Jumping Off Of Cliffs

I have a minor case of acrophobia (fear of heights). I realized this at the age of 10 when I was at a friend’s house on the 12th floor in Mumbai and was looking straight down. The world seemed to tilt and all of a sudden I had the feeling that the building was sagging, that we were all falling uncontrollably, to meet the earth. I took a step back and have always maintained this distance.

The reason my acrophobia is minor is because I truly enjoy climbing. I love vistas and the journey often endeavored to get to that point. I oft find myself inching towards the edge – taking a quick look down – and then running back to the safety of a hilly plateau.

Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos where I hugged a rope swing to jump in

I also love jumping – off of cliffs, waterfalls, bridges. Granted the stark height is less of an issue here and I am breaking no new ground, my internal conflict before jumping off of each edge grasps me. That moment, when on tiptoes I stand looking down at the turquoise of a deep water pool, I struggle. Each and Every Time. Getting up to that cliff, to that rope, to that ledge is never the issue. All that involves is walking and following another person who has just gone before me. And then my turn arrives – the world closes. My mind wrestles between “Just Do It” and “Are You Serious?” I stand there as if the time has stopped, the world has stopped moving and it’s just me, my mind, and the water below. I do not know what that water holds – to me, my experience – that depth is entirely unknown, completely unfamiliar. Yes, I saw the person before me jump into the same and emerge just fine. But this is my fear, my perception.  Eventually each and every time, I feel will power slowly come in to render a decision. Determined – I go.

I don’t close my eyes, I forget the consequences, I leave my fear behind. And I drop, engulfed within microseconds by the cool arms of the once seemingly treacherous water. Waves of exhilaration and accomplishment soon follow and I glance a look back up at the stable ground that I just left and all I have left with me is a smile.

Oft, living life requires a similar debate and a similar determination. It is always tempting to choose an easy path – often at the sacrifice of doing something that one might have loved but one that required time, effort. In these cases, life soon becomes monotonous – the flavor evaporates, the color fades. Therefore, it is always important to wake yourself up – to dive, jump, run – and start beating once again.

Cenote in Cancun, MX that I jumped off of

Cenote in Cancun, MX whose dark waters I jumped into

Finding lost Treasures: The Summer of Rediscovery

I knew I could not cope with the future unless I was able to rediscover the past.
– Gene Tierney

It has been a while, hasn’t it? My words never did go silent – they just went from being digital to dusty cursive choosing to live in physical notebooks for some time. I wrote, I was prolific. Perhaps the reason why it was more literally pen to paper is because so many of these thoughts were deeply personal. That’s how this summer of travel affected me – the sights that I saw, the people I met – almost gave rise to emotions and aspects that I thought I had lost in the buzzing world of Business school.

These post-MBA travels before restarting my career after a two-year hiatus serve as a perfect bookend to my pre-MBA exploits around Southeast Asia. Back then, in 2011, I had set out to discover new worlds and push myself in directions that I didn’t know. These past 2013 travels were almost like shaking hands with a familiar friend – a best friend – who one doesn’t get to see that often. A friend who I had forgotten in my pursuit of a higher education. Ah – well – I am glad that I have found her again. She’s alive and thriving!

The Arno

The Arno, Florence

In Croatia, I confirmed the strength of beautiful friendships that I had cultivated over the last 2 years.

In Vienna and Budapest, I felt my inner history-loving fire come to life, waltzing around the Schönbrunn, pumping my fists up in Jewish Ruin pubs, singing “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas” with an eclectic, musical trio.

In Italy – ah Italy – I met Bernini. I came face-to-face with his majesty – finally. I rediscovered my Art. Dancing on the streets of Venice, Prancing through cobbled stones of Florence, Hiding in the caves of Cinque Terre’s Ligurian Sea, Playing with fountains in Rome. Running across a friend from primary school days after 10 years of separation.

In Paris, I unearthed my love for Absolute Immersion. Living in the heart of Montmarte, traversing the City of Lights with friends who had defined me in my days in Boston, relishing on pan au chocolat and a café from a corner bakery every morning.

In Freiburg, I again understood the joy of Living Simply and the Art of Conversation. Picnics, munching on berries, swimming in green lakes, debates of society and politics under stars. And yet again, this time too, with friends who had shaped an amazing few months for me back in Boston.

In Peru, I found all of the things above in a wonderful package juxtaposed with some of the most astounding scenery that I have ever seen. And, saw my Macchu Picchu – a site that I have been chasing for about 10 years to get to. What was the most wondrous? While Europe rekindled with my old self in beautiful backdrops, Peru unveiled an entirely new dimension of me.

My travelogues eventually will follow. I wanted to write this piece to join together jumbled thoughts.

Heart of the Andes, Peru

Heart of the Andes, Peru

Diving Once Again

Written in Samana on the Samana Peninsula, The Dominican Republic (March 21st, 2013)

“Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint.”~Jane Austen

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I do not know how to dive – neither in a generic swimming pool nor in the vast ocean. And yet, I feel that I inherently know what it would feel like – especially that moment right before jumping in. The anticipation  the anxiety, the quickened heartbeat – and then splash, water, and in a split-second, the world closes around you. Bliss.

You are left in your own sphere – reflecting, breathing. Your thoughts, your experiences are all your own – no trespassing by any interlopers. The world moves majestically about you as you try to absorb, to embrace all the various ephemeral sensations that are evoked. You gasp on sighting something new, eyes twinkling when the sight is especially beautiful.

And therein lies the answer to a question I am oft asked – Why Travel Alone?

It is absolutely marvelous and wonderful – this feeling of being so in tune with one’s self. At the same time, it is empowering. Whenever I seek inner strength, my mind often drifts back and lingers to my experiences of traveling alone. Those were liberal, magnificent  even magical moments. Over time, they have come to define further who I have become.

Today (March 21st) marks the first day after a gap of two years that I find myself traveling alone yet again. All the experiences of when I did this last come flooding back.

Two years ago, my last excursion was in Cambodia. I remember reminiscing about my month-long travel across Southeast Asia on this last day in Phnom Penh. I recall missing my newly made friends who had departed that morning for the Cambodia coast.

And then, I remember being overcome by an emotional wave – of pure accomplishment.

Now, I find myself diving yet again – this time in the depths of the Samana Peninsula in the eastern coast of The Dominican Republic. I feel as though blood, that had laid languid these past few years, has started to flow once again. Living, relishing, reflecting is precious.

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And I walk barefoot – barefoot in the sand.

I Run. Liberation.

The Moment – all my own. 

Of Dawn and Youth

Dawn in Kampala, Uganda

Dawn in Kampala, Uganda

Some Ramblings to quieten an occupied mind.

There is something magical about dawn. When the night is not ready to quite let go and yet slowly, but surely, lets its darkness be chided into giving way. Dawn is the waking up of one’s soul to the offerings of the oncoming day. It is a slow realization – as if the universe understands that one can’t just be jolted on towards the blinding brightness of the sun.

While dawn brings hope – twilight is the pinching out of the day’s fire. In twilight – I see the End. I feel death. I feel sorrow.

Dawn – possibilities, optimism, expectation.  Perhaps I find myself gravitating towards dawn because I run from twilight. I want to continue living in my youth. I want to have that same sparkle in the eye, that same amazed look that I used to hold whenever I encountered something new. I don’t want the newness of things to diminish. I do not want to become seasoned or wearied by the sameness of things. I remember there used to be point in my youth when I cried out against monotony. It wasn’t in my rolling stone nature to be monotonous. While I still inherently believe that and seek change almost on a daily basis, I realize that I am much more content when in the routine. I find myself looking forward to future days when I will be in in routine domestic life with whoever my life partner will be. There is a certain level of comfort that I now find in stability and in sameness. I am turning old. This is what growing up and accepting (not yet, embracing) adulthood feels like. It’s almost as if my mind was tuned to change perspectives upon the clock striking 26 in my life. I did an almost about-turn.

I am still driven – I still find sweet pleasure in life. The deepest level of happiness, however, is gained not by actual experiences but just by sitting silently and steadfastly in the arms of an unchanging and beautiful nature. Golden leaves, turquoise oceanic waters, purple dahlias. And that’s the other thing Dawn is to me – the emergence of colorful nature from the velvety, indigo folds of the night. 

The Colors of the Wind – Masai Mara

Can you paint with all the colors of the wind” Pocahontas [movie]

NOTE: We saw many an animal across Kenya – walked alongside giraffes and zebras at Hell’s Gate National Park – but Mara delivered not only the animals but also a beautiful background to their wild beauty.

The background was indigo. The golden savanna, vast and majestic, stretched towards stubby emerald hills. The emerald beckoned the indigo shaded hues beyond to blend into its frame and merge with the turquoise sky to help create a landscape that was preciously vibrant and visually stunning. The clouds, pregnant with rain, played tug of war with the sun – leading to changes in the shades of nature’s wardrobe every few minutes.

And the wind – crisp, cool – roared with satisfaction.

Afterall, it got to freely dance along these curves, touch these hues, and feel the sheer wildness.

Our safari jeep traversed through this grand setting, a mere white spot in the vastness – hugging the curves of the raw, red roads of Masai Mara. The world was laid out for us to see – to take it all in, one breath at a time. The landscape, astounding already, became even more vibrant as the wilderness of Mara came more to life. We ran alongside of dozens of zebras, thousands of wildebeests, savage lions, and hungry vultures.

Unaltered terrain despite man’s lust to see the wild. Man, in fact, became a wild beast in himself – peppering the immense Mara with his own white and green four-legged jeeps. Roaming with beasts, them examining us just as curiously as we stared at them. We had cameras; they didn’t. We cared to see them more; they, after a momentary glance of interest, got bored and continued on as before.

Free. Gorgeous. Endless. Amidst all this beauty, my soul flew. It soared to join with the eagles – spreading their wings and flying high above. It swayed to match the rhythm of the tall savanna grass. It frolicked with gazelles as they skipped across tiny streams. It was free, it felt endless, and it looked on thirstily at the gorgeous palette surrounding it.

Nature has a wonderful way of resting an uneasy soul. Of brightening an unhappy heart.

The feelings, perhaps ephemeral but the memory of the sights seen always remains. And when back into the harshness of day-to-day reality, the mind seeks an escape from a darker place, all it has to do is close its eyes and remember.

Encounters: Ma vie, c’est la vie

Encounters

(written May 2009)

“Sometimes you just need a person in your life and they do that bit and you move on, but for that time its the most important person and its great to have the feeling as it energizes you and makes you feel good”

-Rachna Dushyant Singh

 Chance encounters. Memorable words. Poignant moments. The world turns. Fading. Forgetting. Leaving.

So many faces met over the course of last year. Lasting impressions. Tons of personalities clashed and bonded with over few cups of tea or beer or dessert. And the clock hands move, dirty dishes taken away, bill paid, and you move on.

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned in this new environment, where each fends for himself with no parental figure constantly protecting you from The World, is that sometimes you meet, make merry, and then part ways. All over the course of a mere meal even. The essence of the experience is in getting to know people just for a particular moment. Be this moment 5 minutes or 5 weeks long. And then you move on to the next set of chance encounters and memorable words.

I am still trying to figure out this odd way of bonding. I cannot fathom why people would go to the effort of meeting and sharing lives with others who they might see only that night. It is hard for me to not feel a pang of regret as goodbyes are said, while at the same time, making a mental promise of keeping touch. I cannot see why one would just let the flow take them farther downstream from the person they’ve just left behind, and not make the effort to swim countercurrent so that they can relive again the sheer enjoyment that the meeting brought them with the possibility of the one moment turning into long days of lazy happiness.

However, I am warming up to this notion, increasingly, as life puts me at the epicenter of such meetings. I’d initially failed to see that not only are such meetings enjoyable due to the nature of their uniqueness, they are crucial in the life lessons they teach. It’s an idea that took a while for me to arrive at. It took me a while to see such unnatural encounters in a positive light. I used to turn my mind over and over again, trying to get to the crux of the issue and not really seeing that the relationships were to be savored in just those choice moments. That those moments, despite their short lengths, were capable to teach a soul lessons that a 10-year friendship might fail to. Beyond these valuable messages, they introduce a person to new ideas, feelings, experiences, thus broadening one’s knowledge of what life has to offer.

Looking back to my last year, so many standout moments were those spent with what I am terming “5-minute friends.” Conversing with someone about his life spent on a traveling circus, meeting a photographer who’d spent a year in Iraq as part of the U.S. Army, connecting with another kindred soul over a shared take on life. All of these single moments, with “5-minute friends” left deep footprints in my mind and in my path of life.

Each person, a planet in his or her own orbit, crosses path sometimes with another’s orbit.

But ultimately, the set path of the orbit beckons and each has to go his or her merry which way. Departing with sweetness (or sadness), but nonetheless leaving a small dent in the other they bumped into. And thus life continues and chance encounters keep happening and we should learn how to embrace them and not hold the planet from continuing its course. Live, learn, move on.


A Star Diffussed

I’ve never cried for a celebrity who passes away. Sure – celebrity deaths (Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse) have taken me by shock or surprise – but I’ve never cried.

Today I did. And I cannot stop.

There was just something about Steve Jobs passing away that hit home. He lived his life – every moment of it – but he went beyond. He lived it in a way that left an impact on those who didn’t even know him. He inspired people to achieve, he inspired people to dream, he taught a company how to fly. Today – especially realized through the Facebook Feeds spanning generations –  I know that a true visionary has left the planet.  And the World is short one excellent human being. Our lives are a little less brighter

Why did it hit home so strongly? Perhaps it is because I strive living my life the way he did – I aspire to grow not just personally, living every minute, but to also leave an impact on the people and lives I touch.

Perhaps it struck a chord because he was only 56 – 3 years older than my father. Currently, starting my summer internship search at Kellogg, life has become all about career achievements. Mr. Jobs achieved this and a whole lot more. He also balanced an interesting, but ultimately strong, personal life. And yet, the clock ran out. Think about all that he could have done – think how richer our World would be had he been in it for 20-30 years more. So, you wonder about this futile Rat Race that we are all running; these goals that we are all setting and you cannot help but sometimes pause and ask, “To What End?”

Steve Jobs provides the answer through his living: To the end that when your star diffuses, you leave an imprint on Earth that can be remembered through the years. And through that itself – you live on. Your Legacy continues. And you achieve Greatness.

I will miss you Mr.Jobs. I didn’t know it until this moment just how deeply you had enriched and touched my life.

~ Stay hungry, Stay Foolish ~