Kayaking and 2nd chances

Sunday. January 30th.

Another check on the Bucket List. A chance to kayak in the hinterlands on Hyderabad. In a lake in the arid land of Vikarabad – a huge surprise that – let alone finding a pond, there was a frigging lake in the middle of it. An enterprising gentleman, Ram Bhamidipati organized the Adventure sports meet for ‘Meetup.com’ers to row and kayak in the Nagasamudram Lake in Vikarabad.

It was an amazing trip. A small motley team of 13 started off to Vikarabad. We were hoping that we would have at least 6 kayaks to row around – Ram made it clear that there were only 2. We were disappointed but Ram clearly assured us if we could manage 15 minutes of rowing, it would be an achievement. And oh! and how wrong we proved him and ourselves. You see… kayaking is a physically extracting sport – seeing and doing are two very very different things. Sweaty bodies, bruised arms, aching legs, screaming muscles – lots of water around, its one of those few sports where quitting midway is equally tiring. As that old ancient mariner would say … water water all around but not a drop to drink.

Rowing a kayak inspite of lack of friction is no mean task. Pushing your own body through water is an apparent exercise in serendipitous path finding algorithm. The oars have to be held tight pushing against the water left, right and left in tandem with your rowmate 😛 and thats when the kayak gives in and starts ahead. And bull headed men can try push all they want, coax and scream at the kayak to go hence, but then if your physics are wrong the kayak is a merry go round. But then reconcile with the fact that your kayak is your worst physics teacher come alive and adhere to his command, and he would listen to yours.

Emotions can run high too. Screaming at the erring boatsmen to come back – them lost in their own world taking in the pleasure of the world it can quickly become a bit tiring for the onlookers goading them to come back – 2 kayaks are not enough for a 1st time experience.

Somewhere in all of this, I decided to help my own brother and his friend to row right. And how do you give face to face advice to the kids in the middle of the lake? Well obviously you swim to them and swim I did. But then the delicious irony of this sport is that coaches and students all need to put in the same effort to stay afloat – no discounts. So when I decided to stand straight look them eye to eye and give my 7 seconds of speech, obviously the lack of land under the feet did not give my chance for oration. All that I could realize was that I felt a few feet short, a shortcoming that never manifested in the off-water world – but here that came to show itself in simple brutality. And my obvious panic helped no one – the onlookers on the shore only watching me in amusement mistaking it for a new style of freestyle. My brother who was much more near and much closer and much aware of my abhorrence for any stunts understood as it was – a simple damn rescue. He jumped in to rescue forgetting the fact that he was not better swimmer equal at best. And so did jump his friend too. So there I was obviously sinking like a rock with hands, him reaching out to me only with a lack of skill to complete the rescue mission and the fact we were world class swimming pool swimmers only helped that much. Only later did he realize with his jacket that was virtually unsinkable. Inspite of my gurgling screams, one of my colleagues got the better of his senses decided to come to rescue. In the meantime, yours truly was able to touch land and swim a bit forth by the time which the colleague caught me and pulled me in. That was it. I was in. A huge hug later or more thankfully a lack of a punch and a slap later, all went fine. It was a stupid act that only got right in the end – to first swim and then panic incessantly and then to arrive at the conclusion that rescue would come but I might be unconscious at the max when pulled ashore. A hundred things could have gone wrong, only they didn’t. Thankful for that. Only the confidence the worst would not happen at all. Crazy yet true.

A brief collection of energies, thoughts and courage later all were back in the water – rowing and getting the muscles torn. Finally we did decide to return home. And then a huge set of memories. Pagadala, Saki, Keerthi and Venu, and that stranger from Wipro – thanks. I would not be here if it were not for you.

  • Cost of meetup – 350/-
  • Driving 200 kms in your car – 1000/-
  • Cost of each kayak – 15000/-
  • A small memento from the Siddhi School for Autistic Children – 100/-
  • Blowing a kayak and getting in the water – 15 mins
  • Rowing the kayak, swimming in the lake, getting almost killed and living to tell the tale over a bottle of beer – priceless

Links to the trip:

Murali n Me

The 1st trip into the lake

Murali n Me

The obligatory wide screen shot

Murali n Me

Brother's friend and him

Murali n Me

The instigator, The organizer and the Sea Swimmer


127 hours – review.

Youtube circa 2010. The first ad of ‘127 Hours’ rolled in onto the ‘YouTube’. It was about a friendly, crazy young man that would get trapped in the the rocks. That was it. That *was* the story. Interest spiked, of course this was one of those *inspiring* survivor stories. Wikipedia came to the rescue – telling all about the man Aron Ralston who would finally decide to  cut away his arm to escape alive from the Grand Canyon. That was it – that was all that there was to 127 Hours. Many things were not clear then though – the decision to cut away the arm – could he not have escaped any other way, without having to cut his arm away? Its not like it was amputated or was scraped away in an accident… he decide to cut away. And boy am I happy to be proved wrong… so very wrong.

Danny Boyle has a very quirky director. It was apparent from the beginning that the story by itself would be a boring watch. A single man trapped between a rock with no way to escape. How often does this happen in our Indian films, a push, a nudge, a punch and the rock is pulverized. But then Danny Boyle is not your average Indian director – how much we might misconstrue from his work in Slumdog. And what a face is Franco gifted with… my my my. The face that can emote almost everything – a tried sleepless neo generation hippie, seeking his next shot of adrenaline, eager to get his highs running away from his loneliness; a loneliness he himself creates by running away from all that he holds close to his heart… and  then turns more human like as the situation keeps changing from fun to incredulous to pain fear and to hopeless. Its amazing what that man’s face can emote.

Watching a single man for more than 60 minutes of a movie is no mean task. C’mon Franco is no Cupid, that everyone would be lost in his eyes swooning and lost for the complete hour. Danny of all understands this well. And inspite of having the camera place on top of the rock most of the time, the closeups are never too …. how would I put it Close? 🙂

The most important aspect of a movie is how the audience gets involved in the story. We go from being the jealous, nerdy nobodys in a high-school watching silently even with a bit of jealousy the hunk of the school getting all the fun, girls and the action. Slowly as we go through the motions, we see that Aron has his own quirks but he is still cool. And then as fate strikes we watch with a bit of amusement as we see him stuck in the rock – a minor accident. The small shards of bone and muscle stuck on the side of the wall though a bit unnerving are the only testimony to the unlucky accident. Its not like Aron is crying his heart out writing in pain. Its probably this absence of any emotional ode to the hand, Danny dehumanizes the hand and only makes it but inconsequential to his harrowing circumstances. It is infact reduced to being the main hindrance to Aron’s escape. The hand is only consequential – for all we could know it could have been a $200 MM byzantium that was stopping one to escape.  Its not only Aron thats surprised to think that he himself got himself in such an accident – the audience is also left surprised. The fact that Danny brings on the accident suddenly makes the event all the more surprising. And its only matter of time that hope turns anger at self virtually kicking oneself in the butt to dreams of being able to come out of it and finally the dreary realization that all is not so well. The killing realization that this is it.

For us movie watchers from Telugu and Tamil have always had their mind filled with scene where Kamal Hassan hacks away at his arm in ‘MahaNadi’ in the climax – a chilling climax. In that sense we have been desensitized to violence of arms, legs getting hacked away. But the scene where in a bout of sleepless hysteria, Aron stabs his own hand was a forebearing of the things to come. Not the speak of the fact that early on in the movie, the hand does a awful lot many things, taking in the beauty of the rock in, holding his hand when he has a accident. But nothing prepared us for the loud thwack of the bone, the crushing and the loud break of the bone at the end. Most particularly the arm got reduced to a cord that was stuck around him, a clearly non-humanlike appendage that was stopping Aron from his sure death, probably thats the moment Aron decided that the arm was all gone and he would have to let it go, if he did not go with it.

Its one of the most gruesome scenes but Danny and Franco pulled it off – we cheered his run to his freedom. He earned it but sacrificing his arm – a story of true grit, logic and the testimony that human race has got staying power, much better than any of the other species – and at the risk of annoying the DinoGods, much better than the dinosaurs.