Have been listening to Johnny Cash’s “peace in the valley” for years now, but I never knew I will have my share of it almost 3500 feet above the breath-taking valley of Himachal while floating amidst the air. The memory of the beautiful Kangra Valley landscape with the lush green foliage of conifer trees and the sprawling tea gardens, the gushing rivulets and the majestic contours of the Dhauladar ranges is vividly etched in my mind. It was not till my paragliding experience at the secluded yet comely town of Bir-Billing that I realized as to why birds sing during their flight in the vast expanse of vivid skies.
It all started when the city slicker in me wanted to escape the monotonous humdrum life, and having trekked in my last trip, I wanted to experience something novel and at the same time adventurous. Google came to rescue as I researched about one of the best paragliding spots in the country (and as per my pilot the second best following the sites in Bern, Switzerland). I instantly knew where I was heading next, and thanks to the gem of my friends who agreed to accompany me on such a short notice 🙂
There are many ways to reach Bir, we took a bus from Delhi to Chandigarh, and hired a taxi to Bir, and the drive was just heavenly as we drove past the splendid landscape surrounded by snow-clad mountains. I was a changed person already. We had booked our hotel “Bir Resort” in the upper Bir area prior to reaching our destination, and just as I opened the window of my room I was just taken aback as it overlooked a Buddhist Monastery surrounded by tea gardens!! A sight to cherish! It was more than I could have asked for besides the very cheap room rates for a very cosy room 😉 ;). I was overcome with a feeling of wanderlust and decided to explore the areas around before going for the paragliding experience. I asked the locals and found the way to the monastery which was just a five minutes’ walk from my hotel.
The road was lined with Lung ta prayer flags in the mustard fields. Legends say that the flags are used to bless the countryside with life, fortune, health and spread messages of “ahimsa” (nonviolence), and I saw a sense of calm prevail by just looking at them. Walking for a few more minutes I found a “garden café” and ordered a brunch of pancakes and pasta. It’s a very chic café with farm –to –table organic appeal and a patio with variegated flowers. As it was already 2:00pm we decided to make a move and found local pilots who were experienced and reputable Paragliders, they suggested waiting for the winds to die down so that we could be air borne.
We drove to Billing, which is the take-off spot, and is located 14kms from Bir. The view was just one of those surreal views with chilly winds blowing and we were in an altogether different world unknown to us, awing in silence, admiring the picturesque beauty. The winds started to favour us and the pilot gave the green signal. I was all set and ready to take a leap, and when we (me and my Pilot Rajbir) did I was just overwhelmed with the joy of finally taking off and the sheer beauty of the valley. Throughout our 45 minutes flight I don’t recall myself blinking. As Rajbir started to talk, I hushed him as I wanted to take a mental photograph of what I was experiencing. The valley looked ethereal!! In the words of Rumi: “This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” I knew what the words meant in the true sense of the meaning; after I landed I just knew I will revisit the place again. I set to explore the monasteries on the next day and headed for Triund in McLeod Ganj exploring the food scene for which McLeod Ganj is known for, all this while singing songs of freedom only known to me.
I’ll continue the foodie experience at Mcleod’s in some other post. Right now as I reminisce the experience I just wish I lived an organic life in the mountains, wear black overalls and walk barefoot like Steven Wilson. But since I have a “to do list of accomplishment” before I turn 30, this dream can wait. Meanwhile I will continue with such trips as and when I get an opportunity because sometimes you gotta live a part of your dreams each day.
Recently while facebooking I came across this image. More than finding it funny, I found it amusing.
Why you ask?? One of the reasons being: the guy who came up with this image surely did not own a DSLR. This post is in response to one of my friends constant banter about my camera. (Read its not a “in my defense” post but more of “a life of a DSLR owner”.) So let me start by telling you a story about my AWESOME CANON 600D.
Once upon a time there was a girl who was born in a “Gujju family” (Gujju= Gujarati). Now the thing about being born in a Gujju family is that no matter what the financial status of the family is, the head (Insert my dad) is usually one of the most frugal capitalist out there. If Bongs (Bengalis) were the creative ones, Southies the intellectual ones, we Gujjus take pride in being called the “Money makers”. The pursuit of Happiness is usually the pursuit of money. Well that girl being me, and the feudal lord being my dad I think the story gets interesting. I grew up in a joint family, i think kids these days do not know what it is like being raised with a family size of the overall population of some crooked island of Bahamas. Literal “arrested development”. I was expected to think like my cousins by my aunts and uncles alike when clearly I was not. (Not to prove a point that I was different but yes in comparison- so very much). I remember my eldest first cousin used to watch an SRK (Shahrukh Khan) movie first day first show, and sometimes more than thrice. There is nothing wrong with being an SRK fan, but it never felt right to me , a person who could have watched “Jo jeeta wahi Sikandar” a gazillion times and loved Sai Paranjape movies. I never understood what my sisters used to talk about, could never relate to them which eventually resulted in me keeping to myself and becoming an introvert of sorts. As I am penning this post, most of them are happy planning their second baby and I am sure they do not have a glimmer of an idea what a “Blog” is.
Anyways coming to the point while I was a teenager I always wanted to be many things but there was one thing I always wanted to do if given a chance I won’t fail: “to travel the world” especially the secluded places usually unheard of. But my dad did not entertain the idea dismissing it as a highly unpractical one, which was pretty obvious judging from our ‘family roots’, and also at that age I was confused (I also fancied becoming a Criminal detective) and did not have the conviction to go for it. (and probably because I was sure if I would have argued I would have ended up getting hitched and instead of writing a blog, would have been tending to my kids :P) . So I ended up becoming a student of science, which was an obvious choice given my love for reason and logic. It has worked out pretty well for me, for I have become an objectivist-rational-dreamer of some sort which I tell you is a rather rare breed. We love our money and also someday plan to live our dreams.
That being said let me tell you about my first official camera: while I was pursuing my engineering I asked dad that I wanted to buy a DSLR and by now you all must have predicted the response. He agreed on buying me a good point and shoot. I ended up buying a super kickass point and shoot SONY DSC H10 as my analog olympus film camera had become too quaint for my taste. I instantly fell in love with my cybershot. It was not too feminine like those regular digicams neither too heavy weight like a DSLR. It just felt like “me”. I LOVED IT. It has captured some of the best memories I had but the DSLR dream seemed impossible as a gujju wishlist can’t be redundant. So I promised myself that once I was on my own the first gadget I will be buying is a DSLR. And fortunately I managed doing so, but little did I know that “With great DSLR comes GREAT Responsibilities”. Let me elaborate:
One. YOU are expected to click great photographs because you have an amazing DSLR. If you don’t live upto the great expectations your life will suck.
Two. If YOU are a good photographer and manage to take good shots: the compliments that you’ll probably receive is ” Which Camera??”
Three. There are zillions of you.
Four. After months of mulling over “which camera to buy”, once you are into photography, you have to start figuring out: “which lens to buy”. If you are rich, this doesn’t apply to you as you might buy every lens there is.
Five. If optics wasn’t your favorite subject, you might want to go back in time and probably go through it again which can a major pain in the ar/e. Trust me.
Six. The sheer weight of it might crush you.
Seven. Oh so now you have tried clicking great pictures, but why oh why isn’t it as good as the other guy. Enter PHOTOSHOP. Now besides learning optics, you gotta learn POST Processing too!! (Whaaa.. says the amateur photographer!)
Eight. ACCESSORIES. The tripod, filters, spare battery and all that jazz. So if you’re travelling and want to capture a perfect shot, you will have to carry a tripod! Whatever happened to *Packing Light*
Nine. Carrying it everywhere. That is what ideally people will suggest you to, but try it for a week and you’ll probably get what I am trying to say here.
SO now if you’re planning to buy one, I would suggest you buy a good LED TV. It entertains and expects nothing in return. 🙂
So far my experience with it has been good, I am yet to meet the expectations and yet to discover what I love to click which in itself is task. Also I am to upgrade my lens. So I will keep on updating you about my experiences and my progress with the mighty Canon. Posting some of the pictures I captured.
My Rebel T3i has accepted your compliments already 🙂