Last December, I spent a fortune diving from 10000 ft- something like 1000 Rs every second. Skydiving is an amazing adventure sport everyone dream about, but only few venture out to perform actual dive. When I learnt that Skydiving was happening in Mysore, I was tempted to give it a try, but was taken aback by the price. A tandem jump sets you back by about 30k. Though it sounded expensive, I made up my mind and signed up (If you wish to understand why, read second half of this article)
There’re 3 types of jumps- Static or solo jump, which involves jumping from 5000 ft with no freefall, tandem jump, which involves jumping from 10000 ft with an instructor, with about 30-40 seconds of freefalls and AFF, which involves diving in groups and controlling our chutes on our own.
I opted for tandem jump. On the assigned day, I reached Mysore airport. Staff from Kakini enterprises, organizers of the skydiving arrived later. There were about a dozen participants that day and my turn was at the end. That day’s group had few air force personnel and some adventure seekers like me. Those performing static dive had to undergo training previous afternoon and clear a test that morning, before instructor felt confident that they’re good to go. (Static dive is done without instructor, hence students should be familiar with emergency operations). A small Cessna would take participants up, one at a time. Watched others dive and eagerly waited for my turn. After each dive the parachute is repacked and readied for next jump.
By Mid day my turn came, all decked up in a red suite we boarded the cessna. My instructor, Rajan, demonstrated how to step out of the plane when in mid air. Another instructor got on board to record the precious life moments of my dive. Fitted with a goPro and a video camera on his helmet, he would jump with us to capture the memorable moments of free fall!
Cessna is like a TVS XL50- takes its own sweet time to climb up. Fighter jets take 30 seconds to reach 10000 ft, while Cessna 172 took full 30 mins. As the pilot took permission from ATC and became airborne, I enjoyed viewing Mysore airport and nearby places from high above.
5 minutes to go
I had visited Switzerland earlier with my better half in 2005, for our honeymoon. The memories that I had from and over the last six years were from the perspective of a tourist. We had visited and adored the places that were recommended by the tourism sites. It was great and so beautiful… During Sept 2013, I got another opportunity to spend 2 weeks in the world’s most beautiful place. I was working on a new project and it required technical training, which was being conducted in Basel. I was the only one traveling from India office and had close to one month to plan out everything. The training was in 2 phases, 4 days (Tuesday to Friday) training in the first week, followed by 3 days (Wednesday to Friday) training in next week. This left me with complete 4 days’ break in between to explore the country beyond Basel. So I started my research on all the fronts – the first and most important was where to stay?
As I researched for accommodation I realised my 3 constraints, starting with the budget. As I was managing the budget of the whole trip, I wanted best return of the money. The second constraint was the proximity of accommodation to the training center, as I wanted to save on travel time and money everyday. The last constraint was the fear of loneliness – I needed some company, since I was travelling by myself and staying for 15 days in Switzerland, the idea of living alone in a hotel by myself was not too exciting (especially since I had to leave behind my wife and son of 3 years).
After spending 2-3 days on travelling/hotel booking sites in and around Basel I was out of choices based on the above constraints. At the very moment someone came to my rescue. AirBnb it was! It is an online portal which enables people to rent out their accommodation to travellers. While the accommodations and the hosts are reviewed by the guests (which is a great helping aid when you want to decide between various options), the guests too can be reviewed and a well-rated guest is a great assurance for the host. A fabulous idea! Based on the experience of their website, I was sure that I had come to the right place. Also I was totally blown away by the number of accommodation options they had in Basel.
Selecting a homestay at airbnb
What is it about Ghumakkar Authors that makes them so special? Now after talking to four of them I think I have some clue. Not only are all Ghumakkars blessed with unsatiable wanderlust, they are also armed with limitless passion that makes them attain whatever goal they set their eyes upon – from the versatile pediatrician Dr Taher, to the author with the Midas touch Ajay Sharma, to Software Engineer and Indologist Manisha Chitale. And this month was no different. It’s been six years since Roopesh wrote his first story at Ghumakkar, and this award was long due. So when Roopesh’s name was announced it wasn’t really a surprise. I have been a great fan of his stories and especially his Coffee, Hills, Foliage, and Beaches series that takes us on a picturesque car ride through Karnataka. Another reason why I was really looking forward to talking to him was because I have recently become a fan of Steam Locomotives, and in that sense share an interest with Roopesh. He is an fan of everything related to trains, and some time back wrote a very informative Insights article for Ghumakkar about railways. While balancing his full-time job and commitments to his family, Roopesh not only manages to travel as often as possible, he also takes up new interests from time-to-time, knowing fully well that the passion will demand his time for a really long time, for he is not the one to let go of things.
Like father like son
Roopesh was kind enough to take time out on a weekday for the interview even though he preferred talking on a weekend. When I called him at 7:00pm he was still in office but was cool and composed and not in a hurry to end the conversation. He handled all of my questions with immense patience and came across as someone who will always be comfortable in whatever situation he is placed in. There was no dearth of topics we could talk about and our conversation effortlessly moved from one to another, and by the time the interview ended, we had talked at length about several interesting subjects. By the end of the day my job of compiling the interview seemed quite daunting. Deciding what goes in and what can stay out would be difficult because every bit sounded important and interesting. I hope I have been able to do justice to my interaction with this incredible Ghumakkar, and hope you enjoy reading this…
Ghumakkar: Congratulations Roopesh! Much deserved and long due…
Roopesh: Thank you Vibha, and please convey my thanks to the entire Ghumakkar team. I feel like I know all of them personally. It has been a long association now.
First of all let me start with a plot spoiler. If you have been to hill stations in North India, to the likes of Simla and Kullu manali, Mahabaleshwar may come as little disappointing. Without spoiling the fun any further, here’s what we discovered about M’war.
I live in Pune, and to people around here Mahabaleshwar is the Strawberry County. I haven’t in my whole lifetime seen so much strawberry, as I saw in 2 hours at M’war. The whole experience was so mouth watering seeing so many ripe and luring strawberries all strewn around you.
We started from Pune on Christmas morning at 7AM and it took me about an hour’s time to touch the Mumbai Bangalore highway. Mahabaleshwar is all of 110km from Pune. I am fairly new to car driving so I was at my cautious best all through the drive. It was a smooth ride on the Bangalore highway, but the trip from Shirwal, where you take a right turn from beneath the flyover up to M’was was quite chaotic, since it was a narrow village road.
From the moment you take this turn, you’ll see sign boards advertising Mapro, a local brand that sells various types of fruit crushes. I am particularly fond of their curacaos and strawberry/kiwi crushes. If I ever move out of Pune, these will be the first things I shall miss. We crossed Panchgani town, the place made more popular by Ishaan Awasthi in Taare Zameen Par. I kept teasing my kids that if they continue to distract me while the drive, I shall leave them here at some boarding school like Ishaan Awasthi’s parents did. Believe me it did work. Around 5 km further from Panchgani is Mapro Garden. It is difficult to miss and it will be a bad decision to miss it.
the middle road
We were 6 of us, boys – I, Amby, Ekansh, Avnish, Amit and Gourav who decided to see the ‘Paradise on Earth’ and booked a rail ticket from Delhi to Udhampur for 20-Dec-2013. On the day, we boarded the metro from Gurgaon for New Delhi Railway Station. Ekansh was carrying good dinner to avoid the train food and we all had our dinner in New Delhi. Gourav boarded the train from Ambala station at mid night with a parcel of “सरसों का साग और मक्का दी रोटी” that was prepared by his mother for the gang. Thank you, aunty, for our morning breakfast.
On the morning of December 21, the train arrived on Jammu railway station and then proceeded to Udhampur. Our excitement levels were high because we had reached right in the lap of the Himalayas. After reaching at Udhampur, we booked a 6-seater car for 5 days, run by the driver called Nazeer. Mid way, as we reached Kud we took the break for tea and also got a taste of the local sweet called “प्रेम का पतीसा”.
After crossing the Jawahar tunnel we started noticing small snow covered mountains and after 10-15 minutes we got a great welcome with nothing short of a snow fall! We stopped the car at Titanic Point to enjoy the first snow fall of our lives and for a quick photo session. Amby, Gourav and Ekansh also bought caps from here.
At Titanic point after crossing the Jawahar tunnel