Things to keep
It’s the end of the year and hence reflection time. I had been putting off writing about the big moments from this year because of how much I undervalued my own experiences; but on some thought, I knew I shouldn’t be. Some of those experiences have been life changing and I think it’s pretty worthwhile thinking about what they did to me in the larger context of things. Brendan Leonard (Semi-Rad.com) took some time to put down his emotions from some of his big moments from the last year and parts of it moved me, quite a bit. I relate a lot to Brendan’s writing so I took a cue and thought of some moments to keep safely, in my memory.
There’s a joy in finding places by yourself, in being your own Columbus or Vasco-de-Gama. Sometime back in February, I ‘found’ for myself the blue expanse of Manchenebele Reservoir on my second 100+km ride. I was thrilled to bits and the beauty of that moment is responsible in part, for all the miles I biked after that. It answered all the ‘Why do this?’ questions and kept me on the saddle. I went on to bike many more miles after that, touring the entire coast of Karnataka into Goa, catching a stunning view of the sea from atop a hill in Gokarna along the way; riding all night from Bangalore to Pondicherry; biking in a day to Coorg and doing infinite rounds of places in Bangalore because now I can’t imagine using anything other than a bike to get around. Apart from the places that it has taken me to, riding a bike might just be the biggest lifestyle decision of my life.
I had a bent wheel after the Manchenebele ride and a bad IT band strain to go with it and I remember going to get my wheel straightened out at the local bike shop. I don’t recall exactly how but I walked out with my first pair of climbing shoes (The store also stocked climbing gear). The next day I started climbing, sending a V0 on PHd and a couple of weeks later I was on my first highball boulder problem at Turahalli, ‘Krishna’. I found my stomach in knots before the top out, bursting into a bout of disco legs and causing my spotters to break into heavy laughter. I can’t remember an instance where I was so scared and amused at the same time. I climbed harder problems in 2012, sending a crimpy 6a at Hampi and went back to ‘Krishna’ to see how easy it felt after a few months. I sent it without putting a foot wrong and savoured the view from the top.
And as climbing became a part of my regular weekend, I discovered one morning, while stretching and warming up that climbing heals; that I could feel like myself after having cried for most of the night, by going to the crags and climbing something, anything; that climbing is an incredible sport because of the way it teaches me something each time I top out, even if that top out is only 10 feet off the ground and is a grade at the lower end of the chart. That climbing meant a lot and gave me, after a long time, some real goals.
In July, I went to Delhi and then to the Himalayas, seeing for the first time the biggest mountain ranges in the country. A few days into my trip, I found myself eating lunch alone, next to a glacier overlooking the Valley of Flowers and went through a range of emotions that made things like pain and remorse look small, pale and insignificant. The days after the trek were among the hardest I’ve been through and the enduring image of that valley was something I always looked back on for comfort. It was a reason to stay fit and not brood and to look forward to things because there’s always places in mountains to go back to.
As I neared December, I found a magical place called Hampi, an 8 hour bus ride away but a universe in itself. I’ll be going there again this weekend, welcoming the new year, atop a boulder somewhere on Rishmukh Plateau.
But when I think of it. This year was never about ‘I’. It was about the numerous friends I made, at home and on my travels. Everything happened because I met one person then another and knowing them led me from one place to the next and before I knew it I was alone on a mountain bike riding trails in a village not too far from home with a story to tell them when I got back. I’ve never ever felt so indebted to so many people before and all I wish for in the new year is that I stay that way and be around them often enough.
I hope I can do that.
Happy New year.