Wednesday, July 4, 2012


JULY 1990

The downpour seemed never ending, to the annoyance of the youth sheltered below. Cold shivers ran down his spine. He felt, he should have left the rucksack on, to retain warmth. The rain drops trickled from the leaves of the old banyan tree. A mangy dog rubbed his back and edged close to him. The rain rode on the gust aimlessly, drenching the sheltered to the bone. There was no escape.

He recalled the early morning train to Lonavala.

Pratik had walked to the bus station to put on his shorts. The load on his back was around 25kg. He put on his windcheater and walked out, well prepared to get soaked.

He had chosen to be alone on this journey; a 25 km trek to and from Rajmachi fort. It was to prepare himself for a bigger ordeal, Solo expedition in Himalayas after the Advance course at Manali.

The hike along the dam backwaters into the valley was eventless. He enjoyed the waterfalls that played hide and seek through the mist. The lush green forestry dripped with morning dew. The drizzle in the morning had helped to ease the burden of the sack and he had felt fresh. He had reached the Rajmachi fort, and started back after an hour’s rest crossing the streams on the way. After a brief chat with villagers at Rajmachi village, he had started his return trek to Lonavla.

As the rainfall re-started, he sought shelter under the tree.

He glanced down at the rivulets that formed beneath him in a pool of water. Each drop created a disturbance of itself. Was it same with the human mind? The calmness of the mind disrupted by thoughts and discomfort.

The tree had sheltered him from the down pour. The tiny drops were now a nuisance. What if the tree did not exist?

The body was only getting colder and the better way was to continue. He crouched to pick up his sack. “It is all in the mind. No level of comfort can please a human mind forever. “

With a heave, he slung the sack and he walked out into the torrent, planning for the expedition. It would be just like this in the Himalayas.

Comfort is all in the mind, thought Pratik. Comparisons with a worse situation help to build a cocoon. For this, he should face tough situations through his training.

He walked drenched into the bus station and changed into passable clothes. He disregarded the glances of people around. Laymen would never understand. Perhaps, Buhl had been through this too. Hermann Buhl and Reinhold Messener, were role models for Pratik.

His thoughts raced at the pace of the train, his hair blew down his face with the draft. His eyes searched the compartment for imaginary holds and crevices. He hardly realised his empty stomach ; his mind raced ahead with future plans.

He would buy equipment and food after the course and attempt Mt Manali. A week’s climb seemed viable for a solo expedition. The fear of being alone was not the bother.

Would he be able to erect his triangular tent? Another worry was Size 11 Climbing boots. He remembered the ordeal at Sinhagad a week before. He had climbed a 45 feet rock with his laden sack. The descent was tough and he had to choose an easier route.

As the train entered Pune, announcements echoed in the station and Pratik was back to reality.
He was now just another face in the mob.

Ghulam ali reminded him of Oil painting. He had played his only cassette on the stereo, when copying masterpieces. His latest one was Sir Reynold’s Mrs Siddons as Lady Macbeth; he intended to submit for an art exhibition.

The painting had engrossed him and it was too late to go for the regular run. Pratik lay on his bed and stared at the ceiling. The empty hook, provided for the chandelier, caught his eye. It would make a good purchase for training pull-ups, if the burrs were covered by rags. In few more minutes, his pull up gadget was ready.
He tried hanging on the left arm then on the right. The arms soon got heavy, the forearms taut like wires and he dropped down exhausted on the bed. He wished; he could put few small holds on the wall to train for balance. 

The quarry behind the Fergusson college ground was a good place to practice. The rock was not very high and he tried the moves he had seen in the Patrick Edlinger film on free climbing. The challenge was to swing the heel to same level as the handhold and he could now do it reasonably well.
After the climbing practice he cycled to the polytechnic for late night school. The brand of the cycle, Robinhood, was at least 30 years old and had large heavy duty frame. He had fixed a 3 speed internal gear hub and cycling was a lot of fun. He now missed his friend circle and their cycling trips. 

He made frequent visits to the quarry near a College. Someone had opened a few good routes that were protected with bolts.
The part time course left him with very less time for exercise. The weekend treks were a respite and perhaps he should do few more before the Practicals. The advance course at Manali was a break from studies.