Mt. Whitney (Optimism:3, Realism: 0)


I love hiking. Very few things give me as much joy looking down on a valley from above. Fewer things give me as much joy as knowing I have come a long way from my past habits which made me a diabetic in my teens. Even fewer things allow me to have a guilt free sweet(s). I have been calling San Francisco my home for last thirty three months. In these months , I have climbed Fuji, Triglav, Half dome , backpacked across Iceland, New Zealand and as of yesterday Whitney. In all of my trips, I have tried to shun cities and stick to remote wilderness.

Ever since I moved to San Francisco, I wanted to climb half dome. The lottery to climb it presented a further challenge. To compound matters, for last two years, I forgot to apply for preseason lottery. Last year I did apply for end-season special lottery for last week but I was not lucky. This year I was determined to climb it using they daily lottery. I did the math (or rather some else did the math and published it),  there was a thirty percent chance of winning the lottery on a weekday. To further optimize on my odds, I decided to take leave on Friday and Monday. Now I had four days to apply for daily lottery. This meant I had 66%  probability of getting the lottery. To further increase odds I convinced my roommate and his two friends visiting  to apply for lottery on one of the weekdays that I was applying and my odds increased to 91% . To no surprise of me I got the lottery to get to half dome.

Unknown to me at that time, (I had not heard of Whitney then), I was planting the seeds of a Whitney hike. I do not have a car and try to avoid renting it unless I am forced to. I usually take public transit for my hiking trips. This meant I could not carry camp gear with me to Yosemite nor could I stay outside Yosemite for my twelve hour hike. I had to stay inside the park. Like a seasoned visitor of the park, I started looking for accommodation inside the park for my target days. I searched for all places that did not cost an iPhone or both kidneys. I booked myself two three nights at housekeeping camp and one at Tuolumne meadows. For the people not familiar with the terms , they are very far apart and there was no prayer for me to do a hike of half dome while I was staying in Tuolumne. Thankfully , I got the permit for one of the days I was staying in housekeeping camp and Tuolumne happened to the best part of Yosemite. Tuolomne is open for a very short window and is located at a higher elevation than the more visited parts of Yosemite. At Tuolomne, there is no place to eat dinner apart from the lodge dining and if you are a single guy traveling alone (exhibit me), you have to share table with strangers. All my life , I have found sharing meals with fellow travellers is a great way to learn about their culture . I have learnt a great deal about my adopted country from fellow travelers. One thing lead to another and I found that there exists a mountain called Whitney which is the highest point of continental US and it does not require any mountaineering skills. In other words, by the end of dinner, I had decided I was going to climb it.

Climbing Whitney requires permit which are usually sold in April and August was not April. I had to do the math. I saw that there is a high probability of getting a permit on Tuesdays,Wednesdays and Thursdays.  I took leave for one Tuesday to Friday with an eye to climbing on Wednesday or Thursday .  I convinced my office colleague to join me. I planned on taking train and bus from San Francisco to Mammoth lakes,  staying at Mammoth lakes, taking a rental car from Mammoth, getting the Thursday permit on Wednesday and climbing Whitney on Thursday.

There was a problem though unlike the last few weeks, the option to buy Thursday permit did not appear on website Wednesday morning. The website said “W” as in “Walk in permits”. I decided to take the chance . Now I had to get a rental car from Yosemite airport . I went to website and tried to book a car but for some reason, I could not. I decided to take another chance and took a cab to the rental car center. The reason I was not able to book any car was because there were no cars available . I was out of luck on how to reach the “Walk-In” permit center. But while we were getting disappointed at the rental car center, there was Alison from Mammoth who was heading to San Diego. She overheard that we needed to go to Bishop. She told us she will take us there.(What were the odds?). The rental car center could not believe their ears and eyes. They called the rental car center at Bishop and blocked a car for us .

Optimism: 1, Realism: 0

An hour after the miracle at Mammoth rental center, I was on a car to Lone Pine to try my luck at Walk In permit. Once I reached the “permit center”, I was told that they do not give “Walk in Permits”, they had been asking to stop listing the option on their website for a long time.  They told we need to book it online . I had checked online in the morning but I tried to do the same experiment and expect different results. The Gods did not disappoint. Out of nowhere, two permits became available and we found ourselves with permits to Whitney for next day.

Optimism: 2, Realism: 0

Thursday we climbed Whitney. Unlike my other climbs, I got a bout of AMS. I have had migraines ever since I could remember and I can usually power through it. Unfortunately another effect of AMS is diarrhea. I was not prepared for it. My stomach started bloating up around half a mile from the summit. I had to open my bag straps and belt and my stomach had bloated like a hot air balloon at the summit. I did not put on 3 inches of belly fat between 12000 feet and fourteen thousand five hundred feet as the images of my summit might suggest. The climb back from the summit to parking lot was miserable till about 11000 feet. I was barely able to 1 mile an hour and had to take very frequent breaks to tend to my bodily functions. But towards the end of the never-ending descent, I had recovered enough to carry the bags of a fellow climber Mark . He had given up about a mile before the summit and had left for the parking lot about three hours before me. When I talked to him, he was very dis-oriented and tired and could barely tell his name. During the descent , we also lost the trail for a few minutes under darkness but we managed to find it . In net, I did the climb and down in eighteen hours instead of planned twelve and my pictures at the summit makes me look like a rounder Smiling Buddha than I am but I did climb the highest point of continental  US.

Our initial plan was to return the car at Bishop and take a cab to Mammoth and take the morning bus from Mammoth to San Francisco. But it was too late and I did not want to get stranded at Bishop. We instead drove to Mammoth . I hoped to return the car next day morning and take the 6:50 bus from Bishop to Mammoth. As per plan , I woke up @ 4:30 and dropped the car at the rental car center at 6:30. But uber told me there was no cab available at 6:30 am and I missed the bus. I then tried calling other local cab providers for a ride to Mammoth to reach by 8 a.m. But all calls went to voice mails. One guy did call back but he could not reach me and reach me to Mammoth by  8 am. He could drop me at Yosemite but that would cost me 450$. I would rather stay another day at Mammoth. I told my friend I will figure a way to reach Yosemite in time for 4:40 pm bus . I started looking for options to reach Yosemite. Google maps told me there was a bus leaving for Reno at 7:35 which could drop me at Juno lakes and I could then catch another bus to Yosemite with a connection time of 10 minutes. Unknown to me, I would be chasing the same bus that I was supposed to take at Mammoth. This time , I did not even try for uber. I sprinted to the bus stop with a forty pound backpack. I reached the Reno bus on time. The driver asked me where I was heading. He told me Juno bus was touch and go. Google had given me kind of false hope. It said that YARTS will leave from Juno at 9 am but it was to leave at 8:50. I booked another ticket for my trip to Yosemite.The ticket told me that the YARTs leaves at 8:50 and not 9. I panicked but then me and my friend realized I was trying to catch the same bus he was in and I was scheduled to travel. I told him to stall the bus for a few minutes in cases I was late at Juno.  The Reno bus driver was reading my mind, he said that Juno was touch and go for me and I should instead try to catch the YARTs at Lee Vining and he could drop me there with time to spare. I coordinated with Matthew my hiking buddy. The bus to Yosemite was to leave Juno at 8:57 and I was supposed to reach there at 8:58. Yosemite bus was supposed to reach Lee Vining at 9:20 and I was supposed to reach there at 9:10. I asked the Reno driver to drop me at Lee Vining and at the stroke of 9:20, I was on the bus to Yosemite en route to home.

Optimism: 3, Realism: 0


The guilt free sundae


In moral science classes of my very initial school days, I was often told “an idle mind is a devils workshop”.  Idle mind or not, many of my brain cells responsible for storing the memories of my life were empty back then and till date I remember these six-seven words in the same order.

Today things are different, although my dna report will match to me of two decades earlier, my thoughts and thinking process are not exactly the same. I no longer think that devil and divine fight for control of my mind. But it is quite funny what an idle mind can do to your life.

I try to keep myself busy either coding or running in the few seconds of the day when I am not doing any of these I busy myself thinking about all things in life which I will never have.  It has been now seven years since the Brazilian Grand prix won by Kimi Räikkönen . Incidentally that was the day I was told I am a diabetic. It would be a lie to say I was not expecting this news or to say that I was not shattered by it.  Bad news, even though we know is inevitable, always comes across as something sad.

Thankfully though, my willpower rose to the occasion and now I am largely non-diabetic – at least my blood test thinks like that. I run aggressively every day and am rather paranoid about food I take. If I see oil floating around I can’t eat the food. If the food tastes sweet and I don’t know how much fibre is present in the food, I find myself unable to eat.  I feel like a criminal if I miss one session in the gym.

But all these seems to be taking a toll on me. Every now and then I feel like is why and for long do I have to do this. Why do I have to do all of these just to stay alive and now and then , I try to recollect the last time I had a guilt-free sundae. After searching my brain for recollections of the feeling of a guilt free sundae, I only realise I have quite forgotten how it tastes and just wonder how many cousins of guilt free sundaes will torment me in my idle hours.


When capitalist me supported the left

For sometime, I have been harbouring a pathological hatred for the left. I can’t fathom why they have to be paranoid against everything that is American. Superficially, it seems they are a prisoner of the past. A past where every allay and highway of economy was stained by the blood of the workers. On a personal level, I can never forgive them for supporting the Chinese when they attacked the land of my ancestors. In some ways, I am also a prisoner of the past although the decry the left for being afflicted with this virus.I also can’t forgive left for economically killing Calcutta and as a consequence all that lay to the east of this erstwhile metropolis.

I have also been a diabetic for the last two years  and my parents have been diabetic for as long as I can remember.I spent over a hundred rupees per day on my medicines and tests. Having blessed with an above average IQ, a middle class upbringing and some fate, I can afford to pay my bills without battling an eyelid. But the over a sixth of India are said to be diabetic and statistically, I doubt even half of them can afford the facilities,I take for granted.This brings me to the question as to whether the drugs that can help billions really need to be so costly. From an economic standpoint, the variable cost of producing extra drugs seems to be negligible this explains why 50 mg of januvia costs the same as 100 mg of the same drug. Besides this obvious lack of ethics on the part of pharmaceutical companies, there is another thought that bothers me. This is about side effects. I may be diabetic, but I hope to live a thousand years, with this end in mine, I watch all my biological parameters by spending more of my blood and sweat. If I am to lie long enough, I have to depend on drugs for a lions share of my heart beats.

For the ignorant, the best example of post of peril will be the location of kidney in a diabetic. Every day of uncontrolled diabetes deals a thousand death nails on the coffin of the kidneys. To make matters worse the toxic parts of medicines have to be filtered by diabetes and each of those molecules takes a test of the kidneys in a way that is definitely not a walk in the park.In some ways the medicines I take are a double-edged sword, it prevents diabetes from harming my kidneys but might be silently killing it.

This paradox drives me to the reason why I am writing this post. Clinical trials and India.  On any other day when the Sun rises from the east, the only reason I envy Pakistan is for their media. Today, I was pleasantly surprised when page 1 of ibnlive did not resemble page 3 of less reputed tabloids which are no more than bread,butter and oxygen of paparazzi. It carried a report on ratification of Indian population.  For the vast majority of you who know what ratification means, I am in no way referring to the literal meaning of the word but only phonetics. For pharmaceutical companies we Indians are nothing but rats whose life can be dispensed off. They have no fear of multi million dollar settlement claims. The answer to whether my kidneys can hold up to the onslaught of years of medicines probably lies in some unethical trials.

Till then in the midst of some inexplicable emotions, I hope the left keeps on fighting the MNCs, the very same MNCs without whom I can’t live.

Sugar free stuff and diabetics

sugar free

sweet poison

Having waded through political waters for my first post of the decade, my wandering gypsy mind think its time to write about my experiments with food recommended and forbidden for diabetics.  For those of who don’t know who I am or have turned a blind eye to the  persistently highlighted link on this blog entitled “Who am I”, I am no doctor so wont assault your eyes with jargon or some futuristic script that can’t be understood by most of humanity. I am a type 2 diabetic. The findings in this post is literally the digital representation of my blood on your screen. Whenever I have something suspicious, I usually check my blood sugar before and after having the forbidden apple from the garden of Eden. For those of you who are thinking about applauding my heroic sacrifice of blood, this spot smacks of greed. My long-term plan in life is to publish my findings and earn money :D. Not many people are non-insulin dependent diabetic right from the threshold of adulthood.  So, I definitely will win hands down in the quanta of experimental data.

Like all of my digital tidings, this post too owes one chromosome to a trigger.Recently I cam across some sweets packaged as “diabetic dezires“. Some words are really catchy. For a guy who had sent bundles of nerves of his sweet tooth such promises wake up the polar bears of your nerves to the arctic summer.I gave in and spent some of my hard-earned modern equivalent of ancient salt on it. Usually most of the food that proclaims itself to be for diabetics have their nutritional content published on their package. It’s a common misconception for a blood sugar patient, sweet is the bete noir. The enemy in your food is the calories,fat and the form in which you get the calories. For persons with semi-functional pancreas like mine, fats can be more harmful than sugar.

This company claims to be made for diabetics but the day before i had it my sugar was hovering around 90-110. Although I followed the same routine the next day, my sugar was hovering in 150-160 stuff. Don’t have it.In case you want to indulge in sweet tooth as a diabetic, please buy stuff only if you know the ingredients with calorie content. As for some rule of thumb you can’t usually heat sugar-free stuff, it no longer remain as sweet. I don’t know why but again these are my experimental findings. It is for this reason that you are recommended to add sugar-free pellets before consumption 😀

One Last Time

Thanks to the times we live in I doubt if at least one inspirational speech, we heard in our lives, did not allude to one of the most overused couplets of our time

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

I had a rather unromantic tryst with these words first penned by Robert Frost, it was a part of my English language syllabus in class 8th or 9th, I can’t exactly recall. But like all great pieces of art or science if you are meant to learn it because someone else decided you should, this piece of literature is no longer a great specimen of human creativity but is experimental rat meant to be dissected, questioned. At least some part of the soul of this couplet has not touched me.Every now and then I feel like rebelling against the thought behind this couplet. Even if the undercurrent known to me might be wrong, howsoever unlikely it is, any other undercurrent interpreted by me would have invariably led to me getting less marks in English exam :D. Worse still, i ran the risk of being branded a duffer. Whatever might be the reason, today I find myself concurring with the majority that frost ignored the beauty that lay all around him for he had unfinished business. He chose to psi(a kgp lingo, i could not resist using,) the beauty that lay all around him.

It is malady that has struck us all. Many a times I find me and all I know ignoring all the good things around us. Being a guy whose many a reaction are driven by his sense organs, I shall allude to good food. I have been a diabetic for over to years now. Yet the day I confirmed my suspicion that sooner or later I was going to be a diabetic still rings in my mind. My limping steps towards the emergency ward in Kolkata’s daffodils hospital with no one by my side. my lonely night in the hospital cabin and the pleas of the attendant to switch channels as I was watching the race of the season. the race where Kimi snatched victory from Hamilton. :D. What a race it was. When the senior doctor came and scolded his junior in front of me for diagnosing my three days of non-stop bleeding and told him to test me for blood sugar I did not need to wait for the test results to know what the outcome was. But curiously enough I did not feel sad. Years of mental preparation paid through. I thought that from tomorrow I am not going to have sweets so lets indulge. The taste of the melting cookies and chocolates still linger on in my mind. From that day on I have had one non sugar-free ice-cream to celebrate that I had successfully controlled my taste buds for two years. Four chocolates ,10 sweets, two pastries and one or two cold drinks. I guess that’s pretty good.Nowadays if I do decide to indulge my sweet tooth, it is a very special occasion. So, I take extra pleasure in each bite knowing full well that the next bite might come after a considerable length of time. In some ways no one enjoys his sweet in the manner I do.

Continuing with the theme of this blog.I sometime know that I will have to let go of certain material objects, figurative hopes. However, I feel a compulsive urge to indulge for one last. I did not have any siblings at home so almost anything precious, I had,  was collected by my cousins. But on the last day I found myself indulging in my precious to my heart’s content. This kind of extended to my emotional self. Due to several twists of life, I found myself hopelessly in unrequited love. Some say everything is fair in love and war. But I play my wars within ambit of fixed rules and my quest for love had some queer rules driven by my need to possess a false sense of self-righteousness. One day I decided that I wont ever try for her love again. But then again I had to try one last time.. Indulge one last time knowing full well that some things can’t happen.

Thus I sum up my life with quotes:

I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

But the woods are lovely, dark, and deep

The heroes of a defective piece

On of the most nonsensical things, I do is that of browsing through the long list of status messages of my long list of g talk friends. One of these messages pertained to George Bernard Shaw or GBS as he is popularly known. He was one of my childhood heroes not because I was a great fan of his writing or his wit of which i came to know much later. Someone told me he had migraine that was it. I have always had migraine for as long as i can remember. As my flatmate (Sam) says, I am a defective piece in whom God packed a multitude of maladies and bestowed the in-flinching determination to tide over them. Sometimes I feel like GOD must really be liking the daily colossal battles between my mind and the body and that of my body with my body. In those dark moments as i searched for a wall to bang my head or a hammer to hit my forehead, names such as GBS inspired me to carry on. Although, i did break a few cricket bats and walls, my skull was apparently strong enough to withstand the barrage of assaults. Those strategic hits to my head were not out of frustration or despondence but they were temporary retrieve from the throbbing pain that was wrecking my head. A painful distraction from the chronic pain that was killing me within and yet not allowing me to die.

Another name that has been in the news of late is Wasim Akram. He was a great bowler, a great person but above all he was a great fighter. He was a diabetic. For the infinitely small number of readers of my blog who don’t know about it- I am a 23-year-old diabetic – who was diagnosed with this killer at the age of 21. But I have been a devotee of Akram for much longer. As many of you might be knowing , you are usually born with diabetes,as the child of a diabetic father and diabetic mother and grandson of a diabetic grandfather, I knew of this eventuality long before the actual diagnosis. Periodically my father used to not do so well with his health and used to bitch a bit a bout the disease. To cheer him up, I used to talk about Akram. I idolize Akram for all those talk i had with my father. When i was diagnosed, my parents were in tears. My father did not cry in front of me but I knew he did. As for my mother, she suspected i got it even before the doctors told her so all the rivers in the world were flowing from her eyes. I was the only one least affected, at least I had to pretend to . So, I started one of the essays on Akram.

On a lighter note, I am now desperately looking for the hero who would inspire me to win my other fight – win over the heart of my current crush or become a playboy.

Law of averages and Instant Karma

My favorite TV series is house m.d.

I have had several reasons for liking it for the past year and a half as i compresses six(and counting) seasons of entertainment in these months. It will not be an overstatement to say that my pathological suspicion about the quality of any three-hour long marathon coming from Bollywood has more to do with TV series than any Hollywood blockbuster. For just like Bollywood, every Hollywood movie has one theme, some great evil strikes and some American guy(or the occasional Brit Commodore Bond) saves the world doing stunts that would put Mithun at his inglorious worst to same. Yet, I am an Engineer(at least my degree says so :)) hence I find myself marveling at the technical brilliance. This is not to say that Hollywood movies are not great, I saw the dark knight -five minutes-travelling 120 kms to the nearest multiplex. Even back home, we have had works like Taare Zameen Pe, Black, Jhonny Gaddar and the likes. But good movies are usually an aberration than anything else.

Talking about my favorite House M.D. (and for people who do not think my show is the best- I really like Boston Legal, HIMYM,Big Bang,Prison Break and the rest but I hate South Park and Friends) , it satisfies my craving for comedy,mystery, digital lust(Lisa Cuddy rocks!!). Also for the bulk of months,I have galloping the sound bytes and visual kilobytes, the tv series closely mirrored life. I was diagnosed with diabetes, some results (actually almost all) interpreted it as type 1, but one doctor said it might be 2, he conjured a test which told that there is possibility of type 2. So, like House usually does, the doctor put me on some mixed therapy for a year,if the therapy succeeded, it meant I had type 2 (MTV :D) mind it type 1 treatment for type 2 can be fatal.

But there are so many reasons (many of them emanating from the fact that you just like) for liking something or someone. For that matter, although incongruous,there can be a single reason for disliking or not disliking something or someone (one of them being you like something/someone too much to spare any of you hormones to dislike). So, why do I like House, its funny, it gives hope, it celebrates brilliance, it celebrates the innate goodness in every person, its protagonists are flawed persons. Above, it trusts the intelligence of the viewers, it does not enforce any particular point of view.This week’s episode was one such example. Like in every other episode a random dialogue triggers House’s enlightenment yet it leaves it blank whether karma does have role.

Now as to why I am writing my first blog on a tv-series,I watch almost everyday. Some part of me wants to believe in law of averages. Maybe I have had the better share of luck throughout of life, but my skewed and screwed arithmetic always says that till now, I have frequently brushed the ugly side of luck. When I look at the obviously incorrect (or maybe correct) numbers(nothing to do with the tv series), I just hope and get a positive vibe for the one thing( or person) I so dearly like.