains. Every moment I was day dreaming about climbing. I would randomly check up mountains, and make climbing routes, and launch expeditions on some crazeee peaks! All with imaginary characters and exciting situations, and killer twists. My imagination was running wild and I just let it!

But it came to be almost a year trying to make it a reality. While i had somewhat given up hope of ever finding sponsors, Shantanu introduced me to Vikram Sathey and Nilesh Kulkarni, one a stand up comedian and one a banker. It's a crazy mix of people and it works real wonders. They were gona help me find sponsors!!! Basically they were gona put me back on my beloved mountains! And suddenly the exictement was back. 

Around the same time, actually much before this Arjun, who is the guy who broke my record, had been asking me to join him on his next climb. I had always been super excited about climbing together. But it had not been so, I had planned to climb Cho-Oyu with Arjun in the spring of 2012. I had met a corporate Indian in Cardiff, a gentleman  running a business in USA, who after my talk had promised he would fund my next expedition. But after the conference we shared a few emails, and later he just disappeared about 15 days before the expedition!!
And so I pulled out of the expedition. I was disappointed, more for getting so excited so quick when i knew that it generally played on this tune.

But there was much more in store.  I had decided to climb in next spring by hook or crook. The first step was to start training again, go back into the Himalayas, and back into some hard core training. And so me and Arjun spent September and October training in the Gharwal himalayas, even attempted to summit Draupadi ka Danda, a peak which we both had summited during our respective Advance Courses.

After a few month of planing, and brainstorming on ways to get sponsors, back home in Mumbai, I was explaining to Vikram n Nilesh and their team, of what kind of a sport mountaineering is, what we do n how we do it, what to we need, what kind of sponsors, and the works. The plan was to target corporates of course. 
Since I had met Shantanu and spent so much time at the studio in recordings, he had always said, "if nothing else we will do a concert to raise the money!" And then we decided to take that thought seriously! It took months of planning, and a load of hard work. Fixing a date, the right time to put up such concert, and the kind of monies we could generate. It was a big dream! 10 lakhs in 3 or 4 months!

While all the madness of monies and sponsors was going on, my body needed some more training. I decided to mix things up a little, and so on 12th feb i decided to go skiing in Gulmarg. I called up IISM, begged the principal to give me a seat on the 18th Feb Course., used the Everest card a little, and my obvious charm....   ;)      and got myself in!!

And what I had really got myself into were just the Best 15 days of my life!! Oh and I fell in love all over again. The views I have seen on that trip were out of this world. The landscape, the sound scape, the play of light in the mornings, and the evening hues there were to just die for. Luckily i met an long lost friend of mine, chotti Avani, at the course! And what a course it was. The mornings and afternoons were filled with the sound of crackling snow beneath our skies, and the side stepping up the slope, the evenings we chilled with Avani and her boyfriend Kapil, who was snowboard in on Afarwat!! it was Magical. I went on morning walks and made myself a new climbing partner, Vibhu, a software engineer who is lost in the mountains and doesn't wana find his way out really!! The skiing just made it all the more exciting! At the end of the course we all made our way up to the first base of afarwat, and for 2 whole days, all we did was ski down! Took a day pass and just zoomed through the slopes! Falling sometimes, and sometimes going at 60kmph on our own feet down the slopes!! Though we were physically coming down, in every other sense we were only going higher!! I never wanted to stop skiing! We went up n down at least 8 times, and we just wanted more!!

But it was time to get back! The Shantanu-Swanand-Vikram-Nilesh group was on fire! From the cold in Gulmarg, the heat in Bombay was even more exciting. That dream concert was going to be a reality. Even as the days to the concert came closer, I still couldn't believe that it was really gona happen!! There was a frenzy everywhere!
To know that such amazing people, who actually have loads to do , other than try to raise funds for a 23 yr old girl and her craze dreams, gave me all the oxygen i needed to fill my lungs with. Till the day it actually arrived. I couldn't feel my toes! 

The Bawraas, were in motion. The concert was a full house, and the show was mesmerizing! For me this was bigger than any award or honor i had received! And the best part was that the goal was acquired. The money had been raised. And I think the first time in history a Mountaineering Expedition has been funded by the power of music,lyrics and laughter!! 

A night where, I went back to the time I had climbed in Europe, since I had boarded the plane in Bombay to the day i had landed back, I had only listened to 'Bawara mann dekhne chalaa ek sapna', and it was played here again. To the roads life leads us on, to the circles of friendships and relation ships that evolve and grow, and we realize what a web of destinies we have created!

Shantanu had made it possible again, he had believed in my dreams, maybe even a little more than me. And here I am, one day before starting my trek to Mt.Makalu!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

To the Journey that was.....

We are back to the beginning and its been almost 3 years since i last wrote but....i'm back to being the lost wandrer, young, passionate, eager to explore, full of dreams and new with love. A new desire, a new challenge and even more extraordinary support. These past years have been like a long train journey, sometimes beautiful like a green country side, n sometimes dry n dusty, stinky ride through ghastly cities filled with smoke, and at times lonely, eerie like a kabristan. From climbing Everest, to going around the world doing the 7 summits, and everything in between, family dramas, love stories, tv shows, parties, studies, graduating and shifting cities! my world has changed in every bit, yet not much has really changed!! haha! 

 After 2 years of continuos climbing, part 2008-2009-2010, 9 expeditions, 8 summits, 7 continents, traveling close to 15 countries i was exhausted, mentally, emotionally and mainly financially....it was time to take a break, hang up my climbing boots and wear rubber chappals! seriously, i felt like my feet hadn't taken a breath in a while. i was yearning for the heat of the cities, the noise, the sweat, i wanted to wear a ganji and shorts and dip my feet in the sea. 

 I wanted to do other things now, horse ride, travel the country, go to a beach, just anything but lug weight around on my back. It had been tough to raise money for the 7 summits even after Everest, i now wanted to climb bigger summits, i had earned and spent a lot of money by myself, but sponsorship was still not an option. And i was trying to avoid going around looking for sponsors, so i decided to do less expensive adventures. I started off with courses in canoeing, kayaking, sailing, and water skiing in Himachal during august 2010, later that year i took part in an international women's rally in nepal, driving awesome Toyota Prados through the Annapurna circuit and rafting in the rapids of Trishuli. 

The year ended in Argentina,while shooting for an adventure based reality show. The year 2011 started with the continuation of shooting/partying in Argentina, seeing a different world of reality stars, eventually meeting SRK!! Aaaah what different highs. That was followed by landing in India and straight away joining a cycling expedition to Kanyakumari from Kolkatta. A great experience, I had never done long distance cycling then, and was super excited when i could cycle about a 100kms the first day itself. I always loved cycling, but now it had become a way of life for me!!

 By the end of this expedition family had become priority, we had to move out of Pune, In a fraction of 3 days, me and mom had packed our life of 21 years, in 75 boxes, and shipped them to a godown in Bombay, we were staying with Maushi but our stuff had no place yet. To forget all the stress of city life we all made a run for the mountains, My plan this time was to take my family to show them what exactly i am so crazeee about. Family includes, 1 ajji (grandmother), 2 Maushis (mom's sisters), 1 kaka (maushi's husband), 4 cousin sisters (Renu-Elder one,Prutha-yonger one, Narayani-youngest one and Runa who is the eldest but lives in canada)....so we all went to Leh-Ladhak and Kashmir.  [except Runa and Renu]

 On the flight to Leh from Delhi, we met my long lost friend from Leh, Dolkar.....we had stayed at her homestay 8 years ago in 2003, Dolkar was then just in college, so she had been an excellent guide to us, me n her had stayed in touch for atleast 4 years after that, today she was carrying an adorable baby on her shoulders and is a dynamic manager of an NGO traveling on a business trip to Delhi. And Aaaaaah what a moment that was! And the coolest part was that even though Kaka had on several occasions asked me about our hotel booking for Leh, i had held on to Dolkar's Address from her last postcard and had planned to hand it to the taxi guy and ask him to take us there!! And here she was standing right in front of us in the boarding queue. What are the chances. 

This was again one hell of a trip, my 74 year old asthmatic Ajji had no problems in acclimatization, nor did my maushi who is asthmatic, no one at all, no one had headaches and no one vomitted! i was soooo proud of them all! we even cycled back from Khardungla, ran around in snow at the top of Afarwat looking at the LoC from Gulmarg! We had many a nights of warm garlic soup, a heater's light and chats from long lost times, ghost stories, and gossip of course!

 Mom dint want to come back from this dream like place. She always hated the cities, now that I was on my own, she had no strings attached in mumbai or pune, so she looked for a school in Leh and stayed back there!! coz she is a school teacher :) This was May 2011.
 By August I was planning another trip to Leh, with friends, plus it was Moms birthday, and she had vacation from school, so we met in Manali, me n my besht friend Nitish, n a friend of his from Bombay to Manali, and mom from Leh, We did paragliding in Manali, flew with the eagles and vultures, visited a whole village during some festival, and the entire village smelled of hash, the priest was dancing up n down, the women had gathered around him to ask questions, the Devta had arrived, it was quite a scene to watch. We had then taken a bus to Leh, and though the views are surreal, that bus made it a death ride, 2 days long with a night halt....even after we were off the bus we felt like we were moving! We then hired Bikes and rode to Tsomoriri, we never made it there, but thats too long and twisted a story, will pen it in the book:)......we later even went to Diskit, the desert which houses the double humped camels. By the time I was returning from this trip, I got a call from National Geographic about a off road driving reality show happening in september starting in Rajasthan going to Siachen Glacier. 

 And soon I was on the road again, literally, learning sand bashing in the deserts of Rajasthan with Isreali Off roading gods! Again with a wonderful gang of people, making amazing friends and even better memories! Being on the Road, and shooting continuously, doing video diaries, one of the most weird n uncomfortable things to do, living in sanctuaries, and later living in the SUVs itself. On the last leg we were joined by a Champion woman rallyist Navaaz Sandhu, and i loved her style, at her age, i want to be like that!! 

 By the end of 2011, I was missing my mountains and my climbing now. It had been a great break! I now wanted to just leap on to the next opportunity i could get. Whenever I was not on one of my adventures, I was talking at conferences, schools and colleges, sharing my experience. On one such conference I met Swanand Kirkire, again, after meeting him at an Award Function before. He was excited to see me, and with gleaming eyes he asked me not to move and disappeared into the crowd, moments later resurfacing with a bald man beside him! I was introduced to Shantanu Moitra, the composer of Parineeta, and 3 idiots and many others. For the first time I saw and met 2 distinguished people so proud of me!! So interested to know what I'm doing next and so fascinated with what I had done, it made even me think back and talk about everything I had been through. From that meeting, it was going to be another 2 years to an incredible night that has made this expedition to Mount Makalu a reality!! Something that I could not have imagined! But its the reason i am writing again today, cause I am going to be back out there with a Backpack on my back and a summit in view!