Mum At Mafia

As the sun set, and the frogs came leaping out in the wilderness, a cabin in Mt Shasta was feeling the throb of excitement. Frogs leapt outside, people leapt inside. Frogs croaked outside, people sang inside. The grandfather, Thaatha, and grandmother, Paati, were told that they do not get to watch their Tamil television that night, and to set aside the time for games. All drama tonight was to be live.

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The family was sitting around the dinner table and feverishly discussing the evening game session. No trip is complete without game nights, and a sense of thrill rent the air. Ice-cream had been bought and stowed away for a mid-game snack, post-dinner cleaning activities were looked upon as if it was normal for everyone to pitch in, so we could all start playing. (Maybe I should introduce game nights on a regular basis to get such willing help.)

The topic under discussion was the best game to lead with.
Monopoly? (Groan from me)
Uno? (Groan from the girls)
Chess? (Only 2 players)
Puzzle? (Groan from everyone)

“Keep eating and talking so that we can get a move on.”, I said, and everyone sincerely spooned some food into their mouths.

The father-in-law, meanwhile, was communicating with the love of his life (not the iPad, his wife). He looked like he was attempting the mamba dance without music or footwork, and we looked on curiously knowing fully well what was going to happen.

He pointed vigorously at the rice and then at his plate. The rice and the plate. The love of his life burst forth and said, “Why don’t you use your god-given tongue? Why point at the rice?! What if I don’t see? Next time, I am going to take my plate and sit outside on the porch, let’s see what you will do then!”
The son said, “There are frogs outside now Paati.”
The whole table burst out laughing, and the little fellow did not understand why his technically correct statement was this funny. His loving older sister patted his head and said, “Oh! Bobbicles! Bobbicles!”
The father-in-law was still pointing at the r, and the p.
To my mind, what was more telling was the fact that he was pointing at the rice, and then at his plate, as if the rice has been deposited elsewhere before, but we do not delve into their romantic demons, and I passed him the rice.

“Why not start the game session with Dumb-charades?”, I said. “It is a game your grandfather will excel at because he talks so little, and we can all have a good time.”

There was a lot of enthusiastic nodding for Dumb-C when the daughter and husband said together, “Or how about Mafia?”

A thumping approval met with this suggestion, and the rules of the game were being explained to the grandparents in a flow of fluent Tamil & English. (“Tell panna koodathu. Find pannanum. Save pannanum. Who is the mafia find pannanum.”) The Tamglish Grammar rules is a blog post that is simply waiting to be done in the Indian-American context.

We sat around with cards explaining the role of the Investigator, the Civilians, the Mafia & the Angel. In larger groups, this gets harder to do, but in our group size, there was only 1 designated Mafia.
The rules we used were simple:

  • The Mafia chooses one person to kill.
  • The Angel is given a chance to save one person.
  • The Investigator tries to find who the Mafia is.
  • The rest are Civilians.
  • If the Mafia is caught or if the Angel saved the killed person, the person identified by the Mafia continues to live.

No words are spoken, people open their eyes when called upon and point fingers to identify who is who.

“Thaatha is going to ace the game! Finally a game where he doesn’t have to speak, and be happy about it!” said the grandchildren, and their grandfather gave them one of his coy smiles and settled down in his armchair.

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With me so far? Good. No speaking.

I got to tell you, just when you tell folks not to do something, they find the overwhelming need to do exactly that.

The daughter was the Narrator, and she started the proceedings with Tamil sErial style background music.

Investigator, open your eyes.” The Investigator did.
Mafia, open your eyes.” The father-in-law was the Mafia.
Who would you like to kill?
“I will kill your Paati. “ he said using the voice that should’ve helped him get the rice without any tension if he had simply used it then.
“Everyone open your eyes! Thaatha! You want to kill your wife, this is your chance to do it quietly. Not tell everyone!” said the granddaughter giving him marital advice with glee.

The laughter ricocheted around the room, and a few frogs outside leapt away from the window. From them on, every time you expected Thaatha to keep mum during Mafia, he was listening to his wife’s advice on using his tongue, and it provided for great hilarity.

Coming up next: Dumb-Charades.

Do-Nothing Cooking

It was a mild and breezy week-end morning. “Yeah! We are going to work in the garden today! In the garden! In the garden!” I heard the song gain in strength as the gardeners thumped upstairs. “Get up amma!”, they called. I was lingering on in bed, savoring the warmth of the summer quilt.

“What is this?” I asked a little later. The husband was back from somewhere brandishing several sinusoidal wave-like sticks of blue. Could they be fancy walking sticks?

“No – silly. These are for the tomatoes.”

“Yes – don’t you want large tomatoes from the plants? Look, they are already sagging outside.”, said the father-in-law pointing to his pride and joy in the garden. “The rasam can be even tastier with these tomatoes.”, he said with a sly grin on his face.

“Can you make rasam without tomatoes? I just don’t like tomatoes but I like the rasam otherwise.” said the daughter.

This I-Don’t-Like-Tomatoes theme was getting a bit tiring. I rolled my eyes, and stamped my foot in exasperation. “I do not know how to make tomato rasam without tomatoes! Let me know when you make it. ”

“Okay okay! Sheesh kababs! No need to get all cranky if you don’t know how to cook something.” she said and made off to the garden dragging her little brother with her to help her grandfather.

“Make rasam without tomatoes indeed!” I muttered to myself as I gathered the garlic, cumin, pepper, tamarind and tomatoes for rasam. Once the rasam was comfortably simmering, I went back and forth from the kitchen to the garden. Every now and then I was beset upon to give directions and suggestions for the garden. I asked for an old rose plant and the star jasmine creeper to be pruned.

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“But they are poonchedis ” said the father-in-law reluctant to cut flowering plants. South Indians have this strange, but endearing affection with flowering plants. I assured him pruning was good.

The children were busy discussing how to plant the other little flowers and herbs in the garden. The son was looking mighty impressed with himself for he was patted with admiration by his elder sister on the gardening tip he had provided.

“If you put a garlic in the herb garden, then nothing will happen – you know? Nothing. Yes. Ms Lara told us that. No insects will come.”

“Really? We can do that.”

“What?! Do we have garlic in the house? I didn’t know that!”

“Of course we have garlic in the house! How else do you think we can do any Indian cooking you little diddle gump?”, said the chef, who wanted to make tomato rasam without tomatoes.

The little brother was suitably impressed and a few frozen cloves of garlic made its way to the patch containing the Thai basil leaves.

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I looked at the father-in-law. He was tackling the unruly star jasmine creeper with energy. The jasmine had crept up the adjoining fir and cherry trees and was busy making its way past the garden fence. I saw the intense concentration on his face, and surveyed the garden. He must have taken lessons from the barber in the best army in a past life, for the trees had an efficient crewcut demeanor when he was done with them.

The whole scene reminded me of a short story, Annamalai, by R.K.Narayan in The Grandmother’s Tales. The story is about a gardener who had stopped on with him. The gardeners horticultural knowledge and classifications are simple. All flowering plants were ‘poonchedis’ while non-flowering plants were ‘not poonchedis’. The story writes of his taking charge of the garden and how sometimes he would go on a rampage and prune everything in sight, and the garden wore a threadbare, forlorn look for a few days afterward. At other times, he let things be, and the garden flourished anyway. It is a beautiful story that transports you to a little garden in South India almost instantly.

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I smiled thinking of the story. My horticultural knowledge is as woeful as that gardener’s, and my father-in-law’s botanical classification was equally simple. However, I hope our garden too thrives. Maybe we will become the best advocates of the Do-Nothing farming that Farmer Fukuoka speaks so highly of in the Biomimicry book by Janine Benyus.

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Quote from Biomimicry book:

A young man named Masonobu Fukuouka took a walk that would change his life. As he strolled along a rural road, he spotted a rice plant in a ditch, a volunteer growing not from a clean slate of soil but from a tangle of fallen rice stalks.

This proved an inspiration for the young boy : how a grain thrived without the need for coddling and soaking in water canals and so on.

Over the years Fukuoka would turn this secret into a system called Do-Nothing farming because it requires almost no labor on his part and yet his yields are among the highest in Japan. His recipe, fine tuned through trial and error, mimics nature’s trick of succession and soil covering . “It took me 30 years to develop such simplicity” says Fukuoka.

Instead of working harder, he whittled away unnecessary agricultural practices one by one, asking what he could stop doing rather than what he could do.

A sizzling sound alerted me to the rasam simmering over its sides. I charged into the kitchen wondering how to better the Do-Nothing cooking technique.

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When The Baahubalis Met Betsy

The husband was back from watching the movie Baahubali 2.  Indian cinema had outdone itself, and he was regaling us with the story line and the amazing fight sequences. This enthusiastic performance was greeted differently by the household:

(a) Avid interest in the toddler son, who was wondering whether to raise Baahubali to the echelons of Hanuman, or Spiderman,

(b) An eye-roll from the daughter who was doing something with her slime (coming up soon), and

(c) An almost soporific nod from me wondering when would be a good time to get a cup of tea.

“There is one scene where the bulls are all charging at Baahubali and he catches them by the horns like this and flings them – booyang!” , he said reaching for a water bottle, with a loose lid, to demonstrate. I held the water bottle on the other side, and he looked piqued that his bull showed resistance. Baahubali’s cows did not resist, they flew.

I had smartly declined the movie invitation and enjoyed a quiet afternoon in the park with the children.

The next day, the husband, friend and I were up early for a hike in the rolling hills nearby. The early morning clouds were scuttling about in a desultory fashion, the grass was swaying to the breezes. Only the birds seemed to be bright and energetic. I was plodding along not yet completely awake, and the husband and friend were talking about the Baahubali movie again. The friend had seen a late night show and was bleary eyed after the movie. But mere mention of that great and able Baahubali seemed to infuse him with energy. I watched the pair of them make animated conversation and smiled to myself as I imagined the daughter shaking her head and saying, “Boys! Amma – they can’t help themselves!”

There was a touch of the English countryside about us that morning. There were cows grazing calmly, and an occasional deer or two were visible far away. I was throwing my mind pleasantly to a book I had read recently, A Road To Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. There were lovely passages in the book that seemed to match my surroundings at the time. The rolling hills, the slight chill in the air.  In the book, Bill Bryson writes about how he took up a road trip across Great Britain without the use of a car, and mostly on foot.

“What a joy walking is. All the cares of life, all the hopeless, inept *wits that God has strewn along the Bill Bryson Highway of Life, suddenly seem far away and harmless, and the world becomes tranquil and welcoming and good.”

Bill Bryson, The Road to Little Dribbling

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As we were ambling along, we noticed several cow-shaped obstructions in our path. Three cows stood in front of us blocking us quite effectively. One of the cows locked eyes with me.

I looked at her, she looked at me.

I looked, she looked.

I blinked, she didn’t.

I looked away, she didn’t.

“I like being in a country where when cows attack, word of it gets around. That’s what I mean when I say Britain is cozy.”

Bill Bryson, The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island

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The cow showed no inclination of looking away, or moving.  I am in for the long haul, she seemed to say.

I can wait, I told her.

Ha! she said. It is you humans who are always in a hurry. I have no problems. I could stand here all day. Want to see? she said and stood there chewing the cud in what I thought was an unnecessarily exaggerated manner. If I had chewing gum, I could have played the game too, but I didn’t have any on me at the moment.

I then actually tried talking to her. “Please – we won’t do anything. We just want to pass you by.” I said.

To this she responded. She stared at me even more intensely, and then donned a positively bored look and looked away. It was like I was giving a teenage kid advice.

The husband and friend were standing nearby in a thoroughly helpless fashion.  I looked at the pair of them shuffling their feet and asked them to summon their inner Baahubali and scare the cows away.

The duo guffawed loudly at this, and said the best performance they could come up with was to flex their muscles till it plopped and then fly like Baahubali’s cows in the opposite direction.

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I looked back at the cows to appeal to them once again, and started laughing. It reminded me of one of the passages in Road to Little Dribbling where Bill Bryson had gone walking through a field. The field was on a hill, and he huffed and puffed up the hill, only to be confronted by an angry bull or cow(he couldn’t stop to see). One cow-or-bull-snort later, he came charging down the 2 mile hill to the nearest village. He entered a pub sorely in need of restoration to body and spirit. There, in the pub, was an old farmer who listened to his tale of woe, and said calmly, “Oh, That is only Betsy. She won’t do anything!”

The Betsy in our path seemed to derive inspiration from the story, and moved enough to let us pass.

The Baahubalis scampered across, while Betsy got her entertainment fix for the day.

Essential or Eternal Communication?

I recently read a book called The Hidden Life of Trees written by a forester, Peter Wohlleben.

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Trees have always fascinated me. I have tried becoming one with little success.

Their calm, stoic essence of being is reassuring. Trees are social beings, and they are capable of immense internal processes that not only sustain their lives, but also those of others around them.

Reading the book is like dipping into a life that we as a race can barely contemplate for as the author reminds us in the book, trees live life in the slow lane, and that is what made the reading experience refreshing. It is largely based on observations and of the forester’s study on the forests he helps to manage. Throughout the book, he cites relevant research studies that have been carried by botanists.

Trees are social beings and know that they can thrive if they look out for one another. Many interesting anecdotes dot the book such as the one with the giraffes chomping down the leaves of the acacia trees in the Savannah.

The giraffes there were feeding on umbrella thorn acacias, and the trees didn’t like this one bit. It took the acacias mere minutes to start pumping toxic substances into their leaves to rid themselves of the large herbivores.

The acacia trees that were being eaten gave off a warning gas (specifically, ethylene) that signaled to neighboring trees of the same species that a crisis was at hand. Right away, all the forewarned trees also pumped toxins into their leaves to prepare themselves. The giraffes were wise to this game and therefore moved farther away to a part of the savannah where they could find trees that were oblivious to what was going on. Or else they moved upwind.

How beautifully nature equipped the trees and giraffes for survival.

After reading about how effectively and essentially Trees communicate, I could not help comparing and contrasting our lives with those of our stoic friends. This frenzied communication lifestyle we have adapted as our own, often leads to amusing outcomes, but sometimes to questionable ones.

One morning, I set out to enjoy a leisurely week-end breakfast with the children. When the menu card says ‘Noodles’, the beaming sous chef in the home is more active than is called for. I doubt restaurant kitchens have sous chefs standing on chairs next to the chef gabbling instructions for all to hear, but our kitchen does.

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Minutes later, we clattered down with our bowls of steaming instant noodles – there is something deeply satisfying about slurping the long noodle strings noisily, and reveling in the liberating feeling of not being governed by the ticking minutes of the clock for a change.

I was doing my best to ignore the incessant modes of communication that is our bane today, but I was still interrupted with the International Phone Call.  On the call, I was given the shocking news that Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp had been vying to give me, and told to check it all immediately. Apparently, the noodles I was eating that very day had 17% lead content. 17% lead. Funny because I did not feel like I had a metal tube lodged in my intestines after eating it, nor did I feel like an old ceiling waiting to be torn down. What it meant to say of course is that there were supposedly 17 parts per million of lead in the offending food item, a claim that in itself proved to be baseless later on.

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Quote from link: http://nextdraft.com/archives/n20170310/leaky-gut-reaction/

The wrongness of the initial stories is the result of a perfect storm of three factors: Technical subject matter, a master of disinformation, and always on race to publish stories quickly. It’s yet another reminder of the Internet’s five least common words: Let me think about that.

Should we learn the art of essential communication, and develop the ability to chaff it from the demands of eternal communication? Maybe learn a lesson or two from our stoic friends.

For a quick read: https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/09/26/the-hidden-life-of-trees-peter-wohlleben/

Blame The Toxos

Every once in a while a book comes along that changes the way you fundamentally view things. I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong is one such. In the book, the author covers various types of microbes, bacteria and pathogens that we carry within ourselves or encounter in the world. A fascinating adventure awaits the reader on this microscopic journey.

The book shows us how each being is a complex symbiosis unto itself. A concept we know vaguely but appreciate deeply when we read the book.

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We have heard of parasitic infections that control the minds of hosts like rabies. Rabies makes its carriers aggressive and the only way for it to spread is by biting and scratching another being. ( Rabies is probably the basis for the myth of the werewolf.)

There is one particular type of parasite that is chilling in its tale. Toxoplasma Gondii or Toxo is a single celled organism that latches itself onto brains. It is also referred to in the TED talk linked below for further information.

Quote : Toxoplasma Gondii is a brain parasite otherwise known as Toxo. It can only sexually reproduce in a cat; if it gets into a rat, it suppresses the rodents natural fear of cats and replaces it with something more like sexual attraction. The rodent scurries towards the cats with fatal results, and T.gondii gets to complete its life cycle.

Toxo has been known to manipulate mammals. It makes rats run towards cats and offer themselves as prey just so toxo can reproduce. Classic tale of self destructive behavior, wouldn’t you agree? It is also proven that many humans play host to Toxo.

TED Talk by Ed Yong

The book led to many happy, wild conjectures such as:
(a) Could that be the reason Cat videos are so popular on You-tube? I mean, I have always wondered: Why Cat Videos? Why not hippo videos?

(b) Humans affected with Toxo also fare differently on personality tests, showing different trajectories when it comes to risk taking and pleasure seeking behaviors. Could a combination of Toxo and Dopamine releasing behaviors such as increased reliance on social media have engineered the elections?

It sounds like a weird sci-fi scenario: Toxo encourages self-destruction, dopamine clamors for fake news, and the world falls prey to single celled organisms manipulating mammals (us), while we run around like zombies thinking we have free will.

The understanding of human biology has fascinated mankind for centuries. But advances in microbiology itself is less than 200 hundred years old. Even then, our narrative surrounding the understanding has been harsh: Bacterial infections, germs, plagues, survival of the fittest. While there are numerous examples of these, the truth is that we also play host to a large number of helpful microbes and bacteria.

Theodore Rosebury, a microbiologist, wrote in 1928, during his research that:

“The knowledge that micro organisms can be helpful to man has never had much popular appeal, for men as a rule are more preoccupied with the danger that threatens their life than in the biological forces on which they depend. The history of warfare always proves more glamorous than accounts of co-operation.”

A fact so timeless that we ought to have it framed in halls of learning if it isn’t already.

P.S: Please watch the TED Talk by Ed Yong – it is only 13 minutes long.

The Wind, The Snow & The Rain – Part 1

Saying goodbye to Inyo canyon area is hard. One, it is a long drive back and heading back early is a must. Two, it is very hard to pluck oneself away and just leave. After innumerable selfies that could have been taken in our backyard, we started off towards home.  (The bulbous noses obstruct the grand mountain at the back. )

As we started driving, it was a clear day with blue skies, a few cumulus clouds specked the skies lazily.  The winds were gusty as flashed to us by the rustic freeway signs. The slight shudder of the car as it navigated the bends in the mountainous roads was indicative of the conditions outside. (As shown in the ripples in the lake below)

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All in all, it seemed like a marvelous end to wonderful trip with ghost towns, ancient forests and star gazing. We were pleased with ourselves too for another reason. There was a storm warning for 4 p.m. that evening in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and we were slated to cross by 2 p.m. – ha! Looking at the bright blue skies, one wondered whether the geological department had gotten things wrong. Could a snow storm really be on its way? Maybe in a day or two, not today.

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You needn’t doubt the geol. fellows ever again. It was as we were driving through one of the mountain passes that it started to snow mildly. Now, I am sure people who live in the snowy reaches of the earth will pooh and bah at us, but the mood in the car turned to euphoria. Watching the snow flakes drift past is a heady experience, and nothing really prepares you for the magic of it. They say every snowflake is shaped differently, but how they managed to detect and study that, I would never know. Our instinct was to stick our hands out the window and whoop with every brush of snow.

Here is the rummy thing though: If you were to take the quarter of an hour sliver in which the situation changed, you would find the first 5 minutes completely different from the second five and the third five minutes radically different from the first five.

One minute we were ooh-la-la-ing through the mountain pass wondering about the shapes of snowflakes and singing songs, the husband slightly nodding off and taking a well deserved doze in the sunny passenger seat, while I drove like a heroine in the old Indian movies singing and whooping with an inherent happiness that made the singing bearable.

The next 5-minute slot found the blue skies being masked behind fast moving clouds and the winds whipped up a flurry of snowflakes, visibility was definitely waning, and I was telling the children about the Fury of Nature, while clutching the steering wheel and leaning ahead as if clutching the steering w. in a firmer grip would somehow ground the vehicle on the slippery roads.   

The last 5 minutes slot found me unstrung: the visibility had dropped significantly, and I was prodding the husband awake. Just keep driving he said in his taking-command-of-the-situ voice. Maybe my worked up face indicated that I was planning to get out the tea kettle and find some bricks to get a fire going in the snowy lands, I don’t know. So, I nodded, ever the obedient wife, and kept going. I was a bit unnerved too that no matter how hard I clutched the steering wheel, the vehicle was behaving like reindeer after a couple of magic mushrooms: slipping, sliding, and even trying to jump every once in a while.

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reindeer jumping and sliding

Image source: http://stylingstitches.com/jolly_christmas.htm

When the car tried to jump over a piece of ice, I jammed the brakes and found that the car went sliding beautifully onward, but refused to stop. Gulp. Hit brake. Stop. All my years of driving I had been doing that, but it did not work. Positively alarmed now, I was at a loss. What were we to do? I spotted a car ahead of me pull up in the slight ascent, and I gingerly did the same. I managed to let the thing in easily and let out a loud whistle – I now understand the pressure cooker psyche. PHHHHHEEEWWWEEE helps.

I stopped my hands from shaking and looked up to find a large vehicle stop on the opposite side of the road. A bunch of folks dressed in yellow tights and matching snow boots, jumped off. Half expecting to see Curious George, I saw them manually flip a sign on the side of highway to ‘Snow Chains Required’. I had not realized up until that point that that was how the rustic highway signs worked. Illuminating, but also, how do we get the snow chains on now? We had them, and I supposed they worked.

We headed out into the harsh world with the snowflakes doing a pretty dance around us and within seconds, our coats were full of snow, our toes seemed to be missing in action, the nose turned blue, and our hands were doing something when the brain was telling it to do something else. If this was not a pickle or a jam, I don’t know what is.

Continued in Part 2

The Curious Curvy Trees

Regular readers know that I enjoy reading children’s books. Recently, I read one called, A Curvy Tree, that examines the problems of being different and lonely. In the book, a curvy tree soothes the feeling of a lonely child being teased for being different by taking its own example, and how being different saved its life, for loggers could not find a use for twisted wood, and therefore left it alone. When the girl asked whether the tree felt lonely, the curvy tree lifted her up high on its branches to show her other curvy trees in the distance all left alone by loggers, and on top of these trees were other children probably equally lonely who only need to find each other for company.

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Looking at the bristlecone forest, it seems that the Bristlecone trees, followed a similar path for survival. Hardy beings that only thrive in harsh climatic conditions, there is yet another lesson from nature in these forests: It is okay to be different.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristlecone_pine

As the car nosed its way up to the Bristlecone National Forest, I was peeking into a copy of ‘Into Thin Air’. It was snug inside the car, though the temperatures outside were steadily climbing down as the car climbed up. Reading about the Himalayan expedition to climb the Mount Everest that went awry was humbling and an apt read at high altitude.

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No amount of pictures or descriptive writing can do justice to the feeling of being among the oldest known living beings in the World.  Looking at the shapes of each of these trees, it was easy to let our imaginations run in wild directions. Each tree was shaped like a fantastic creature and one could well imagine them lending support to each other and sustaining their lives through the fury of nature and the upheavals of time. Each one probably gets themselves up every now and then and transforms their shapes, and each has a spirit of their own that lends a character to their surroundings. Maybe these are the hieroglyphics of the universe that hold answers to the questions deeper than mankind can ever think off, and we don’t yet know. Even in our wildest imaginations, we are constrained by our limited intelligence and the expanses of our problems, including those we manage to create for ourselves.

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The walk amidst the ancient bristlecone forest was our first high altitude hike as a family – The toddler son was wearing his new snow boots, and was behaving like John Muir in them. He thumped up and down exploring the hauntingly beautiful bristlecone trees, looking curious and wondering how they could be older than his grandfather. “Not just your grandfather little Dobucles, “, said his older sister in a tone of voice she uses to enlighten her lil brother of the ways of the world, “but your grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather’s….”

I let him wander on looking amused, till some gusts of wind buffeted us.  On a high mountainside, a gush of wind is enough to topple toddlers as I well know from experience. I was not even a toddler when I was blown off by the wind, I was in a respectable third grade when that happened. I injected a note of caution into the proceedings by reigning the toddler in only to have the daughter scoff that adults are paranoid. This is where ‘Into Thin Air’ helped me. I told her about how many people have gone within 300 m of the great Himalayan peak only to return because the elements would not allow them to proceed. I tried my best to describe how nature can be awe-inspiring but how in one moment we can be reduced from arrogant, competent, self sufficient humans to ones thrown about at the behest of nature. I don’t think I succeeded very much, and so nature decided on showing us herself the very next day.

Somehow, with the sun throwing brilliant purple, orange and pink patterns into the sky, the wind gently rustling the hair peeking out from under our caps, and the bristlecone trees lending an almost immutable background, the scenario of a snow storm seemed far-fetched, almost ludicrous. If this is high altitude, how bad can Everest be? seemed to be the general consensus.  That night, we bravely attempted hikes at 21,000 feet, safe in the comforts of modern housing while eating hot biriyani.