Gurpreet Dhindsa was doing the Pin Parbati trek in 1995 when it struck him. These mountains – far above the urban chaos and superficiality – were home. This is where he belonged. He had to leave the city. He was 29.
He had planned the tough Pin Parbati trek with a group, but one by one the fellow trekkers dropped out. Characteristic of Gurpreet, he continued and finished the trek solo, without a guide or porter. Pin Parbati is a brutal 11 day trek across some of the toughest terrain in the Himalayas, but Gurpreet completed it by compass, map and sheer grit.
After the epiphany, he went about shutting down his Chandigarh-based FRP fabrication business. The next few years were odd-jobs and piecemeal assignments as a resort manager, trekking guide, motorcycle tour organizer etc. All fun, none paying much, but all keeping him in the Himalayas.
Gurpreet’s other big passion was flying. He had tried learning flying formally – gliders at Pinjore flying club. But his free spirit was stifled by the rules and regulations of the civil aviation authorities. Anything to do with an airport or airstrip meant external control by often archaic rules. Then he discovered Paragliding – a free and simple form of flying mostly controlled by the wind and weather. He started learning.
Six years of hobby flying later he hurt his shoulder at a takeoff in Nepal, and decided that he should get formal training and certification. By now Gurpreet was a part of the close-knit global paragliding community. He headed to the UK, where he earned his instructors license in a record 5 months.
Once certified, he set up PG-Gurukul (http://www.paragliding.guru/ ), easily amongst the best paragliding outfits in the country (I can vouch – I’ve been his student). He is based in Bir village – one of the global hubs for paragliding. The initial few years as an instructor were a struggle for Gurpreet, but once the defence forces recognized his abilities and started learning from him, everything changed. That was when he also started the more technical SIV (Simulation d’Incident en Vol :French. Translated : Simulated Incidence in Flight) courses.
But while the flying school was about earning (no self-respecting pilot wants to live by
Tandem joyrides) he was always looking to push the boundaries. That led him to competition flying. Over the past few years Gurpreet has had six podium finishes in international events and some near misses.
Sadly, the bureaucracy has arrived in this sport as well now. Did you know that they banned paragliding in Bir – over 500 km from Delhi – during the commonwealth games? The authorities might as well wear T-shirts emblazoned “ignorant non-pilot”. Gurpreet’s amazing achievements have earned him the world’s respect, but none from the authorities that regulate paragliding in India. That is because he freely speaks his mind from a place of science and true interest in the sport. And he is terrible at small talk and kissing up to people. He still has the occasional run-in with the control freak political administration. He still rails against how the administration selectively hands out flying “licenses” – through babu’s who have never actually flown.
But then he goes up to the launch site at Billing. As he takes off and some strings and a piece of fabric lift him off the ground, he leaves it all behind and heads home into the open blue.
People on the ground look up and say “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, its Gurpreet!”
To see a Video of Gurpreet in the flesh click on the link below https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAEwDNjhrrk .
Yup, the hunk. That’s him.
Disclaimer : Gurpreet Dhindsa is a close friend. Authors views maybe biased. But so is everything else in the world so it really doesn’t matter. And now I can claim the disc. Ha!