As the youngest participant of the camping lot, I was exempt from the arduous river crossing session , that was meant to be a test of skill, resilience , courage and fitness. It was only the second year of my yearly adventure camping outings , in the Chhotanagpur plateau region , in the early years of the past decade . As one of the Instructor showed us how to cross a river , while hanging upside down from a rope, slung across a river running below, we stood , in awe ! Our instructors were masters at teaching us these skills, themselves being veterans of many expeditions that put one's life on balance . Even though the river below was not hundreds of feet beneath us, still, it was quite some distance below, and staring down at the rocky bed of the river with the water running at high speed did give us an eerie feeling . A few of my seniors looked wary of the situation , they exchanged nervous glances with each other . I was looking at each of them , trying to gauge , how they were feeling , as they were about to undertake one of the most challenging tasks of their camping curriculum .
There were twelve of us in the group , with three instructors , who were shouting out directions as to what we were supposed to do , and how we should cross our legs along the rope , while not jabbing at the rope with our hands. Six of the seniors had to undertake the the session as part of their protocol to graduate to the next level of campers , but after about an hour or so , only two of them had managed to cross over , with almighty shrieks, fearful swinging in the rope. It was evident that even after thorough preparations on mock drills, they had panicked after being slung across the rope , and had acted like amateurs . The instructors were cross, since they felt their tutelage had not been heeded . The third senior went ahead , and slung on the rope , and crossed the river without much fuss , even though his legs had dangled from the rope once. However , he was appreciated for his efforts . The three remaining candidates had fear written large across their faces . It didn't look as if they were willing to do the task at all, and the instructors were discussing calling off the rest of the drill, when I stepped ahead ,and shouted , " Sir, I am up next!"
Everyone around was shocked . Even though I had made a name for myself by my rock climbing skills in only my second year , this was entirely different. My Teammates looked anxious , the seniors had their jaws dropped . However, in my mind, I was throroughly replaying the mock drills at our campsite , where I had crossed the rope between two trees , with the instructors shouting out the steps . I felt a sudden surge of confidence , as I realised if I could remember my training , and not try to look down below over my shoulders , this would be similar to my training , only with a longer course .
As the instructors on the other side of the river gave the thumbs up, I was fitted onto my harness , the protective rope was fastened and the carabiner attached , by my instructor on this side . I pulled on my helmet , donned my gloves , and was ready for action . " Good luck boy , there's nothing to fear and we're all here .......GO!" He hauled me up onto the rope, fastened my carabiner onto it and let go . I held the rope tightly , swung my legs across and quickly moved ahead . The initial awkwardness amongst my peers after I volunteered for the task , now gave way to whoops and cheers from everyone around , and I felt the adrenaline pumping .
The first real jolt came as I crossed the level of land and felt the breeze along the river right across my face. It was cold , and I realised that I was now out on my own , with nobody nearby . My mind was trying to focus , onto what I should do , when I felt the rope swaying vigorously . This was not what my training had got me ......this was real vigorous swaying , which was accentuated with my swift crossing onto the first one-thirds of the cross. " Slow down", I told myself , in order to soothe the nerves , " slow down ", I again told myself . The fingers were beginning to ache , and my shoulder muscles felt the strain . In an effort to get my feet going once again, I lost my grip on the rope in one leg , and instantly felt I would fall. So I kicked my loose foot to catch the rope , and in my efforts , the rope missed my trouser , and went beneath it , to now hinge me on the skin below my socks . There was no apparent trouble then , but just as I crossed a few more feet across , I felt the pain that was evident on the friction of the rope on my shin . I clenched my teeth , and surged ahead . There was no scope of me to adjust my feet now , as I realised I was midway through my cross , and the rope had descended its farthest .
" There was no need for doing this .....you got yourself into this trouble by your cockiness ", a voice was cursing me within my head , as I hung still, to lessen the strain on my aching muscles a little and catch my breath . The voices of my two instructors on this side were faintly audible , " Come on Boy , come on .....bravo boy! " I was weary , but this got the energy flowing right across . I gritted my teeth , opened my eyes once again , and pulled ahead . The rope was rising once more , and I understood that I had nearly done it . The friction point on my leg was now burning , but I hadn't yet yelled out in fear , so I decided that I would give it my all , in this last leg of the haul , and not undo the good work .
I pulled ahead , with the instructors' voices now ringing closer than ever , and in the final few moments , shut my eyes , clenched my hands , and tried to work furiously on the rope , and before long, my shoulder had been touched comfortingly by one of the instructors . They hauled me off the rope , unfastened my carabiner , and put me on the ground . I was exhausted, my hands had gone numb .......and for the first few seconds , my brain failed to register the exultation of my peers from across the river . Then it dawned ........I had managed to conquer fears , and crossed an extremely difficult course , without giving myself away to panic!
It was a day of extreme satisfaction for me , and although the point where the rope grazed me on my leg had a bad bruise, the pain was considerably lessened by the appreciation and adulation I received !! The task was by far one of the most thrilling memories of my life , and held me in good stead whenever I dreaded something in future.
Written as part of the Rise Above Fear campaign by Mountain Dew India , in association with Indiblogger. Find out more about them on their Facebook page , and check out their new TVC here :