Three life-changing hurdles stand out in memory.
I was always an Academic underperformer. I failed my 9th grade final examinations. It was demoralising and lonely with my friends going ahead to the next class. At that age repeating a class seems like the end of the world. The fear of ridicule and condescension by friends and acquaintances lurked day and night. It was daunting to join a class of juniors. After my 10th - ICSE exam, in retrospect I realised that it was “The best thing that could happen to me” (Zen and the Art of Happiness- Chris Prentiss). I had been given a second chance to improve on my basic concepts which helped me perform well in the board exams. My parents were pillars of strength and support right through.
My std.12 exams were in the offing. Mathematics and Accounts haunted me to put it mildly. Ours is a joint family. My paternal grandparents were both hospitalised for a broken hip and shoulder respectively. My parents were busy with hospital trips and miscellaneous tasks and my maternal grandfather (who is a scholar and the wisest man in the world perhaps and the only one who knows how to handle me) came down from Chennai to help me out with Mathematics and Accounts and stand by me during the examinations.
A day before my examinations, he had a fall and was in the CCU with a critical head injury. The very next day the entire Neurosurgery team resigned. There was no one to drop me to school for my examinations. There was no one, the entire 2 months to guide me and help me prepare better. I had to fend for my next meal and prepare for my examinations. My maternal grandfather was lifted by air ambulance to Apollo Chennai for two major brain surgeries. On one side was the guilt of feeling somewhat responsible for the state of the person I loved most in this world. The other was of a cold fear of the examinations. I scored a meagre 61%. College admissions were doubtful with high cut-offs. My parents were busy caregiving their parents. My little sister (little then) was fending for herself alone at home. I learnt the hard way to fill college forms online and make payments online for the 1st time then.IT was the first cycle for online payments by colleges and there were hitches. I luckily got admission into a reputed college and my extra curricular activities were what some of the really good colleges looked at. I never felt so alone as I did those 2 months. I realised how much and how tirelessly my parents silently did things for me. My most valuable lesson then was to value my family and that ‘when it has to be done it has to be done’.
Last but not the least….
It was the final day of summiting a glacier - Dokriani Bamak (15,000ft approx..) during my Basic Mountaineering Course at N. I. M, Uttarkashi. Getting a spot in this course requires a 2-year advance booking and waiting period without any guarantees. Being the youngest of the lot, a boy in a group of men, I lagged badly in this extremely tough climb. I saw people reaching the summit and descend immediately to avoid bad weather. I was given an option to turn back by my instructor, but I refused. The demons were battling inside me to give up and turn back to the base camp. My higher self reminded me of how I had forsaken my pre-board examinations to be there and how my parents sent me with blessings and how their prayers warmed me on the mountainous tough terrain. I continued climbing at my own fixed pace. All around me was rock and ice and silence. The wind howled and whipped me sharply at every step. I don’t recall how long it took and how time went by at the point, but I finally summited the glacier. I was overwhelmed, with tears of joy. I realised that more than mountaineering skills patience & perseverance, were instrumental in the last stretch of my climb. The lesson I learnt was that while it is certainly good to work on one’s weaknesses, one must never forget to build on one’s strengths. Mountaineering and adventure sport were always my strengths and continue to remain so. It is said “ It is always darkest before dawn”.