Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Paragliding

                                I believe I can fly,
                                I believe I can soar high,
                                Beyond the clear blue sky,
                                Where my dreams take me every night.

                                Just like the birds,
                               Gliding through the wind,
                               Rising above the fields,
                               Where it's just me and my wings.
              
                              "Shreya, pre-flight check done. Ready for take off."
The glider behind me swelled as the wind gushed into its cells and shot up into the sky. The A-risers were released as I still clutched the brakes tightly in my hands. Trusting the glider I took off from the edge of the hill and there I was flying into the wind. Straight ahead, the sun gleamed with brilliance as it formed a golden canopy over the looming mountains. The green fields, spotted with colourfully painted houses were far beyond to the left. I was seated comfortably on the harness, directing the glider using the brakes. This time, the winds completely in my favour, did not let me descend much. I looked all around, enjoying my view from 45 metres above the ground while going for an 'S' landing approach. Keeping all the instructions in mind, I was careful not to look at the obstacles(read buffaloes and thorny bushes) and aimed for the target. As I came closer to the ground, applying 100% brakes, I ended my last flight of the Elementary Pilot course.

Four days and I could fly. A total of 8 flights from the top of the hill making it an airtime of approximately 8 minutes. I had got my wings, Mojo 3, orange and blue in colour and Boogi, my glider when I was still a fledgling. From a fledgling to a bird mature enough to fly on its own, the transition was an experience of a life time. Till now my world was confined to my nest. My limits defined by the edges of the nest. My eyes could only see the sky above and my wings were still eagerly waiting to flap. My world was limited to others like me and the ones who fed me. Unaware of the great expanse outside.

After a long wait on the 15th of December, I was at Kamshet, a small town 11km from lonavala. Known as the paraglider's paradise, the picturesque Kamshet sees hordes of foreigners and Indians visiting it every year, either to learn or share their experiences with other paragliders like themselves. I was there with four others to join the 'Elementary Pilot Course'.

It is as easy to paraglide as it is difficult and vice versa. The initial phase was 'Ground Handling' which consisted of introductory sessions, pre-flight briefings, inflation and direction control. This was indeed the most difficult stage as we had to direct the glider by ourselves while we were still on the ground. It was only on the next day that we got our first baby flight, 3-15 meters above the ground. Left with the spoils of war, we returned back to the native place every evening. The native place is the home where we were stationed with other paragliders like ourselves and a bunch of tenth standard students who were there for a study camp before their prelims. (We are still trying to figure out why!)

Away from the hustle-bustle of the city life, the tranquility of native place provided us with the much needed peace and seclusion. Overlooking a lake, the home consisted of small common rooms, an area for artificial rock-climbing, terraces, tiled to play hop-scotch, held barbeque nights every Saturday and plenty of sitting areas with hammocks. We were made to stay in tents and given the most fantastic homely food. Jenga and card games filled up our free time, not to forget the some educational and some hilarious videos on paragliding. Rappelling was an unexpected adventure sport we got to experience. The most striking feature about this place was its people. People from all walks of life, from an army man to an Indo-Austrian model, a lawyer to a biologist, converged here to fulfill their dreams. In fact, the biologist, an avid mountaineer, was currently a scuba diving instructor and was now here to learn paragliding. It was truly inspiring, to say the least, to interact with such an eccentric group passionately pursuing their dreams.

Dreams truly touched the sky every night. As we gazed at the innumerable stars, tried to figure out constellations, the shooting stars carried our wishes with them.      

5 comments:

  1. Very very nice!

    But you are so screwed with your GRE, it's 'brakes' and not 'breaks' :P

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nikhil.. GRE doesn't check spellings(thank god :P) as long as she means well... nicely summed up shreya :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great writeup, I am sure you had great experience. I am not so good at writing as you, but may be this song tells my thoughts for you guys!

    Climb every mountain, search high and low
    Follow every byway, every path you know.
    Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
    Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream!

    A dream that will need
    all the love you can give,
    Every day of your life
    for as long as you live.

    Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
    Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream!

    ReplyDelete
  4. That is a very lovely and meaningful song. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Super poem, if you wrote it yourself :)
    You've mixed metaphor well with actually describing the procedures of flying the glider, hopefully no one will try it at home. Looking forward to more writings, and as Tanu and Sagar have said, more publications

    ReplyDelete