Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to tame your horse, after the fall !

What was it that inspired me? The fact that many great men in history is always associated with a horse? Or the marvelous picturization of horses in the various movie sequences or just the thought to control a magnificent animal which weighs nearly 500 Kgs and stands 2 meters above the ground with well toned muscles? Every single thing about the horse makes me feel like a tiny little guy standing on the ground. And there are certain things that make me feel jealous too, like its muscles and most importantly of all, the pampering it gets from the beautiful ladies who are there in my riding school! Three gorgeous girls spraying the horse with water and scrubbing him as he stands lazily enjoying it. I am sure this sight would about make you feel to stand there instead of the horse!

The first thing you learn is how to groom your horse. Clean its hooves, scrub his body and legs. It so well co operates with you and its amazing how it will lift its hooves automatically with you bend down to clean it. Next is to learn how to put on the saddle and secure it. And when you walk with your horse, it needs to know who the master is. The more confident you are, the more the horse is going to like you. It wants to be controlled, in a loving manner and when you sit on the horse, your posture already becomes confident. I guess my mom would very happy to see me now. She used to tell me that I always slump whilst walking and sitting, a casual laziness that used to be a part of my posture. But not anymore. After 5 weekends of riding, my posture has become more straight and my backbone seems to be relaxed only when its straight now!

The horse responds to your body language. A slight relaxation in your body and the next second the horse relaxes too. The slightest kick and a knee push, it starts trotting and the instant my right leg is raised a little bit, it starts to gallop. As much as you work, the horse also works. I cannot judge how tiring it will get for the horse, but I know how tired we get after our course is over. The last class, especially, after my historic fall, was the best one ever.

Men who do not fall down, don't have the opportunity to learn. And men who do not rise after a fall, arn't men at all. It was the fall that mentally prepared me for the best. Before falling down, I thought may be, I am not fit for riding it. I was unable to lift my body during the trot, it was not synchronized, it was not high enough. But last Sunday, things got different. My trotting was nearly perfect. Before I mounted the horse, a rush in me told me that I am the boss and no longer is the horse going to make me feel small. I guess that is exactly what the horse needed too. My adrenaline was its feed. After gaining confidence in the trot, the instructor asked me, so, ready to gallop? Of course I am, is the horse ready?!

I did it. Sitzen, sitzen, sitzen.. was the instruction from my instructor (sit, sit, sit). The idea is to maintain your perfect seat position. When the horse gallops, its energy and force will try to fling you over and your mission is to act against 500 Kg of well toned muscle, galloping at nearly 30 Mph, and maintain seat position. Sounds easy?! Well, to describe it, I felt connected to the horse. The uncomfortableness of irregular bounce vanished once the horse started to gallop. Felt like I had gained the 500 Kg from the horse. It was just tremendous. I had to take a break after 3 galloping rounds. I have never sweated so much in Germany, not in any sport till that day. Finally when I got down after nearly 7 rounds of galloping, my legs were just shaking, but my face was glowing!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nostalgia in a fall

When was the last time I fell down before this? Hmmm... 2001 after my quarterly exam results, I was cycling back home when my friend crashed into me on the kotturpuram bridge and I fell down and encountered a green stick buckle fracture in my right arm. I rode the cycle back, single handed before I went to the doctor for the casting. Escaped a good trashing for my poor results!!

After nearly 10 year, it was today, during horse riding. Though there was no physical injury, this fall brought back a lot of memories. Last weekend, my instructor was pleased with my body language during riding and she said, next week, we start with galloping. That already had my adrenaline rushing. I was mentally prepared this week, to encounter the muscular beast and reign my command over it even during galloping. Reading and watching videos cannot prepare you for what I encountered today!

I started with the walk, then the trot to find the proper seating position and now the instructor said, ready to gallop?! Of course was my spontaneous response. Ok, left leg should kick the horse, right leg should be a little behind the usual position and power forward with your knees was the instruction. The next instant the horse started to gallop. 40 Mph and in circles. The centripetal force was too much. Too many instructions and the instructor was repeating, bend your body back, back, back, power with knees, good, go on, faster! Everything was a blur. The blood flow to my brains was tremendous, I could hear my heart beat and I was losing balance. Managed to stay put during the first two trials, though my seat was slipping! The third time, I was determined to make the instructor proud. I am going to bend my body back, I told myself. Patting the horse friendly, I started with the trot and then, kick with the left leg, right leg behind and he was galloping. A desperate attempt to bend my body back and I knew I was falling. Not a single thought in my mind. It was like one of those slow motions they show in Matrix, when Neo jumps up before the kick, but it was that instant. The next instant I was on the ground. Thrown from the horse from a height of 2 meters and when galloping at a speed of 30 plus miles per hour! My legs were shaking when I got up, with a smile on my face! My instructor was also smiling, now you know how it is and now you will not make a mistake! Get back on the horse now, it should not feel you are afraid. Now I rode him alone, without the instructor holding the string. It felt majestic!

After so many years I fell down. A travel back to childhood when you constantly fall down when you learn. You get up, and get going. I felt just the same. But I missed my mother. Back then, when I used to come home with a hurt knee, it was a scolding first and then the dettol cleansing. Unmatchable care. Nostalgia in a fall!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

s(f)oulful search!

Inspirations to blog always come during the most uncanny times! I am just finalizing my thesis outline and I am hit by this incident and forced to blog than finish compiling my chapter list. 

It was an usually cold end February morning and I was on my usual walk up to the institute. The road bisects a park which is usually heaven for sun bathers during peak summer, but in winter its seldom populated. My walking pace slows down when my mind perceives happenings that could turn out interesting and so I started to walk slow and I was observing a woman. Ok, I am not going to describe to you how she looks or tell you that she was around 35. I dont want to emphasis on her height of 5.5 feet or her well maintained anatomy because I did not notice all these and I seriously dont know her age or height! What interested me was the anxiety in her face and her restlessness to find something.

Yeah, she was searching. I wouldnt call it search, it was most probably like frantic hunting. I could see the sweat drop down from her forehead on such a chilly morning and I could gather that she had probably paraded the entire park withing a few minutes. She took her fingers to her neck and let an exasperation "schiße" ( schisse in German means shit ). I though may be she had dropped her locket and probably it was precious and dear to her. But then she started to crack her fingers with repeated schiße, schiße,schiße and I thought it was probably her wedding ring. That could be trouble or at least a very expensive loss. For a moment I thought I should offer to help her to search for it, but my instinct told me not to interfere. And probably if it was really something expensive she would have already called for help from other passerbys or probably called out to me.

Her search intensified and so did her voice. Her eyes were scanning so intensively and nothing could distract her. Nothing actually did, even "ME" walking past didnt distract her!! Then suddenly, her face broke into a smile and she put both her hands to her hips and stared down and said "da ist es" (there it is!). She pulled out her gloves, scooped it, rolled it and thew it into the garbage and exactly at the same time, her dog came running from behind the bushes!

And then I saw the sign board : A heavy fine would be imposed!!

Friday, February 26, 2010

BARCELONA, Winter 09 : UNFINISHED but published

This is my third winter here in Germany and I wanted to travel to somewhere warm. Two freezing winters had already saturated my want for snowfall. Barcelona it is. Before my previous trips to places like Rome, Prague and Paris, I did a lot of research on the internet to learn about the history and map the places I wanted to see in depth and detail. Those were carefree days of my research life, but this time, the flame is on the penultimate thread of the wick and this pressed me to backpack and experience the insitu planning. Nevertheless, trips to historical cities always keep me on the edge with an overdose of adrenaline to last for even weeks after returning from the holiday.

It had snowed heavily in Germany and all the flights were delayed by more than 2 hours. Luck be praised, our flight was planmeßig, which means 'on time' in Germany. One quick look at the display board and my friend Vimal read it as 'plane missing'! It was a clean 2hrs 15mins flight from Düsseldorf Weeze airport to Girona Barcelona and the bus from Girona took an hour to reach the Arc de Triomf bus station. This Arc is not to be confused with the likes of the historical one in Paris. In Barcelona, this was constructed just as a gateway to an exhibition in the late 1880's.
Taking the red line of the metro from there to clot station, we changed to the purple line to Pep Ventura. This is the last stop of the purple line, 20mins from the main city center and just outside the metro stop is the Barcelona Dream hostel. A perfectly calm location near the beaches(calm during winter) and the hostel was amazing. Clean and neat dorms and absolutely nothing to complain of. It was already 6PM when we reached the hostel and after checking in, we found company in the form of an Indian couple to travel with us. Buying the unlimited metro pass to last for 4 days, we proceeded to the city center in search of food and for the first contacty with the city of Barcelona. 
Placa Catalunya is the center of the city. This is a massive square where the Gothic city meets the advent of modernism and the center is the origin or the confluence of the main streets Passeig de Gràcia, Rambla de Catalunya and La Rambla. A walk through these streets will make you experience Catalunya. Why do I keep referring to this place as Catalunya and not Spain. Well, in principle, they were(are) different. Catalunya means land of the castles or the land of Goths and its capital was Barcelona.

The La Rambla is the most fascinating street I have ever come across. From the center of the city it leads right down to the Harbor. A walk down the La Rambla is an experience by itself. This street is actually a dried river bed and during the dark European ages, this river was used as a quick dump for transporting waste right into the sea. Now, it is highly crowded and is the exhibition street for street performers and hawkers. They even sell animals like hamsters, rabbits, several species of birds, monkeys, reptiles, tortoises, porcupines, mice and several unknown but fascinating species.

Turning left into any of the small alleys in the La Rambla will take you right to the Gothic part of the city with the Cathedral of Santa Eulaia standing magestically over the Roman constructions. This is the seat of the archbishob of Barcelona. Outside the church, one can still see the only part of aqueduct that reminds the city of its Roman foundations. Just behind the Cathedral is the museum where you can take a lift down to visit the preserved parts of Barcelona as founded by the Romans. The city plans, the baths, wineries, laundry and the watch towers are preserved inside the well designed and informative museum.

The entire trade and history of Barcelona could be understood with a visit to the Maritime museum and the Museum of Catalonian history. Unfortunately, these were closed on 25 and 26th Dec. I guess another trip to Barcelona during the summer is on the cards just for these and the beaches!!

Walking down to the end to La Rambla from the city center, I reached the Columbus monument. It stands at the port where Columbus returned after discovering America. His hands don't point out to America in the West, instead deliberately to the East. The maritime museum is situated just around the corner from here and so is the Port Vell. Cruises are offered here that could take you even until Mallorca. There are also the shopping complex and cineplexes making this place bustle with activity and entertainment.

The most impressive place in Barcelona is the Montjuic. It is a hill offering the most brilliant panoramic view of the city and the harbor. The best way to reach up the peak of this hill is to walk from the Palau Nacional(National art museum) to the Poble Espanyol(Spanish village) and further up to the Olympic stadium and finally reaching the fortifications on the hill top by a cable car that can be taken from the Montjiuc funicular stop. Though I followed the opposite route, I figured out this is the best way to start the evening and reach Montjiuc peak before sunset. The fortifications served as a prison and also to protect the city from the naval attacks. There are several long range cannons at strategic locations. One can spend hours during and after sunset enjoying the glimmering lights of Barcelona up from this place.

Enter Barcelona and the most heard name will be Antoni Gaudi. He is know as the son of Barcelona and its most celebrated architect. His most famous church, the Sagrada Familia is still under construction due to his untimely death(1926) and economic recession(1914). Yet another incomplete work of his is the Parc Guell. This showcases loads of ceramic work and very different styles of pillars. Gaudi's non catholic architecture includes the Casa Batllo and Casa Mila.  This is the list of his must see works in Barcelona. The walk to Parc Guell from its nearest metro stop is grueling but then it is totally worth it. There are several shops selling Gaudi stuff and I would recommend people to shop here for curios and memoirs rather than in the La Ramblas for the Ramblas, its expensive and low quality.

This should pretty much give you the historic experience of Barcelona. But a visit to Barcelona is incomplete without a visit to its beaches. Ha! Talk about beaches in winter. Well, for me, I have grown up on the sea side and nothing can attract me more than the Marina and yeah, goes without saying that you are not bound to see any bikini clad beauties in Winter. Still, I walked up to the beach near my hostel to set foot on the Egyptian and Sahara sand strewn over the rocks to make an artificial beach and to smell the Mediterranean sea! In better beaches in the summer, the palm trees are shipped from Arabia to make the landscape more attractive!

An added attraction in my trip was the Flamenco opera. I booked a show in a VIP restaurant, Tablo de caramen, inside the Spanish village. It was a choice I made after reading internet review and it really stood out! worth the money! 90 minutes of amazing Spanish guitar and Flamenco. The energy possessed by the dancers were amazing. Even after a month now, I can still feel the electricity when I think about it!