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Month: November 2016

Plot Thickens

Plot Thickens

Eddy. Back in the day, he was that Tekken character who with his Brazilian martial arts and colourful pants was never going to amount to much, and your best friend would chose him for his roundabout kicks. Dial it forward to today, and Eddy means a circular flow of water often caused by an obstruction such as rocks in the middle of the sea.

Now why would anyone put a rock in the middle of the sea. This is ridiculous and absurd and in Kayaking terms it’s called – that-spot-with-the-breaking-waves. What it does, in case you’re caught in one like I was yesterday is turn a fearsome 19 foot long white fibre kayak that’s on top speed into a rubber duck in a turbulent washing machine.

I’m kayaking from Dwarka to Kanyakumari and the process has seen us kayak down the beautiful blue / green west coast of Gujarat down to the tip at Diu. We are now into Day 2 on the East Coast of Gujarat, and it is a doozy. With the Gulf of Khambhat acting as a real contender for spoilsport of the year, the water here is literally sucked into that narrow stretch of land locked sea. Imagine a sponge, if you will, that’s thrown into a quiet unsuspecting lake, but just by the edge so a fraction of a portion of it’s tip hits the water. Now imagine the sponge is twice the size of the lake and it’s not a sponge but a vacuum cleaner for water, and as the water starts funneling towards said sponge / vacuum, you will start to get an idea about my affinity for sponges and it’s irrelevance to this story in general. Also, you might tangentially arrive at how the Gulf of Khambhat is pulling me towards it.

Now, on an average day, you’d say – Hey Kaustubh, isn’t that a good thing. And on an average day, I’d say – did you forget about Eddy and his vicious kicks in paragraph 1?

So, here we stand. In some pretty murky water. I mean, dark brown, can’t see my paddle in the water, murky. And there are some rocks underneath. And the wind is blowing against me. Oh, sorry, forgot about the wind. It’s what they say, the lesser of two evils. But at 4-7 Knots it’s building up some nice head on waves. And the bow of my kayak is like the sensex on receiving the demonetization news, it doesn’t know whether to climb or come crashing down. Only there are rocks. And I’m still being pushed into the Gulf.

So no Edddy. I saw to you, not today.

#GoTreference #waterdance

Sagar Kavach: Kayaking down Gujarat

Sagar Kavach: Kayaking down Gujarat

If there’s one thing we can all be happy about, it is that our borders are secure! The seed of the affirmation of our safety was sown in Okha when the GMB(Gujarat Maritime Board) head there, a superbly nice gentleman by the name of Captain Rakesh Mishra, told me that whatever I did in Gujarat waters would be tracked. Now that sounds fantastical, but he also told me how it was implemented.

Shortly after the Taj attacks, the then Modi state government took the reins to set up towers along the state. Towers that give the defence forces an unrestricted view on what craft is out on the water. I’ve even been told that they can track the size of the vessel in question. I wanted to probe the issue but decided that the less I know the better.

When I met the Commanding Officer of the Indian Coast Guard, Commandant Harish More, he echoed a similar sentiment. Saying, don’t worry, we will know where you are. There has been no greater sense of safety than that. And right until today, I’m secure in the fact that they have my back. For all the detractors and the doubts that ‘This is fine abroad where they have better facilities and safety measures’ this was a big blow.

Now all the technology in the world means nothing if you can’t mobilize and take effective action, which is what brings us to Sagar Kavach. Kavach meaning Shield, Sagar being the sea. And for the last 4 days we have been, unknowingly, playing devil’s advocate to our line of defence. It started when Shanjali and Nitin were spotted in Navi Bandar awaiting my landing. With a pair of binoculars and the camera at ready, they caught the attention of locals way before my lovely boat hit the shore.

What is equally heart warming is that the police didn’t look to harasss us, or intimidate us but chose ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Thanks to three days spent running around in Okha, we had the necessary paperwork handy & laminated(from dad’s years of laminating everything from certificates, to my sketches. He would laminate the pages on my passport if he could.). So landing at Navi Bandar was effortless. The policeman obviously told me that this area was restricted and that photography was not allowed. I told him we were happy to delete anything if they deemed necessary. Having had a look at the paperwork, he said everything was in order and sent us on our way.

At Mangrol, the sight of a strange white, hand powered boat caught the local eye and within minutes of my well-executed-landing-amidst-big-waves, there were atleast 60 people at our heels. I thanked the first police responders for their first response, and while we tied our kayak, the sub inspector of police arrived in a jeep. Whether it was the afternoon heat bearing down on us or the general mob that looked ready to strike down demonetization something seemed to have placed something foul-smelling under his nose. He started conversing with First Responders in Gujarati, some of which I caught on to, so when he said – Kanyakumari to Dwaka I corrected him about the route being the other way around.

Sub IP: Mein abhi unse baat kar raha hoon. Jab unse sab sawaal kar loonga toh abse baat karonga. (I’m talking to him now. Once I’m done, I’ll speak to you.)

Me: (oook, then)

He wasted no time in telling me that I was free to kayak from Dwarka to Kanyakumari, but didn’t understand why I needed to step foot on his soil. I tried to explain that I can’t kayak directly to Kanyakumari and need to halt as I go, but this wasn’t a theory he bought into. Infact he looked like he’d left his wallet and cards and those worthless 500/1000 notes at home because he didn’t think anything was worth buying into. Very soon we were all headed to the Fisheries department where we were marched up to the head, a very genial man, who shook our hands and said – ‘Oh, aapke bare mein aaj ke paper mein hi aaya hain. Please baithiye.’ (I read about you in today’s paper! Please sit down)

Things went smooth after that, and despite said Sub IP butting in about the inaccuracies of my route, a matter that I should have a thorough intellectual debate which I’m happy to lose, the fisheries head suggested I continue paddling my boat and let everyone else fly a kite. We all parted ways with smiles on our faces, and I thanked the Sub inspector for being thorough. If it was indeed a suspicious craft, his drilling would have, I believe, resulted in results. And that’s what’s most important. I think my case had a point, because he showed up the next morning to cast me off, and wished me the best of luck.

Sagar Kavach is a inter departmental exercise that is being run between the coastal agencies to check the smooth functioning of our coastal safety and I have to say it’s going very well. Landing in Veraval, just off of Somnath, the police met us a third time on the beach. Now, while this might look tiring, I think it’s a good thing. Since I am not a suspicious element (Last I checked this was confirmed by multiple third parties) I have nothing to worry about. A realization brought to me very starkly when an SP of police strolled in while I fastened my kayak and announced out loud – ‘Welcome to Somnath!’

He proceeded to shake the hand of a local resident, who not knowing any better, took the handshake as an overdue gesture and shook it quite firmly. I stepped in to gently correct his mistake and thanked him for saying so. It was a warm, albeit funny way to be welcomed.

Thoughts of the Queen of England, on the day of a royal knighting, touching the shoulders of someone checking the carpeting came to mind. But a welcome is a welcome, and a knight is a knight.

So here we stand in Somnath, a little amused, but fairly proud of our defence.

The Wait

The Wait

[Older post]

I have archery in the morning. Yes, the bow and arrow kind. Someone asked me why I took up this sport? I told them it’s great for focus. Two hours of standing, pulling a bow & resting.

It’s only half the truth. I’m grappling at poetic answers & my mind plays tricks with me and gives me one. The full truth is the wait. The wait is everything. That interminable pause between the conception of an idea and it’s execution.

How do you fill the hours between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on a slow Friday. The minutes before your food is delivered from your favourite restaurant when it’s all you’re craving. From kneeling at the starters block and the final countdown in a 100m dash.

In that moment, every thought you should and shouldn’t have goes flitting through your mind.  What you could and did do fight it out in a battle that plays on repeat. Should I have written to the tourism boards directly instead of waiting on an introduction, should I have bought a sail as backup months in advance, have I got the right glares, or were the red ones better.

I’ve crawled into bed 2 hours ago. I have archery in the morning, but my brain won’t let me slip away. I had a cold in the morning and fever the week before. I need this nights rest. And there it is again. ‘Did you send the email out? In an hour it will be thursday! No one reads emails at the end of a weekend!’ And a flood of thoughts beat down on the weak dam of sleep. But it’s not the mind.

The night before the JEE I couldn’t sleep. Before every major football match. In thailand, before the Sea Kayaking Asians, I slept 5 hours. Before launching off for Goa on a kayak I slept 3 hours. I want it to be tomorrow, and i want to know I’ve done it.

It’s not nerves or fear. I can’t rationalize it. I can’t will myself to sleep.You surf channels, I binge youtube. I tear down FB with my afterhours wit. I’m waiting for it to happen. But it doesn’t. It’s not tomorrow. It’s today & I’m stuck in the mediocrity of it.

But don’t worry. The sleep will come. And tomorrow will too. And with it, you’ll face your big challenge. And you’ll win.