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I was staring down a path which looked impossible to step into. Large dark boulders gleamed beneath the rushing waters. Standing on a 3-inch ledge, I was half a step away…This was the edge of my world.

One step would change my life forever or end it NOW.

and then I stepped back.

Simple drive

We were just driving back to Hyderabad from my home city, Vijayawada.

We crossed a canal. It looked nice, brimming with water, but I was in a hurry. Another one came up shortly and I crossed that too. Only, my friend wanted a closer look.

I turned back….

The first touch

Just like most water bodies with bridges in India, this canal also had steps leading to water on both sides of the banks.

The water looked irresistible and we climbed down to dip our hands and feet. Water looked fresh and cool to our touch.

Anytime I get a feel of beautiful water, I get an uncontrollable urge to swim around.

But there was a strong current.

I never swam in large water bodies and the strong current brought back memories of news articles of drowning young men.

Kids embarrass me

This looked like fun

There were many locals around, bathing and swimming. A few kids were using our section of steps.

They looked perfectly at home swimming around the banks. A few started getting on the bridge pillars, climbing over the bridge.

Wow! were they going to jump?

and then they leaped into the water, and dogpaddlead to the shore. I was standing there with an open mouth.

The kids were living one of my dreams. I always wanted to try this and never had the courage.

(A quick background: Very few Indians learn to swim. I was part of a very small, exclusive minority in my country)

Seizing

You always hear the words “Seize the day” or “Seize the moment” . This was a good time to do that and JUMP!

“It looked scary, but the kids could do it.”

“The current! It looked too strong, what if I get swept away.”

“It was now or never.”

The kids were all smiles and egged me on. For the 100th time I asked them if it was easy, YES YES YES was all I heard then.

I ran back to the car and practically leaped into my boxers.

Chickening out!!!

I moved to the railing of the bridge. The water looked a long way off. The kids were all round me, supporting me.

Then I went over the railing and stood on the 3-inch ledge of the supporting pillar, never letting go of the railing.

Oh Man! Water appeared 50 feet away.

The current was very swift and I could see dark boulders below the water. I kept asking for assurances from the kids. They were very patient with me.

“Anna (elder brother), Jump to your left not to your right. It’s deeper”

I was frozen. This was the scariest thing I had ever done. One kid jumped from top of the railing to show me it was alright.

Suddenly my mind started making up all kinds of logical excuses, a cover-up for my fear. I wanted to test out the water with a quick swim.

I climbed back. chickened out

I went back to the steps, dived in for a quick swim. The water was cool and as expected there was a very strong current.

The cool water renewed my courage and I hurried back to my edge.

Leap of Faith


Once again, I was back at the world’s edge. My heart was going wild with excitement, fear, and what not.

I would have liked to say that my life flashed before me, but I just had one thing in my mind – the black “abyss” .

Damn! I couldn’t do it. I was frozen, stuck in this moment. Status – quo!

We came up with a countdown system

3

2

1

….. No Jump 😦

A 100 things were going in my mind..

“Jump! Keshav”

“c’mon you can do it”

“Jump for the blog post at least”

“Dammit! Dude, just move”

“JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!”

“J-U-S-T  DOOOOO……………..”

IT!..and I was off, letting go of the known world, flying through a dream, cutting through my fear.

In a second, I hit the water feet first, plunging through the depths. All sounds was cut-off. My mind blanked out, there was just one thought – I DID IT.

Even before I resurfaced, I knew this was over, I was going to swim to safety.

All of this happened in less than 2 minutes. I tried two more times. This was one my best adventures.

A video of my second jump

My support team

Next Target..Hogenakkal 🙂

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Before (starting) Update:This was a few weeks ago.

As I write this, we (Me & Srinivas) are all set to leave for my friend/roomate/college junior’s wedding.

Start Time: 9:30PM IST

Travel Time: 3.5+hrs

Distance: 200+kms

Mode of Transportation: My Car

Driver: 🙂

Wedding Muhurtham: 1:30AM

Would we make it in time?: HeHe…No Way

Would we make it in one piece?: God!I Hope so.

For the ignorant, Muhurtham is an auspicious date+time when the couple will be announced as married i.e typically after the Groom ties the auspicious Mangal sutra.

The round trip is around 8 hours with an hour or two at the wedding ceremony. Well we all know what that means – ALL NIGHT ROAD TRIP!!!!

Pointers  to myself

Don’t fall asleep

Don’t race with trucks

Drive slow (Yeah..Right!)

Don’t lose your way

Watch out for speed humps

Don’t fall asleep

Facts to ponder

I was the only driver

We didn’t know the way

I fell asleep on the wheel twice before

My spare tire was flat

Well the conditions were not favorable, but luckily, Srinivas was as ignorant (careless) about the problems as I was. We were just happy to go on a road trip.

After! (coming back)

We were off! But I had to warn Srinivas

“Keep talking to me or else I’m gonna fall asleep”

After an hour’s drive, we reached the 4-lane highway, not a common sight in India. This was a nice surprise

GPS – Follow the line

When I told Srinivas about missing out GPS on my bro’s iPhone, he grinned and whipped out his shiny Samsung phone with GPS. Wow! Now I got a chance to test it out.

FYI – I never used maps or GPS before. We always traveled the old-fashioned Indian way –

Go straight.

Ask a Guy.

Go ahead more. Stop.

Ask another guy.

Repeat this until you get to your destination!

Break

We took our first break at a small dhaba (kind of like a hut-sized cafe). One of the best things about a road trip is a casual chai (tea) right next to the highway.

After another hour’s drive we were at Nizamabad, 30 kms from our destination -The town of Bodhan

Hic Hic!

Naturally neither of us remembered the name of the function hall, and who writes down things today.

We used the old fashioned way to find out. Bus stops are the best place to find homeless guys. We did find someone who woke up….

“Hey..So..ummm…We need to go to a marriage. Do you know if one is happening now”, we asked sheepishly.

“Go straight”, the guy answered. He could barely stand.

“We were looking for this big hall owned by the local MLA”

“Go straight”

“Sure? Straight?..umm..ok”

This guy was dead drunk. Now can we trust a drunk guy to tell us the right directions. You know what they say – You always tell the truth when you are drunk!

Turns out he was right and we reached the marriage hall at 2AM.

Happily ever after

Wedding hall


My friend, OKC was happy to see us.  He was sitting on the stage, right next to his soon-to-be wife.

OKC works in Australia. His marriage as most marriages in India, was an “Arranged Marriage”. After a careful screening process (Family background, education, caste, financial stability) a bride/groom is selected by the parents and children generally accept that choice.

A tried and successful system that’s been working for ages.  The couple looked great together and OKC had a beaming face, trying to suppress the excitement 🙂

We were in time to see him tie the Mangal Sutra around the girls neck and all the elders trooped onto the stage to bless them by sprinkling holy rice grains on their heads.

Groom tying the mangalsutra

The marriage (anti)musical band tried their best to deafen the crowd. They managed it very well with a lot of drums. I guess the louder they are, the more, they get noticed.

Journey back

Highway Dhaba


We started back at 3AM, a dangerous time to drive. Sleep always tries to overpower you at this time and you never know if a truck driver is half-asleep.

After an hour’s drive, I was feeling drowsy and so we stopped at a bhaba. This one was cool with make-shift beds, a loud TV in the background and a sleepy woman.

I love to see these beds, they are so crude and very useful. Anyone can take a quick nap on them (I think).

A chai (Hindi for Tea) felt good and refreshing and we were back on the road.

Chai (Tea)

Still using firewood for the stove

Men and Women

I needed to bring up something to keep us talking till we reach home. We found a very debatable topic – Can Men and Women become good friends?

The good thing is Srinivas said “Yes” and I said “No Way!”. That started a very animated debate. It didn’t matter that we were both relatively inexperienced, we considered ourselves subject matter experts.

I won’t dwell on the details or the outcome. But I do think that I was right 🙂 (My Blog..so I win)

Srinivas concluded that I had ego issues and had to read “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle.

The last test – FAIL!

We got so involved with our conversation that we didn’t even notice dawn coming and just like that we were in Hyderabad! The time was 6 or 7 in the morning. I dropped Srinivas at home.

But the dangerous part of the journey was yet to come. It happened before and it was happening now. Now that I was inside the city, my body automatically relaxed too much.

I was falling asleep behind the wheel. My eyes would close down and then half way through snap open again.

What the !!!!

I think my brain registered that being in the city was like being in my home, so system was shutting down.

In the 30 minute drive through the city, I dozed off for 5-6 times. One time I just followed a bus into the bus stop with my eyes half closed.

This was scary, I was losing control. I did the only thing possible – called up Srinivas and asked him keep talking until I reached home.

and then I was home, a quick bath and I was off to bed for the next 9 hours.

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As a kid I loved travelling in the train. I still enjoy doing so…unless something like this happens

The journey takes 5-6 hours by train to Vijayawada, my home city.  As usual, I slept late and was looking forward to a delightful nap on one of my passenger’s shoulder (You can’t help it)

Night Train

Day train

An early start

Train starts at 6AM, I was there on time (surprisingly) and when it came in, I got in along with a few thousand people. Ok someone got their math wrong, there were more  passengers than seats, easily 4 times more.

Everyone was scrambling..not for a seat, they just needed a place to stand!

WoW I never saw so many people get into a reserved compartment. What reservation? The system collapsed with an overwhelming surge of humanity to go home for the holidays. We were struggling to gain square inches.

Too late. I couldn’t get out of this

Journey in my Journey

Journey from the door to here

I was able to get into the train, but a wall of bodies stopped me at the exit. The train started.

Now I had to try to get to my reserved seat – it looked impossible.

Inch by Inch I pushed through, trampling feet, elbowing my way through the sweaty masses to get close to my seat.

45 minutes to travel 7 feet – Great timing!

Claiming my prize

I knew that someone would be sitting in my seat. With the reservation printout in my hand, ready to shove in their face, I was determined to evict the squatter.

To my dismay, there was an old man in my seat and when I politely asked, he just raised his hands in a Namaste, pleading with his eyes…

Damn! Just when I was about to test my sense of authority, I was asked to show my unselfish generosity, which, I thought wasn’t part of my nature. But  I nodded my head implying “OK. No Problem”

 

Now the Fun part

Reality of my gesture sunk in after standing for a few minutes, “I could be standing for the next few hours” . Now why couldn’t the old man be a really pretty girl.

BUT it was not just about the standing, it was about surviving in this human pit. All of us stuck together like glue.

We were even struggling for hand-holding space. Oh it was just painted and the paint did not dry completely.

Crowded hand-hold

The ones sitting were no better,  4-5 bodies were jammed on a seat that could hold only 3. It was fascinating to watch so many people.

What were they thinking when they all decided to go home in this train?

Did they realize that everyone was thinking the same

Did they know that I was one of the few idiots who actually reserved his seat?

Eventually

Fortunately others took pity on my plight and got me squeezed into the opposite seat. Relief after standing for 3 hours.

I nodded off to sleep. A woman sleeping next to me was using my body as a bed-rest. On my left was another guy. Her daughter somehow wound up in my lap.

There was a big shouting match when a few folks with reserved seats rudely evicted a middle-aged couple.

Later, I showed my Mobile’s camera feature to the daughter & son of that lady. As expected, the kids were delighted.

Soon my phone was “borrowed”, there was a brief tussle between the kids and surprisingly the little girl got the phone . Her brother was much more subdued than this girl.

Eventually, the adventure was over and I reached Vijayawada.  A journey which I will try my best to avoid again.

But I did get a good story out of this. Hope you guys enjoyed it.

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