You can’t eat the view

You can’t eat the view

I just filed my taxes. My income has fallen. In corporate jargon, we have sustainability issues. I live in a Himalayan village. Everything around is incredibly beautiful. Most people who come through envy our life. But I cannot eat the view. I also cannot use it to pay for my kids’ education.

That’s okay because I am the eternal optimist who believes that things will get better. But the tax return did make me think about the trade-off between money and happiness. As I pondered, I came across a diagram for work, money and happiness. It hit home. I have created this version of it.

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Most of it is pretty clear. The “Dreaming” box means you may have a passion for something, and money can be made from it, but you’re no good at it. My ability with music is a great example. I’ve joined guitar classes six times and still can’t play. I’ll never make it to the rock-n-roll hall of fame.

But the boxes here are not an end state. The box you’re in now is a starting point. You could be very happy in your box. If not, move. It’s the difference between “As is” and “To be”. (Apologies for the corporate jargon. To my credit, I did replace “monetize” with “make it pay” in the picture below). The goal is to alter the box we are in. The quest is for the “JOY” box – that ideal combination of Passion, Excellence & Money.  We wont discuss how much money. Let’s just say its personal and move on.

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Let me take a few examples from my own life. I was in the “rich but stressed” box. I could sound passionate about a revenue target, but I was faking it. You cannot fake your way into a passion. I was lying to my boss, my team, and myself. So I walked away.

I found myself in the ”Happy but poor” box.  I now pursue various passions / projects to seek out joy.

  1. Writing. It doesn’t pay. My first book did well but earned peanuts. This blog has earned nothing except the indiblogger award for humour. The award is also inedible. So I hope my next book sells more and I can make peanuts2 from it. The fact is, I write because it’s fun. Even if I earn nothing. Happy but poor.
  2. The Himalayan Writing Retreat (THWR). I am working hard to grow THWR. It is one way of trying to make writing pay. I love teaching, and I know the retreats are good because the participants love them (on facebook we’re rated 5/5). But the problem is marketing – I have to improve that. I’m working on it right now. I can’t eat the view but it does help me sell and monetize (uff). Once that happens, I will reach the joy box.
  3.  Professional Speaking. This is something I really enjoy. It can pay as well. My initial talks were terrible. I am working hard and getting better. This 4-minute talk is amongst my better ones. I hope to start earning from it now. I expect my next book to boost that. So Professional Speaking is the “dreaming” box where I am trying to excel.
  4. The Himalayan X retreat. We are creating a yet-to-be-named learning destination around our home in the Himalayas. This is a place where people will come to learn. And grow. A space with rooms and learning spaces which will be the future home of many different types of Himalayan Retreats. We hope to do many things like bird-watching, photography, astronomy, art and of course, writing. This is also a dreaming box right now. We have to build it and do a good job for it to give us joy.
  5. Cheesemaking is a big one. My partner Nitin Dayalu and I have recently started producing cheese  locally. Nitin also walked away from the “Rich & Stressed” box around the same time as me. His wisdom came earlier in life. The cheese we make is organic – from the awesome milk we get here. Nitin is deeply passionate about this, and it is his baby. He can – and has – run this business on his own. I am passionate about entrepreneurship, and this start-up really gets me going. I am a handy sounding board for him. For us the goal is to make the project pay enough that we can live by it. And we want to add to the local community in a meaningful way. Again, we are in “happy but poor”, looking for Joy.

Our branding, of course, has a cheekiness which some of you may expect by now.

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One person I definitely know who is in the “Joy” box is Sumit Bansal. He quit IBM to become a full-time blogger on MS Excel. He excels at blogging (hee hee). He is passionate about his work and makes good money from it.  We are jointly hosting the Himalayan Blogging Retreat on April 18-22 (details here).

In all the examples above, the goal is beyond mere wealth. Because we are passionate about what we do, we hope to find joy. We may not excel at every aspect of our work, but we’re getting better. As I strive for Joy, it is surprising how much fun the striving itself is. That effort to make something new and beautiful where nothing existed is enriching. And much more satisfying than my last “job”.

So what box are you in? And what will give you joy? Feel free to share your comments.

 

 

 

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Great hiking shoes under 2000 rupees.

Great hiking shoes under 2000 rupees.

I love trekking and have bought my share of 200 dollar hiking boots. But after living in a village, it seems too high a price to pay. Especially when an oldish guy with four teeth overtook me as he chased his goat past me on my last trek. He was wearing a worn out pair of bathroom slippers and I was wearing Asolos which cost a few Gazillion. And I was the one out of breath.
So I started my exploration for the Under-2000-rupee hiking boot. I have arrived at the ultimate solution, and it is surprisingly simple. Just follow the steps below.
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Step 1: Go to your local army market (in Delhi, you can go to Gopinath Bazaar or Sadar Bazaar). Ask for Hunter shoes (formerly known as jungle boots). These shoes are made of Fabric and so are light and breathable. The assumption is simple – if an army can march on these shoes they are tough and will last.
They will range from 500-1500 rupees or so. I bought the top end shoes which were 1500. They’re called “Warrior” made by Liberty. And they’re ISI marked. What more do you want?

Step 2: The shoes will take care of strength and durability, but they aren’t going to be great for comfort. While a shoe’s comfort is from every aspect of the fit, a large part of it

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The insoles from Decathlon

is about the sole. So I headed over to Decathlon and bought their Aptonia 300 insoles which were 399 rupees. They say these insoles are designed for sport. You can check them out at https://www.decathlon.in/p/8329319_shock-500-cushioning-insoles-yellow.html?search_query=insole&results=10#/5145-285-uk_4_5_eu_37_38  .

I couldn’t find the insole in my exact size so I bought a larger one and cut it to my size. When you live in a village and visit Decathlon once in 3 months, such compromises are okay.
So for Rs 1899 I had what I thought was a functional hiking shoe.
Step 3: Now if you want a premium hiking boot which is waterproof, you can spend some more on a waterproof spray and put that on your shoe. Unfortunately, these sprays seem to be rather pricey. You can check one out at https://www.amazon.in/Vetro-Power-Footwear-Protection-Spray/dp/B01GS0GE5U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513937606&sr=8-1&keywords=waterproof+spray
One spray can do multiple shoes, of course.
Step 4 (optional):  If you are into it, you can also paint your shoe (do it before the waterproof spray). Mercifully, I didn’t do it myself.  Someone truly talented was happy to oblige me. I supplied the text. As a writer, that’s all I was good for. Viola! My shoe was a converse. Heh. Heh.
I guess you can call it the Indian Jugaad, but I wanted to ensure it works on a real hike. So I decided to trek in these shoes upto Roopkund and back in October. They held up just fine. I did spray my shoe with a waterproof spray someone had gifted me, but the trek was pretty dry so I didn’t have a chance to test the waterproofing. I was comfortable, felt secure, and on the longest day we hiked some 17 km in a single day. No problem.
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Heading back from Roopkund, near Pather Nachani. Oooh, lovely shoes!
I had broken the shoe in beforehand, and didn’t have any corns or blisters. In my view these are great hiking shoes that beat most of the cheaper hiking shoes in the market in both quality and price. Even the cheapest trekking shoe from Decathlon is some 3000 rupees, and it doesn’t come close to these shoes in comfort, sole quality and sheer solidity. The soles in the cover photo look like that after over a year of heavy use.
So you see I have just saved you a lot of money. I am delighted to make you feel rich this Christmas. Ho! Ho! Ho!

The Difficulty with being Sexy

The Difficulty with being Sexy

Contributor : Gurcharan Das Chetan Mahajan

I always had this belief that I was really good-looking. Somehow, the world at large seemed to disagree.  Until now.

The call from the casting company changed everything. It started with a facebook post looking for a 45+ marathon runner for an ad film, went on to an online audition and finally culminated in me sitting in the airport lounge typing out this post, en route to Mumbai and the beautiful world beyond.

The moment the casting company confirmed the assignment, I felt an overwheming urge to end world hunger single-handedly based on my fabulous good looks. I now notice my ridiculously handsome reflection in every mirror and glass I walk past. And am seriously considering launching my own line of fragrances and deodorants. I can’t wait for my name to be in every underarm in the world.

The village is no place for a budding model – the supply of beauty and skin-care products is so limited. But I went to our local store and bought an exfoliating scrub, the age defying cream and some other random cosmetics – even though I couldn’t read much of what was written on the labels (reading glasses really don’t fit in this new world you see). The other stuff was okay but I really didn’t like the age defying cream. It tasted horrible, which was shocking given it was more expensive than a whole tandoori chicken. Of course the next stop was the salon to have my hair styled.

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Irfaan ki Dukaan. The best (and only) Salon in our Village.

Many other cosmetic concerns emerged. Will I have to start using skin lightening cream? But the mirror told me sex appeal oozed from my dusky hue, so I decided against it. The casting guy had loved me just the way I was. And will I have to shave off my chest hair and stop eating puris? I hate shaving even my face. Then I remember Sean Connery with relief – at least for the chest hair. I wonder what the Hollywood Scottish do for Puris, though.

I am really looking forward to being at the shoot, although I guess I won’t have much to do but hang around and look pretty.

Letting such raw sexuality loose in a rural setting, however, is not without risk.  The other day as I caught my own reflection in the window pane, I pouted. I noticed some movement outside the window and heard a crashing sound. I rushed outside to find a cow had fallen over outside the glass I was pouting at.  As I bent down to take a closer look at the cow, the bovine beauty made a sudden jerking movement. I swear she was trying to kiss me. I guess it was just my irresistible animal magnetism.

The cow will eventually get over it and return to normal quite quickly. But I wonder how long it will take me.

The guy who wrote this post, along with his more talented but less good-looking colleagues host the Himalayan Writing Retreats – a variety of events on writing, blogging and podcasting at gorgeous Himalayan locales. You can learn more at www.himalayanwritingretreat.com.

One Tribe

One Tribe

Contributor : Matthew Wheelock.

Shared values are surely one of the fastest and strongest makers of bonds between people. Identified and defined by what is not said. The disclosure of a different set of priorities that act like a secret handshake, after which a great deal is silently understood. You can be close to and know a person for your whole life, but still carry the slightest doubt about them. Or meet someone for the first time and know that they’ll never give you cause for distrust. It’s a strange thing, bigger than age or culture or faith or colour, it’s instinctive.

There is an eclectic range of people here in Sitla, city runaways, educated and adventurousonetribe 3.jpg that know what they want. Or who more specifically, know exactly what they don’t want and have given up more than most are willing to in realising it. The rewards of which are implicit, so understood that we seldom speak of them. Being here through choice, making it self-evident.

You see it in the villagers, sat silently in the ‘garami-garami’ warmth of the afternoon sun, their gaze lost to the distant peaks. I see it in Kishan, my local home help, as he takes selfies on a crystal clear morning, capturing the distant snows in stark relief behind him. And when I pass him my binoculars and watch him utterly absorbed in his first sight of the intricate details of our giant neighbours.

 

I was sitting at my favourite viewing spot on the road from Almora one afternoon when an Onetribe 1.jpgelderly villager stopped to talk to me. ‘Very beautiful’ I say in my terrible Hindi looking out to the faraway mountains and the valley disappearing below us. ‘If you want to see a really beautiful view of the mountains, you should climb that next peak’ he says pointing to the opposite mountain. ‘Amazing 180 degree view of the Himalayas from there, incredibly beautiful’ he tells me passionately.

 

The love and admiration for this mountainous beauty isn’t diminished by being born here, like the local villagers. It is a constant and lifelong source of delight, sustenance for the soul and that shared appreciation transcends all boundaries and limitations.

 

But to outsiders; the people of the plains, we must often explain it in detail. The forest, the clean air, touchable horizons, the pinks and oranges across the snows in the dying light. The pace of life and the grace of bells and children’s laughter.

 

I have lived here in the hills for nearly two years. In that time, I’ve learnt that the common ground the mountains provide, to us that live here, is as much cultural as physical. Drawn from such a range of origins and for such differing reasons, we all consider it a privilege to have arrived.

 

Our love of the hills, of nature and the peace and tranquility are not just passing interests, but fundamental parts of our being that reach to the core, as values that bind us.

We are many things here, but we are one Tribe.

 

About Matthew Wheelock :

Matthew left his job as a management consultant in the UK in March 2015 to move to the hills of Kumaon. He is currently writing a book about a recently completed 21,000km solo motorbike trip across Canada. He writes on a range of themes including, nature, travel, identity, belief and time.

More information can be found on his website  www.matthewwheelock.com

 

Home in the hills? No, in the sky !!

Home in the hills? No, in the sky !!

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 by10658802_10203039989817545_740428542270924435_o 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

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Gurpreet (left) at one of his many podium finishes

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!”FB_IMG_1436450857194

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!