Sunday, 8 April 2012


Yesterday was a sad day indeed; Shailendra Singh Bisht, a 26 years old mountaineer crashed to death whilst rappelling down the 14 storey Great Adventure Mall, which had just been inaugurated in Greater NOIDA by the union minister Subodh Kant Sahay. Shailendra was a professional stuntsman who had performed this feat several times. Little did he know, however, that the rappelling rope was almost 100 feet short of reaching the ground. At the speed at which he had rappelled, he would have reached the end very fast.

A few weeks ago, during an adventure camp at Zenith Falls near Khapoli, Maharashtra, when I saw my younger friends rappelling down a difficult rocky hill, I too got the urge to do the same. Here I was, a 58 years old retired Navy officer, as far removed from hills and rappelling as you can get, unable to suppress the impulse to do those things that the trio in the film Zindagi Nahin Milegi Dobara (You Can't Get Your Life Again) had the urge to do; literally dying (as the slang goes) to stay alive.

Sunbyanyname in his own Zindagi Nahin Milegi Dobara

There are men and women who do sky diving, suspended in the air as birds, opening their parachutes at the last minute. Then there are others who do tight rope walking between high-rise buildings defying death. One slip and precious life ends. However, they have this inner compulsion to accomplish the near impossible.

On 21st of January this year, Laura Dekker, a sixteen year old Dutch/German/New Zealander became the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe single-handed. At that age she had the greater part of her life ahead of her. She started in Aug 2010, a year after she had planned, when a Dutch Child Care Council stopped her departure on grounds of shared parental custody between her about-to-be-divorced parents. Dekker later commented about the authorities in an interview, saying "They thought it was dangerous. Well, everywhere is dangerous. They don't sail and they don't know what boats are, and they are scared of them." As soon as I read the news, the first thing that occurred to me was the mental set-up of someone as young as her, braving seas, known and unknown dangers alone, all alone for more than a year. If something was to happen to her, she would have died a solitary and lonely death and probably even her dead body won't have been found. And yet, after she has accomplished what she set out to do, she would have removed a number of words from her dictionary: Fear, Impossible, Small, and Underage.

Laura Dekker the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe (pic courtesy:
So, what makes men and women to go out on a limb? It can't be fame and glory since there are much easier and less dangerous methods of obtaining these. One possible clue is given by a mountaineer who was asked why did he climb mountains. His reply was, "Because they are there". Something within a person beckons him or her to go beyond the limits of human endurance and capabilities...beyond the rainbow; when you are face to face with only your Maker or yourself. Do you remember what Ian Fleming the author of James Bond books said? He had a book by that name: "You Only Live Twice: once when you are born and once when you look death in the face".

Men and women would do anything to live and soar, even die doing it. When I was in my teens Richard Bach wrote his novella titled 'Jonathan Livingstone Seagull'. The story is about the gull called Jonathan Livingstone who is bored by routine existence and wants to push his own capability to fly beyond what the seagulls can do. Because he wants to try something different, he is expelled from the flock. However, he persists and one day achieves perfection. "You've got to understand that a seagull is an unlimited idea of freedom, an image of the Great Gull." He realizes that you have to be true to yourself: "You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way." The idea of Richard Bach's novella fascinated everyone immensely. Neil Diamond brought out a complete album of songs named Jonathan Livingstone Seagull with such songs as: Be, Flight of the Gull, Lonely Looking Sky, The Odyssey, and Dear Father. Here is Neil Diamond's 'Be' for you:

Well, ladies and gentlemen, there may be other good reasons for men and women to go out on a limb. But, I have given you what I believe to be the best reason to do so.

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