Slide into unity – By Tejas Kulkarni

Everybody chooses something to find love in their own selves. It’s sort of a snooze to realise the beauty around us and to remind ourselves that we are all mortal. Kayaking for me is training myself to live in the “no thinking” period. Also I have this big affinity to water since childhood. I just love living it in the river!! Being a novice paddler, I have followed every safety regulation in the two years of white water kayaking in my life to avoid any mishaps on the river. No matter how much precaution or training (which I compare to education), nature’s always got something in store for us. I feel lucky to pick these chapters in my life to shape my personality. But there are a few instances in which I believe we tend to give it all we have to have a happy moment around us. This spirit of letting go beyond fears and being totally aware our surroundings and our team.

I got a taste of this spirit sitting on a 7 foot boat on the Zanskar river in the middle of a snowstorm. The day started off as usual packing up our raft however we missed breakfast as the guests were confirmed at a short notice. Last night’s storm added to our misfortunes as we had to pick up stones lying all along on the road to our put in point. The clients car got punctured and we lost an hour getting the stepnie fixed. In the midst of all this, the purple shining mountains of the zanskar valley always brings the brightest side of life !!

After our safety instructions to the clients, we started off as usual with a pumped up feeling. This was a 28km stretch comprising of good class 3 rapids. Hardly a few kms on the river the weather gods blessed us with snowfall began. It was a beautiful sight to see a white spray deck on my kayak.

Leading the river on my kayak I was about 30 m ahead of the raft which was guided by my dear friend Mikael Kandel from Nepal. A few kms downstream I heard a blasting sound. I look to my left side where a colossal part of the mountain just disintegrated. It was a huge landslide and the rocks were heading towards us in milliseconds. I took out on the right eddy behind a rock waiting for my partner and the clients who were’nt visible. Then the second wave of BLAST and the whole mountain came crumbling down right onto the rapid. At this moment, I pulled out my throw bag from my kayak, ready to pick up anything coming out of that raft. This was the moment of faith where many things actually ran through my head but my heart just knew how to handle the situation. My veins were pumping hard and my stomach felt empty but there was a driving force to survive the day. Within a few seconds I could see the raft surfing a 8 foot wave with Mikael having a smile like he didn’t want to talk about what happened because that would freak the hell out of our clients. I wanted to stop and was not very sure of getting on to my boat to continue the stretch. In any case I had to gobble my fears and focus on the safety of my entire crew on the river. We joked about why we should wear a helmet in the river not only because of rocks underneath the water.

On the way back home from ladakh I decided to drop in at shalabs to paddle the mandakini (my favourite river) for the last time in the season before the monsoons would hit the area. We’d checked the weather and the monsoons were supposed to hit the next day. Just after we paddled about 8 kms of good class 4 rapids on 15 june 2013 we took a break and climbed up a bridge to borrow some beedis from a guy with whom we discussed on improving his river side café. We took out at rudraprayag and I met a group of yatris from Karnataka who were going up to kedarnath shrine and warned them about the weather. The rains hit that evening just when we were going back to shalabs. We had dinner together and I left the next morning by hitching up a ride with a taxi when it was still pouring. What actually was a 5 hour drive to rishikesh took me about 17 hours. There was a traffic jam at this place called Srinagar and when I clarified what happened they told me that a landslide occurred and a few cars in front of us were swept away into the river. I smiled to myself with a faith that landslides will not hurt me. On the way back there were many instances of cars slipping and to see and be a part of the people trying save each other and reach back safe was the most humbling feeling. We’d never seens rains like this and rivers were going mental. They had bridges, cars, houses all kinds of things in them. It really felt like nature was being merciless. Somehow I reached rishikesh by evening and all the road were cut off by then. The rains continued till 18th evening and I’d the best stories for covering up my college internship which is based on climate change and sustainable environments.

I went back to the valley in December to see the changes in the rivers. We paddled the pindar, nandakini, alaknanda and the mandakini and noticed major morphological changes. The debris in and alongside the rivers were a reminder of that there is no stopping in fight to survival.

In the midst of this greed of caring for ourselves and our own families, I’m grateful to get these opportunities to bring out that part of humanity in us which will care for each other without any bias. In the midst of tough situations it is inbuilt in all of us to be a leader and care for everyone. Its maybe that’s why we all want to be kings but we forget that team spirit in our daily lives because we tend to satisfy our needs before we could help others. I’m not asking you to donate your lives to charity but all we can do is try to tell ourselves that we’d live on the edge of our lives to have a happy crowd around us. Everybody chooses something to find love in their own selves. It’s sort of a snooze to realise the beauty around us and to remind ourselves that we are all mortal.
These incidents has brought up a change in my life and would like to thank everything around me however it is in place today. It maybe a very unusual way to develop faith in the superpowerand to thank all the people who have been a part of lives. It helps us find ourselves and we feel gifted to live everyday.

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