Saturday, December 27, 2014

As true as it may taste

 It is since childhood that the ethics of honesty being the best policy are enthused in us through various means and measures at home as well as school. However, no matter how intricately is the integrity of honesty stitched in our thought process, one cannot deny that the ease of owning up the truth is guided by the consequence associated with it. Yet the guilt of being dishonest is way more. The Kinley ad reminded me of this episode from my childhood.

I was in the tenth grade at school and we were out on an excursion to a national park. A bunch of thirty kids can be quite a handful. So we had been strictly asked to follow our team leader’s instructions and any deviation from the said set of rules was punitive. It was a three day affair and each day we were taken on a nature trail from the base camp. On the final day of the trip, we were taken to the track the migratory birds of the area. On the previous night, we had a gala time at the camp bonfire singing and dancing. A friend of mine, Sarita, was allotted the responsibility to wipe out the fire before everyone retired to sleep. While I was clearing the empty food packets from the camp area, Sarita moved to get the jug of water to wipe out the fire. However, I stopped her from doing so, since I wanted to spend sometime completing my day’s write-up in the journal by the fire. I assured her that I would blow out the fire before going to sleep. So I sat by the warmth of the bonfire and completed the write-up. My eyelids became so heavy out of the day’s exhaustion that I moved to sleep without wiping out the fire. There was a strong wind blowing at night which carried a lit splinter from the bonfire to the food storage area. By morning most of our food source was charred to dust. Our team leader saw this and he lost his temper. He called out for Sarita in anger and started yelling at her for not blowing out the campfire. I was aghast seeing him so vexed and stood there quietly while Sarita was muffled up with tears in her eyes. After a while, we started with the nature trail and our team leader became busy with the preparations for the day. I was not able to garner the courage to face Sarita for my cowardice of not owning up my mistake. I kept to myself, the entire day and skipped lunch as well. When we returned in the evening, I could not bear the burden of the guilt and went to our team leader. I confessed my fault and also apologised to Sarita for the episode. She hugged me tight and our team leader punished me by boycotting me from the final day’s bonfire. Though I was saddened a bit by the punishment, yet it was a relief to get rid of the burden of dishonesty.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Reminiscing my Teddy Travelogue

As a kid, my father made sure that we carried a little scribble-book along, on every vacation. At the end of each day, both of us would sit down and make a list of interesting things we came across on that day’s outing. He took care that the little notebook did not just become a mundane listing of historical monuments, museum specimens or the geographical formations. Instead he used to bring to my notice the titbits of the locales. A certain kind of tree that just grew in that particular place or the colourful pebble-stones that lined the cobblestoned path or at times just a uniquely clad person in the traditional attire of that place; we used to spot these sights on our ramblings. At times it only turned out to be a game on who spots more. We also had this ritual on listing down the term used for greeting a person in the local language of the place we visited. So every outing we went on has a Sat sri akal (Punjabi), Vanakkam, (Tamil) or kem cho (Gujarati) listed, which was used by the both of us to randomly greet people on the streets.  At times, it even helped us strike random conversations on the streets with the local people and then there were also times when we used to get snotty looks from people as if the father-daughter duo had gone berserk. He used to pick up information on the indigenous ingredients and the local food delights midst these conversations and this was followed by a hogging spree across the streets of the place. Though we were also victimised by the health and hygiene lectures by Mom on certain instances of our upset stomachs courtesy the spice rating of the region, yet nothing deterred us from conducting our food trials. In fact the self-confessed epicurean that I am today, is courtesy my father. Back from the vacation, we used to punch in photographs with the scribbled notes and my father kept them in his closet. Looking back at those times, today, I realise that he made me look beyond the touristy make-up of the place and imbibe the place in me.
Last year, we shifted to a new place and while moving things, my mother found a bundle of these antique notebooks. She was about to throw them away when my father stepped in saying he wanted to keep them with him since they were a memorabilia of  his magic times with his daughter. When my mother mentioned this to me, I was taken aback, since I was of the opinion that it was only for my enjoyment that my father made these efforts. I only realised the truth of it when I went on a trip with my niece, last Christmas to Kerala and we had a gala time.The curiosity in her innocent eyes and her gaping expressions at the sight of anything magnificent were simply adorable.   Kids sure add magic to your vacation. The kids traveller tales on Club Mahindra’s Teddy Travelogues, only affirmed my feeling.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Life midst Fear and Risks

It was a trip in the mountains to a hamlet in the Kumaon valley placed in the middle of the woods. It was not a typical touristy set-up; in fact the place just had one hotel which too was under construction. We managed accommodation at this property that belonged to a part-time zoologist, rather a herpetologist. This man was a pure daredevil, at least to me, considering that I am a wrecked case of herpetophobia (fear of reptiles – snake and lizards). Jigendra was studying the king cobras in the region since past 7 years. As much as I had an aversion towards the specie, the more he was in love with the serpentine family.
On the second morning of my stay there, I woke up to the commotion and noise outside my room. I stepped out and saw a few villagers standing outside asking for Jigendra. A snake had bitten one of the village residents and they had come to seek Jigendra’s help. In the meanwhile, Jigendra also came in and all of us sprinted across the winding roads to the victim’s house. Almost the entire village had gathered outside the house and they were spelling out curses for the snake. Jigendra went in and I had to follow him inside with the first-aid kit unwillingly, considering the culprit animal was still inside the house. Jigendra assessed the manifestations of the bite – inflammation and coagulation and gave him antivenin (antidote for snake’s venom). Once the patient stabilized, Jigendra reported that it was bite from a mildly poisonous snake, so the patient was safe.  In the meanwhile, I had already gone pale at the thought of co-habitation with the snake in that house. The entire while, I had been thinking of the dingy nooks and corners the snake might be hiding in or may be it would just drop on my head from the roof. Laden with goose-bumps, I could almost hear my heart thumping midst the hullabaloo around. I almost became frantic with fear when I saw Jigendra searching for the snake in the house. And before I could make an escape from the scene, Jigendra had the animal in his hand and he was holding it out towards me with an amusing smile. I almost screamed at him to keep that thing away from me but he asked me to touch the animal just once saying it was harmless. I would have walked out from there had there been a fewer people around. So with my eyes shut tightly, I just touched the snake with one trembling finger. To my surprise, the animal felt velvety smooth. I opened my eyes. Even the snake appeared to be scared and it was shying away from the crowd. Seeing this reaction of mine, Jigendra did something incredulous. He handed the entire animal to me and I could feel it squirming on my forearm. I was numb and could not utter a word out of distress. Jigendra asked me to calm down and handle the animal with both hands. With all the courage I could gather, I used my second hand which felt heavy as a rock, to pick the animal from the other arm. It was that moment when the futility of the fear dawned upon me and I could appreciate the beauty of the animal. It was a cat snake and it looked beautiful with its scales glistening in the sun. Finally we set it free in the forest to avoid its intervention with human life. The self-assessed risk that I had subjected myself to came in as a life changing experience for me. So much was the impact of this episode on me that I picked up reptilian immunology as my research topic for my doctoral thesis. Overcoming this fear proved to be a milestone for my career. The mountain dew film brings out the essence that risks have to be taken in life to succeed. One may also refer to their facebook page for more such stories-