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P1010039-300x224If I look at the posters in my room and the way that they are placed, I can relate to things that Prof Mark Cane and Prof Jeffrey Sachs have each mentioned in their lectures. The poster in the left is of famous Che Guevera who refined communist and socialist principles and built up a new face of the Cuban revolution. He helped build a new framework for socialism and defined a national policy for Cuba and many countries. He showed the world how an individual can bring about change.

On the right side is Gautam Buddha who defied ancient religious beliefs and gave rise to a modern scientific religious ideology. It may be wrong to talk about religion in a rational discussion, but you can consider Einstein’s ideas on Buddhism. Einstein quotes, “Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and  spiritual, as a meaningful unity.”

Here in this blog, I am not propagating what Buddhism preaches or what communism (which basically believes in atheism) preaches and neither am I asking individuals to follow any ideology. The reason for mentioning them in this blog is entirely different, and now this brings us to the poster in the center. The poster is of yin and yang, which is an old Chinese Zen religious symbol. This symbol acknowledges the importance of the existence of opposites in life for a better living. Having described the posters, the next question to ask is how do I relate them to what Prof Cane and Prof Sachs spoke about in their lectures.

During one of our career counseling sessions, Prof Cane was asked the question about what should people from our program look forward to bring in a change. He made a reference to the Cuban revolution and especially emphasized how a group of people, on a boat, could change policies of the state. The importance of community in understanding the problem was the heart of the socialist movement of the time, and the romantic image of Che Guevara made its way to many fashion outlets all over the world. The romanticism with socialism and the contrast with other ideologies, though some might refer it as too idealistic, were depicted very beautifully in the movies Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.  There was a scene in which the girl explains the peace of mind she had when she visited the Socialist states in Europe. I almost had a similar flow of emotions when I visited the state of Kerela, which is the last standing communist state in India. These expressions cannot be expressed by words and though socialism has not been able to sustain the test of time, its quest for equity of resources did bear some fruits. And yes, Prof Cane did speak about bringing in revolution in the future to bring in change.

Now Buddha’s philosophy did stand the test of time. During the class of human ecology, Prof Sachs would speak about various economic models throughout the whole semester but at the end of semester he gave the example of how happy people of Bhutan are and the framing of the Gross Happiness Index. The following is the quote from one of his articles, “In Bhutan, the economic challenge is not growth in gross national product, but in gross national happiness (GNH). I went to Bhutan to understand better how GNH is being applied. There is no formula, but, befitting the seriousness of the challenge and Bhutan’s deep tradition of Buddhist reflection, there is an active and important process of national deliberation. Therein lies the inspiration for all of us.”

Gautam Buddha was born a prince, but left his comfortable life to understand why there is so much suffering in the world. He endured the pains that no other human could ever endure to teach the world about how tohave a peaceful co-existence. This meant being one with the nature. Many traditional practices in Chinese and Indian civilizations are built up on these philosophies. The very essence of Buddhism lies in its effort in understanding the relationship between the individual and the cosmic. If understanding the cosmic could be termed a religion I could also conclude that understanding earth sciences could be considered as a semi-religion and I am proud to be part of the program in Columbia University. I believe if one could understand the system dynamics of Earth and understand his relationship to the earth, he definitely becomes a healthy and responsible citizen of the world. Though in order to achieve this, a mixture of the basic understanding of his community, his culture, his nation and the world is required.

The simplest message of Buddha to the world was to follow the middle path. Now this could be associated with the concept of duality associated with eastern philosophy. The yin and yang is a symbolic understanding of this philosophy. If I had to relate to what Prof Sachs and Prof Cane referred to, I would think of them as the opposites (yin and yang), essential to spread the message of climate change. In other words, to find a solution to climate change, one has to understand the importance of a community to finding solutions, equity in sharing resources, non-partisan and rational approaches while building policies and scientific understanding.

I can further argue that a major difference in Western and Eastern philosophies is in understanding the duality of life. This difference is reflected in the approach each society takes towards life, but these differences might be like yin and yang for maintaining Earth system dynamics. A better approach towards finding a solution to the climate change problem would be to incorporate the two philosophies and work on a solution together.

As a final note, I would like to finish my discussion quoting Gandhi and his famous approach which became an inspiration to civil rights movements around the world. Many of his critics would claim that bringing everyone with different opinions to the same table to frame national policies was an impossible and unmindful approach.  They would state how religious fundamentalists and communists work in framing a national policy when they are ideologically different. But his understanding of unity in diversity was his greatest gift to the world. The understanding of different ideologies, not as opposing forces but rather complementary energies, was his greatest strength. Though he could not prevent the formation of Pakistan, but understanding the scale of tolerance and peaceful co-existence among many ethnic, religious, and multi-lingual backgrounds is hard to be overlooked.

This might be the millionth time I have tried to write a blog about climate about the truth behind climate change but something always stopped me. Through this blog, I will try to understand what stops me and how would I react to climate change, if I was working in a different walk of life.

During my bachelors, I got involved with a political association. The major issue around the region was the religious tensions after the Hindu Muslim riots. At this time, I started an organization named Forward Forum (http://fwdforum.paripos.com/) with the mission statement to pursue the truth behind what was spoken in the populist media.  Learning from my experiences, my opinion about climate change and the methods used for mitigation and adaptation are biased and populist. If everyone is taught to follow the populist view, the situation might lead to hegemonies trying to frame their own mitigation policies. The organization (ForwardForum) was banned by the state for organizing after about one and half years of operation and I learned a major lesson in life: sometimes truth is dangerous for the state, and people don’t want to hear it.

I had a different perspective during my job in India’s biggest IT Company. Many people in west hold outsourcing responsible for job cuts. My life over there was similar to what shown in the movie Office Space. The corporate world in the true sense teaches one to dis-align one from the actual realities of life. Simon Huntington in his book “The soldier and the State” argues that a military man is the manager of violence and a corporate man is the manager of corporate finance. My goal as a corporate citizen was to follow what the company asked. There was no place for reconsideration and re-evaluation of personal goals. In these conditions I cannot understand how a corporate citizen would be made aware of ground-realities of the problem. The only truth that mattered was the last word of the client. Now people have started talking about corporate social responsibilities.

My next job assignment was in a micro-finance which though was corporate but had a social angle. There is a major similarity between micro-finance and climate change. Both IPCC and Grameen bank got the Nobel prize. But there is also a stark difference too. Everyone acknowledges the fact that people are poor but that’s not true with climate change. The acknowledgement of the fact encouraged many investors like the Dell foundation and others to invest into developing economy. In order to lure foreign investment, the companies would make their employees work 6 days and long hours. This might not always mean higher productivity but it sometimes help serve the investors ego. The corporate goal of maximizing profit and capitalizing on human greed meant the slums became playing grounds for big investors. A similar situation of mortgage crisis was created among the slums while investors made huge profits in the name of helping the poor. Though the difference in this sector was that individuals who could not repay loans don’t have access to other capital and led to massive suicides. My corporate responsibility was to reduce the operations cost to maximize profits. After working for more than one and half years, I felt guiltier about my work and had to leave. Humanitarian efforts appeared to be a myth, while numbers and career growth became more important than human suffering. Climate change is a tougher problem but a similar approach might be disastrous.

After working for achieving corporate goals, I tried setting my own goals of introducing a new and unbiased approach of social media to provide education to kids who don’t have access to education. The product http://myolivebooks.com/ was liked my many but could not bring in investment.  Investors argued what would prevent organizations from designing similar software after they get hold of the idea. They would recommend building an add-on to Facebook.  My last assignment at IRI had a similar story. A few weeks back, more than a dozen people were laid off from IRI which was built to bridge the gap between the science and the society. I don’t know the reason why they were laid off but it brings me to the question that whether profitable operations are the best way to solve a problem.

Trying to understand society’s approach to mitigate effects of climate change makes me realize our skewed vision in understanding the relationship between society and nature. Individuals are not aware of their surroundings. The new education system and the corporate lifestyle never encourage individuals to question ones survival. We are unaware of the source of our perception from our five senses. In other words, we do not know the source of our food or water, in some cases clothes and shelter, we seldom validate what we hear in media, we seldom know the true smell of nature outside air fresheners. Our perception of climate change is something similar and my only fear is that we are so distant from the reality of the impact. One could only understand the plight of the people living in the edge of the glaciers or those living in the forests or sea shores, only if one perceives their suffering, but I doubt this will make any economic sense. The only hope in the modern world is people sitting in Wall Street and an excel sheet come up with a solution.

My work involved building up a product to be used by policy makers to bring in sustainable development. A brief description of the product:

End Product: GIS based web-service coupled with analytical and remote sensing applications./  End User: Policy Makers/—  Programming Languages : (Java J2EE, C++, Fortran, Data-library, Google KML API)/—  Third Party Software: (Eclipse, HMM Tool, DSSAT Crop Model, Google Earth)/  —Development Platform : Unix based operating system

This is not a technology demonstration blog. I will try to tell you a human side of the software by telling the story of a life of a poor farmer Ram Singh (this might be the story of any farmer in any developing country) as a concept of using this product for providing him with better life.

This is a story of the life of a farmer named Ram Singh, who lives in a small village in a corner of India. Ram Singh and his family are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, and he has dreams of educating his kids to go and work in the corporate sector in urban India.  Ram Singh has been practicing traditional methods of agriculture, which had been developed by his ancestors. He was also happy with the pro-farmer government policies that provided subsidized electricity.  This allowed Ram Singh to pump as much water required for the farming from the groundwater for free, and typically had good luck with the harvest. But Ram Singh is always worried about his brother, Hari Singh, who relies on rainwater.  Hari Singh would report about unpredictable monsoon onset date and how his crops are affected.  Also he would read newspaper reports about the plight of farmers in a region in Western Maharashtra. The reports would suggest that a total of 7000 farmers have committed suicide during the last 3 years, and that is an average of over six farmers committing suicide per day. This region is home for approximately 3.4 million cotton farmers, and 95% of them are struggling with massive debt. The growth of bio-tech cotton was encouraged by the government, and now the farmers are facing the brunt of the failed policy.

Ram Singh doubts his luck will continue that the government will be providing the same generosity in the future.  He continues to wonder whether he will be able to save enough to send his children to work in the city.

Understanding the Ground Realities in India

Due to population growth, there has been a constant increase in demand for food and energy. The availability of energy sources has helped farmers to pump out ground water in order to meet the growing food demands. However, years of pumping have resulted in a drop in the average depth of ground water. This yielded an increase in demand for energy and more stress in agricultural output. By providing subsidies in electricity, the government is faced with budget constraints. Also, the drop in agricultural outputs due to groundwater stress and change in monsoon patterns did not help the government’s treasury.  The only option the government has is to remove the subsidies, leaving lots of farmers starving.

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Himalayan Expedition

DAY 1

ISBT DELHI

ISBT DELHI

The journey started from Bangalore where a team of 22 individuals from various walks of life had packed up their bags for an expedition to the mighty Himalayas.  It was a train ride to New Delhi and from there we took a long back breaking journey from Delhi to Manali, a beautiful picturesque city located in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. We halted for the night and for the first time I saw the mighty Himalayas from such close range. Though I have been to Missourie and other hill stations too but had seen the icy peaks through telescopes only. I was very excited that we were going to these and little scared too. This time these mountains were really close and their magnanimity was frightening.

First View Of Himalayas & Bias

First View Of Himalayas & Bias

We halted at Manali for one day. We had a small acclimatization march up a hill in Manali so that we could breathe easily in the high altitudes. Due to lack of oxygen at high altitudes it takes about 48-72 hours for human body to get acclimated. In this time period new red blood cells and capillaries get generated in the body. Also heart’s capacity to pump and lungs capacity too increases. I was looking forward to get apples from trees as Manali is famous for that and ate a lot of apples.

Acclimatization in Manali
Acclimatization in Manali

Next morning we left for a small town named Solang Nala. This place is famous for winter sports but only in winters when it is completely covered with snow. This time of year it was almost vacant with some construction workers building up some ropeway. Solang Nala was the last human habitation that we were about to pass. From Solang Nala we had a 6 km trek down the last motorized road that we were to see while climbing to a place called Dundi. Only military vehicles were allowed in the roads. Dundi has this Central government Avalanche research institute. From Dundi the real trek started through a jungle terrain.

Moving Around in manali
Moving Around in manali

The first thing that an individual from plains experience is the inability to perceive and understand height and distance. Someone had told us before that height and distances in Himalayas are very deceptive. What may seem very close may be miles away from you and you realize this when you start reaching for that place. In plains I definitely was able to figure out how far the landmark is but in these mountains I started realizing it only by the end of the expedition. Also walking one mile at those heights is equivalent to walking 3-4 in plains as one has to navigate through boulders and terrains and also deal with the shortage of oxygen.

After crossing Dundi we had to cross three more huge ridges and cross the mighty river Vyas river twice to reach our base camp. The tree line comprising of mostly pine tree was not visible after Dundi. Above this altitude it was almost grassland till our base camp. The terrain was covered with beautiful flowers. A sheep dog started following us from Dundi and was with us in the base camp. After crossing the three ridges we reached we reached to a rocky zone named as moraine.

Fron Solang Nala to Dhundi

Fron Solang Nala to Dhundi

A moraine is accumulated earth and stones deposited by a glacier. The moraine was part of glacier formation of Hanuman Tibba which helps feed the Vyas river. These huge stone structures provide anchorage to glaciers from flowing fast.  It was very difficult to navigate through these moraines. Then we had to cross one more ridge to reach the base camp. The sight of base camp was pleasant after trekking for about 10 hours. A skier in our team said that one German team climbed up the Hanuman Tibba mountain, which is the highest in Himachal Pradesh at around 20000ft , and skied down to Solang Nala in 10 minutes. Obviously it was winter then and these moraines were covered with ice.

View of sSolang Nala fron Dundi

View of sSolang Nala fron Dundi

We stopped thrice on way to base camp from Dhundi. The height we achieved for that day was about 4000 ft. We were not acclimatized well and breathing was really difficult and adding to this I was carrying a very heavy luggage. The base camp was near the source of Vyas river names as Vyas Kund.

People were shouting that its getting dark and the whether will become really bad at night. Still the base camp was about 2-3 kms. Somehow I mustered enough strength to come down from the ridge and march straight to the base camp and when I reached there it was almost dark by now and cold has started to come in. The last stretch was like hell and I was about to fall down of exhaustion many times. Somehow I reached the base camp and dropped my luggage and fell down. I was completely wet with sweat but I had started shivering badly because of the cold. One of the seniors asked me to change the clothes or I will suffer from hypothermia pretty soon. But I didn’t had the strength even to change my clothes.

Trekking from Dhundhi to base camp

Trekking from Dhundhi to base camp

I was given some soup, drank it and went to one tent and sat on the floor completely exhausted and trying to regain some energy. After 15 minutes I heard that some people are trying to build camp fire from wood they collected while coming up. So I came out to get some heat from the fire but the fire won’t come up and not even K-oil was helping. This was the time when I for the first time I saw what was around me and where I had come.

There first sight of the place sent a chill down my spine. I was covered by huge mountains with shiny white tops all around me. We were in the valley and the sky was darker than what I had ever seen and the starts were twinkling brighter than what I had ever seen. The moon which was almost half at that time had more moonlight than what I had ever seen even if I consider my full moon sights. The snow at the peaks beautifully reflected the moonlight and clouds seemed like getting formed at the peaks and descended to the valleys. With brain almost functioning at half of its potential because of exhaustion and lack of oxygen at those altitudes, the scene looked ghostly as never before. May be if I had seen the mountains in the day time I would have admired the magnanimity and the beauty of the place but I wanted to go to sleep and get inside the tent to prevent myself from the biting cold. I could not even complete my dinner and went to sleep ASAP. But then I realized a very bad fact. You don’t get good sleep at high altitudes because of the lack of Oxygen.

The first Sight of Avalanche in the mighty Himalayas

The first Sight of Avalanche in the mighty Himalayas

With brain almost functioning at half of its potential because of exhaustion and lack of oxygen at those altitudes, the scene looked ghostly as never before. May be if I had seen the mountains in the day time I would have admired the magnanimity and the beauty of the place but I wanted to go to sleep and get inside the tent to prevent myself from the biting cold. I could not even complete my dinner and went to sleep ASAP. But then I realized a very bad fact. You don’t get good sleep at high altitudes because of the lack of Oxygen.

May be I was frightened that night because my ego must have got hurt. Looking at these structures make you realize how small you are in front of Mother Nature. How vulnerable are you in front of Mother Nature. I may have subconsciously realized whatever we do we still are kids in front of nature and we should respect them for what they are.

 

The first Sight of Base Camp from the Last ridge

The first Sight of Base Camp from the Last ridge

The mountains that surrounded us were: Friendship Peak, Stitidhari, ladaki, Manali, Hanuman Tibba , Lady Leg and the Seven Sisters. There was also the Tentu Pass which one had to cross to sumit Hanuman Tibba. The name of this pass came from its resemblance to the watch timing of 10:02.

Anyways I had some sleep that night and got up next morning to actually appreciate was around me. The night was really cold. Heard few sounds of avalanches at night but didn’t come out to see them The previous team in this expedition really had a bad time with the whether. It was snowing almost all the time they were there and the area around us was covered with almost 1ft of snow. Only one team could summit the friendship peak but while coming down they were stuck in complete white out when the cloud descended on them. Somehow quick reaction from people near the Advance Base Camp prevented a major disaster and they managed to safely return to the safety of ABC.

 

 

 

 

Day 2

The View of Mountains from Base Camp

The View of Mountains from Base Camp

 

The previous night in spite of being tired I could not sleep properly and I was dizzy all day long. Also I was using the sleeping bag for the first time and I was not used to sleep all packed and the bad had chocked my maneuver. Anyways I got up at 5:30. The morning I realized the beauty that abhorred me the previous night. May be it was my ego that got hurt the previous day. When you reach to those heights you realize how small you are in front of these massive structures that you unconsciously question your existence. It makes you realize how small you are in front of these massive mountains. When I reached the base camp in the very first day there was a sense of accomplishment but a bitter sense of realization that there is a long way to go and big distances and heights to be covered.

View of the Tent from inside

View of the Tent from inside

Anyways the morning was fresh and chilling and I enjoyed being in the mountains. It was like a dream come true. I always wished to see these snow capped mountains. The base camp was near Vyas Kund, the lake from which the mighty Vyas river originates. This place has also got some religious sentiments attached to it.

The target for this day was to get acclimatized to the mountains. We had our first round of acclimatization in Manali at about 8000 ft. This would be second round at 12000 ft without which further ascend would be impossible. So the task was to achieve some heights towards mighty Hanuman Tibba and touch the glaciers and come back.

The View from the Valley

The View from the Valley

We moved to the glacier mouth of one of the streams which fed the Bias river. While reaching there we witnessed snow leopard droppings. At first glace of glacier I thought that I was looking at an underground river originating from the crevices under the hill. Even one of the seniors in the expedition had told me before also that at the very first sight of the glacier you won’t realize it being the glacier. Later the hill that we imagined was the ice formation of the glaciers but it looked like a brown rock structure because of the layer of mountainous soil settled over the frozen rivers. Somebody removed the soil to show us the ice below it.

Glacier mouth to Bias river

Glacier mouth to Bias river

Then we realized that we were actually on a glacier. There we also witnessed some berg falls on the glacier. Berg is the German name for rock and we saw huge boulders rolling down like anything. It was deadly and noisy. But when we were enjoying the scene somebody on the binoculars saw some guys rushing out tent and coming towards us in faster than usual speed. We thought something wrong happened to one guy who got sick while ascending the previous day. He vomited twice the previous day and was sick. We were worried if he was not stuck by high altitude sickness. So all of us rushed to the base camp but then I realized how difficult it to run was. Somehow we reached the base camp and all was well in there.

Frost on The Tent

Frost on The Tent

In mountains high altitude sickness is a major killer and people don’t realize when they got it. There are two major high altitude sicknesses: HAPE & HAZE. HAPE is malfunctioning of heart at these high altitudes and you start vomiting blood and may lead to death. HAZE is something related with lungs where the bronchus expands and one cannot breathe and lack of oxygen can lead to coma and then death. In the same expedition last year one team member died of instant hypothermia. Death was so common and easy in Himalayas. We were to hear lots of stories of these accidents while our stay in the mountains. There were three graves just few hundred meters ahead of us towards the Vyas Kund of mountaineers who died in those mountains.

Our Tent

Our Tent

Six years back when our team leader had came to the same place for expedition, six people died at the summit of Hanuman Tibba when the whole summit exploded. Their only mistake that they were at the top of the summit at about 1 pm in the afternoon. It is always recommended that one must come down from the summit at 11 before the sun is overhead. Once the sun comes up the whether goes deadly and most accidents take place at this time only. In that case because of the melting of glacier a lens type formation must have taken place which boiled the water inside the glaciers. With no place to escape the summit exploded and only two of the eight in the team survived.

 

Snow Leopard Droppings

Snow Leopard Droppings

In this July four army officers fell down while attempting another peak named Stitidhari and one died We attempted this peak while our stay in the mountains. It is said that there are about 100-150 dead bodies on the way to Mount Everest. We also met one individual who was part of the first Indian civilian team to climb Everest. He hanged to one rope for 16 hours near their advanced base camp with three of his friends hanging there dead. There was complete white out and they could not find out their way. When in morning other team members found them out, they were just 200 meters away from the camp all night searching for the camp. All their radio equipments were seized by the Nepalese government. He survived because he somehow kept himself awake the whole night. If you sleep in these situations you would definitely die, this is what a sherpa had told him and this is how he survived.

There were many such incidents that we were told and many survival tactics when one gets stuck in these situations and how to behave in these mountains. Also tips on how to survive in Avalanches and other places.

Anyways after we came down then we had our lunch which was simple dal-rice. Then we played handball for some time. The whether changes so rapidly in these mountains and the clear weather was followed by clouds coming down the mountains and causing snow fall. I saw the first snow fall in my life from inside our tent. Later by the evening the clouds got clear and beautiful and clear night followed. The sky with so many beautiful starts twinkling looked so dreamy. Then there was the moon which at its quarter was brighter than the full moons I had seen and the way the light enthroned the valley was poetic. There were no fire woods and no camp fire…only simple plain dinner under the moonlight. Then we went back to our tents and had a good night sleep.

Day 3

 

The seven sisters mountain was named after the seven girls who summated Mount Everest from India’s first all woman mountaineering expedition. Again I didn’t have a good night sleep that night too and this process will remain the same in the whole expedition. It was also recommended that we sleep late at night so that acclimatization is easier as when one sleeps the oxygen intake reduces. The morning was really cold and the temperature had dropped to -8*C at night. I did realize the cold at night but I was feeling some water dripping all night on my face. The outer tent flap was loose and it was touching the inner flap and the frost in that flap had converted into ice, which caused condensation inside the tent in the region where it was touching. And this zone was above my head and water dripped on my face all night.

Vyas Kund Lake ( Mouth of mighty Bias River)

Vyas Kund Lake ( Mouth of mighty Bias River)

Dehydration is a major killer in the mountains and I felt dehydrated every morning. You don’t drink much water because either you don’t feel like drinking or the water is too cold to drink. Also the whole skin dries up inspite of applying so much of cold cream. Then in the morning one had to walk for almost 2-3 kms to attend to natural call. Imagine walking for 20 -30 minutes every morning to find a boulder to hide behind it as in the valley it was like the plane extended to infinity. Some also climbed some small hills to find a convenient and quiet place. Even brushing was really a brave maneuver where even touching the water in the morning would render your hands senseless. It was told that in no situation we should not put this water in our head as it may result in melting of the cerebral fluid and instant brain dead.

Streams Feeding the Vyas kund

Streams Feeding the Vyas kund

Our team leader referred the Himalayas as a refrigerator. He said if you want to preserve yourself for few days then go and spend some time in Himalayas. There are very few bacteria and microbes. Even if you don’t brush your mouth won’t smell. Your sweat doesn’t smell too and you can go without bath for many days. I had bath only once when the sun had come up but I completed my expedition with a jeans and a pair of T-shirts.

Anyways this morning in our third round of acclimatization we were asked to climb about 1500-2000 ft and stay at the top for some time and come down. We were to cross the Vyas Kund which I was very excited to see. Legend has it that Maharshi Ved Vyas used to take bath in this lake and then used to write the legendary Mahabharata.

Resting Above the Vyas Kund

Resting Above the Vyas Kund

This whole valley was prohibited for girls and had a very high stature for religious Hindu people. The previous team could not summit because it snowed the whole week and the base camp was filled with about half feet snow. The shepherds blamed the girls in the team for the bad whether and when the girls went back the whether was clear again. There were also some myths attached to the lake. It is so that whoever had entered the lake had not come out alive and their bodies were never found. Some years back some government officials children got drowned in the lake and even divers could not find their bodies. It is said that there was some monster inside the lake. There were many other stories and people even feared to touch the water of the lake. Master prohibited us from going inside the lake and bath and definitely I was in no mood to have bath in this cold weather.

Hanuman Tibba Summit

Hanuman Tibba Summit

Anyways the lake had this mystic green tint and was not much big to be dangerous. Initially we took the ridge near the lake and followed a narrow path formed by the sheep movements in the region and kept climbing up. We were climbing very slow but even then the climbing was very difficult. Anyways we kept moving up and crossed a green patch over the ridge to make it to the next ridge. These green patches distinctly covered the ridges around the lake making a figure of 101 from the top. Then after reaching a height of about 13500 ft we got exhausted and came to rest. We had actually exceeded the mark set by master and had actually taken up a wrong and dangerous route which had some steep slopes and some areas where there were falls of about 500 ft.We all were rounded up later and scolded for this undisciplined behavior and may be we learn what the mountains were and how we should behave in there. The guy who was sick the previous day was the major concern and in absence of oxygen he might have gone unconscious and we were not even carrying oxygen canisters with us. Anyways the concern was necessary as mountaineering causes the maximum deaths among all sports.

 

Climbing the ridges

Climbing the ridges

Anyways when I reached to the top I thought I should do some meditation. I tried a yogic concentrating technique of Tratak and the feeling was unexplainable. I was concentrating on the tip of Hanuman Tibba. After some time of concentrating the 3D view of the mountain changed to a 2 dimensional view as if the mountain was painted over a canvas. Then after some time the mountain and the sky mingled into a single bluish water color type texture with just the peak clearly visible. After some time it looked like texture mapped images but still the peak was clearly visible. After this point I thought I could not handle it any more and I stopped. When I descended down and asked master about this, he said because of the lack of oxygen at those altitudes your brain showed you those images.

View of Base camp from top

View of Base camp from top

Hallucination is another major killer in these mountains. When Edmond Hilary was climbing Everest, at the very end of the climb there was a straight wall called today as the Hilary climb. At this zone he started pulling a goat and asked it to come up. At the summit he prepared three cups of coffee while there were only two of them.

Well when we descended down to the base camp I saw another amazing scene. The herds of sheep who were grazing around the Vyas Kund and went near the lake would suddenly realize this and  jump away from the lake as

From Grassland to snowline

From Grassland to snowline

if repelled by the lake. They would never drink water from the lake but would do so from the streams. Then I went near the lake and sat beside the lake. I could see that there were Buddhist ribbons put around the late. I touched the water and it was cold and started imagining the reason for these myths. Getting into the icy cold water was out of question.

Anyways after spending some time near the lake I came down. Master asked me to find some place far away from base camp and try meditating. He said it takes about one tenth of a time to go to trans in these mountains compared to planes. This is the reason why Himalayas are famous with so many holy men. But I could not meditate well as the wind was very fast and there were a lot of disturbance going on in around me. I asked master to teach how to do it.

That evening we sat in the tent and master taught us some how to meditate and uttered some Buddhist mantras. It was amazing experience to do so but still I could not achieve the feeling of being in trans.

 

Day 4

The Climb We Were To Take Today

The Climb To The Friendship Peak

Today the weather was very clear and master woke up early shouting “Get up and get ready… Today we have a really long way to go”. Day before yesterday it snowed in the mountains and two days of sunlight must have melted most of the snow formed. We were to go towards Friendship peak. It was a really easy peak and the attempt we were trying was called alpine This is tried with small mountains where one starts from the base camp and reach the summit andcome back the same day. Today was the first time we were attempting such a great height. This peak stands at 18500 ft.

With Ropes

With Ropes

The journey was to be long one. We had to climb two big ridges and descend down and then climb again till one reaches the summit. Climbing and crossing the first ridge took my breath away. Only while climbing I realized that I was badly dehydrated and I had cramps in my legs. I was not able to climb well enough and to add to my misery the water bottle I was carrying electrol powder had leaked out. So the initial climb was really disastrous and a very bad start. The sun was really sharp and I could find the effectiveness of my costly Ray-Ban sunglasses at this altitude. I forgot to apply sunscreen lotion that morning and I burnt my nose that day.

There were some stretches from where if one slips then there would be about 5000 ft fall from where there was no return. Anyways I somehow managed to climb the two ridges and then descend down to move to a stream. I filled my

The Glaciers

The Glaciers

bottle with water and mixed the electrol powder and then my cramps settled down. The descend part was the only easy part of the mountain. Then we were climbing another two ridges and tried to come close to the white snow line. But amazingly I could not recognize the snow at first close encounter. Again I had never seen snow in my life and I was looking forward to this. There were small patches of snow formation between rocks a long way before the major snowline. It seemed like surf foam to me and I thought it may have formed because of churning of water below the rocks. But later I realized it was my first glimpse of snow.

Still we were to cross one more ridge and then we saw snow leopard pug marks. Some team members saw snow leopard cubs from a very long distance but I was not lucky. Master told us that the family of snow leopard lived in these mountains above the altitude of about 15000 ft. They feed on sheep and so come down to pick one of them. This snow line was actually another glacier which belonged to the permanent snow line of the mountain.

College Banner

College Banner

Sun glasses were really must or you would suffer from retina burn which would cause snow blindness. The reflection of the sun in glaciers is very deadly. In altitudes of Everest merely looking at the snow without glasses causes blindness.

Walking On Glacier

Walking On Glacier

Climbing on the glacier has its own dangers. Because it is snow deposited over rocks, there are a lot of crevices. If one happens to fall in one of these, his body will be preserved for generations. You have to be very cautious while walking on the glaciers and one has to poke with the ice axe before walking to check for crevices. Also groups walk tied to ropes so that if one falls down then others can pull him up. But walking with ropes is not recommended in avalanche prone zones as in this scenario all would be sucked in.

On The Glaciers

On The Glaciers

Once we reached the snow line we halted for some photography sessions, Master performed a yogic style called Tumo in which one generates heat from inside the body. He opened his clothes and sat in the glacier in subzero temperatures and started meditating. If I would have done something similar surely I would definitely caught hypothermia as I was shaking with cold even with my clothes on. Master comes every year to perform some yogic kriyas which could be performed only in the high altitudes.

The Team

The Team

Another of his kriyas is called longham where one moves very fast in the mountains. The individual is in a state of trans and for an outsider who is looking from a very far distance would feel as if the other guy is flying. This is why people say some yogis flying similar to what one sees in Kung-fu movies. Actually this kriya is very dangerous and once the individual comes out of trans, he may collapse and die because of exhaustion.

There was another team had climbed up the mountain the previous day. So their footprints was like  a highway on the entire snow line. Because of good sunshine the snow had become strong and it was even possible to walk on the snow without the snow gear. Then most of the people who reached this altitude hosted the national flag and sang national anthem. It was another of the amazing experiences.

Master Performing Tumo

Master Performing Tumo

After climbing up we came down with the feeling of achieving something. Descending down is also painful as it hurts the knees badly. But in Himalayas there was no time for pain. I had good night sleep that night but others reported of ghost stories at night.

Ice Man

Ice Man

Tjis One Looked Like Lenin Though

This One Looked Like Lenin Though

 

Ghost Stories: Girls in the previous team heard crying sounds of some girl. It scared the hell out of them. Also some guys reported of hearing some movements at night. Even I heard some sounds of something moving around the tents at night. It was actually impossible for some human to get out as the temperature drops down to negative 10 or so. And if clouds come down then the visibility is less than 1 meter. It could have been some animal but foot steps looked more of a human. Anyways animals won’t make so much sound while walking. And sometimes in the night the dogs too start barking. ven the shepherds spoke of ghosts. With so many deaths in the mountains and nights being so ghostly these stories seemed real and frightening.

That night I realized that I had a very bad sun burn and my nose was completely burnt. After that day I never forgot to apply my sunscreen but the damage was done.

Day 5

Today we would be attempting another peak named Stitidhari which is higher then the friendship peak. Attempting this peak we have to set up an advanced base camp at about 17000ft, spend the night over there and then attempt the summit next morning. The climb will be difficult than yesterday as the climb will be steep and shorter than yesterdays long and dangling path. We were going to pass the Vyas Kund again but this time I drank lots of water in the morning before leaving.

Sheaps Moving Early in The Morning

Sheaps Moving Early in The Morning

We were 14 people chosen to go the top. While we were climbing there was another incident of high altitude sickness. After reaching about 16,000 ft one guy complained that he was unable to breathe. It was a really a bad situation and everybody was now on high alert. The individual was an experienced mountaineer but he was stuck by high altitude sickness. He had to be taken down and so another person from the team escorted him.

Big Avalanche At Night

Big Avalanche At Night

If every thing was fine he would just make it to base camp before it gets dark. Even then we had to pitch our tent and because of this delay two members went ahead to find an area to pitch the tent. We had to pitch the tent much below the desired altitude. So now we were only 12 and it was getting dark now. At those heights the temperature drops rapidly with the sun set. We were shivering but we had to pitch the tent. So we cleared some region to make some level ground for tent and then pitched the tent Some people went forward to fetch water from a nearby stream.

On The Way To ABC

On The Way To ABC

The tent was pitched on a slope. The cold was really biting and pitching the tent was amazingly difficult. Then some people made place for the kitchen and prepare dinner. We took ready to eat stuff and a kerosene stove to that altitude. The evening was chilling but the sight was really amazing. Two days from now it would be full moon and from that altitude we could see the adjacent valley comprising of mountain ranges like IndraQuila and others. We could see that the cloud had descended completely into that valley and it would have been definitely snowing up in there, while our valley was clear. How amazing is the weather in these altitudes and it is so much local.

Base Camp from ABC

Base Camp from ABC

Then we had our dinner. It was absolutely impossible to stay out at night. We went inside the test as soon as possible. Sleeping was even difficult in a slanted position but still we managed to sleep for some time. Next morning we had to attempt the summit and so get up early. The temperature went down to -20 * C that night.

 

 

Pitching The Tent

Pitching The Tent

At night we saw a snow leopard come near our tent. It was really amazing but those who were awake were scared like hell. Anyways snow leopard is not expected to attack humans but they came there out of curiosity and touched the tent flap and went away. Even at our intermediate camp in Bakra Taj, there was a Himalayan Bear attack. This bear came really dead close to the camp and hit an individual in the back and went away. It was really a scary moment for them as Bears do like to harm humans and Himalayan Bears are huge in size and the biggest in the Bear species.

 

 

Day 6:

Next morning we got up at around 5 am and made our way to the summit. Not all of us were healthy enough to move higher. Though summiting the mountain was not in plan as it had a huge wall and it would require some good technical maneuvers which most of us were not prepared for. Anyways we tried to reach to the maximum height possible for us to reach. It was still not sunlight and when the sun came up all the peaks around the region became golden for almost two minutes. This was a marvelous scenery and I don’t have words to explain how beautiful was it.

Clouds Coming Down on US

Clouds Coming Down on US

We crossed the snow line but the cold has taken the excitement out of me. I was cold to my bone and shivers were coming up from my spine. Then we walked for another half an hour when we saw the 500 ft snow wall. So we came back to our advanced base camp. After this we went to search for water to cook breakfast but could not find any. All the water around us had frozen. So we had to go a long distance down to fetch the water and come down. Drinking this was a disater.

The Frozen Rivers

The Frozen Rivers

After having noodles for breakfast we noticed that the clouds were beginning to come down. It was a dangerous sign and we risked white out. So we came down fast, packed our tents and  started moving down as soon as possible.

This was epected as the weather was open for so many days. It was bound to go bad. Also the other valley was filled up with clouds all the time. So somewhow we started to come down fast. It was as if the clouds were chasing us.

 

The View of Mountains around me

The View of Mountains around me

As we descended a fair amount of height the clouds stopped following us. I had realized that the excitement of the expedition was over now and all the hard work paid off. I just wanted to enjoy being on the hills as long as possible. So I was moving very slowly.

The Pashmina Goats

The Pashmina Goats

As we were moving down we saw the herds of sheep and goats were comming up. They reach amazingly high altitudes in search of pastures. Somebody joked that if the grass was to summit these sheaps must have summitted. I also gave them a plan of catching one of the sheeps and shaving it. It could fetch us good as they were the Pashmina sheeps which provide the costliest wool of the world.

I was carrying the stove and my bag and today my knees were paining badly. But that did not stop me enjoying the whether. When we came down we had our lunch and directly went back to sleep.

 

Descending Down

Descending Down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7

Moving Towards Hanuman Tibba

Moving Towards Hanuman Tibba

The weather was more than amazing for the past 7 days. Usually you do not get such a long period of sunshine. Whatever we needed to work on and accomplish in the expedition was by large over. Tomorrow we had to make our way to the lower regions. So today was our day to explore the near by regions and enjoy. So we planned towards the mighty Hanuman Tibba. The mountain was actually the aim for the expedition but many days of snowfall had ruined our plans. The mountain was also notorious for Avalanches which we had witnessing for so many times now. So we planned to move near the avalanche prone zone and watch the Avalanches from a more closer but safer range.  So we moved towards the mighty range.

Waiting for Avalanche

Waiting for Avalanche

Avalanches are another of the major killers in the mountains. Most of us had seen many views of these avalanches in televisions but the sight of it even form a safe distance is horrifying. The sound is horrifying then the thunder. Getting stuck in the avalanche is a nightmare come true. There were many cases of people getting stuck and die in avalanches. So obviously we were told how to survive when stuck in Avalanche.

 

 

The Ice Face of Hanuman Tibba

The Ice Face of Hanuman Tibba

Avalanches are like fast flowing rivers and the death in avalanche is because of suffocation at major times. So if one gets stuck in the avalanche then he should move his hands and legs as if he is trying to swim and try to come towards the surface. If one gets stuck in avalanche then he should try to come up. There was a case in these mountains when a mountaineer got stuck in the avalanche and then he statred to dig downwars. When his body was found he had dig up a tunnel inside the avalanche. So to protect from these situations we were asked to spit in case one gets stuck. If the spit falls on ur face then move up or move the other way round. 

Waterfall

Waterfall

Now a days many mounteneers wear beacons to tell where they are stuck. Another survival technique is to use a special type of cord which is orange in color so that it is visible from far. This cord has the tendency to move up and stay on the surface. It will inform whether somebody is stuck.

The huge Crevaices on ICE

The huge Crevaices on ICE

In these Himalayas we saw different type of Avalanches. They are mainly slab avalanche, powder avalanche and wet snow avalanche. Every morning the mountains shed some snow that was collected the previous night which triggers some major avalanches and called powder avalanches. Sometimes a huge slab of ice moves down and causes a deadly avalanche which is a major killer. Some of these slab avalanches are caused bu humans. There was another case in these mountains when a team of 8 mountaineers were killed because of the haversack they were carrying. They were moving up in waist deep snow when someones haversack rolled down which triggered a slab avalanche. So the lesson was to prevent climbing up the avalanche prone areas.

The Base of Huge Avalanche

The Base of Huge Avalanche

 So we reached to the Avalanche prone zone of the Hanuman Tibba. The time was now around noon and we knew that if we had waited for another half an hour we would definetely see the avalanche. Actually the mountains shed some snow whenever the sun is on the top. So all of us were waiting on the top of ridge which was directly facing the the ice face of the mountain.

Sitting still in the mountains make you feel cold and all the time you must start doing something . So we waited and finished of all the chocolate rations that we had with us  because tomorrow was only descend.

In front of Mt hanuman Tibba

In front of Mt hanuman Tibba

And an Avalanche did happen and it was so wild. It was so dangerous. Well I don’t want to be anywhere close to this. It was just an amazing experience. Today we were not climbing and enjoying what the mountains had to show to us. Atleast by now we were all acclimatized. The view was amazing from the ridge.

After staying on the top of the ridge for about another one hour, we moved down, crossed the stream and moved towards the base camp. I didn’t want to go back so fast. So I was moving very slowly and was left at the very back of the pack.  I went towards the shepherds and talked to them for some time and then asked them about their life style. That was another amazing experience. Then when I was comming down all alone I saw an animal standing in front of me. I thought it was an wolf and I thought I was now done. There was no escape and obviously you cannot run from there especially when a wild animal chases. But it did something which was not expected from it. It behaved like a dog and paid no heed to my presence. I thought that this really was a dog but a ferocious one. Well I just moved safely back to the base camp.

When back to the base camp there we saw an another team of Indian mountaineers had come up to the valley. There was one amazing personality who was part of the first civilian Mount Everest expedition.  He survived in the Everest by hanging to a rope for 16 hours with two of his friends hanging dead on the same rope. I survived because a sherpa had told him before ” If you sleep in the mountains then you are dead”. He kept himself awake all the time.  There was a complete white out and when the other team members found them, they were just 20 ft away from the Advanced Base Camp. They were circling round and round the advanced base camp which their footprints told. Their radio equipments were seized by the government of Nepal because it was a rule that all radio equipment had to be bought from Nepal and they had to dump their own radio equipments. Also they did not have enough funds to buy them in Nepal and so the tragedy stuck.

He had come to the mountains because he loved being there.  These were some of the mountains that surrounded us in the valley and you can imagine how serene these are.

The Mighty Hanuman Tibba

The Mighty Hanuman Tibba

The Seven Sisters and View of the other range

The Seven Sisters and View of the other range

The Lady Leg

The Lady Leg

Mt Stitidhari

Mt Stitidhari

 

 

Mt Manali and Ladaki

Mt Manali and Ladaki

The Mountain Range Parallel to us

The Mountain Range Parallel to us

Day 8

This was the last day for us in the mountains. We packed our stuff and this time some extra luggage had to be carried back. I thought going down would be easy but I think it was actually a mess. Mountaineers have always some ethics on how to behave in the mountains and how to respect the nature. You survival depends on how much you respect the nature. So we cleaned up every last garbage and burnt it. Hope people in the plains, where life’s so easy do follow some ethics to make them a better life.

Burning All Plastics

Burning All Plastics

 

This time going back was not easy as it was almost afternoon and the stream which we had to cross was a violent one now. I have carrying a K-oil in one hand and a massive luggage carrying the left over food items. The point I went to stream I could realize with this much luggage I cannot cross it. We were three who got stuck in front of stream. One of us who was carrying light jumped over stones and went through. I knew i couldn’t do the same as I couldn’t jump the stream. I went slightly upstream and tried to move to another rock and tried to cross. But the rock moved and I was in the stream struggling to come out. The chilling water had almost made my leg numb but thanks to the other guy behind me, he pulled me out as my maneuver was jammed because of the mass I was carrying.

BackTracking

Going Back

 

So we thought that this was a bad idea to cross it this way and we went furthur upstream where we could see other team members crossing. With much effort and lots of assistance we crossed the stream. My one leg was wet from top to bottom and the I realised the K-oil can was also leaking. So by the time I crossed the moraine and reached Bakrataj, I was wet in both legs. One was wet because of water and another because of K-oil. 

Backtracking our Paths

Backtracking our Paths

Crossing moraines and coming down was difficult and I almost toppled but controlled myself. I have seen the big boulders rolling down and it could have been me rolling but I was saved. So while crossing the moraines one of our team members lost track and went the other way. He could not keep up with the team and was now lost in the ridges. I was the first one to realize this after reaching the camp in Bakra Taj. Getting lost in Himalayas was disastrous. So I ran back to serach this guy. I was just hoping that the worst had not happened and he had not fallen down from somewhere. It would have been a massive search and rescue operation had he not met another mountaineer who was just there by accident and who knew the path. Finally I could find him comming down a hill slope and I ran towards him. He was badly exhausted but the courage was not lost. I took his luggage from him and carried it back to the camp. Thankfully we could find him or it could have been worst.

Then we went down and down, falling many times and hurting our foot badly till we reached Dhundhi. We halted for Dhundhi but somehow three of us had to go ahead to Solang Nala nd then to Manali and then to Delhi and report back to office.  Thankfully we got a lift in a military truck and got a bus to Manali. From Manali we had a late night trip to Delhi.

Got A Lift

Got A Lift

 

My Sun Burnt Nose and Face

My Sun Burnt Nose and Face

Reaching Delhi was a disaster for me. Somehow I was not able to handle the temperature change and the pressure change. I halted at my friends place and thought of going to the office the next day. I was now in a very bad shape and somehow I felt sick from the pollution and heat. I didn’t like being inside the room and just wanted to walk as much as possible. My legs were not used to resting now and walking for miles was like fun for me. But I was longing for a good night sleep which had haunted me for a very long time now. I slept early so that I could go to office early in the morning. But somehow I could not wake up in the morning. My entire body was paining like hell and all the exhaustion in the mountains have started to come out. I slept for 18 hours non stop and didnt go to office.

I reached Bangalore one week back and got acquainted with the financial crisis that had stuck the world. It stuck the day when we were attempting Stitidhari peak. For another one month I could not cope up with the pollution and the life in Bangalore. I was stuck by some shock of the way cities are which could not have got if I was not in the mountains. I stopped doing everything for the next month and even didn’t like travelling in buses and going to crowded places. I stopped exercising as I thought I had seen the extreme in that and also stopped playing guitar as I was always depressed by the environment around me. My outlook to my job definately changed and so was my outlook towards life. I am definately become braver and smarter than I was before the expedition. i am a changed man now but now I started hating what is around me. I started hating hypocracy more. I feel people have become more irrational. Hope pretty soon I come out of this state of mind and get aligned with what the world asks.

10 K run

The Three Musketeers ( me, Gaurav and Modi)

On 18th May 2008 I had a brush with what long distance running and I did not fair to my expectations. Bangalore organised its first international 10K marathon and I completed the 10K in 56 minutes. The winner did it in 28 minutes. I just cannot believe at what pace was he running. I thought I mantained a descent pace but he was running at more than twice my pace. Well then they are professionals but where these thin Kenyan guys get their energy from.

The race started at 9 am and the weather that day was much hotter than the previous days and to add to this I did lots of mistakes and hope not to repeat it in the other races. I forgot to take my sunglasses and the cap with me. I could feel the need when my head was banging in the sun in the middle of the race. Then I drank too much water and by the end of the 8 Kilometres I had to stop and walk for more than half a mile for the very bad stomach ache. But I really sprinted at good speed in the last 1 km. Also my reebok shoe was also giving me problem and I had boils in my right leg which was paining me throught the run( lesson learnt: branded shoes dont work good, better go for light weight Cats where one can feel the road). I did learn from my mistakes and hope not to repeat them in the future.

I used to think that I was somewhat a good runner while running in the treadmill in gym but real road is different. There were many old people and girls ahead of me and now I think I must concentrate more on long distance running and bring my time below the 50 minute mark in the next run. There was a guy who collapsed in front of me and ambulance had to come to pick him up. Then there was a beautiful girl who passed me. I tried to keep the charge for about 15 minutes and sometimes I even passed her ,but later I just let her go as I could no longer keep up with the pace. Then there were many airforce and army people who were leading the pack. Initially I tried to keep up with them but later I thought it was a bad idea.

There were many people cheering in the whole way. We went through the cantoinment area and the army poeple were cheering like anything. Whenever I saw girls cheering I would give a brief sprint in front of them. But I think these sprints proved disastrous at the end. Then after race I had few energy drinks to get back my energy level back ( recommended to carry them when running). There were other shows too going on but I dicided to come to room and rest. Anyways I enjoyed the run and hope in the next race I would be better and would concentrate on the race and nothing else.  

PS: Sunfeast organised the event. We were given a bag and there were lots of funny stuff inside. A few of them are : Red chill powder( I don’t know what I am going to do with this), Sugar Free (OMG), Fiama soap, lots of biscuits that anyway taste bad and a knigfisher water bottle. Still I think a T-shirt would have been a better option  

Also take the chip that they provide to be tied to the shoes. Later your timings and marathon photoes will come to you over the web. I am attaching some of my marathon photoes.

 

Marathon Pics

Marathon Pics

30th Dec 2007 – 04-Jan 2008 ( location : Allahabad cantonment area)

In this blog I would share my experiences of my SSB interview for armed forces engineering. To start with the five days were fun. We were the absentee batch as most of the people did not arrive on their first call though I did not receive the first call( lost somewhere in the Indian postal system). I was very optimistic about this attempt though Allahabad had its own reputation to stand for.

Not many did arrive for it being the absentee batch, the driver who came to pick us up from the station did comment ” Ab kya hoga is desh ka” ( what will happen to the country now). Also I thought that the SSB people also would not have much interest in us as most seats may have been filled by now and we were just formalities. Anyways they had to take it and we had to perform. So we arrived at the cantonment area at 1pm in the evening and we made way to the dormitory of 11 SSb board. The board dormitory was named after the famous battle of the India-China war where Indians fought bravely.

This is some description of the battle of Chusul which gave Major Shaitan Singh Paramveer chakra


Icy wings chilled the soldiers to their bone but they could not relax their guard. The enemy was coming. Then just before the dawn the Chinese attacked.

Platoons 7 and 8 of C company of a battalion of the Kumaon Regiment, led by Major Shaitan Singh took the brunt of the attack.7 Platoon was encircled and wiped out. 8 Platoon too fought to the last man. The company Commander, Major Singh, unmindful of his personal safety moved from platoon to platoon to encourage his men even after he was hit by bullets.Two soldiers tried to move him to a safer place but when he sensed danger to them to leave him. They kept him behind a boulder on the slope of a hill.


 

In this action, 109 Kumaonis out of a total of 123 were killed. Of the 14 survivors, 9 were severely injured. The Chinese suffered many more in killed. Estimates are around 800 Chinese casualties. After the war was over, the body of Major Shaitan Singh Bhati was found at the same place, dead from the bullet wound and the freezing cold. It was flown to Jodhpur and cremated with full military honours. Major Shaitan Singh Bhati was awarded Param Vir Chakra, the highest wartime gallantry medal, posthumously, for his leadership and devotion to duty.

 



In the evening we had briefing about what will be expected from us in the place and next morning we had our screening test. We introduced ourselves to the other individuals who had come for the interview.

Day 1

The screening test comprised of verbal and non verbal aptitude test and also picture perception test and a group discussion on that basis. In the picture perception test we were shown a very blur image and we had to write a story on it and conditions on what led to that situation and what will happen in the future.

Well I could see only one girl playing piano and so I wrote a story about her getting in the mood to play as it was a very sleepy afternoon and she was remembering something and then she plays some beautiful melody and bla-bla-bla. Then we had a discussion on it and to my amazement some of them had seen more than one people and wrote a gory story that she does not have much money and bla bla bla and later she becomes a mozart or she helps the poor and bla bla bla…. well at least I could not see from where did the poor and other stuffs came out from.

Then we had a GD and we had to boil down to one story and finally it was agreed that their was a girl who was playing a piano… plus she had a bad past and a glorious future. Well on overall ground the GD was good, atleast we could make one story.

The results of the screening test was declared in the evening and only eight of us survived and the others were sent home. We were given chest numbers and my chest number was 2. Next day again early in the morning we were called up for next set of tests which would be more rigorous. One thing to note that the day was 31stdecember and we were not partying but all of us in the dormitory went to sleep at 9 as all were very tired. Though before going to sleep I called up my parents and brother and wished them Happy New Year and the went to sleep. Though I received some calls after midnight but that did not wake me up as I was deep asleep.

Day 2

The previous night the temperature at that time touched 0*C at night in Allahabad and we had these “fauji kambals” and that too in pairs to prevent us from the biting cold. Getting up in the morning was like hell. You had to get up at 5:00 and and as you come out of your colts the chill hits you. The shiver runs down your body as the temperature is 3*C and we have to attend to our daily chores. The morning tea could not have tasted better if it was served in any other season. It needed lots of courage to touch the water coming out of the taps and I and few others decided to skip the bath that morning, but there were some brave among us you did have bath. The mess would stop serving breakfast after 5:45, so we had to rush and all of us being engineers were the last to report in the mess and always scolded for doing so in the coming days. The other boards would have finished by the time anyone from our side reached the canteen. Later on many of us did not even go for breakfast as the cold was too harsh to handle. After all engineers are supposed to be lazies and so we proved it.

We had another series of test waiting for us. Now it was a series of 12 picture perception tests, though this time the pictures were somewhat clear and we had only 3 minutes per picture to write a story. This time though I wrote about gloomy pasts and bright futures. The 12th story was a blank screen and we had to write whatever we wished to write and so i wrote something. Then we had sentence completion tests and sentence creation test where we were given about 60 of each types. Then we had to write an essay about ourselves, what my parents think about me and what my teachers think about me, what my friends think about me and what I think about myself. I had also to write about my weak points and my strong points and so I wrote something in it. You know this was really painful for someone who was unprepared ( like me) to think and write all this especially after attending the Infosys Soft Skill trainings. Those who attended this could understand what I mean to say.

I also like to recall one incident that day. While filling up some forms, the instructor happened to ask me something and I replied “Ya”. He asked me what “Ya” means and I said its short form of “Yes”. But he replied that you use this when you speak with disrespect. This is cultural shock especially for a person like me who was given cross-cultural interaction training in Infosys and taught to speak in this formal fashion. There were many shocks in the coming days.

Next on the same day I was called for personal interview. I went for about one hour and this is where I performed poorly in my entire SSB and may be the reason why I was not selected. I was made to feel comfortable and a psychologist was taking my interview and a brigadier was sitting on my left hand side, was noting my gestures ( which I realized much late in my interview). The interviewer asked me first about my job and how was I liking it. I said that the job was good though I was not liking it much. Then I tried to explain him the reasons why. Then he asked me what was my profile and I said that I was on a bench right now(but he could not understand what a bench was, So I explained him completely what it was). Then he asked what project I was in and as I was in bench and I did not know what type of project were going on, I said I was working on building communication softwares for British Telecom, but then I again had to explain him what communication means in this context. Then he asked me about my Boss and tell about two good points and two bad points about him. At this point I could not remember any name as I did not have any PM and told the name of GPM ” Nikhil Datar” whom I met on the first day and never met again. He was not even my GPM now but I could only recall his name and talked about two good points and added that , as I do had interaction only through mails it would be very wrong to speak anything against him…. well I tried to sound diplomatic.

Then I had to speak two good points and two bad points about my office friends, childhood friends, achievements from my school days and college days and I would say he was quite impressed though . Then he asked the questions on why I wanted to join the army and leave Infosys and why do u feel that u could become an officer in the armed forces. Here I somehow messed up and could not completely make him belief what I had in my mind. I also spoke something which I was not supposed to speak but the interview took it out of me and this was the major blunder.

He asked me about sports and current affairs. He asked me where is the next football world cup and I did not know this. He then asked me about the ranks in Indian army and somehow I missed Brigadier rank. He asked me ” How many commands army had, but I could only recall five”. Then he asked me some other questions related to the armed forces.

Then he asked about my opinion about the naxallite movement. I said that I feel Naxalism was not a disease but one has to study the movement before coming to a decision. Though I had read about the Naxalbadi movement but it would be too childish to comment without knowing the present situation. So it would be wrong to comment without having proper knowledge of their propagandas. Though personally I won’t take any decision but if the army asks me to go there I would follow orders….

Then he asked me about environment and development and then questions about what I read and sports – though I could not tell him where the next world cup will take place and also about the music. I could feel after the interview that it had not gone like the way I desired. Though I wished to do well in my other tests.

Day 3

Next day again early in the morning we had ground tasks and group tasks, more of an physical activity. Now we had to go there in shorts and T-shirts and temperature was 5-6*C outside. We were shaking like hell but the GT officer, a colonel and a major seemed like unaffected from the cold. The first test was the military planning test where we were given a situation on a map and had to make strategy to tackle the situation and come out with a plan.

The situation was ” We had gone for a trekking down to a remote location and we are team of 8 and there we overhear some terrorists who were going to blow off a dam and also to derail a train coming from south location. Then at that time a kid comes running that he saw a mad elephant running towards a village. And at that same time the guide with us falls from a spot and he was bleeding profusely from his head. Now we had to plan out how we will tackle this situation.”

And we after a group discussion did come out with a feasible solution which I thought was good enough for the situation. The next was GD on two topics ” The energy crisis of India” and the other on ” The migration of villagers to cities and the trouble created”. The GD also did go quite well.

Then we had the snake race where we had to run with a rope with atleast 3 people holding the rope at one time and cross obstacles. Also we had to choose a war cry and choose ‘Vande Mataram”. I would say I had never shouted louder ever like how I was shouting and cheering my team( except in rock concerts but there your voice is toned down by the amplifiers). It was an all different feeling that we had to make all of our team mates to cross the obstacles (camaraderie) and not the selfish and self centered attitude that we are taught from our very first days in the competitive environment of our colleges and schools. The obstacles were not easy and people do get hurt doing this and ambulance was standing just in case anything goes wrong. The obstacles were spread over a 100 meter zone and needs help from others to complete.

As I was having the chest no 2 I was second on the line till the first obstacle. But somewhere near the first obstacle the chest No 1 was not there and I was in the lead now (though others were experienced and this was my first time). I shouted vande mataram and went through three poles making a figure of eight through them and taking the rope with me. Then we had to climb an eight feet wall and move to the next wall through a log of wood. I was again in the front and reached the other wall holding the rope, but the third one holding it fell down while crossing and it was an eight feet fall. We were given a 5 sec penalty for dropping the rope. It seemed the obstacles were not difficult enough that they put red and white marks on them and touching the red mark leads to penalty. We were given 10 seconds penalty for team members touching the red mark.

Then we had to climb a net and crawl down and again there was no one before me. Then there were some more obstacles and there were some more climbs and falls and then the last obstacle. This time someone else braved to come before me and it was to climb a log of wood with cuts meant for holding the foot to a height of 10 ft and then slide down from the other side. Though the other guy who was now in front of me skid and fell down from about eight feet, he though tried to struggle for some time. Then again I was on the lead and I shouted ” Vande Mataram” again and took the rope and came down the other side. We completed this in 9:35 seconds and no body was badly hurt. I had never given a war cry in my life and did feel for the first time doing things with such a josh.

Next we had strategy building steps to cross , where we were given a round log , rope and flat wooden bench to make bridge through some obstacles without touching the ground and cross them. This was really tough and a mind bending exercise to do something of this sort. We as a group did complete two quite difficult exercises of crossing the obstacles quite easily, maybe because we were engineers but otherwise these are very difficult for others.

The day was over now and we were very tired after the hard work that we went for an afternoon rest and then later went to the Allahabad market to do some bird watching. Next day was going to be tough and we did go to bed early that day as all were very tired.

Day 4

And again in the next morning most of us missed the breakfast. Today will be individual tasks and extempore and some more obstacle crossing exercises. Again at 6 in morning , shivering like hell and just wearing shorts and T-shirt and temperature at 5*C we were made to sit in a line and each of us were given a topic to speak on and my topic was ” The current traffic situation in India” and I think I spoke quite well for 3 minutes. Then we had the individual tasks where the maximum accidents take place. Before this we were asked to run two rounds of the fields to warm up and then cross a set of 10 difficult obstacles in 3 minutes and do as much as possible. The obstacles were difficult and again not for the poor of hearts and each had a number assigned to it according to the difficulty ranging from 1-10.

I would tell the obstacles by the way I attempted it. The first I tried was the most easiest one , running up a ramp and jumping on the other side. Next it was to jump over a ditch and hold a rope hanging midway and swing and jump off the ditch. The next was to climb a ladder to an elevated location at 10 feet elevation and jump to a elevation about 6 feet high and then jump down. The next was to climb a ramp and jump off an elevated obstacle – high jump style. The next was to climb up a 10 feet high location and use a rope to do a mogli style swing and fall on gravel about 8-10 feet away. Then you do the commando climb where you walk on a rope and holding a rope overhead and then cross to the other side and use rope to climb down. Then walk over three logs of wood without falling. Then climb over an elevated stand made like ramp and shout the chest number from the highest elevated point on that and come down. And I missed one obstacle to do a long jump over some drums kept. But I repeated two more obstacles in my stipulated time of three minutes. There were again this red and white marks which you can and you cannot touch.

After this I could not feel my fingers for about one hour as they had gone numb while negotiating with the ropes in the cold. My throat was also dry and I was damn tired after this. After that we had command task where we had to choose two and command them to make a bridge over some obstacles and cross over them. After that we had half team obstacles were teams of 4 were asked to cross these obstacles and finally a full team task to cross a much tougher obstacle. It is said that people cannot cross these obstacles but we being engineers all of us were able to do it with much ease, though there were slight hiccups in between.

The day was hectic but now it was over. We planned to visit Allahabad as the result was awaited next day after the conference. We visited the Sangam, the famous Hanuman mandir near it, the Allahabad museum and the Nehru house and also visited the place where Chandra Shekhar Azad was shot. The day was fun and tiring but tomorrow was the D-day.

Day 5

We all dressed in formals and were to attend the conference with other officers in the board. The conference was just a formality as I was told and your fate had been decided before that. All the officers who were involved in the selection procedure would discuss if you should be taken in or now. I was the second to be called for the conference and I went in. There were sitting all the officers of the 11 SSB board in complete military uniform. There were about 14-16 of them wearing the sexy military outfit and it I really felt a chill going down my spine while sitting in front of them. They asked general questions about my stay and how I liked the place and I said irrespective of the result I loved my stay and I also added that everyone should atleast come once in lifetime for SSb to know how much really you have in you.

After about half an hour of the conference, the results were declared by a brigadier and our batch was completely washed off with no selections. Though we had two people who were in the IMA before and they had to leave for some personal and unavoidable circumstances and one was recommended for 4 times from different places but for some reason he was not able to make it. Well after all Allahabad SSB has a reputation to stand for. But one strange thing that the Brigadier said did hurt me in the end. He said ” People are leaving armed forces to join the IT but you people having such good salaries want to join the armed forces for the reason of job security”. Well I do not know how did they make out this logic but job security was never in my books before coming to the armed forces.

Well irrespective of the outcome, these five days would be some of my best days of my life. The day started early at 5 and ended by 12 and then you get to do lots of stuff when you are disciplined. I enjoyed my stay.