Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The joy of winged flight
Have you had a maddening series of ornate still frames in imagination on what your first flying experience could be like? 

I've had these imaginary frames flash past me every once in a while. Not of terror or uncertainty but of heroic flight and poetic wandering.

I always imagined my first flying experience to be free fall from a plane, plunge, float, feel the jolting tug of the parachute come undone, controlled cruise and the final moments of readying the self to land back into reality and firm on the feet.

But then, I am the hero (gender neutral) of my life and I grew up with a slightly filmy disposition. 

I was introduced to my first flying lessons of any kind, via an Elementary Paragliding Pilot Course this past week. Since I've already shared my deep mental associations with bollywood portrayals, I approached my first day and session like Sunny Deol. I flexed my dhai kilo ke haath and pretended like I was jumping off a cliff with nothing more than maa ka aashirwaad. 

In reality, all I was asked to do was identify parameters for daily inspection on the canopy and harness. This was followed with instructions to run on flat ground, facing the wind, strapped to a cushioned harness and a fully-inflated glider.

Now, inflating a glider can be tricky business. It's not even remotely like revving up the engine of your car. It's like fueling a wood-fired stove. And trust me being a Sunny Deol doesn't help here. You are reduced to Nirupa Roy at the end of your first practical lesson. 

Why, you ask? My Coolie biceps were visibly bruised from the risers rubbing into the bare skin while I attempted to keep my glider uniformly inflated. The instructors don't recommend full sleeves for fun. They mean it for real.

Day two demanded me to buckle up, inspect, inflate, control, run and perform bunny hops. Now, the deal with these bunny hops is you can't pretend to soar up and perform an Akshay Kumar, just because the canopy pulled you a few inches away from ground. 

You continue to do a Gangnam Style, in air and on ground. To the onlooker, it looks like everyone strapped to the harness and hopping around is a cheap Chinese imitation of a flying circus but personally, you can't help accumulate emotions of having done a wee bit, if not more, of the hovering actions of at least that of a buzzing bumble bee. 

By end of day two, the arm bruises usually graduate from red to blue but then that little free flight amid a mix of perfect landing and misjudged bum touchdown is worth looking forward to graduating to flying from higher altitudes.

The evening theory classes feed you so much visual information; at night you are filled with dreams of Avatar-like plunge from Hallelujah Mountains and gliding over emerald green valleys. Only you are not on a dragon-like predator, but seem to have grown delicate and colorful wings of your own.

Every evening theory class was followed by simulated practice of what lies ahead. And it proved fertile ground to feed my filmy mind with quick dreamy reruns of what I will do once I hiked up to the top. 

Now, I can tell you what I dreamt that night but I will also warn you that it was sufficiently filmy, like usual. I dreamt that my canopy bore holes from a bird hit while I was in mid-air and I had to zipper out the reserve chute. But since I am no ordinary hero, since I can bear a dozen bullet wounds and still have the strength to stand tall to trigger that one last bullet that will split into a dozen and kill everyone who shot at me, since I will still survive the dozen bullet wounds because my mother's tears can miraculously seal my wounds shut; the reserve chute unzips, inflates but flies away with no attachment to my harness. The hero in me finally remembers the second reserve chute just in time for a rough but predominantly safe landing. Just the way we practiced simulating the emergency landing and immediate rollover that evening.

Day three is sufficiently adrenalin pumping, and in reality because you get to hike up a sufficiently tall and relatively steep hillock and with your 14-kilo harness+canopy. Besides, the actual flight also last a few mins to really wade past the cacophony of instructions over the two-way radio transceiver and get a quick eyeful of the scene to inspect on a later personal brooding appointment.

That first flaring up the glider, and running down the cliff and feeling that gradual yet firm lift of the wind is indescribable. It cannot be experienced through viewing movies or adventure shows on TV. It needs an in person flight experience. It is a mix of anxiety, fear, pleasure, concern and attitude...necessarily experienced in the same sequence.

Once you get past the first flight, it's that initial mental picture of your first flight that eggs you on to make one more hike up the hill and haul all that load behind your back.

Day four? Well, it was several repeats of day 3 and with experiential and instructed fine-tunes but then I was busy reliving that first flight. I still am.

Do I recommend Paragliding? Absolutely yes! Approach it like a Bollywood Debutante with no power corridor passport...with a free mind and spirit. 

I flew with Nirvana Adventures and they helped me get in touch with my personal free spirit. The home-style food and comfortable accommodation at Native Place was a complete recharge solution to be flight-ready, day after day.

PS: That strategically placed hammock under a sprawling tree's shade is quite the lost brooder's personal paradise. I quite miss it.

posted by Shivranjini Krishnamurthy @ 11/27/2012 08:00:00 PM   2 comments
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