Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Queen’s Gambit

Every Chess aficionado’s dream: something like the Queen’s Gambit, limited series on OTG platform. Glued to it literally. Almost believed its a true story but did wonder why I could not place Elizabeth Harmon anywhere from my memory like the way I could Bobby Fischer. Or for that matter the Polkar sisters. Fischer was living memory, that much I can vouch for. Not that I am a player with strategy, more of a rookie who has now digressed to clumsy lows, out of practice. My online rating has dipped to dismal stat, not to speak of! Chess, at least the speed chess that we play in the 10 minute format online, banks on reflex. If you don’t have the lightening reflex, you may not make it. That way the timed format in Chess to me appears like any other game where the player’s reflex must be sharp. Even if Queen’s gambit is based on a novel by one Walter Tevis, from way back in 1983, it made for a super series that kept me on my toes. Not that I could follow each and every move, Most the games are pictured dramatic but one or two moves here and there were graspable. I guess most of us open with the queen’s gambit as I have seen the description every time I make it. How a chess player winds her way up the ladder to top slot is amazing. The gender equation is also nicely fitted in. As we know India produces her share of women grandmasters in Chess. The interest is even more spiked after we hosted the Chess Olympiad very recently in my hometown Chennai, a rare honour. My city has also produced three times world champion in Chess, V Anand who beat Garry Kasparov. But the way chess is followed like a religion in Russia is flabbergasting. Chess originated in India and was the game of the royals (Hindu kings) (at least they were good at vanquishing the enemy kings in checkered board!). The character who played Beth Harmon is Anna Joy. She has done a marvelous job keeping her poise and holding her head high. She looks intelligent enough and doesn’t look a bimbo! The male chess players remarkably seem to lack the masculine build we credit with athletic sport players. What is the point they are making here? Kudos to the director who made Beth win the one against the Russian GM without having to pop up the pills. Beth comes across as quite a character. She is mentally strong, living on her own, is independent and is shyly fun loving keeping with her personality. I got emotional watching the final she played with Borgov when the former US champions she bet to reach the spot where she was, gang up on phone to give her last minute tips. That overseas call was a good directorial touch and so was the closing scene when Beth walks in the streets of Moscow to play with the sidewalk retired chess players who give her a standing ovation. That mother Alma’s character! Alma adopts Beth and showers unconditional love on her which goes a long way in establishing Beth’s career as a professional chess player. For a chess player, Beth dresses up class keeping with contemporary times. Those upturned blonde curls remind one of Marlyn Munro. Trend of the 60s? One more character worth mentioning: Shaibel who initiates Beth into the world of chess. Its a well made series, slick and period.

Incidentally the first woman chess grandmaster from India goes by the name S. Vijayalakshmi! (She is not listed. Must be international master). The second is Koneru Hampi who is still playing (listed as first woman grandmaster from India).. India has so far produced 81 grandmasters at world level and comes after Russia and the US. The lion’s share of maximum no. of ranked chess players comes from my home state Tamil Nadu! Proud of the feat! In total 124 international masters from India with some 42 woman international masters. The picture made me google for the India story! The world no.1 Magnus Carlsen was in Chennai in connection with the world chess championships that we recently hosted. The event drew crowds and was spectacular.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Avatar 2 : The Way Of Water

May I be blessed with the avatar of Navi in my next janam. So ‘janam’ is the word for rebirth. Reincarnation or avatar is a term reserved for Hindu gods not for lesser mortals. We say Krishnaavatar (Krishna + avatar), Ramaavatar (Rama + avatar), both Ram and Krishna being avatars of Lord Maha Vishnu who took ten avatars from aquatic avatar to human form evolving from amphibian to terrestrial life form with every avatar. And Hindu gods are curiously blue coloured mostly (Ram and Krishna specifically). If you study Hindu philosophy you don’t have to know of Darwin. But its okay James Cameroon. I am a huge huge fan of yours and Avatar will stay the best picture I ever watched in my life because the Navi people connect closely with my soul bonded by the Tsahaylu! Perhaps I have watched Avatar one a hundred and one times? There is even a demo of the Pranayama this time with the breathe-in breath-out exercise. Great service for Sanskrit, Hindu beliefs and Yoga if you ask me. It hurt to see the Navi move over to the water world but then why must adaptability and migration be the prerogative of the homo sapien. Way of water throws light on the whale sharks’ ancestors which is another dimension to Avatar2. Loss of Sully’s eldest is tragic. One reason I could not watch ‘My name is Khan’ is that. I switched off the tv when the kid dies. As a mother even in screen I cannot digest that kind of loss. But then I know, being cast into the next avatar is uncomplicated and smooth seamless process and even natural for the Navi. Too many avatars loitering there from their previous janams! Its only when I see so many avatars on their feet that I regret the title Avatar which is reserved for the immortal creators of the universe. But then when the humans defeat death and recreate life, don’t they become immortals. Mortality is no more the question and probably the word ‘avatar’ is justified. Otherwise I enjoyed the flick at a mall here in Doha in 2D (only) and not in 4D thoroughly. Mindblowing animation. Breathtaking waters in contrast to the forest scene of Avatar 1. Sky people must be made to pay! Soon they may be returning for Avatar 3 so far as I know! The next gen of Navi already looking promising. Jake Sully looks leaner and calmer and more balanced. In another 100-200 years if Avatar is going to be reality as the human race goes to hunt for living space in the galaxies, I won’t be surprised. Strongly recommended for all Avatar addicts.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Sea Beast

Emotional watching ‘Sea Beast’ on Netflix. Animated film, loved every minute of it being a wildlife lover whether terrestrial or oceanic. Happened to visit the Sea world in Orlando where they claimed to be undertaking some rehabilitation work. Still I wasn’t comfortable, neither was my son who thought the sea creatures just did not belong in there. Most of us must have been to the Dophin shows and/or Sea Lion shows some time or other. Regret it now. Ashamed. We are all in a way encouraging netting of these sea beasts and in confining them to big water tanks. At the end of the day, an aquarium is nothing more than a imprisoning cage. Both the dolphins and sea lions have a very high IQ, close to that of humans, that gets us excited. We try to make them our pets just like we trap elephant calves in India for domestication. Zoos and aquaria must exist only for conservation purposes and for breeding of exotic and endangered species, not for our entertainment.

After watching a couple of pictures of Whale hunting and Orcas, this one made more sense to me. Particularly the innards of the Red Bluster where Jacob and Maisie walk into. Rang a bell as I was sorely reminded of the whale oil expeditions when schools in thousands were speared to bleed to death from the Atlantic to the Pacific all the way down from Latin America to Australia. The shark whale oil is what lit up the world for centuries. Even today we have the cod liver oil (capsules) for essential nutritional supplement. Wonder ever how and when that came to be. You got to watch the picture ‘the heart of the sea’ with NO edits.

The Sea Beast is a charming fairytale like story with the little orphan girl who loses her parents to monster hunting in Monarch, an older expedition, sneaks into the hunter’s ship drafted for the sea. Jacob the renowned hunter is not amused and he is poised to succeed the captain who follows a lineage of famed hunters. When the bluster goes for the ship, the girl and the hunter get thrown together when they forge an unusual friendship. The red bluster herself completes the trio of curious friends. In a very sweet twist of imagination, the bluster and Jacob and Maisie along with a blue little sea squid (am not sure) see some sunny days before the bluster sails them to the Rum Pepper island, kind of reconnaissance port for the men of the sea. Here the imperial fighter that voyaged into the sea to compete in the hunt with its admiral captaining the vessel, is done to dust by the red bluster. The bluster is then captured by the captain of the Inevitable, the seasoned and legendary hunter galleon. Poisoned, the bluster is hauled to the kingdom before the royals with the subjects assembled to greet the hunters returning with trophy. Maisie helps free the red bluster with Jacob and educate the crowds of how it is all wrong. She pleads with the king and the queen and the masses and the soldiers to STOP the war of centuries with the sea monsters. Red bluster returns to the sea as the kingdom promises to STOP monster hunting forthwith.

A must watch for wildlife lovers. Superb animation from Disney. Some punch dialogues like ‘you may be a hero but you may still be wrong.’ The transformation of human psyche from hunter to conservationist is natural and convincing. Even an animated film showing the graveyard of the sea monsters with killer spears stuck in their decaying humps and skeletal cages in the deep fathoms of the ocean and the oceanic floor can give you a rude shock. Very much alike the elephant graveyard in the Lion king, another and first fave animation pic of mine. Years back, the elephant graveyard I read about in one of Wilbur Smith’s. So much humanlike. Missing watching this lovely flick with my family who are great wildlife and nature lovers.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Against The Ice.

Watched this impossible picture and wanted to review it. Next best thing to the Reverent (that i have watched at least a dozen times but missed reviewing) or probably better. True life story of Denmark expeditioner Mikkelson who with unlikely explorer Iverson trudges through the hostile terrain and inhospitable climate of the northernmost Greenland with a pack of sledge dogs. The mission is for disproving the American claim whatsoever over the Arctic as proof emerges that there existed no Pearl channel that could legitimize the Yankee bid to the the north pole of planet Earth. The duo lose their sledges and the canines, and are forced to spend at least two grueling Christmases waiting for a ship to pick them up, losing their sanity at times. Finally they are rescued and thanks to them, Greenland now belongs with Denmark as it always has had. Perhaps a milestone in the history of Denmark. Interesting to note how documentation is accorded highest priority even a hundred years back, thanks to which we now can ascertain actual facts. A royal salute to the adventurous spirit of the Homo sapiens! Forever a fan of the bravery, heroism and courage of the Caucasian male for who the sky has been the limit (at least until the twentieth century)!

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: A beautiful mind.

As always, got to catch up with ‘a beautiful mind’ pretty late. As the curtains downed, couldn’t help crying! Not only for the mathematician that John Nash was but also for his award speech on receiving the Nobel prize for Mathematics in 1994, at Stockholm, Sweden, where he says, ‘what is logic, what is the reason. what is imaginary, what is rational, what is delusional? you are all that is real and today i am here because of you’ (not in exact words) to his wife who believes in him completely as he fights schizophrenia through his research and teaching years in Princeton. What fine picture. I just checked wiki. The director-scriptwriter must have taken some artistic liberties to bend the story a bit, but still this is fine. Basically being a math grad, my interest in the subject is natural although today after decades i cannot recount anything other than Pythagoras theorem from school days. Married to an engineer who also did his basic degree in math, it is a grand coincidence that now our only son is married into a family of mathematicians as well! Math was very much on my mind for years as I gave away also math tuitions at home for higher secondary girls and under grads in their first and second years who majored in math. I guess, the long retention of math in my mind is primarily due to this reason. I revised my school and univ syllabus everyday with my girls after my office hours! Differential equations could be the most interesting part of calculus in my memory, correct me if I am wrong! Game theory – we did have a paper in Econometrics (that was my masters). Although I cannot recall much, I can say what in math excited me the most. I approached my final year in undergrad with trepidation, because I knew all my five papers were abstract. The toughest Real analysis became a cakewalk once you decoded it. Yah got a centum in that paper as well as in Complex analysis. Remember how in those days some friends used to ask, how could math ever be like that! Countless theorems in abstract running to pages that needed to be proven! I don’t have that scientific temper now but I did once upon a time. So I guess I can understand the preoccupation of a math wizard with numbers and theorems better. Science and math are real. However and whatever others may ridicule about the math/science people, they continue to stay real, unaffected. There is this goodness about academics that is pure and precious. The value is absolute and not exaggerated or faked. ‘A beautiful mind’ is all about this authenticity in my opinion. John Nash played by Russel Crowe comes across as a decent human being, supported in every step by his dedicated wife Alicia (played by Jennifer Connelly). Extraordinarily intelligent men with highest IQ do exhibit some freakish traits as they say, the variance between genius and autism is a very miniscule percentage. I have come across kids under autism spectrum display high level of mathematical understanding. Its really a case of cat on the wall. Its the luck of the parents in my opinion. Inspiring watch. Wonderfully enacted by Russel Crowe. A couple of my friends kids (from India) are/were into Princeton/Harvard. Very proud of my friends who made it possible for their children to reach onto here. Family is the pillar of strength.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Is it time to unsubscribe Netflix.

Can we have a Netflix free India again please?

Wondering whether it is time for me to unsubscribe from Netflix. Watching pictures butchered that are not to my taste. Pride & Prejudice crudely cut short in many places and this is just one of the many classics to be scissored by the OTT platform. Why ‘Delhi crime’ when there was far gruesome Austria. Netflix, you have to be sick to be airing this and you have to be racial. Why are there no documentaries on US school shootings or on the western drug mafia. Why not ones on arms deals and colonization. Not even on corona or on who is suspected to be behind it? The selection of pictures seems to be anti-Hindu in my opinion. Anti Indian. Because when they have the ‘Wild wild country’ running even now on Osho, there has never been one on sex scandals in Vatican. Or on European pedophiles preying on Asian kids. Instead their tv shows seem to be subtly selling Christianity door to door. Nothing on terror either. Not a word. Just what kind of image are these guys trying to create about societies. May Indian subscribers start taking stock from now on at least. Discerning viewers may have figured it out like me already. Whether we need Netflix at all in India? I guess we have enough satellite channels to cater to all our tastes. I don’t want to encourage this urge in me to be there for the first day first show. Its ok i will be missing out on latest releases. Seriously weighing options. If the quality of Indian films will not improve, I will unsubscribe. I am also asking my friends to unsubscribe from Netflix. Netflix is consuming my afternoons which is making me feel guilty. All the classics I am watching now I have originally watched in HBO etc., in full length without this chopping of reels here and there. Commercials are far better than trying to undercut a nation’s image, something not even the Star group has done. Why should we pay for this substandard and deliberate misinformation. India has every right to throw out Netflix. Should we have Netflix and Amazon for the sake of our entertainment industry? Not fair. Let Amazon Prime and Netflix be kicked out of India. May our PM Modi note. Its this typical brainless stuff. I am wasting hours on Netflix. I can wait and watch all this in our television channels. Or in You tube. The OTT platforms may be already killing Indian entertainment than benefiting the industry. The cruel joke is that, when the OTT platforms cut reels from classics, they do not edit steamy scenes from their content. Total and partial nude scenes, sex, rapes, violence and bloody murders all run in full length. There is absolutely NO CENSORSHIP in Netflix or Amazon Prime even in Arab countries which is a grave concern. Netflix and Amazon Prime are unhealthy for growing school children in India. It is time our government looks into this matter and ask them to reform or get out. I will give it a week or two to think over this. Yes we can live without Netflix and Amazon Prime, many do even now. This is one case when going retro will do us good. Our children remote-learning in information age from laptops and mobiles is something we cannot do without given the Covid circumstances. But we don’t have any reason to have Netflix. This is something that can be suspended outright. Waiting for return of old days.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: River Runner

True life story the River Runner is a breathtaking account of kayaking escapades of one of world’s best kayaker from the US Scott Lindgren who takes us through the nerve wracking drops and paddles down deepest foaming falls and twisting rapids in some of the longest and most turbulent rivers on planet earth. Just as scaling a mountain peak is like a tribute to physical fitness and endurance capacity in humans, so is kayaking which is even riskier than white water rafting. As Lindgren puts it, white water rafting may feel like driving a sedan whereas kayaking may feel like steering a racing car. Designer! You need an extraordinary mental strength and physical capacity to train as a kayaker.

White water rafting as such is risky game. So imagine what kayaking must be like. You have to feel the supreme confidence in you, and you have to be fit one hundred percent and there can be no room even for a fraction of misgivings whatsoever. Your mind races along with the turn of the river and jump over the rapid so you have to make quickfire decisions that can make or break you (or kill you). Team morale plays an overriding role and any weak link in the chain could dishearten the entire kayaking group. Emotional detachment crucial to kayakers who need to shut themselves out of a doubtful world. Insulation from any kind of vulnerability is textbook prescription. Scott seems to fit the bill exactly being young and brash, with his no-nonsense attitude, unwavering attention to details and superb physical fitness. He comes along as the aloof detached kayak leader. His life dream is to paddle the ‘big four’ flowing from the Himalaya in the Tibet: The Karnali (Nepal), The Sutlej (India), The Tsang Po (China) and The Indus (Pakistan). The four rivers are said to go around Mount Kailash and exit via Lord Shiva’s locks, as legends have it. The four rivers are also most sacred to Hindu-Buddhists as is the entire Himalayan range including Mount Kailash.

Scott takes us through this incredible journey across the Asian rivers, diving into deep gorges and taking on the rivers head on. It is lifetime passion of his as he tames the swirls over rapids and makes it to the plains so as his team members. In the process, he loses a couple of friends crushing the team spirit. There are one or two who quit as casualty rises while there are other aspirers who plough on.

Curiously Scott also turns into producer of his kayaking expeditions, the first of its kind to be filmed in the world. The rivers frothing and seething down the Himalayas make for an unbelievable aerial view eliciting lots of interest in the US. Unimaginable camera angles following the brave and bold kayakers in gurgling waters as they meander their way over bedrocks putting their lives hook, line and sinker into the very rivers they are cruising. What a footage! Someone familiar with kayaking following and shooting the daredevil kayakers makes for informative and authentic stories that win Scott accolades. Scott and friends navigate the first three rivers but damming of Sutlej does come as a disappointment to them. The fourth one the mighty Indus is out of bounds for the rafters as Pakistan remains closed to tourists.

Scott’s team now take on African rivers from the White Nile in Uganda infested with crocodiles and hippos. It is at this point that Scott realizes that he has become the weak link in the team as he loses his confidence. He says, what he hoped would be a three month break turned out to be a eight year long leave from kayaking and the outside world. He is diagnosed with tumour for which he goes under the knife. That is when he meets his girlfriend. Along with a young crew he hits off with in Idaho, Scott dreams of completing his mission of conquering the big four of the kayaking world. River Sindhu (as we Hindus in India know it) aka Indus is calling… Scott’s girlfriend sadly breaks up with him unable to deal with the pressure. But a determined Scott makes his way to Pakistan undeterred by the news of his tumour growing. He is all focused and in extremely good shape.

Sindhu/Indus omg what a river! Frothing right from the very origin, gushing through the creeks and valleys, the crevices and the gorges, jumping back to back sheer rapids and steep wall drops in falls, swirling and twirling at high speed over smoothened bedrocks, throttling at full volume, polishing the granite river banks in smooth rich tones, caving and tucking here, awesome fiery and overwhelming there … I felt such a sense of loss looking at Sindhu Mata, who gave India our name. Our Hindu river from Shiva’s locks. Unattainable today for us Hindus. I don’t think I have seen anything like this of Sindhu before this picture. Probably this is because, the footage has been shot by veteran kayakers who knew their job. They knew where to focus on and what to expect and when. The kayakers before taking to Sindhu reconnoiter the banks and go upstream/downstream on test paddling to get a grip on the river and its force. They do their bit of homework before they decide to take the plunge. I felt a disappointment when they leveled it out because I knew the picture was drawing to a close! Out of the world cinematography!

Kudos to the kayakers who are such an inspiration for generations to come. What is not risky business from boarding a plane to driving a sedan in highway. In the present Covid times, we don’t even know when or how we will meet our maker! Since 2020, world has seen a lot of us taken by surprise or perhaps shock. There is such an air of uncertainty everywhere that it feels good to see something like this. Scott Lindgren deserves a pat on his back for not only proving to himself a point but also showing us how nothing is beyond our limits. All it takes is the willpower and dexterity to go after what you want. The dedication and commitment combined with singlemindedness is the formula for success. No dilution of standards. High level of preparedness and meticulous research and planning and timing of it all.

Sindhu seems to have shaved Scott’s tumour as we come to know by the last reel. Hopefully Scott will have a long and happy life. Here is wishing him many more kayaking expeditions through rocky rivers wild and waiting to be tamed! Human spirit always triumphs!

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Everest

Watched Everest for umpteen time today. Can’t recall if I have already done the review years back!

managed to get this original pic of the team.

The indomitable nature of human spirit never seems to stop avowing me. What is even the reason to make it to the top? As the climbers say, it is there and that is good enough for them. I have heard of logjam in Everest ascent and every picture that shows the littering and overwhelming human presence in the Himalayan peaks always kind of wears me down. Yet as I said, the very endurance capacity in us humans is admirable and this is something that makes me think is what helped us evolve as the no.1 in bio-chain or food chain on planet Earth topping all other living organisms. This is how the human race crossed continents and is set to conquer space. So may be this is good.

From previous productions on Himalayan peak ascents, I understand that Mt Everest could be the world’s summit yet it’s not something unattainable. With ropes pitched virtually to the top on pre-determined and handpicked routes, Everest could be within reach of any aspiring decent climber. For most parts, the ascent also seems more slopey over 90 degree vertical even if the landscape is interspersed with ice shelfs and gulfs and deep drops into gorges. Avalanches can happen anytime and storms can brew and blow over by the minute. Even in summers, climbers have to wait for opening up of a precious rare window with favourable climate when they have to factor in their ascent. There are climbers with oxygen support and then there are those who resist oxygen assistance. Frost bites and hyperthermia, disorientation and snow blindness are just a few of the manifestations of the high altitude sickness associated with high mountain trekking and summiting snowy peaks. Statistics as reported in the film reveal that one out of four perish in scaling Everest. Brings to my mind Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Paths of Glory’ that is on George Mallory who could have been the first to make it to the Everest summit but who died on descent. I loved this book but I would have wanted to remind Archer that many, many Sherpas of Nepal have been doing this for centuries, millennia without glory. The arrogance of these thickheaded men! I do read this old man but he gloats too much!

Back to the pic, I want to say this about the guide or leader of one of the expedition teams Rob who lost his life in the Everest turning back on the Hillary steps to get back at the summit for the sake of Doug who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The humane gesture cost this great man his life with his unborn daughter Sarah (born 1996), being carried by his wife Jan. Rob, you should never have done this to your family man. But you are such a wonderful soul that every time I see this pic, I think you are lying still up there, closest to Lord Shiva. And you died doing what you loved the most and hearing words of love from your wife. As for Beck, another drain on energies. This kind of guys must abstain from ambitious mountaineering because they can slow others down. A good climber could end up paying the highest price of losing his/her life thanks to these thoughtless careless guys who want to scale the Everest when they may not be totally fit. Ok, agreed I am the last person who must be saying this totally unfit! And after viewing Meru, I have to rethink those words of mine, sure. But sometimes when there is loss of life, it makes one wonder whether it is all worth it. My heart goes out the Japanese woman climber Yasuka , is it. And Harold. In case of Harold, being a seasoned climber, he is still going ahead with his Delhi Belly well aware of the disastrous consequences should something go wrong. What is the point in his entire team making it to the Everest summit. I think, Harold invited death virtually. Doug loosening himself out of grip is unpardonable and virtually delayed/led Rob to his untimely demise.

How can a picture on Everest leave one with so much emotion!!! I ended up crying for Rob and Jan and Sarah as usual. Good to see young Sarah all grown up and beautiful. Yet her dad was snatched from her cruelly for no fault of hers.

I think this particular picture portrays human greed (by way of Doug and Beck), humanity (by way of Rob) and thriving human spirit by way of all other mountaineers who scaled Everest that day. The Everest is THE insurmountable task and doing it must be lifechanging. I have watched many movies on trekking and scaling peaks around the world, but every time I see such a picture I am thoroughly moved. I am grateful that God at least gave me enough stamina to climb Tirumala on foot in an younger age!!! That’s the maximum I could manage and I wouldn’t want to test it again though I guess I can do it again with bulging knees even now (and then rest for a week with unbearable joint pain)! The thing is we must know, upto what point we can stretch our energies.

While watching K2, I recall the frame where they showed literally mounds of human poop frozen in snow. And the littering these climbers leave behind. That is something extremely sad. I think simultaneously the Himalayan peaks also need to be cleaned up. The warming up of Himalayas and the melting of glaciers can adversely affect the climate, ecology and bio-diversity in Nepal and India. I wonder whether these guys would be littering so much the Alps where there are stringent regulations. I know, because I have been to the top (on rail only)! You are not cleaning up behind you because a third world nation cannot afford to keep checking on you in those high altitudes – and is this fair and square. This is what I would like to make as my final comment on Everest hopefuls. Do clean up the Himalayan peaks on your ascent and descent. You have done enough environmental damage already warming up our snowcapped peaks and melting our pristine glaciers. As much as I admire the human spirit in you guys, the Everest and other peaks of Himalaya will be better off without you. If you can help it, DON’T SET YOUR FOOT ON EVEREST OR MERU OR ANY HIMALAYAN MOUNTAIN PEAK, Bye.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Meru (documentary)

Watched yet another fascinating trekking documentary close on heels of 14 peaks: Meru. Meru for a change lies outside the Tibet-Nepal-Pakistan triangle. Meru is the sacred Himalayan peak of India, considered the dwelling abode of our Mother Goddess Parvathi. In fact, the peak is believed to be the very embodiment of Shakthi. Unconquerable over even Mt Everest or K2 given its steep granite wall ascent. Some of us have ‘Meru’ (scale model) in our Puja. Meru with Sri Chakra are two symbols associated with Devi worship. So that must explain what Meru is to Hindus. But the climbing crew from the US seem to have respect for the Hindu sentiments as they revere our holy relics and pay their obeisance prior to the ascent. Not only is the mount Meru impressive; so is also the indomitable spirit of the climbers Jimmy Chin and Renan lead by their mentor Conrad who has been on successful expeditions to Mt Everest. It takes more than a couple of attempts for Conrad for his luck to work out when it comes to Meru. A seasoned climber, he’s climbed with the best crews. Climbing Meru is different because, unlike Nepal India has no Sherpas to act as guides and/or porters, bred into the mountaineering profession by tradition. The climbers needed to carry kilos of their own gear or equipment plus food and oxygen. From observing expeditions to Mt Everest, it is impossible to miss how in every step a mountaineer is aided by the sherpas be it with load carrying or roping tight knots or pitching tents. Easiest ascent routes are picked and the queues could be longest to the summit! Mt Everest is that very crowded! No helping hand out there in Meru. I loved the cool hanging tent pitched midway to ascent, off the sheer granite cliff that offered no foothold for the final 3000 foot. The crew were holed up here hundreds of meters suspended in midair during their first climb for days. After the failed attempt, on return to America, Chin and Renon meet with debilitating skiing accidents. Renan is immobilized and chained to hospital bed for months. He makes a terrific comeback with his recovery and workout even as Chin survives an accident himself! With Chin, Renan goes for the summit yet again and it is admirable that team leader Conrad pins complete faith on their sincere and combined efforts. Charming to see the wandering cows and monkeys in Indian Himalaya alongside rivers (Bhagirathi?) and Chai shops and blaring horns. Its one exhilarating feeling as the trio scale the summit the second time – even for the viewers. They are the first in history to scale Mount Meru. What a treat to watch. It does ache my heart when someone lays a foot on Meru – me being ardent Shakthi worshiper. Who says Gods are all from Middle east. Our Hindu Gods descended down the Himalayas. I am sure Conrad, Jimmy Chin and Renan will agree.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: 14 Peaks (documentary)

First of all hats off to Nirmal Purja (Nims) and his Project Possible Nepali team for having scaled the 14 eight thousanders in record 6 months and 6 days. As Nims himself says, he is undoubtedly the Usain Bolt of the eight thousanders! By eight thousander, we refer here to mountain peak over 8000 meters in altitude. The said 14 peaks lie in Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet (under Chinese control). Refreshing watch for someone like me who reveres nature and wildlife. Informative and inspiring, to say the least. As an Indian citizen, as a Hindu, i am extremely proud of my Nepali brother Nims. Yes of course Nims, you are spot on! World would have celebrated with such a fanfare, had it been someone from the west who had achieved this Himalayan feat (literally). But it is okay. Take heart that, some of us like me wouldn’t in a million years believe that it was Edmund Hillary who scaled the Everest first. Thousands of brave and unsung heroes, the Nepali sherpas would have done that centuries before. Their victories were just not documented. And yes, every Sherpa goes by a name. It is insulting to refer to these tough-made men as mere Sherpas. The Gorkhas of Nepal are very respected in India. Their tribe has thinned out now, but even today, lakhs of Nepalis work in India including in my hometown Chennai making life easy for us. We wouldn’t trust any other, believe me and we would like to see the back of Bangladeshis from our soil (although I must not talk politics here). With Nepalis I have this soul connection. The sight of bindhi in Nepali women in middle east is hearty. I never miss an opportunity to chat them up. Have had the chance to chat up even a Bhutanese woman. Your world record matters that much Nims. You have not made just Nepal proud, you have made us Indians proud as well. We never see Nepalis as any different.

Coming to the picture, it is crisp and neat, but I wish it is far more elaborate with further reels from the summits of the Himalayan peaks. The film runs for under two hours. Is it possible to lengthen it by any means with some extra footage. This is one damn well made real life story. It underscores the fitness criteria and also the unmitigable human spirit that is possible to nourish and sustain that saw Nims scale the harshest peaks on earth in such a brief interval of time. Human body is capable of such an exertion. Faced with adverse economic, climatic and political conditions, the Project Possible team still weathered the storm in their own way never turning back from their goals and never stopping to believe in themselves.

I was particularly impressed by the K2 conquest. I have watched quite a few films on this one but they are all still reenactments of real life incidents or figments of someone’s imagination (like the Cliff Hanger for instance). I have also watched others like the Everest, K2 etc., but watching the drama unfold in K2 in this one was interesting. What a trendsetter and a leader all the way is our Nims! We need young men like him to lead our masses from the front!

Had it not been for the delay in acquiring the Chinese permit for scaling the last of the 14 in Tibet, Nims and his team would have made it in under 6 months. As such Nims has shattered 6 world mountaineering records on which note the film closes.

The 14 looming eight thousanders are:

From the Nepali side: The Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Mt Everest, Lhotse and Makalu.

From the Pakistani side: The Nangaparbat, Gasherbrum 1 (G1), Gasherbrum 2 G2), K2 and Broad Peak.

From the Tibetan side: Cho Oyu, Manaslu and Shishapangma.

Savoured every single moment of watching this outstanding flick. God bless Nepal and God bless the Himalaya. And God please liberate Tibet from China!

The snowy vistas are intimidating and the avalanches are unpredictable. The drops from the chasms and clefts have our jaws dropped! The bottleneck on K2 gave me goosebumps from here! To say HACE or the High Altitude Cerebral Edema is scary is understatement of the year. Nims with his exceptionally courageous Nepali mountaineer team comprising Mingma David Sherpa and Geljian Sherpa among others took calculated risks. Bravo! Well done team! Perhaps Lord Pashupathinath wanted Nims and his Project Possible to do this for Nepal! You must let nobody steal your thunder Nims! You did right! Go on and on and leave no stone unturned in your wake, lots of love and respects and cheers & best wishes from India Project Possible guys! Sky is your limit!