I was more of the academic kinds in school and although I had a fascination for martial arts since an early age, encouragements for sports was little to come by at home. However, a princely piggy bank collection during a long summer in the ninth grade, landed me a spot in the Tae-kwon-do class at the local YMCA and the long lost dream was re-kindled. I was soon seeing gold and silver medals at the district and state championships however, the demanding rigors of academic life forced more focus on studies in order to get into a good college, and I saw myself drifting back into the rat race.
It was not until five years after school, when my love life got off the tracks and I started losing hair doing 8-12 in a startup enterprise, that I realized ‘there is more to life than increasing my speed’. That is when I discovered climbing. I was formally introduced to the sport in the Basic Mountaineering Course at ABVIMAS, Manali; and although I did not perform well in the course I discovered joy in scaling rock and ice formations which to me seem to exude life. Since then I have made travel and climbing a full time ‘career’ and have even successfully completed the Advance Mountaineering Course at HMI, Darjeeling (earning awards for being the best student and the best climber in the second time I undertook the BMC).
Even though I earn phenomenally less than what I used to two years back, live in a Himalayan village, far ‘behind’ my peers most of whom are globetrotting, sitting in air conditioned plush office cabins, drawing six or seven figure salaries, I feel immense happiness or rather contentment; having the time and patience to sit on the verandah in the morning and gaze at the birds or tuning my Enfield to get the perfect thump out of it. I feel fortunate having a simple meal of dal (pulses in a watery gravy) and rice after a demanding climbing session, and dozing off right after.
Observing my lifestyle people often construe that I am lazy or lack motivation to do ‘big’ things or live a ‘better’ life. I think I am just different, maybe a little laid back but I am psyched enough about doing a hard problem or a line that I fell off over fifty times or arriving at a remote village in the middle of the night. For me a bigger or a better life means the ability to do the things that I want, to live life moment by moment.
Why do I climb? It is not, definitely not for reaching the top, or showing off a hard send. It is when I am climbing, life simplifies to small decisions such as moving a finger or balancing a toe. My only needs and goals in those moments are, air, nourishment and rest (in that order) and not even self-preservation. Most sportsmen/women know this as being in the ‘zone’, when all you know or care about is what you’re doing at that very precise moment. It is this state of primal being with such basic needs that keeps me addicted to climbing, slowing me down making me look inwards, finding contentment in the small things.
It is said that, ‘it is simple to be happy but, difficult to be simple!’; I guess climbing helps me simplify; and I think this is how it works for anyone who has known the joy of climbing or any sport for that matter. Why Do I Climb? It is for all the reasons and none in particular; I am learning and discovering new joys in it every single day.