Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I was gone for two weeks and he grew up two years.

Ankit was behaving like a eleven year old ( most of the time) when I left from my two week trip. I returned expecting a eleven year old.

I showed a photo of mine to Ankit. He looked at it and said - "I saw it on Facebook." "You are a lot on Facebook", I commented. "Mom, I am almost a teenager what do you expect?" was a quick reply.

Later I was making him a grilled cheese sandwich. Ashvin made some smart comment and ran out of the kitchen. "I wonder where that monkey came from" I sighed. Ankit smiled, "I have a good comeback for that mummy, I would have said it to my friends but you are my mom... and you are cooking me a sandwich"

With the sandwich in hand we were watching TV and I commented on an Indian actor - Salman Khan - and how he has been in the industry for a long time. Ankit said - "Back in my time we had his movies too."  It made me laugh.

In the two weeks I was gone he grew up two inches and a whole generation. I have comeback to a preteen.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Glad to be home – learning’s from Everest Summiteers

For a non-romanticized post of an overview what it takes to summit Everest read this. The following is an emotional account of my trip J

I knew it even before he opened his mouth and excitedly told me that he had summited Everest. I knew he had been up there, not just by the chapped black face, lips and cheeks covered by frost bite but by the way he was proudly flying the Pakistani flag and rushing with renewed energy down the mountain. He was the first Everest Summiteer I met and the most excited one. He wanted to talk, he wanted to tell everyone about his experience. He was happy to talk. I would have been as excited if I had done it. Climbed to the top of the world.

The next night we saw a bottle of wine being opened, sizzlers came to the table for two. Celebrations for a husband and wife couple that were returning after their summit. Skinny but smiling. Wine and steak are expensive here but they deserved it. As much as they deserved the smiles and admiring looks at their table. People controlling their desire to walk over and talk as they ate their dinner.
A sad chapped nose -little exaggerated ;)
 Wonder what the summit would do to
We met many more summiteers, part of the first father son group from the UK to summit, women going up for their third time, youngest Indian to climb Everest and a man who had just scaled the eight thousanders.

I know that I will not summit Everest – I cannot bear to see my face covered with frost bite ;) -  but I wanted to go meet these people. Be inspired and soak in some of the excitement. In the twelve days up there some of it did brush off on me. I want to do bigger things in life, push limits and live to the fullest but I also realized that I do not need to climb Everest. I instead have a need to be with people I love. I will find my limits and summit them with people that love and adore me.

The summiteers - they talked to us, inspired us and made us feel so little at the same time. As one of my wise fellow trekkers put it – it is a matter of perspective, here we are nothing, people walking up a mountain. Back home we will be the people that walked up the mountain.

I am glad to be home now, one of the people that walked up the mountain.

What does it take to summit Everest

By Pradeep Prakash - Click for high resolution and more pics .
Gorakshep - the last settlement enroute to Everest. Then comes the Base Camp and the High Base Camp - Camp-I, Camp-II, Camp-III and Camp-IV. Kalapattar[5550mtrs above MSL] is also seen here [ mountain devoid of any snow and so the name].

What does it take to summit Everest - A good pair of legs, time and oh yes, $45,000.
I guess you could do away with the legs but you do need time – at least six weeks for the final stretch – and money. If you did away with the legs then I’d say you need considerably more than $45,000.
Jokes asides, I had a friend ask me why it is so expensive and time consuming, why can you not just go up and climb, will they jail you if you do not buy the $10,000 permit.  Having just returned from the Everest Base Camp I initially giggled at the questions, told him that he really needs to read up but then I thought about the scores of summiteers that we saw coming down, one of them even commented of a traffic jam up there – too many people trying to summit. So, I decided to do some research on what are the basics required to climb Everest.
  • Approximately 400 people on average climb Everest every year – 512 summited in 2010.
  • There were just four deaths in 2010. Since 1990, the deaths have dropped to 4.1% due to better gear, weather forecasting and more people climbing with commercial operations. Annapurna is a much more deadly mountain than Everest with a summit to death ratio of 2:1 deaths for every summit (109:55).
  •  It is harder to set records now, youngest, oldest, women, men, number of summits are all taken… so people are doing back to back and even funkier stuff now. If you want to climb it is unlikely to set any records.
  • It is twice as hard to climb from the China side – more technical and cheaper but your chances of summiting is halved and chances of dying is doubled.

Cost:         $45000 and up
$15000 upfront
70+ days
Type:        Mountaineering
You need a climbing resume – experience with HMI, mountaineering experience is all required.
Sample ask  - Participants on our Mt. Everest Expedition must have a solid understanding of mountaineering skills. We require that each team member have previous high altitude experience, such as McKinley, Aconcagua, Cho Oyu or other 7,000 - 8,000 meter peaks. Screening and final selection will be done on an individual basis after we have reviewed your climbing resume and our veteran Everest Guides have spoken with you directly

Just to show how commercial it can get there was an ad that cracked me up - Want to Climb Everest? $50,000 + 2 Weeks Training (no experience necessary)
At the same time a heartbreaking article on the death of someone who took a cheaper route and wanted to do it on his own made me rethink the journey up http://climb.mountainzone.com/2006/david_sharp/index.html

It is expensive for a reason - the money goes for a permit, guides, sherpas, oxygen, to fund the five camps that you have to stay in for over six weeks. You stay to acclimatize and slowly get strong enough to take the mother of all heights on. There are stories about the ice falls, the balcony, the Hilary steps and if you really want to climb then you need to give yourself a minimum of a year to prepare (and a minimum of a month to read up about all this)
I know it is something I am not going to do. They say a bug gets into you when you first see Everest- even just a photo of it. It devours you from inside and makes you crawls up to the top. I saw Everest when I was twelve and I saw it again last week. I admire it. I admire those that climb on it but I am happy looking up at it. I don’t have the need to look down from it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The irrational walk to the Everest Base Camp

Everest taken by Pradeep
the amazing
photographer in our team.

People die climbing Everest. Some are accidents but a few are caused by ‘irrationality” - by people not heeding to common sense, people trudging on when they should not, against bad weather conditions, against warnings from their guides and friends. There is “a point” after which the misguided are often dragged down by well-wishers and sedated so they don’t keep climbing to their death.
It had been a long trek to Gorekshep. I had not walked fast so I was not physically exhausted. However my ability to sweat profusely had caused me to have a bad cold. During the first few days I had taken my jacket off frequently and sudden cold on my sweat soaked shirt had caused a cough to set in. I slowly realized the gravity of it as we lost altitude and oxygen. A cough that caused a moment of inconvenience at sea level was causing me to sit down and regain my breath at 5100m.
Little yellow tents. Still a good hours walk away.

It was with this cough that I started my walk towards the Everest Base Camp. The interesting thing about this two hour trek is that within minutes of the trek you can see the destination. The terrain wound up hills and down valleys but at no point you lost sight of the camp. A city of bright yellow and blue tents. You saw it as you walked up a steep slope or watched your step downhill. I saw it every time I coughed and had to sit down.
The weather was not co-operating with us and little flurries started to fall less than half way into the walk there. I was bundled in a down jacket and had thick gloves and hats on. The air was cold and dry. It made the cough bad. Others in the group – without a cough – walked on and I took my time sitting on rocks to recover from the persistent oxygen stealing exhale. It hurt. It physically hurt every time I coughed. The cough came from deep inside, not from the chest from the bottom of the abdomen and shook my whole body. Twice, my guide passed me and asked if I wanted to go back. Reflecting back I know I should have said yes and gone back. I passed two older, saner gentlemen and almost like a warning they spoke of going back – we have achieved our personal summit – were the wise words they spoke. Then I passed two men assisting a girl with a nervous breakdown. She had acute mountain sickness and had been abandoned on the way to the camp by her faster fitter friends. It was like walking in a movie where messages were being sent to you through people fallen on the road you walked on.

I made it to the base camp. I did not enjoy the base camp as I thought I would. I was sick. My hands were swollen to double their normal size. I reached and I tripped on rocks and I fell. I stood up, smiled and took a picture. Then I turned around and slowly and steadily made my way back to the tea house. I drank lots of warm water and threw up. I was coddled by two very caring team mates and put in bed. I lay there with an empty stomach and a full mind. I had been very stupid earlier in the day. It was insane to walk on. I would have advised anyone not to do it. It was dumb. But I could see the base camp. I had walked days to get there. I had left my family and walked all this way. I had wanted it so bad. I had reached “a point” and luckily/unluckily there had been no one to drag me down.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Living in a country far away from your family – not light reading

As I type this I am on a flight to pick up my grandma. She was visiting friends in Ranchi when she fell breaking her wrist and injuring her back. This made it hard for her to walk. If I were in Seattle I would have heard about this over the phone sometime later this week. Here I am able to fly over and see to her - right now. I know things would have gone on and she would have been well taken care by others that love her. My Nani was always there for me growing up, she was there when I had my first baby. Many people love her and would have taken care of her but today I can. I am happy I can.

This is not a guilt inducer - it is about how life is. Many of us might not have been able to help our parents/relatives if it were not for the jobs that took us far away from them. Then when the roots set in it is hard to move back.

This is about realizing that things happen here that you don't realize the gravity of or derive the full joy from. Things that involve your family. It is not just about flying in for a surgery, it is about being there all the time. Once you are here people tell you more. It is not just that calls are cheap but the closeness makes them less apprehensive about worrying you.

My mother was sick a few times when I lived in the US and she got better. It was not serious enough for me to fly in and I called and checked on her. My father had his gall bladder stones removed - not a big enough issue for me to come. My cousins got married and I did come for their wedding nor see their spouses for years. I did not give this much thought while I was not here but now that I am it is hitting me really hard.

If a psychic told you –  that a child that would fall into a river at noon today, you could save the child but would sprain your arm in doing so. There were two scenarios this could happen in -
  1. You were the only one that could save the child
  2. There were many that would save the child if you were not there.

We'd all show up for 1 but for 2 – well that is like being here and not being here. If you are here you end up doing more but if you are not then things go on. You are just not part of it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thank You FaceBook

I have met a few people that think Facebook is evil. Well, not just Facebook but privacy on the internet gives them shivers. I jokingly call them dinosaurs but I can understand their apprehension, especially when stories of houses being broken into and identity theft based on information people put out themselves are becoming commonplace.

Once, while I was in a meeting my nanny called me. She  called during work hours only if there was an emergency. Ankit had not returned from school. She had searched high and low. He was missing. I tried to call Peeyush but he did not pick up my call. Just then I saw a FB notification pop up. It was Peeyush checking into a movie theater followed by an update about watching a movie with his son. Peeyush had picked Ankit up but forgotten to tell our Nanny. Without FB this five minute incident would have been two hours of calls and panic.
A few months later we moved to India. I was working from home and felt more lost and lonely than I had in my entire life. Then I started to post little updates. I'd say "I am lonely" and people would chat with me. I'd think of something funny and people would laugh with me. I felt a sense of community and had support from thousands of miles away. Status updates and comments made me feel like I was there. I knew all that happened during the first snow storm in Seattle and felt the success of Kinect without seeing one. I saw birthday cakes and people change jobs. I saw my friends and their kids grow up. Saw the vacation and graduation photos - like I would have in person if I had been around them.
Many people that are transplanted to a different city get depressed and have a tough time adapting. I attribute FaceBook a lot for providing a virtual community that provided a soft landing pad for me. Without FB my first three months would have had a lot more tears and way fewer laughs.

Since then I have made friends here too but I still love my FaceBook community. I guess privacy is a small price to pay for sanity.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Twitter and Facebook Updates on hearing the Osama news – Part II

FaceBook friends let me know if you want your comments removed from this post.

Part I - http://kindazesty.blogspot.com/2011/05/twitter-and-facebook-updates-on-hearing.html



RevRunJnr A prince gets married, the bad guy is dead. It's a real Disney weekend here on earth. 

Ultimate_JLS: Imagine if prince william and Kate got married today! 

aaniiitaaBAM: my brother called last night to tell me "#obl is dead" and i coulda swore he said "im sorry but mom's dead." so i cried.

Dave_ChappelleOsama Bin Laden is dead and i aint flying for at least 3 weeks!

superdimple: For killing Osama, the Navy SEALS just got upgraded to Navy Great White Sharks.

Alexchapel: Next Call Of Duty will have a mission where you get to breach a compound and kill Osama

seinfeId: Only took 6 men to find #osama yet 4 billion can't find the G spot.

BretNettlz: So now we know what Jack Bauer's been doing since the end of "24"

amirahmn: This is funny.Jack Bauer is trending on twitter worldwide.Most of US citizens think Jack Bauer killed OBL aren't they?

kbrick: I really love that Jack Bauer is trending on Twitter today. It's logical, since there's really no other explanation for how we got Osama.

ajwilliams04: y'all know who the crew was who shot osama right? 1.chuck norris 2. dog the bounty hunter 3. dos equis man 4. hulk hogan 5.jetli 6.Rambo

mancini: So Osama Bin Laden is dead... Amazing what the Americans can do when the Playstation Network is down.

Lord_Voldemort7: The awkward thing about #osama is that nobody is telling you that Dora The Explorer was the one who finally found him...

tag865: Obama says Osama is dead. Say that 3 times fast.

rstevens: So Osama's compound was found in part because they were burning their trash. Remember to always recycle, kids.


Jigar Thakkar: Osama goes out in style ... Spent his last day in a million dollar mansion with his youngest wife

Nirav Kamdar: Heard on the radio: It was a Disney weekend - the prince got married and the bad guy was killed.

Stephen Houchen: Obama been laudin' our special ops.

       Stephen Houchen ‎:) Amazing how the news coverage suddenly went from "I do" to "We did it"

       Sachin Sheth Very true about the change in tone.. from the kiss-on-the-balcony, to the kiss-of-death..

       Stephen Houchen From the making of a vow to the fulfilling of one.

       Sachin Sheth from "God save the queen" to "The wicked witch is dead"..

       Stephen Houchen From "wed" to "dead".

       Sachin Sheth from "not having cold feet" to "certainly having cold hands"..

       Sachin Sheth ‎(is it just us on facebook, and the rest of the world celebrating in pubs and bars ... or continuing our status swap.. from "drinking to ending life in sin" to "drinking to ending sin in life"...)

Amit Chopra: Totally agree with one of my friend. Cheers to the iPhone ! Looks like Osama got one recently... :-)

Shrijit Kumar: I wonder if Kate is still crying over the fact nobody will be talking about her wedding dress anymore?.....

Peeyush Ranjan: Obama's next move: sends Rajnikant to Libya

Riona MacNamara: It's like no one even cares about the royal honeymoon :-(

Pradipta Basu: Obama was re-elected over the weekend

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Twitter and Facebook Updates on hearing the Osama news - Part I

FaceBook friends let me know if you want your comments removed from this post.

On Twitter:
NZAfro Adam Hendra : R.I.P Osama Bin Laden - World Hide And Go Seek Champion (2001 - 2011)

anon: "when obama said he had better things to do then show his birth certificate ..."

CareenQuinn: Never seen Twitter explode like this. If Hell exists, Osama has stolen Charlie Sheen's crown.

tobyclick‎ And in his final act of terrorism, Osama bin Laden simultaneously blows up Facebook and Twitter.

jesus: Sorry, you're at the wrong gate, Osama.

garywhitta: Obama destroys Trump over dinner on Saturday, kills Osama on Sunday... presidenting like a boss!

zxch: 5/1, 1945 Hitler confirmed dead. 5/1, 2011 Osama confirmed dead. 66 year difference on 5/1. 5+1=6. 666

shanetallant: "Well, I think it's much hotter than 100 where Osama is.". 

HaHaWhitePPL: Looks like Osama Bin Laden signed up for Foursquare on the wrong day.

darkskin: Osama was minding his own business, drinking his super latte and his homeboy checked into facebook. "With Osama Bin Laden at Starbucks".

JellyAKABoWife: #onlywhitepeople run out to stand outside the white house to celebrate after hearin Osama was killed. Idiots go HOME be4 u become a victim

 Jason_Long: Osama Bin Laden's Compound Already Mapped on Google- 

rckgot1twatchin: Chuck Norris, Jack Bauer, and The A-Team made up the Black Ops team that killed Osama. Lol. That's Hilarious!

 MarcusamDope: why Osama got killed on the First of the month. Dude Was Waitin on that Check

 NotChrisRock: Osama Bin Laden is in VIP in Hell. He didn't have to wait on line to get in or anything. He went up to Hitler like "Anybody sitting here?"

 mrtonymartin: There goes that 'Quiet Word with Osama bin Laden' episode we were working on.

 MadeaSimmons_: Hold up u got to be kidding me osama been hiding in a big ass mansion for 10 years i thought he was in a hole somewhere eating SANDWICHES

 OffensiveShit: I bet Osama Bin Laden accidentally hit the "Add your location" button during his last tweet.

 CoryMoldenhauer: Osama's probably chillin in his cave right now watching CNN on his iPad 3 laughing at how stupid we are..

 FakingNews: This is worrying. Even Osama Bin Laden is not safe in Pakistan.

 JovatoNerd: "I have lived through death of Michael Jackson, first black president, Royal Wedding & now Osama's death. My life's a ****** history book."

neobluepanther‎ Good to see that Twitter has managed not to crash during the whole Osama killing episode.

eddieifft‎ I really don't think Osama would have planned 9-11 if he'd known how many jokes would be on twitter about his death one day.

RicardoC007: I need to start on this homework im cracking up way too much on these osama jokes

Anand Prakash:  Among other news, Chuck Norris returns from Pakistan. :p

Dipanwita SarkarWhile the world was watching the Royal Wedding, Obama was getting some work done.

Peeyush RanjanWonder if Osama was using an iPhone, and didn't know it was tracking his location...

Suchandra Dutta Roy
A wedding followed by a funeral...kinda reminds me of "4 weddings and a funeral". Somebody was asking whether Osama had his guard down as he was too busy watching the Royal Wedding?

Vertikaa ✫✫ SinghNo matter what President Obama says, Donald Trump will not believe Osama Bin Laden's dead until he sees the death certificate !

Anshu Sharma
Good that Osama is dead! (But I hear that Donald Trump wants his birth and death certificates...)

Vishwa Ranjan
Osama meet Satan...Satan meet Osama

Stephen HouchenYeah right! I want to see the long form death certificate!
                   Rajmohan Rajagopalan Obama kills Osama. Trump is trumped.

Kelly Tansinglove the Xfinity ad right in the middle of Obama's speech on Bin Laden's death, that would have cost more than a Superbowl commercial.

Mohit Talwar
Spontaneous applause on the Virgin flight down to SFO... It's a wonderful moment!

Shelly Kamran
Now that Bin Laden is no longer, do we get tomorrow (Monday) off? just sayin!

Rob Watts
I'm glad he's dead, but its hard to get excited because there are 10 more just like him. Well done to all those "ghosts" involved.

Riona MacNamara
via Jacqueline Ryall: "I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure" - Mark Twain

Riona MacNamara
I hope those 72 virgins totally aren't virgins at all.

           Chris Lang I hope they're not even human. Or even androids.

           Nish Thakkar Nowhere did it state that the virgins were female.

Suchandra Dutta Roy Another one on Twitter: Going by the scenes in the US looks like the Yanks finally know what winning the World Cup meant to India.

Read Part II - http://kindazesty.blogspot.com/2011/05/twitter-and-facebook-updates-on-hearing_02.html

A photography camping trip for kids

Ankit just came back from a three day camping trip. He was happy - genuinely happy and full of smiles. He had had a wonderful time at a wildlife photography camp for kids arranged by ToeHold. I got to hear all about it from him and Phillip Ross who lead the trip. They trekked to a watering hole looking for wildlife, took photos and learnt how to take photos, they had a bonfire and played games, they fished and setup a night camera trap for animals – above all they laughed and had lots of fun.

I write about this as this was the first camping trip – outside school – that I had sent him on and I am so pleased with it that there are going to be many more. I personally know of three organizations in Bangalore that organize such events for kids – ToeHold, BMC and Gerry Marten. I am sure there are more but these three have surpassed my expectations and chased away any apprehension I had about sending my child to an overnight camp. All these organizations have people that genuinely love what they are doing and hold kids camps not (just) for money but to really educate and initiate kids to wildlife and environment conservation.

From Ankit's perspective – he learnt so much while having fun. He is wildly interested in taking photos and knows all about exposure and stabilizers (and things of that nature). He made friends and loved the group and their lead. He was  awarded best camper for his wit and attitude - he participated in all events with enthusiasm and above all had the time of his life.

From a mom's perspective - one of the things I really liked about the Toehold camp were the daily evening calls from Phillip with the day's happenings. It made me feel connected and secure. They did a very good job with very timely pick up and drop off and seemed to have a very co-ordinated act together. The other thing that I really loved with the way Ankit said goodbye. There were lots of "keep in touch" and a really warm secret handshake with Phillip (whom Ankit he called the best camp instructor ever)

On the ride back after picking him up, I was smiling, happy that he loved something that I love so much.



ToeHold – http://www.toehold.in/kids/

BMC- http://www.bmcindia.org/

Gerry Marten – Contact conan@gerrymartin.in – they have had kid's camps all April and have a few in May.