Tuesday, July 15, 2008

White Water Rafting

I went for a white water rafting trip on Sunday with a bunch of CMU students, and it was soo much fun. We were around 80 people in our morning group, and 7 of us were in one raft - Dan, Beena, Sivaraman, Ali, Ravi, Harsha, and me.

The trip started on a very scary note when Ali fell in the water right at the very start, and thanks to the flow of the water and our own inexperience at controlling the raft, we couldn't stop our raft, and Ali was floating in the water for almost 3-5 minutes before he was rescued by some other boat. Beena fell in a couple of times as well, and on our first major rapid, we got stuck on a rock ! We bounced around on the raft, trying to dislodge ourselves, and when we finally managed, the guide on top of the rock felt we didn't have enough control, so asked us to just sit in the center of the boat and not navigate the rapid at all. We got better though, and soon did our first rapid without losing anybody or getting stuck !

The fun began right after lunch though, when at the biggest rapid of them all, we got stuck (again!) on a BIG rock, and this time we had to either manage to get ourselves to go against the strong current of the water, and go down and hit many more rocks and potentially hurt ourselves badly. Eventually, we figured that the water was only till about waist level, and in spite of the gushing currents, we could get out, and drag our boat back against the current. We tried. And we didn't lose our boat :) But that was all. Just when I thought we would manage it ourselves, the rafting dudes came and helped us get back our raft, and that was the end of our heroic efforts :P

After that debacle, we managed to navigate one rapid really well, and to commemorate that, the kayak people who were supposed to be leading us suggested that we jump into the calm water. We had life jackets on, so there was no danger of sinking, or so he said. I thought I would never fall in the water, cause I would always play it safe, and this is a safe opportunity to create a memory and I jumped. The water was cold, and deep, and I kept freaking out that the life jacket is not strong enough, so I kept thrashing about incessantly. I wanted to get back on the raft, but it turns out that getting back is not that easy :P, and I ended up being dragged up into the raft by Dan (who was the only one who could climb back without help), but I got a cut on my lip for that :(

And at the very next rapid, we got stuck for a second, and I had a 5 foot fall into the water !! Very scary stuff ! I hit the water, come back out, only to see the raft swoosh by my head, merely a couple of inches away... I just started getting thankful that it didn't hit me when I saw another raft coming my way, and then another ! After 3 lucky misses, I realized I needed to start floating ! I had to float for a couple of minutes in the rapid, feeling those rocks hit my back, and trying to "relax, and keep my feet and head out of the water", till I eventually caught up with the raft, and was pulled back up by Dan.

And at the next rapid, we got stuck some more, and this time, we all got off to push the boat, except that I got stuck holding onto the boat, while it floated towards me. I had to hold on for dear life, cause if I had let go, I would have been pushed into the water, under the boat (and did I mention it was very shallow water , and being under the raft would have meant hitting many many many rocks really hard?) After a couple of minutes, I was again dragged into the raft again, and I decided to play it oh-so-safe from now on.

Turned out that was the end of the rafting trip, and I didn't have to play so-safe after all :) It was soo much awesome fun - the adrenaline, the screaming, and shouting and rowing and falling, and dragging. Too much !

To end the exciting day, I added some more excitement to my life, by forgetting my phone on the bus. And the next day, I had to make 50 calls, and then Sivaraman and I had to go all the way to South Side to get it back. End of excitement :) For the day.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

India Trip - Travel

The last time I traveled by Rajdhani was when I came back home for a weekend between my travel from Delhi to Bangalore in 2007. When I had fussed about which things I could carry, and which I would have to throw away, had borrowed Akshat's big roll-on bag to put all my stuff (which I still have btw), when I couldn't decide whether to be happy or sad or hopeful, when I waited at Delhi station listening to details of a job offer, wondering if I should tell P now that I won't be taking it, or wait and mail him an official mail later ...

That was then though, and this was now. I still had a big heavy suitcase, but it was filled with gifts, not my own random stuff, and this time mom was with me. The train travel, listening to mom chat up with strangers, waiting at Delhi station for our next train, looking at the stalls for books and snacks to buy (only this time, I wasn't the kid who thought the snacks on the station are awesome, or the variety in the bookstore mindboggling) - it was all very nostalgic. And before I knew it, we were in Panipat. With Mummy and Daddy fussing over us, asking about food and chai, mom getting fussy about not making Mummy(my naani) do any work.

The first day, we visited a couple of aunts, and somewhere along the way, jet-lag caught up, and I fell asleep in the middle of a conversation. The second day, Jisha reached as well, and I went to the station to pick her up, and we all went for lunch to Veena massi's house, where she fed us infinite quantities of food - including (but not limited to) paneer, dal, roti, noodles, rice, fruit salad, samosa, chat, dhokla, ras-malai, tea, biscuits, namkeen and a bunch of things that I have now forgotten.

The next day we traveled to Yamunanagar, and met that really really nice bank-manager, who my mom gifted "US chocolates" to cause he was just so nice. We also went to Papa's ex-college, where we met some of his ex-students (who are lecturers now), and talked about missing him and his "discipline" and his advice, and told some random stories about days gone by. On our way back, we stopped over at Karnal, and met my aunt, and 2 baby cousins, and some relatives who I have never met before ! They were all quite nice actually, and all of them ensured that they fed us a LOT. Finally, we reached back to Panipat, and visited another aunt (Bobby massi) who was nice enough to not insist that we eat some more :)

Day 4 was a trip to my last aunt in Panipat whom we hadn't visited, and from there we went to Delhi, and met my cousin Tinni who has just got married. We heard about her new family, and her husband Micky, who I didn't get to meet sadly :(, but the rest of the meeting was so much fun. Some more of my cousins were there, and a couple of aunts as well, and the whole house was full of laughter! Later that evening, I met Akshat and Vimmi, and went for more food :P Akshat of course hasn't changed at all, and that brought on more nostalgia about Delhi :)

Day 5 was spent relaxing in Delhi, and talking to my aunt, and then traveling to Gwalior to meet more relatives :) Day 6 and 7 were spent in Gwalior, where we met my buas, and more cousins, and even a niece who might be named Kriti ! I met all these cute kids, who practiced mehndi on my hands, and we sat and watched Babu bhaiya's wedding video, and went to see Gwalior fort, and had roadside food !

Day 8 was back to Mumbai, end of the hectic week, back home, with a couple of kilos added thanks to North Indian hospitality :(, and with plans to spend the rest of the holiday relaxing at home :) I met soo many people, whom I hadn't met for such a long time, and they were all so nice, and so much fun ! I hope I get to do this again very very soon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Atalanta

From your reading pleasure, I give you Atalanta, from http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/1421/FreeToBe.html#Atalanta, copied wholly from the source :)

Once upon a time, not long ago, there lived a princess named Atalanta, who could run as fast as the wind. She was so bright, and so clever, and could build things and fix things so wonderfully that many young men wished to marry her. "What shall I do?" said Atalanta's father, who was a powerful king. "So many young men want to marry you, and I don't know how to choose."

"You don't have to choose, father," said Atalanta. "I will choose. And I'm not sure that I will choose to marry anyone at all."

"Of course you will," said the king. "Everybody gets married. It's what people do."

"As for me," Atalanta told him, "I intend to go out and see the world. When I come home, perhaps I will marry, and perhaps I will not."

The king did not like this at all. He was a very ordinary king: powerful, and used to having his way. So he told Atalanta, "I have decided how to choose the young man you will marry. I will hold a great race, and the winner, the swiftest and fleetest young man of all, will win the right to marry you."

Now, Atalanta was a clever girl, as well as a swift runner, so she told her father, "Very well then, let there be a race. But you must let me run in it too. And if I am not the winner, I will accept the wishes of the young man who is. If I am the winner, I will choose for myself what I will do."

The king agreed to this. He would have his way, marry off his daughter, and enjoy a fine day of racing, as well. So he called his messengers together, and directed them to travel far and wide to announce the race with its wonderful prize: the chance to marry the bright Atalanta.

Meanwhile, Atalanta herself was preparing for the race. Each day at dawn, she went to the field in secret, until she could run the course in just three minutes, more quickly than anyone had ever run it before.

As the day of the race grew near, young men began to crowd into the town. Each was sure he could win the prize, the except for one. That was young John, who lived in the town. He knew Atalanta well, for he saw her day be day as she bought nails and wood to make a pigeon house, or sat reading a book in the gardens, or chose parts for her telescope, or laughed with her friends. Young John say the princess only from a distance, but he understood how bright and clever she was. He wished very much to race with her; to win and to earn the right to talk with her, and become her friend. "For surely," he said to himself, "it is not right for Atalanta's father to give her away to the winner of the race. Atalanta herself must choose whom she wants to marry, or whether she wishes to marry at all. Still, if I could only win the race, I would be free to speak to her, and to ask for her friendship!"

Each evening, after his studies of the stars and the seas, John went to the field in secret and practiced running across it. Night after night, he raced as fast as the wind across the twilight field, until he could cross it in three minutes, more quickly, he thought, than anyone had run across it before.

At last, the day of the race arrived. Trumpets sounded, and the young men gathered along the edge of the field, along with Atalanta herself, the prize that they sought. The king and his friends sat in soft chairs, and the townspeople stood along the course of the race. The king rose to address them all. "Good day!" he said to the crowds. "Good luck!" he said to the young men. To Atalanta, he said "Goodbye. I must tell you farewell, for tomorrow, you will be married."

"I am not too sure of that, father" Atalanta answered, and she went to stand in line with the young men. "Not one of them," she said to herself, "can win the race, for I will run as fast as the wind, and leave them all behind."

And now, a bugle sounded, and the runners were off!

The crowds cheered as the young men and Atalanta began to race across the field. At first, they ran as a group, but Atalanta soon pulled ahead, with three of the young men close after her. As they neared the half-way point, one of them put on a great burst of speed and seemed to pull ahead for an instant, but then gasped, and fell back. Atalanta shot on! Soon, another young man, tense with the effort, drew near to Atalanta. He reached out as if to touch her sleeve, stumbled for an instant, and lost speed. Atalanta smiled as she ran on. "I have almost won!" she thought. Just then another young man drew near to her. This was young John, running like the wind, as steadily and as swiftly as Atalanta herself. Atlanta felt his closeness, and in a sudden burst, she dashed ahead. But young John didn't give up. "Nothing at all," thought he, "will keep me from winning my chance to speak with Atalanta," and on he ran, swift as the wind, until he ran as her equal, side by side with her, toward the golden ribbon that marked the race's end. Atalanta was aware of him, and she raced even faster. But young John was a strong match for her. Smiling with the pleasure of the race, Atalanta and young John reached the finish line together, and together they broke through the golden ribbon that marked it!

Trumpets blew! The crowd shouted and leaped about! The king rose. "Who is this young man?" he asked.

"I am young John from the town," young John answered.

"Very well, young John," said the king, as John and Atalanta stood before him. "You have not won the race, but you have come closer to winning than any man here. And so I give you the prize that was promised: the right to marry my daughter."

Young John smiled at Atalanta, and she smiled back. "Thank you, sir," said John to the king, "but I could not possibly marry your daughter unless she wished to marry me. I have run this race for the chance to talk with Atalanta."

Atalanta laughed with pleasure. "And I," she said to John, "could not possibly marry you before I've gone out to see the world. But I would like nothing better than to spend the afternoon with you." And she held out her hand to young John, who took it. Then the two of them sat and talked on the grassy field. Atalanta told John about her telescopes and her pigeons, and John told Atalanta about his globes and his geography studies. At the end of the day, they were friends.

The next day, John set off by ship to discover new lands, and Atalanta set off on horseback to visit great cities. The king stayed home and thought about how the world was changing. When he was young, daughters always wanted to get married. But now Atalanta is still off in the world, visiting towns and cities, and John is still sailing the seas. Perhaps someday they'll be married, and perhaps they will not. In any case, it is certain they are both living happily ever after.