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Pain

Pain

Trypewritten article on Pain
Journal Entry

11.01.2015

Pali, Maharashtra.

PAIN.

An hour into training I hit it. That moment you get hit by that feeling. I started the day spectacularly, with some quick rolls. I was out of the water instantly after toppling. And I braced on. Things were going smoothly when I missed a roll. Unable to get the paddle back I surrendered to the river and Rajesh had to swim in to toss me over. All the spectators on their weekend office trip, who till now were delighted to see me disappear and reappear with only the pretty blue hull of my kayak to show for it, stood a little quiet now. I shrug it off and get back into position. Tilt left, turn right, go under. Position the blade, take a moment to breathe (or not) and sweep. Air, light, boom, Water. As Rahesh rushes to position himself under me, I realise I missed again.

As I grab some air, and wipe the water off my face and eyes, I ask myself, What gives? Undettered, I reposition and fall back in. Same result. The quiet spectators make way for worried spectators. And I’m struggling.

It’s called Pain.

My hip was sore. And my knees ached. The toes that had found some allowance in that baby kayak were being asked to clear out, and were seriously considering it. My shoulder would hurt if it felt something. And I was back to sq. 1.

It holds true for nearly every sport I’ve tried. At sailing, for a week I had no gloves and a broken jam cleat meant my hands chafed every session. During the races I felt no pain. At archery, the first few sessions my left arm knew what the bow string tasted like. When Oscar changed our technique while kayaking, my calves cramped. So, Why do we do it?

Why am I spending a sunday afternoon trying to repeatedly drown myself when there are other pursuits? Why should I endure back pain tonight? Or put myself back in that tight kayak tomorrow morning?

I can’t honestly say. I guess on some level it’s a reminder that you are doing it right. Your first steps in anything tend to be like that. And after that first fall, first taste of ddust, first mouthful of river water your body becomes more ready.

The first time I kayaked a distance I was hit by a gust of wind heading back, and it put me off balance. I was 2 Kms off shore and there wasn’t a soul in sight. In our lives we experience pain and we shy from it, avoid it even. Take a day off working out, or give up an activity altogether. This, when it might be the very thing we need. In the basic way of looking at it, aren’t we All born off pain. Kicking and screaming we’ve made it this far. And we have a long way to go.

I took the kayak to the launch site, squeezed my severely cramped legs out, let the water out of the kayak. Took a breath or two. Got my feet back in and execute the rolls to perfection. We start at 8.a.m. tomorrow.

PaddleHard.

A Great start to the new Year

A Great start to the new Year

I have to say that 2015 started off well. Apart from the obviousness of waking up on a cliff overlooking a beach hearing the waves come crashing down, there have been some great early decisions. For starters, I spent the last 4 days in Kolad learning safety techniques for capsize or very simply, rolling.

It’s been a tough few days and I can’t remember when my body was this sore, but the outcome has been good so far.

The idea came from Pradip Patade, a constant mentor and coach, and he put me in touch with Mahesh Sanap at Wilder West Adventures. You might know them if you’ve ever been rafting in Kolad or the Kundalika. They basically run the show there.

While the rafting is what I’d predominantly gone there for previously, they have a great property that serves as a place to learn river kayaking, take jetski’s out for a ride and learn your basic scuba too. The owner, Mahesh was extremely helpful and recognized the expedition and it’s adventurous nature right away.

Day 1: It was fraught with uncertainty and I was a little worked up with my resistance to being in the water. Despite having a good control over my breath underwater, I found myself panicked in the upside down scenario. I can’t say I drank anything less than 3 litres of river water that first day and frankly felt the expedition stood on the edge of a blade.

Day 2: I started with a new instructor. Rajesh, I’d say is a pro. He was doing things with his kayak that I couldn’t pull off on a dance floor*. I found my feet in the water and realized I’ve nothing to be afraid of here. Slowly, but steadily I was getting better at the stroke and pulled off some assisted rolls by the end of the day. My consumption of river water was remarkably less and I felt I’d seen the world upside down a lot more today.

Day 3: Rajesh was prompt in his instruction and we did some great drills. My confidence and morale was boosted by the friends who’d come down to join me kayaking on the water. (Needless to say they had a good time running around the lazy stream in the ideal afternoon conditions) I found myself bettering my guitar roll and by the end of the day, I could do my own rolls. Here’s a snippet from Day 3 –

 

*This analogy is misleading as I have two left feet on any dance floor. So here are some pics of what I’m talking about.

Flips
Fear of water? What water?
Staying out of the water. Kayak style
Dry as a summer day in the desert
Hip movements
It’s in the hips

 

Thank you 2014

Thank you 2014

You’ve given me a lot.

And by 2014, I mean everyone who’s been super involved and appreciative of the expedition. Nothing says it like a thoughtful gesture, and I wanted to take some time out to thank everyone who’s done that since I started on this quest.

2015 is the year. And I’m sure big things are meant for all of us.

I hope it’s bright and beautiful for you.PaddleHard.

GoPro3
Rohit Prakash’s GoPro that will see some miles.
Epic SkiTop & Paddle Leash
Shekhar Kumta’s generous gift of a Skitop and a Paddle Leash
The joy of receiving…

The joy of receiving…

…your paddling equipment.

Epic Paddles flown in to Bombay
Hello Equipment!
Mid Wing and Touring Paddles
Sphinx (Black) & Nameless(White)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With baited breath you wait at the arrivals gate of the airport. I’ve been here tons of times, with tons of friends and had many a fun moment scaring, exciting and surprising people. And yet, today I wait with baited breath. With an unspoken anticipation that is telling to present company.

My cousin Rohit, or RB, was kind enough to purchase, parcel and post my brand new kayak paddles just in time for the journey. I do not know the person I am to receive, just a name and the familiar sight of Epic Paddle bags. Her family awaits at the head of a queue of eager, bubbly, teary-eyed, red-eyed people awaiting their sons, daughters, wives, mother-in-laws, bosses.

I however, am the only person checking out luggage.

An hour of waiting and I see them. Proudly mounted atop two other suitcases. My babies are here.

Decorum dictated I didn’t rush Mugda. Or hug her and jump up and down in glee. After the requisite time allowed to her to greet family and friends, I respectfully approached at her brother’s calling. Thanking her and her most accommodating brother Sourabh, I whisked away my paddles and let the family have their space.

As you can see, I wasted no time in letting them out for some cold(?) Bombay air. And have been fawning over them all day today. The black one is Sphinx. (After Vinnie Jones from Gone-in-60-seconds.) The other needs a name. Suggestions?

Why Kayak

Why Kayak

 

Prongs Lighthouse
Prongs Lighthouse

There’ll always be serendipity involved in discovery – Jeff Bezos

As I step up my training, I find that rather than doing circles around familiar territory, It’s far more rewarding heading out in new directions. Every paddle out however comes with the knowledge that you need to paddle an extra stroke back.

On days, this means that if I have a meeting with sponsors or a call with media, I have to be extra careful about the clock. I find myself on occasion whipping out my phone at 10:30 or 11:15 sharp in the middle of the water, trying to find a calm spot to coast while I take a call and make my pitch. Often I wonder what the other person is thinking hearing the calm of the sea in the background.

Digression aside, the real reason why, is that when you are 8.5kms off shore after a gruesome hour and a half of paddling a very unwieldy, overweight recreational kayak, you see a lighthouse. Standing tall as the sea comes crashing down on a reef behind it.

In the distance and with the morning sun, you see a fishing fleet coming out of the mouth of mumbai harbour. Calmly they pass by, a mysteriously queer line. You wonder how there is such discipline in these shipping boats as they maintain a line you’ve never seen on the streets of Bombay.

As they pass on by, you find the choppy waters have taken you closer to the lighthouse. You are almost kissing it, when the good people manning it come out to greet you. By the looks of it, they don’t get company too often. And a barrage of questions ensue. You remember human contact that extends beyond the digital. You make a mental note to come back.

Then you cross the lighthouse. And the sea hits you. It’s rough swell snaps you back to reality. There is danger here. You laugh and paddle on. You Paddle Hard.

Wanderers

Wanderers

I’m out 3 kms into the water again. And it’s a long long day. The november sun has a cruel march inclination today.

And I’m stopped mid stroke, by a singular being. A Km from the nearest shore. In a good land wind, with nothing but it’s two frail wings, a butterfly. A lonely, orange with black spots butterfly. In any park, anywhere in the world, I wouldn’t have given it a second glance. But here. Far from a modicum of safety. A missed stroke or exhaustion propelling it to sure death. The nearest coast atleast a km away. The farthest atleast 5. And a wind blowing outwards. Surely this is not wise. Surely this butterfly is lost.

A question someone asked me pops up in my mind. ‘Why are you doing this, Kaustubh? It doesn’t sound safe.’ And I’m thinking of what must have gone through this butterfly’s mind, when it chose to leave the comforts of the well maintained garden it came from. The sun shines brightly on the landscaped gardens of Raj Bhavan. This is a stately butterfly for sure. Why have you ventured so far. Where do you wish to go? Will you ever get there?

Would it be rude to try and rescue it? Would it be a rescue? What if I intervened in it’s purpose?

Where could it have been heading? Was there a plan?

Is there a plan? Or are we all lost and can’t see it. Seeking what we cannot see. Shores we haven’t touched or imagined.

I’ll leave you with this lovely short film. And the quote from it that stuck –

As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts – Herman Neville, Moby Dick

 

Silently they orbit the sun. Waiting.

Aren’t we all?

Meeting with the Governor

Meeting with the Governor

Raj Bhavan sits on the edge of Malabar hill and looks out on to marine drive. On a 3 km run I stand facing the whole of it, with a Mumbai Police buoy to give me company.

On Thursday, the 20th, after a long afternoon of training, I found myself at the house I’ve spent many a kayak session outside. (Albeit on the water.)

In conversation with Ch. Vidyasagar Rao
An evening with the Governor

The Governor of Maharashtra, Ch. Vidyasagar Rao, was exceedingly polite and made allowance for the traffic in Bombay. Rushing in, the ADC gave us a sharp reprimand about the time, but the Governor didn’t bring it up even in passing. His only concern was his evening conversation he had to have with his daughter. Terribly humbling.

Our conversation took place overlooking Marine drive, with it’s soft yellow lights and the soothing sound of waves lending a tranquil setting to the evening.

I informed him of my kayaking, and my representing India at the Dragon Boat race in Thailand, 2012. I told him about the secular team we at the event, with people from Kasmir, Haryana, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and how often our practice used to bring us far out enough to see his house. The boys had all been curious about it, and it was a point of discussion of many a training.

The hospitality offered was exquisite and extended well after our meeting. The PRO was prompt in giving us photographs as memories of the evening and lent a ear to my coming expedition.

Next step – try to get the governor on the water?

Personal Safety – Check

Personal Safety – Check

Getting enrolled at NAMAC
Sign up for Safety

Seafarers know that there’s nothing more brutal than tempting the sea. I was advised to keep the mad ideas aside for 3 days and focus on what I might encounter at sea.

I signed up for NAMAC’s Personal Safety Techniques course that should in all likelihood keep my head above water. 3 days later, I’ve walked out with a good understanding of what to expect out there, and some quick insights on what to do if I come across the unexpected.

However, there were some gems that went like –

Me: So, sir, if I were to encounter a shark. What should I do?

Naval looking instructor: See. Shark is a fish. If it smells your blood, it will come. And it will suck your blood.

Me: Ok.

Naval looking instructor: See. It won’t bite you. It will suck your blood. And it will leave.

Needless to say, I called it a day after that. [Jaws.Twilight.]

The practical training was quite a bit of fun. And jumping from 4.5 metres into a pool and ferrying people using just the one hand makes for a highly successful day.

We had a good bit of fun over 3 days, and the chaps headed to the next level were a good crowd.

Boys in class
Survival 101
Sea King Rescue Helicopter
The one thing I’m not hoping to see
No one knew who I was till I put on the mask

No one knew who I was till I put on the mask

The most important things leading up to the expedition is training. As Pradip Patade, my kayak guru, has been saying – train, train, train. Be on the water.

Given the limited time, I’m experimenting with some different techniques. So I brought in an Altitude Mask to simulate a high altitude environment. I trust this will help me work on low oxygen and build on stamina.Altitude Training Mask

The reactions today were fun. The mask itself is rather fun to look at. And it wasn’t lost on the people at the gym today, who for better or for worse, gave me very confused looks.

Take Control.

A good day to paddle hard

A good day to paddle hard

Mumbai was overcast today. Lovely weather after the days of may heat.

Optimist Sail boats at Marine Drive
Wind in the sails

Conditions were perfect to take a kayak out and I didn’t need a dry fit with the cloud cover. Slapped on a little sunscreen and after a quick warm up I was out with the wind behind me and the cool water rising over the sides of the kayak.
Heading out to the yacht was a breeze and I pushed it a little further to break the 2 km barrier. (I often do this to gauge my speed on runs to and fro) But you turn back to the shore and I could feel the strain on the arms and the wind hitting you square in the face.

I completed 3 trips. Covering a little more than 12 kms in an hour and a half.
It’s a steady beginning.