I’ve always thought that helicopters are way cooler than planes. They lend a sense of urgency to the surrounding, in the manner of which you have to board a chopper and I associate a VIP feel to them, thanks to its smaller seating capacity. I also love it how you need to crouch and hurry and be mindful of the strong wind that the blades churn up. Now compare this to how you board a flight. Yawn.
It was last month in Canmore (close to Calgary, Canada), where I participated in heli-yoga, run by the guys at Kananaskis Heli Tours. The concept involves being taken atop a secluded and spot on the Rockies and amid that calm and lush surrounding, practice yoga to vitalise your soul. Yoga guru Kristen Stuart – who by the way, has the most magnetic personality – accompanies you (and the small group) up the mountain to train you in yoga.
Down at the office, before the short flight, we were briefed on the chopper etiquette by owner, the jovial Ralph. We were supposed to bend low, move around only when asked to, and generally be more aware of the surrounding. Upon landing, it’s possible that the wind from the blades cause a yoga mat or a personal belonging to be flung away, but we’re not to make a run for it, and remaine crouched till the chopper leaves, and retrieve the item later.
The ride in the chopper was uber cool, as we put on large earphones with mics and could only communicate with each other through them. I’d only seen people in films do that and have always wanted to do it! The experience of practising yoga in a spot that we chose in the Rockies was one that will inspire me during low times. But as far as memories go, the helicopter ride wins all the way!
A snowy winter is a way of life for many. But for someone like me, who has lived all her life in a tropical country (India), snow can pretty much be a bucket list item. My first brush with snow happened last week, on a trip to Switzerland. I enjoyed a lovely train ride from Zermatt to reach up to Gornergrat. From this peak, I was told, I could afford stark views of the steep Matterhorn.
I was looking forward to feel snow on my hands since childhood, and finally, my dream came true. The train chugged higher from Zermatt, and I could see snow around in bits, and gradually, it was a vast carpet. I was so excited by this point, that I was having trouble deciding which side of the train I should look out from, frequently running over to the other side, to see more snow. Sounds silly, I know, but if you’ve waited 25 years of your life for an experience, it can be pretty overwhelming when it actually happens.
I step on snow as I get off the train. I’m told to be careful, as the ice can be slippery. I’m glad I’m wearing my Wellingdons as they offer a sturdy sole and some friction. I walk along, hugging my jacket tighter, taking small steps, mindful of the ice that I tread on. And then in a few steps, ice makes way for snow! I put my foot ahead on soft, soft white fluff and it sinks in a bit to make an impression. I go ahead a few more steps, a smile on my face, my feet digging deeper. And then I look around myself, and all I see is more and more snow and I turn into a child on expresso.
I run, fall and jump about and make snowballs and throw them on my friends. And then I walk further towards the valley where there are no foot marks, and slide my hand in, to come up with a pristine fluff of white sitting on my palm.
I had fallen in love with crushed ice at a young age, when kids used to buy ‘gola’ from a street vendor. A gola is a clump of crushed ice on a stick, doused in flavoured syrup. Something similar to the ‘kachang’ in Singapore.
I pressed my palm shut and the snow hardened a bit. I put it in my mouth, closed my eyes and waited for it to dissolve. My hands were trembling due to cold but when I put the snow in my mouth, it just felt warm. And familiar. And nice.
We saw some of the new fruits I tasted here, in India, as part of my Life List. The aim is to taste at least a 100 new ones.
We inch closer to the goal, thanks to my trip to Singapore, earlier this month. Read on:
Durian is considered the King of fruits in Singapore, so when I was in the country recently, I had to try some. Now, it is interesting to note that despite the fruit being loved by all Singaporeans (so much that they hold durian-eating festivals), you’re likely to crinkle up your nose upon getting close to one. Yes, the fruit stinks – and unbearably so. In fact, the Singapore law disallows anyone from carrying durian in busses and trains for people have known to faint from the overwhelming stench of the fruit.
I decided to be brave and took along a local friend, Weizhong, to buy (my Indian friend Vikas and I) one durian. It cost about SGD 20. Weizhong is one of the durian-loving citizens and was extremely happy to introduce me to his favourite fruit. When I voiced my apprehension at being able to finish the fruit, he grinned and promised that he would never let the fruit go waste.
Durian resembles a jackfruit, only it is much smaller than the latter. The pokey rind and the edible yellow flesh inside with a large seed, are similar in nature. The fruit-seller cut open a durian for us with his gloved hands andwe found ourselves a table at the hawker centre. Warily, I felt the flesh for texture and decided then itself that it was going to take a lot of will power to actually taste it – for it felt oddly (weirdly, even) soft and creamy in my hands.
(A short, 1 minute video of my friends enjoying durian)
Then comes the part where I tore a bit of the flesh and held is close to my nose. It is a miracle that I did not faint. No, really. It was an assault on my olfactive senses. The first smell to hit me was that of strong garlic (though Weizhong insists it’s not possible). The following was of erm, well, pee. (This, Weizhong totally agreed with.) I am a good contender for a bravery award, for I proceeded to let a tiniest bit of flesh into my mouth. It was SO bad! The texture, smell and taste together was too much for me to handle and I pushed the fruit toward Weizhong. He said my reaction to the fruit was not surprising as most Westerners and many locals cannot bear the fruit either. Vikas though, claimed to have liked it and ate a bit.
The one I had tasted, Weizhong said while savouring the durian, was of the sweet kind. Maybe I’d like to taste the bitter one? Not a chance in hell, I say!
But let me not deter you from trying some durian if you have an opportunity. Maybe you’d like to carry along some perfume!
I’ve tasted 4 exotic fruits, and we have 96 more to go!
Check out my post on other three fruits here.
I’m going to undergo an eye surgery later this month, which will require me to not: watch the TV, work at the computer or read books, till September end, to avoid straining my eyes.
So I’m going to take up this time to work furiously on my Life List’s item no. 10 , where I hope to listen to 100 new, recommended songs. I need all of you to give me your 5 most favourite songs that you think I should listen to. Drop song names in the comments section; that way, others can pick up your recos too.
The tracks needn’t be only in English; any languages are welcome. Along with song titles (and album and artist’s name, of course), add a link if a website’s explaining how/why the song was composed, any other significance, any other important part of the history associated with the song, etc etc.
I’ll use YouTube to listen to the numbers. But it would be helpful it you could post the direct link of the song, as there will be numerous versions of the said number on YouTube alone, and I want to ensure I listen to the one YOU recommend.
So yeah, hit me with your best songs!