Monday, 12 January, 2009

My biannual swimming lessons

One of the items in My Bucket List was ‘learn swimming.’ I get swimming lessons from Unny whenever we get a chance to jump into a water body. This mostly happens twice a year during a trek/trip organised by Nature Knights! I signed off 2008 with such a swimming lesson at Pavna Lake near Lonavla.

We had not decided about participating in the two-day year-end outing organised by Nature Knights. When Asif called up to ask if we were free to go as facilitators for an event and join the outing later in the day, we made up our mind. The event was a pre-marriage get together of the bride’s and bridegroom’s families. The games part was outsourced to Nature Knights by the original event managers. Sponsored by the bridegroom’s sister, the intention of the event was to initiate bonding among family members from both sides. I have never heard of such events. I think this might become a trend soon, first among the ultra-rich families and later among the middle-class, who always wants to mimic the rich. Anyways, our eight-member team had a good time managing the games. The crowd was enthusiastic; food was good and plentiful.

By late evening, we reached Lonavla and waited for the gang to come back after a baby trek. There were around 30 people in total and Asif had a booked a few cottages. The sumptuous dinner prepared under the guidance of Asif’s brother Zafar, a trained chef, was followed by campfire and antakshari. Braving the chill, many of us set out for a night safari too. A few of us, including Unny and me, retired early (at midnight) to bed.

Next day, after attacking delicious French toast, upma, and omelet, we set out to Pavna Lake – for the last dip of the year. Swimmers were training the non-swimmers. I had an exclusive trainer – Unny. This time I made some minute progress.

The lessons were captured by those who didn’t get into water.

Phot0s courtesy: Asif

In 2009, maybe, I’ll learn to swim. Waiting for the next dip … :-)

Friday, 9 January, 2009

Want to make history?

With the digicam revolution, we’ve all become photographers. Even I have.

I swell with pride when I capture that unique moment and I want the whole world to appreciate it. The maximum I could do was to post it on my blog and hope someone would see it. Not anymore …

Now I can make history with those wonderful snapshots. Yes, you read it right – Make History.

The Make History Foundation (technically De Metri Foundation), a non-profit initiative along with Lee launched a Photography contest last year in Europe. Now it’s happening in the Asia-Pacific region, which includes India.

And I’ve already made a list of things I could buy with the prize money - a whopping $40,000, close to Rs 20 lakhs. The good thing is that one need not be a professional photographer to participate. But you should be able to tell a few words. The image and words together make a story. “Because history is not only important events and important people. It is recorded with songs and painted on canvas. It is told in stories. It lives in snapshots.”

I have started looking around with a new set of eyes and find meaning in the unobvious because I want to Make History …

So can you! Check out the site and the blog

No, I didn't click it. A sample from the collection

PS. Anybody winning prize after getting lead from this post pay me a commission. OK? :-)

Saturday, 3 January, 2009

A tribute to my Adopted extended family

It’s been four years since we came to Mumbai. Relocating to Mumbai was a tough decision to make as Mumbai always brought an image of cramped spaces and underworld, thanks to some Malayalam movies. Another aspect that added to our indecision was that I’d to quit my job of three months. We even thought of Unny going there temporarily (his company wanted him to set up a team in Mumbai) and I staying back in Chennai. But that was too much for me to bear – staying away from Unny for a long duration. Finally, after a lot of deliberations, we decided we’d try Mumbai out when our youth still remains. And I was pretty sure to get a job in the city of opportunities, which turned out exactly the same way.

The initial days were too oppressive – everything unknown. I brushed up my Hindi, but was bombarded by Marathi. Comparison between a nice, large 2-BHK and the compact 1-BHK at double the rent added to the irritation. Our top-of-the-mind thought was ‘how to go back’.

Then Nature Knights happened. I chanced upon an event listing in a website, wherein a one-day trek to Peb Fort was listed. We registered for this, wanting to get out of the daily hectic schedule and busy city life. On February 27, 2005, we did our first trek with Nature Knights. We were worried about our ability to do the trek and if they would accept our limitations. The ever-cheerful Nimesh, who was leading the trek, made us relax and finish this somewhat difficult trek with ease.

A slice from the Tikona trek
There’s no looking back since then. We participated in a few more treks, got to know Asif, the founder of the group, his family, and other senior members more; the bonding ensued unconsciously. Nature Knights became our extended family.

Another slice from Mahuli trek
Nature Knights is an eco-adventure/trekking organisation, founded 20 years back by Asif, a nature, wildlife, and adventure enthusiast. What started as a nature club by a group of like-minded friends has grown today into an organisation involved in trekking and other adventure activities, in addition to facilitating corporate outbound training as well as adventure activities for kids and families. Asif's long-term girlfriend and now wife Lopa is his pillar of support while Nimesh and Dnyanesh act as his left and right hands; rest of us tag along.
Lopa & Asif
For us, apart from having our share of adventure, fun, and a lot of learning, we’ve got a bunch of friends, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces – the newest one was born day before yesterday.
The family is ever-expanding with a few participants getting bowled over, like we did, by the Nature Knights spirit during each event and coming back for more. Asif, Lopa, and their daughter Anoushka along with other knights are there with open arms to welcome everyone into this cheerful family.
Unny's b'day celebration with Nature Knights
At this juncture, as we just stepped into another year, I salute the wonderful Nature Knights, of which I am proud to be a part of. Mumbai is not oppressive any more; 1-BHK house is not very small; and I understand a bit of Marathi. Our youth still remains. And we have second thoughts about going back.

To know more about Nature Knights, have a look here
Asif, Nimesh and Dnyanesh
A photo feature of our first trek, Peb Fort, is here.

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