Monday, November 27, 2017

Pursuit of happiness

The CEO of a mid-sized company

Knitted his brow and frowned in thought

How can I make the firm grow bigger, and swell its coffer

How can it reach more, and make the competitors sore

He noticed not his loving wife, nor the adorable kids

All he saw were numbers, till they numbed him

He had no life, no fun, never saw the life under the sun

Till one day to his stunning horror

The management showed him the door.

The volunteer in the NGO

Beamed each day in delight

His thoughts were not shrouded in results of the quarters.

His life cycle did not revolve in 3-month brackets.

All the day he attended to people in pain

Never losing his ear to ear grin.

His problems were global, his jobs swelled with

A war in Syria

When ISIS flexed its muscles

When Trump taunted Kim

Whenever X targeted Y

While who is X or who is Y was never clear

The Z was always the constant.

The innocent bystander who always bore the brunt.

He spent his life in tending to the Z

Ready to let go his much needed zzzzzzzzzzzz

A bank balance he did not have

But a life in balance, certainly yes.

This volunteer in the NGO is today nervous

For he has to interview a former CEO, no less!

 Výsledek obrázku pro chasing happiness

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Zero Sum Game ?

Humans have a tendency to conserve energy.

If there is a shorter road, an easier way, a simpler method our mind is 
programmed to embrace it.

Unless you are a Kipchoge. 😊

And so, it remains a mystery as to why humans spend the bulk of their energy in complicating their life.

Is the total happiness in the world, a fixed number?

Is happiness, then, a zero-sum game? That, if someone is happy, it has to be at the misery of someone else?

Looking at certain people I would be compelled to come to that conclusion.

Are you happy is not just a simple question anymore, it is rocking the very foundation of human society.

It used to be a simple question and is still a simple question when posed to a child. 

Though the threshold of the age of the child is dropping continuously which is a major concern.

"Of course, I am – fit as a proverbial fiddle" – this answer is certainly fake. A happy person does not explode with happiness. Cheery demeanour, back slapping merry and outward manifestations are usually a fake screen to hide the real disappointment brewing inside.

"I don’t know, probably I am, no major concerns" – this is in all prospects a human being as close to happiness as we know it.

"It can be better" – this is just a micron-thin coating begging to be scratched. Scratch it and you will encounter Armageddon.  Wisest thing is to absorb this and slink away.

Instances of happiness are multitude. Each happiness is attached to some material thing or other.

The absence of happiness with a person of such disposition is still manageable as this can be compensated by more, albeit meaningless, possessions.

Beware, however, the person who is perennially unhappy, whose countenance is a scowl or a knitted brow, whose eyes dart around locating emotional chinks in the armour, and who has a false big laugh, whose eyes never smile, the one that is constantly scheming, who spends all the time evaluating if others are happy or miserable, whose happiness is derived by the equation 

         X- (sum of others happiness), 

the starting X itself too meagre to satisfy one individual of normal composition; for, this person has an inherent non capacity to feel happy or to nurture positive thoughts.

And like a black hole sucking everything that passes by, this person is almost a dementor from Azkaban, sucking out happiness from those around.

There are happy people and unhappy people. The world is full of them. Then there are people who are incapable of being happy. Like the school bully, who derives pleasure by kicking the sand castle built by other kids, or the proverbial monkey that climbed a tree and destroyed the nest of the birds because the birds could have a place to stay dry in the rains while the monkey did not.

Or like the tale of the magic fish emanating from Russia where the peasant, on being offered whatever the peasant wanted by a benevolent Angel in the form of a magic fish, with one caveat that the neighbour gets double, pleaded that his one eye be gouged out.

J.Krishnamurti said that Truth is a pathless land, the same is true for happiness too. It is natural too, as, can there be happiness without truth?

Darkness is dispelled with light. Thus it will be simpler to eliminate causes to bring in a greater level of happiness. What is a life lived if it was not lived happily?

Things to eliminate – as a simple ABC to happiness




The best things I learnt in my life I learnt from reading.

So, to quote Atticus Finch “Whatever the provocation Scout, I forbid you to fight”

Ignore the provocateur and move on, for the happiness of the provocateur hinges on you losing your composure and your happiness, stemming from the belief that happiness is a zero-sum game.

It is not.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Friend Indeed!

There are acquaintances.
There are friends.
Then...there is Bharati.

It is impossible to be good to everyone; whatever you do, it is ceratin that some people will probably say unpleasant things about you.

The doctors start learning being a doctor by the famous oath "Primum non nocere"

We try to live our lives the same way.

Middle class, god fearing, upbringing coupled with a honest to a fault father in one of the most corrupt government instituitions possible, left an early mark on the value of honesty and integrity which continued as a guiding pole star in your tumultuous life.

When your father was held in greater esteem post retirement whilst his erstwhile prosperous colleagues were treated with outright scorn, it resolved the early mark into a lifelong practice.

It was rather easy, as the practice was not a performance to an audience but emanated from within.

A way of life, so to say.

Years passed. The father is no more. The chosen path did not give any material benefits.

Temptations were always abound.

But a steely determination held on.

Recently one of my recent colleagues moved places and happened to work with another colleague of mine from yesteryears.

It is impossible to be good to everyone;

Thus it came as no surprise that the earlier colleague from years gone by mentioned, in a cahnce conversation, an observation that questioned my character and integrity.

My recent colleague, ever the timid person, 11 times out of 10 demonstrating decorum, was left flabbergasted.

He was rehearsing proper statements that would convey indignation while not losing semblance of civil behaviour.

Elli Wallach famously quoted in the timeless  "The Good Bad and the Ugly". shooting from underwater from a bathtub

"When you gotta shoot, shoot; Don't talk"

Bharati, wife of my recent colleague, unknown to herself, is a disciple of Elli Wallach.

She stood up, bristled (it takes little to bristle her up anyway) and said

"We do not know if you know him well. But we know him. What you say is impossible"

And walked out gracefully.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. -- Bharati.

I am not basking in this as a show of compliment. It is a vindication of what my father stood for and managed to impart to me.

Thanks, Dad.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Right hand on shoulder while the left is delivering the haymaker !

Beware the smiling assassin
For there is no worse kind
The twist of the knife is
Oh! So painful
When the hand belongs to a friend!

Betrayal by an enemy
Is a contradiction in term!
Knowing this well, surprised are we still
When the killer blow comes
From the hands of a friend!

Et tu Brute!
Would not have been
A gut wrenching cry
If Brutus were to be an enemy!

The cry and its anguish
Stemmed not from the
Fatal stab, but, that it came
From the hands of a friend!

It is known that chemo
Is as painful as cancer
So is looking for a reason
When the hand that delivered
The killer blow belongs to
The hands of a friend!

Find the reason
You are left disillusioned!

Don’t find the reason
You are left miserable!

Can’t find the reason
You are left confused!

Won’t find the reason
You are blinded!
By the misplaced, undeserved love.

Catch word in
Unravelling this shamble is
Reason, the why of it and not the how!

Take the R out
And you see that
Your erstwhile friend is now a
Fiend !!

So, when reason
Takes leave, as it often does
For reasons unknown (😄)
Make sure that the
Burden of carrying the cross
Belongs, not to you, but to

The hands of your fiend.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Brave New Word !!!

Language is a living thing. It grows and each year new words are added to its vocabulary. Even though a complete edition of an Oxford English Dictionary could weigh about 10kgs (or a GB in soft version) I offer the following new words to be introduced in the next edition.

Or at least considered for inclusion….

You are in a party with few of your regular friends. The conversation flows, as does the alcohol. One of the newcomers happen to mention that particular word, that is a trigger for your insufferable pest of a friend to launch into his endlessly repeated and absolutely humor less stale joke. And you squirm and survive yet another ordeal of this till the next time when another hapless one utters the stalejokecue.

Ever flown economy class and seated in the middle of the middle-4-seater section. Then you already qualify to be one. The skills you need to call upon and demonstrate in having your dinner/lunch on that miniscule tray, where the difficulty level is further compounded by everything in wrappers, pickles in containers that will not open, and when they do, spray the entire content on you or your fellow passenger, clashing elbows as the person sitting on either side of you undergo the same torturous routine, where each dish comes with a plastic cover that you do not know where to stash away, and when you are totally exasperated the hostess comes with an offer that you can’t refuse ‘Sir Scotch or Vodka’ make you eligible to be called a traygymnast.

Ever been to an ice cream parlor, recently. The mental condition that you reach on the endless choices you need to make, the flavor, cup or cone, number of scoops, toppings, type of topping, hot or cold and so on is to be called, with a flair for the wordplay, iscream.

Similar mental turmoil as outlined above, this time in a Pizza Hut. Your condition at the end of homemade, stone cooked, chef’s special, green or black olives, soft crust or hard crusted, grated or sliced cheese and so on will leave in a condition to be known as petripizza.

The person who reads up Ken Rockwell, idolizes Ansel Adams and does a four month research on DPreview to select the best DSLR that money can buy and then shoots all his pictures in

That reflective, uncontrollable habit of sub-consciously counting the stairs when you climb up or down.

This person is a constant in almost each organization or a friend circle. There is NOTHING you can do to insult him. All your sarcasm, wit and outright abuse skittles over him. He can\t be insulted. Period.

This person sits up way high in an organization. The journey to the top is achieved by this simple trait. When everything is running weil, create a chaos, blow it out of proportion, complicate it beyond recognition, make people tear their hair in a frenzy and then restore it to its original condition by removing all the complications that were created in the first place and stake /take claim for having solved it. The study of this esoteric science is called Chaosology.

A person that gets high on words. Has an obsession to use the new word that was learnt in every conversation. It is a lexicon and not a dictionary, someone is an adept and not an expert, it is a serendipity and not just a chance…..

This person is exactly the opposite of the lexiphil. Not the one for nuances. Remember and remind are interchangeable. (I remembered him last evening!) Loose and lose are the same.

This person is the Social Media Disaster! Always present on all forums Facebook, messenger, twitter, whatsapp, multiple whatsapp groups, Instagram, snapchat ……. And spends all the time reposting from one forum to another and often ends up forwarding it to the same forum

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Vikram - Vedha

Last time I wrote a blog on a Tamil film was for Aranya kandam, a film that broke all stereotypes and had a fantastic twist at the end. (read about it here)

And after many a summer, here I am writing my next blog on Vikram Vedha.

Spoiler Alert: If you plan to watch the film, which you must, please read this blog after watching the film.

Intelligent crime films are always a turn on. Being Cyrus and Aranya kandam were the last of the two in this genre that excited me.

This film was strongly recommended and the premise sounded interesting and I had never seen this guy Vijay Sethupathi before and decided to watch the film over the weekend.

I ended up watching it twice over the weekend and am still in a daze.

What just happened? This film is a total knockout.

This is Oscar material. Cat and Mouse reversed.

My non-Tamil friends can appreciate the film thanks to sub-titles, however it is the group that understands Tamil who will appreciate it more.

It is the same difference between what I and a Czech native would experience from a Kundera work.

Based on the mythological Vikram and Betal where each story ends in a moral question, this film sets about adapting it to perfection in the current world of cop vs gangster.

Vijay Sethupathi’s performance is riveting. His casual delivery of rural slanged Tamil, with just the eyes conveying the simmering rage from within, clarity of thought, unwavering in purpose, his almost school teacher attitude in explaining obvious things to an adamant officer (are you with blinkers? Won’t you ever learn?), the body language that oozes magnetism are all so perfect that he would have an impossible task of bettering this performance in his lifetime.

Vikram Vedha will be to him what Casablanca was to Humphrey Bogart, A Few Good men was to Tom Cruise, To Kill A Mocking Bird was to Gregory Peck, The Dead Poet’s Society was to Robin Williams, A scent of a woman was to Al Pacino, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s nest was to Jack Nicholson, Nayagan was to Kamal Hassan, A Wednesday was to Naseeruddin Shah…

There are multiple websites that thrive on picking out inconsistencies, errors, discontinuities and contradictions in a film. Those sites will have a herculean task in taking apart VV.

The director duo must be credited for a cast iron story line with no loose ends.

Each small part of every frame is relevant and explained.

Each apparently trivial aspect takes on an importance of gargantuan proportion as the story unravels.

Be it the scar on Pulli’s hand, the left-handedness of Chandra, a linguistic curse of a goon or a recollection of a chance confession of Simon.

The mock respect that Vedha shows to Vikram (Viram Sir, Vikram Sir) and his confidence in narrating the three stories which gradually but confidently blurs the clear demarcation between good and evil, are testimony to his versatility.

His entrance scene, reminiscent of Kevin Spacey in Se7en, is shamelessly thunderous.

Often we attribute non-existing nuances into the narration. Maybe it was just my imagination but I would like to attribute the aspect to the talented director duo. In the first scene where the two meet each other, Vikram is in a pristine white shirt and Vedha is in black. The shade of Vikram’s shirt / T-shirt gradually changes to grey and reaches a matching black by the time we reach the spellbinding climax.

Also just before the film ends, it was the turn for Vikram to ask Vedha (Role reversed) “Vedha Sir, (a mock respect returned, this time Vikram calling Vedha with respect, a significant shift from the earlier addressing of him as dog, scum etc…) what should I do now?”

And one word about the background music.

It is flippant at the most unexpected moments, tender when Pulli and Vedha are together and haunting for most part.

The BGM breathes life into the film. This is how a BGM score should be.

Here is a sample. This has the "Catch-phrase" - Oru kadhai sollatta Sir? (Shall I tell you a story?), the flippant music and the beat that breathes life to this film...

There is one particular scene towards the climax where Vedha excels in my honest opinion.

Completely exasperated with the pigheadedness of Vikram, he has this hyper scene where he is giving an example of a stupid villager who lost something here but was searching for it there because it was well lit where he was searching.

The above paragraph does no justice to this mind-blowing scene.

Hats off to the director, the dialogue write and Vijay Sethupathi for this gold mine of a scene.

And what a stunning climax.

I like open-ended climaxes, where we get dragged into the filmmaker’s mind and start guessing what would happen.

My one earnest request to Pushkar-Gayathri duo – please do not spoil this masterpiece with a sequel.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

We hurt those we love!

You are walking your dog; it gets provoked by many dogs along the way; it holds its head but after being pushed to its limit, reacts, often by jumping towards one of those mutts and pulling on the leash.
You do not administer your, misplaced, wrath on the provocateur but on your hapless dog.
It gets pulled back, given a few harsh words and reprimanded and brought back home.

The story repeats the next time and the next time.

Your two children end up fighting. How often have you been completely neutral? Haven’t you been guilty of lecturing the softer of the two, more often.

The story repeats the next time and the next time.

You have a toxic colleague at work. Who brings out the worst in the most decent of all people. Time spent in his/her presence increases the toxic level of your system beyond what it is designed to handle. How do you detox?

Elementary, Dr. Watson! You take it out on a docile friend. Who does not deserve it nor does he/she understand why the shit is falling on his/her head.

The story repeats the next time and the next time.

Your mother and your wife has a standoff. It is no rocket science to understand who gets lectured, even if the facts are as clear as the day.

The story repeats the next time and the next time.

There is a clear act of misdemeanour in a public place. Your husband/wife takes a stand and exposes it and fights it out. Creates a scene. The miscreant walks away, the act is forgotten, the crowd disperses after having its quota of free entertainment. The real story begins after this. The husband/wife starts to receive a lecture on “what was the need for you to be a hero, did not you make a fool of yourself, what did you solve today, etc. etc. …”

The story repeats the next time and the next time.

There must be some unique strain in our DNA that makes us treat those who we love (or those who love us) in a cruel way.

Come to think of it, it is quite possible that we start loving someone so that we can hurt them one day!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Thank you, God!

No, it is not what you think it is.

I have not forsaken rationalism for a sudden restoration of faith in some higher power.

You will get it as you read on.

People are attracted to certain places. Even the most nomadic ends up going back to that “one place” frequently. Growing up usually means family; which usually means holidays; which means you explore new places each year. However, one does not resist that “one place” which keeps calling out to him.

In my case, it is Kili.

The first time was in 2014, more out of a competitive spirit. My friend has done it, so I should. He did it in style on his 50th birthday, I must do it before I am 50. And so it came to pass. Read about it here.

The second time was in 2016. This time it was to honour a commitment to an acquaintance. And about this here.

It was on the descent from Kili in 2016, the seed to 2017 was sown. The garrulous guide and I found a common ground (one of the usual three with men) Football! (the other two are women and women). In the middle of Pep G going to City and what would happen to Yaya Toure and the special one going to Old Trafford and Chelsea’s chances of winning the league under Conte and so on and so forth, I expressed my desire of coming back again next year, with my family, and inquired if Mount Meru would be a good choice for the family, to be followed by the inevitable safari.

And he agreed that it would indeed be a good idea; and offered to render his services once again if I desired.

I act quickly. I returned in the second week of August and booked the dream vacation for the family in November. Little did I know that Mount Meru would push me to the limit in 10 months’ time.

And here one word, almost a commercial endorsement, in appreciation of Zara Adventures and the formidable lady, affectionately called by everyone as Mama Zara.

We stumbled on Zara, more by chance, the first time around in 2014. This is the 3rd time I spent with Zara and I can only recommend strongly to anyone who is interested in similar adventures/holidays. In all fairness I have not experienced any other tour operator, and in all probability they are good too. But the story of Mama Zara is inspiring and the warmth and smile that you get from her is genuine.

The holiday almost did not happen. Thanks to few of my friends who stood in the time of crisis, I could take the break that I desperately needed.

2nd of August 2017, exactly to the day I summited Kili the previous year, found self and family in the, now familiar surroundings of Kilimanjaro International Airport, roughly 1/5th the size of a modern city mall.

And the whole family was excited, a little unsure, and prepared ourselves for the next three gruelling days.

At this point in time, I had no idea exactly how gruelling it was going to be.

Day 1: Calm beginnings:

It was a routine day. Lulled everyone into a false sense of complacency. The ranger who accompanied us with a mean looking rifle turned out to be superfluous. No animals came within few hundred meters. We did see a giraffe soon as we started and few baboons and numerous birds. One bird had a call that sounded like a mobile beep and often led the group to halt and fumble for the phone.

The trek from Momella Gate to Miriakamba (1500 MSL to 2500 MSL) was like a walk in the park. We hardly broke sweat, and reached the first point in a decent time of 4 hours. To the rest of the family, 2500 MSL was already the highest they had ever reached. I envied them, as every step upward was going to be a new record for them, a la Sergei Bubka.

Another pleasant surprise was firm huts, with bed and mattresses, a proper dining room and toilets with running water. A welcome change from crawling into a small tent, on uneven ground, with wind whipping you all night, holding on to rickety tables and having dinner in a make do dining tent.

The walk was pleasant, the food exemplary (the guide Alfan (from Zara) throwing in some family touch by bringing special cutlery from his home in our honour) and soon after the dinner the family crept off to a peaceful sleep. It was getting colder, what else could one expect at 2500 MSL, but the sleeping bag provided enough comfort.

We were all bitten by various insects, had welts and rashes but the confidence of a series of vaccinations we had taken prior to the journey made us bold to march on.

Day 2: Day of “Buffaloes with acute Diarrhoea”

It had rained all night. It had to, right? What is a climb if the weather is going to be clement all along. It was still drizzling as we set off. The departure point was Miriakamba at 2500 and destination for the afternoon was Saddle Hut at 3500.

The path was consistently steep and constantly winding. And extremely narrow. The need for the ranger was vindicated as there was enough proof of buffaloes in the vicinity. The narrow bath was splattered with buffalo dung all along. It must have been a herd of them, and with an acute case of diarrhoea! We hopped and jumped and after a while gave up trying to avoid stepping on them. We reached the 3000 level in good time. The smiles were still on.

The day was soothing, we did not catch the sun at all. After the small lunch break at 3000 level the party split into two! The ranger, my wife and my daughter stayed in one group. The guide, me and my son took the lead. The second half was taxing, from 3000 to 3500. We trudged on. There is something that is extremely beautiful about the Mount Meru climb. One usually comes to the mountains seeking solitude and silence. Both were conspicuously absent on Kili. I had about 40 people in front of me and another 40 behind me at any given moment on Kili. The porters were noisy in the night. You missed the silence on Kili. Here, on the other hand, it was QUIET. There were probably just about 15 people climbing on that day. And the mountain was big enough to keep them at a good distance from each other and allow you the silence you craved. It was just a metronome plonk, plonk of your dreary legs one after another after another after another…
In the meantime, way behind us, unknown to us at the moment, my wife was struggling to make progress. The walking sticks which were meant for additional support became just an additional stuff to drag along. She refused to smile, make any progress and had I been around, would have probably murdered me, slowly at that. As she later confessed to us, it was thanks to our daughter, who not only carried her bag but also offered her numerous bits of encouragement.

When our daughter gets hyper, she gets HYPER!

The sun broke, probably symbolically, as the leading party reached the camp at 3500. We had to wait for a good part of an hour and a little more before the rearguard joined us. As a matter of fact, my daughter and the ranger joined us while my wife trickled in.

She had that “why the eff did I marry this guy” look on her face. She was extremely tired and on the verge of collapsing.

You can see her famous completely resigned walk here.

And when they finally made it to Saddle Hut, I was waiting at the entrance to the huts, with a correct worried expression on my face, and first saw our daughter jumping into view, like a Gazelle, waving frantically at me, then turning around, shouting to my wife, still behind the bush, to march on. And finally my wife came into view, struggling to walk straight, but finally managed to reach us.

Teary eyed, all emotions, she gratefully acknowledged the precious role that our daughter played on the way up from 3000 meter onward till Saddle Hut.
Like a Mafiosi would say “Family is important” 😃😃

You can see her pain in this proud picture of the full family reaching an altitude of 3500 MSL.

A proud family moment.

Another wonderful accommodation, another fantastic lunch and we all grabbed a quick hour of sleep. It could have been a three hour rest, if we had managed good time, nevertheless the important aspect was we made it this far, together.
At 1700 hours we set off for Little Meru: the mini summit at 3820m. The climb was steep, winding, less taxing, hardly technical, and a totally exuberant family made it to the top just as the sun was setting down.

We basked in the golden light and breathed in our moment.

In front of us, the imposing Kili was firstly golden, then pink as the sun dove deeper.

To our right, we saw the imposing and intimidating Mount Meru for the first time as the clouds cleared.

I shat.

It looked like a huge cobra with its hood spread and equally menacing. We could easily see the rim that we would traverse that night and a chill ran down my spine.

I looked at the mountain and stole a look at my wife and a decision was instantly made.

She was not going to make it.

I could be a dick frequently. And I was one on that evening too. I kept on pressurising her, giving her all the pep talks (Al Pacino, Bill Pullman, Barrack Obama…) and unnecessarily putting additional pressure on her.

She was firm and said that she would not go one meter above 3820, and that she was proud of what she had managed to achieve, more importantly together as a family.

Both my children, showed maturity beyond their years (as a matter of fact, more than what I displayed) and told me to not put pressure on her.

Over the dinner we decided, much to my wife’s relief, that she would go back to the comfort of the sleeping bag and the hut while the remaining idiots would set off later at midnight.

Here the credit for my wife not joining us on this, in hindsight a certain suicidal mission, goes to the Ranger and my children.

The ranger was blunt – these were his words, repeated verbatim, “No picture is worth your life”.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  I remembered the words of the great Ed Viesturs “The most important role of the guide is to get the client back to ground safely, not take to summit at any cost”

Day 3: The night of the walking dead.

A fitful sleep. The usual orchestra of piling on layers. Zero appetite.

On the plus side, the sky was clear, a bright moon shining giving the entire landscape an impossibly gossamer make up.

My daughter threw up just before the climb.


Five bobbing headlamps danced along the road. Unlike Kili, here it is not a climb that is
But serpentine and long and winding and gradual and …well,in one word, sickening!

We started well, silent but enthusiastic and soon our old nemesis THE WIND joined us, uninvited. It was brutal and buffeting and relentless.

Our first destination, a mini stop, like the bread crumbs dropped by Hansel and Gretel, was Rhino point, a shade below Little Meru in elevation at 3800.

It was the time for the second sensible person in the family to call it quits. My son could not breathe, mostly due to the stupid wind, and after valiantly trying as far as he could, he said “Bye Guys! Good luck. Am not risking anything anymore for just a mountain”

At times am amazed at the clarity of the next generation.

Between my wife and my son, my wife was wiser by 70 minutes 😃

As my son left with the assistant guide back to Saddle hut, my daughter who has inherited her weird genes from me, said “And then there were two”

I felt like strangling her, but that would have proved her forecast and I would have been standing alone saying “And then there was one”

We reached Rhino Point.

So far so good.

Then the bedlam began!

Without any warning we were face to face with a rock cropping, at an ugly angle, the end disappearing into the dark abyss, who said that the unknown does not affect you, it made it scarier, I was not certain if I would fall a few feet or forever into an abyss and the guide scampered across holding onto the chain that was nailed to the rock with the dexterity of a mountain goat and we were standing like, well, idiots, not knowing what to do. 

We mimicked what he did, used one hand on the chain, the other hand groping for a hold, any hold, that the walking stick could muster and crawled across.
Then the guide said the most horrible words I ever heard.

“Only two more”

What he did not say was, that there were two more such menaces with a chain to hold on to your dear life and there was a last one with NO CHAIN.

Kili was enervating, but never once did I feel my life was at peril. Here, within the first two hours I have already seen my obituary column in the newspapers.

The last manoeuvre of the rock cropping without chain was the scariest of my trekking life so far.

That wonderful record was about to be shattered with what awaited us further on, but I did not know it then.

After the crazy rock adventures, the long walk along the rim of the crater started.

From reading up about the trek earlier on, I knew that to my left was the

And to my right was the sloping mountain, and in the dark I was not certain about the width of the ledge I was walking on.

I instructed my daughter who was walking ahead of me to walk in the middle.
Thankfully, or maybe she realised the futility of the wisecrack, she did not ask “Where is the middle?”

And the crazy, stupid, harsh. biting cold wind kept at us with no mercy. It did not stop or slow down even for a second.

We took shelters behind rocks to escape the wind and catch our breath only to step out into that merciless wind yet again.

We lost track of time! We were hopefully looking at the sky to see if it was brightening, hinting at daybreak, as that would mean we were getting closer to that “stupid wooden plank on the top of the mountain”

We were walking for what felt like eternity. The scary walk along the rim, not knowing what was on either side was far more scarier than the rock dance earlier.

Designed by a sadist, the walk kept taking you to the inside of the hooded cobra and back to the outside and each walk on the inside of the Cobra Hood, whilst it gave you the reprieve from the wind, scared the daylights out of you knowing that the endless crater was on your left, probably a few feet away.

Finally the day broke and we could see where we were going. To an extent, as the fog and clouds reduced visibility to a few meters and the wind was not making it any easier.

We saw the first climber returning, on his way back, and were certain that we were closer to the top.

The affable guide, punctured our hope, by saying that we were another 80 minutes away.

This defeated our resolve. I did not see any point in trudging on for another 80- meaningless minutes, but humans have this inexplicable feeling called “pride”, hard to swallow, impossible to admit.

With each step the father- daughter duo halted, contemplated, sighed and ploughed on.

With uncharacteristic snappiness I asked my guide ”Tell me how many more minutes, or how far ? and be true please.”

He ignored my insult, egged us on, clapped and sang and made me squirm with shame for the way I treated him with my earlier question.

And at the end of one of the longest nights in our life the father-daughter duo climbed two unassuming rocks and


We were in front of the stupid fucking plank.

My daughter demonstrated for the second time that she had inherited my gene.

She did exactly what I did when I reached the summit of Kili in 2014.


The temptation to kick that stupid wooden plank vanished, and suddenly there were lot of tears, smiles, hugs and that indescribable sensation of summiting overwhelmed us.

I did the following things.

Hugged my daughter, sat down to rest and relax, apologised to the guide for my insolent behaviour and smiled like a moron as both the guides (the assistant guide had dropped my son and returned to join us, before we reached the summit by the way, another blow to our fragile ego) sang the regular mountain song (replacing Kilimanjaro with Mountain Meru) in our honour.

The descent is always the same. You climb down in a sense of disbelief. The eerie landscape in daylight made the ordeal of the previous night even more worthy of mention.

I fell down a few times, my daughter fell twice, hurting her knee in the process, a rolling boulder almost broke the leg of our guide and like they used to say during second world war, it was SNAFU.

Some views on the way down

We returned to our hotel, washed and resembled human beings after three days and set out on the “touristic safari” thing in the next days.

Our guide for the safari was named Godilsten. And we chose to call him God, in short.

We visited Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro,

I do not know how lucky others usually are in their safaris, but we were exceptionally lucky.

What we managed in two days of Safari, covering two national parks and one conservation area, was as follows.

  •          The Big 5
  •          A zebra chasing a jackal
  •          A lion on its crouching walk towards its prey
  •          A lion just outside our jeep window
  •          A hyena and a jackal fighting over a carcass
  •          A male lion humping its mate
  •          4 lion cubs sucking milk from their mother
  •          A blue bum monkey inside our jeep
  •          A swarm of birds in flight
  •          A male bull elephant searching for its mate
  •          A lioness hunting a herd of zebra (and failing in its hunt, returning empty handed to the three cubs, almost National Geographic)
  •          Two gnus fighting
  •          A lioness walking straight at our jeep and halting just beside us
  •          An elephant walking straight at our jeep and steering away in the last moment
  •          Wait for a zebra and a giraffe to pass on our way from the dining room to our wild camp.

Our guide for the safari, went to extreme lengths to show us all these, and he always kept a tight lid on what was next, thereby throwing countless surprises on us continuously, and after each breathtaking experience our family would collapse blissfully and say:

“Thank you, God”