Skiing Lessons

20170408_1727061So this isn’t the first time I have tried skiing.

The first time was in Gulmarg,Kashmir where after a couple of hours on the ice I was taken aside by my instructor and told very softly in Hindi.

Maydam. Agar aapko kisine puccha ki kisne apko skiing sikhayi krupaya karke mera naam na lena. ( Madam if anyone asks you who taught you to ski please don’t mention my name)

Clearly he thought I was beyond salvation.

Hmmff.

Determined to prove him wrong I am now in Bansko, Bulgaria outfitted quite professionally in freakishly tight ski boots and heavier-than-me skis.

The coach insists I carry the skis on my shoulders while walking ensuring that my right shoulder now is permanently a quarter of an inch lower than my left. As I trek up the slope – I am imagining a whole new chapter of my ski history. I am imagining getting my balance just right, and flying down the slope in perfect harmony with nature as the coach watches his star pupil, fascinated. The air blowing through my hair and my body graceful as a swan.

Sigh.

The image lasted 30 seconds.

I fell while standing.

While.

Standing.

I hadn’t even started down the slope.

Just. Just.getting.into.my.skis.

I think it was right about then the coach wrote me off. But anyway.

The other coach with another group was patiently teaching them to start with one ski and showing them the ropes gently and step wise. For some reason our coach felt we don’t need that. We were born to ski.

So he just gets us into our skis and says – Slowly. Lean forward. Keep skis parallel.

The first real fall I had should have been recorded. As I took off from the start position I leaned in determinedly and the moment I started to pick up speed as usual I panicked and leaned back. Then in slow motion style – better than Neo could ever do it in the Matrix – I bent backwards and stayed there defying gravity. The ski boots hurt like hell but they also help you do the matrix move beautifully.

After that I spent the better part of the hour on my back and then proceeded to watch, humiliated, one by one – every other member of the group sliding down the gentle slope in style. A few even mastering gentle turns.

Finally the coach realized he must focus his attention on the ugly duckling – the swans were doing fine – so he comes back to me with a vengeance.

The next 30 min was mainly about him yelling pizza pizza. And the moment I would fall he would catch up and yell- Spread your legs wider – wider – Pizza…

Exasperated I thought to myself – Hello Mister… quite forward you are… I am Bharatiya Naari haan.. this is not how we do things there…we have just met!!! First you will have to follow me all over town on your two wheeler, then ask me to do Fraandship with you, give me corny archies cards, buy me overpriced flowers, and finally come meet my parents. Then Maaaybe!

And moreover I ain’t spreading nothing for of all things – Pizza!! The least you could begin courting me with is Champagne and strawberries!!!

My expression didn’t really get the message across because he still spent the rest of the lesson yelling the same thing. Finally he led me to the edge of the slope. I thought he was going to take me back to the basics. Tell me a few tips. But he just got me out of the skis and pointed me in the direction of the restaurant bench. And said – Lesson over and then left. I lay down my skis – picked up my shattered pride and limped over to the bench to sip ice cold beer while I watched the rest of the group get on just fine.

As I watched 5 year olds ski past me – it finally dawned on me that I had lost the most important blessing of childhood.

Fearlessness. Abandon.

I couldn’t ski because I couldn’t let go.

I couldn’t think past falling.

I wasn’t comfortable with losing control.

I was frightened of leaning forward .

It was easier to lean backward.

But maybe its reversible.

Maybe being fearless isn’t so tough.

Maybe we need to stop worrying about every stupid little consequence of every indulgent action and just start focusing in the moment.

Open up your mind and Close your eyes.

Stop worrying about –

Falling

Hurting

Crying

Losing

Just Spread your legs wider and eat pizza.

Snowflakes and Tears – Kashmir

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I am no believer in “Love at first Sight” but Kashmir certainly makes a compelling case for it. 

The moment the plane hit an air pocket jolting me out of my nap – I looked out the tiny aircraft window and there was a catch in my throat. Snow capped peaks towering over the horizon.. Acres of green clad countryside like the whole state is wearing one large Cashmere shawl… Streams cutting through rocks like giant silvery knives… if the sight leaves you unaffected – you must have a heart of stone.

But then begins the tragedy. 

Look carefully and you’ll see that the snow capped peaks have dark tears running down their faces. 

And with good reason. 

Kashmir is that unfortunate woman who is being pimped out by her own sons to the highest bidder. 

They probably don’t want to. 

But they do it nonetheless. 

She is that gloriously beautiful woman who must satisfy the demeaning demands of a million men to fill the empty bellies of the sons she has borne. 

Her pimps are vicious because even as they peddle her they resent the men who hire their beloved motherland. They are somewhere shamed deep within  that they must resort to this wickedness. Because wickedness it is. 

Spurious saffron shoved into the face of every tourist. Soaking wet unwashed overcoats being hired out to desperate vacationers. Brawls erupting over the mildest of provocation between the sons of the land while the mother looks on in silent desperation. A 1000 people herded through a suffocatingly narrow passage like sheep from a corral on to a truck – for the Gondola ride to 14000 feet. 

The popular spots of Kashmir do not allow for tourism for those who enjoy the luxuries of tourism. The pimps will ensure that it will be a quickie. You will be in and out before you even catch a proper glimpse of who the hell you screwed ( or screwed you). 

And then there are her offspring like Shaukat who owns a houseboat on the beautiful but scarred Dal lake who is outraged but helpless. He speaks in unflattering tones of his fellow Kashmiris (especially travel agents) and he doesn’t spare himself. In flawless English he calls this whole generation “Bastards” who carelessly are squandering the natural wealth of this state all the while giving tourists a less than honest experience. He speaks of travel companies bundling holidayers into houseboats late at night only to have them check out early the next morning so that they can tick the next spot off their crammed list. He says with real feeling ” How can you expect to experience a 2 crore worth heritage houseboat on the Dal lake if you only came here to sleep one night?” He speaks with passion about the failure to clean the lake and the leaking sewage lines running through the water rendering it filthy. There may be more people like him but like him they are all just sitting on their reeking houseboats watching the magnificent Dal Lake suffer the same ignominious fate as the many other less famous lakes of India.

But every so now and then you will reach a clearing – and see kashmir when she is not aware that you are watching her… and you will see that she hasn’t yet lost her innocence completely… that she has a melancholy expression but her eyes are bright and shiny and hopeful… and you will have that view to yourself for all of 10 seconds. And you will experience a possessiveness you never thought yourself capable of. You will resent wholeheartedly the arrival of another person and you will want to cover her up and take her home to protect her. 

And you will want to sing her the words of a Norah Jones song 

Come away with me in the night

Come away with me

And I will write you a song

Come away with me on a bus

Come away where they can’t tempt us

With their lies

I want to walk with you 

On a cloudy day

In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high

So won’t you try to come

Come away with me and we’ll kiss

On a mountaintop

Come away with me

And I’ll never stop loving you

When the hordes arrive and you have lost that private moment and it gets too much – look skywards.

Not at a careful angle.

Completely turn your face towards the sky so that all the earth is obliterated. And if you are truly fortunate and it happens to be snowing you will see tiny glistening snowflakes spiraling down in the shape of an inverted funnel…. and the snowflakes will camouflage your tears….and you will forgive every evil that this place has been forced to stoop to.

And just like that – the fresh soft snow will cover the dirty runny mud underneath and the slate will be wiped clean.