It’s a dark and rainy day in Blacksburg, with thunder booming above us and sheets of rain falling on the town. (Tomorrow’s forecast however is calm and sunny, go figure). But for today, it’s a dark, stormy day. I’d like to imagine that the weather remembers the madness and cruelty of a day 4 years ago. I didn’t know anyone who died that day, I wasn’t here, I wasn’t a hokie then. My professor lost a student, my labmate lost a colleague, my student lost her boyfriend, my friend lost her friend. This campus is still grieving for its loss. I’m touched by the magnamity of a campus that refuses to forget, or let the day be any other normal day. 9000 people were ready to run 3.2 miles in remembrance of the lives lost. Those 9000 will turn up for the candle light vigil regardless of the rain and wind. I don’t know why we do it. I don’t know what fuels the stubborness to remember. But we will all still write down and remember this date. I guess, it’s a Hokie thing.
Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category
Cowtown Skydive, Texas, February 12th 2011.
We all have some crazy things on our list-of-100-things. Mine has more than a fair share of insanity.. but none as famous as wanting to skydive. And along with a bunch of genuinely cool people, that’s exactly what I did last Saturday.
In an old hanger overlooking a triangular runway is Cowtown Skydive, a place that only country roads can access. In fact, we had a slight detour over the runway when the access-road was ‘too muddy’ for delicate tires. Urged by my brother-in-law who had previously done a jump before, I found myself between some very happy people on this bright Saturday morning. Radio blared songs in the background, a picnic table with an assortment of snacks was placed before a hanger filled with brilliant canopies and parachutes. On the runway lay a couple of small microlight planes.. and for some reason the name ‘born to fly’ fit them perfectly.
Was I nervous? No, not in the beginning at least. The people there were so relaxed and nice. Reminded me of unknown bikers you meet on the mountain path who beam at you just because you are there, like them. The comaradarie among the staff there was endearing.. I’d like to be like them. Come away to a peaceful hanger on my free Saturdays and watch flights soar and humans fly. You gotta admit, that’s a cool job profile ;).
A brief lecture on what to do (and what not to) while on board the tiny planes was all that was needed for us to be set on our tandem jumps. It amused me that I got a hot-pink jumpsuit, but hey.. it fit snug so no complaints. At that point I had no idea what was lying ahead of me so I wasn’t nervous at all. Just chatty and happy. We walk over the runway to the tine airplane, and I wave to my brother-in-law.. and for some reason I’m reminded of the scene in Armageddon where the heroes take off for outer space. 10500 ft doesn’t count as outer-space but it was an adventure nevertheless.
As the plane takes off the runway and begins to gain altitude, I can see the ground below take shapes of lil squares and rectangles. The view was amazing! To be in a small plane like that makes you feel the view much more closely than in a passenger plane. I make small talk as the 15 minutes pass by, and we finally reach the 10500 ft mark. And then it starts.
Was I nervous? Yes, beyond nervous.. I think my heart stopped beating. When they open that door and ask you to step out on the side, with nothing but air and the ground far away.. I felt my heart rise into my mouth. It was cold, I had forgotten my helmet and my gloves but that’s not what I felt. I felt like I was standing at the edge of a very tall building, dizzied by the depth and about to jump off. Which is exactly what we did. A few tumbles, a sharp gust of wind that knocked my breath away and I felt intensely the fact that I was ‘falling’. In 10 seconds or so we balance ourselves, and I venture to lift my head, look at the horizon and see the videographer smiling at me.. and then there was no looking back. Flying, falling, tumbling, feeling that ground zoom up to you like that. It’s all that you think it will be :).
Before you know it (actually, free fall last about 50 secs) the parachute has been deployed and suddenly you’re only floating, not falling towards that round earth. From then on it’s smooth sailing, manouevering to the left and right, admiring the scenery, admiring the brilliant-colored canopy stretched above me and agreeing with David that he does have the most awesome profession. I had the rare luck to see a flight take off from above it, and the humour in that didn’t miss me. The second part was more relaxed, having parasailed before I knew how the feeling of having your feet high up in the air felt. Unreal. Like it’s all a trick with mirrors. More instructions on how to land preceeded a very smooth landing and I was suddenly back on terra firm, my legs still shaking from the ordeal. But I smiled in my pictures, so I guess I had a good time after all :).
My previous post prompted these thoughts in my head: What is it about Blacksburg that’s so endearing? We don’t even have a regular sized movie theatre, the town’s population of 50,000 becomes less than half during the breaks, winters are cold and last till April.. and yet, I defend Blacksburg. Why?
I meet new students who have been here a few months and most of them say the same thing: What do you do in Blacksburg? Study, for one. Your courses, projects and lab shouldn’t tempt asking such questions, unless you’re an MBA student :D. But really, would you guys rather study in a huge city where the rent would be twice as high, getting to college would take you at least 30 mins and where you would be lost within the multitude of humanity on the streets? Here BTransit gets you to campus in 10 mins. Here, you can see a montain on the horizon in every direction. Each season is vivid and distinct, and the months pass by in a wink. For a college town, Blacksburg’s pretty decent you know. Ah, I do wish we had a bigger metropolis nearby though.. the fact that the closest city (D.C or Richmond) is 4 hrs away doesn’t help.
More than a decade ago I had written an essay about Bangalore that went along the same lines. We moved to that city when it was still called ‘Retiree’s Paradise’, but I found nothing to like compared to others I had lived in. My essay was a long tirade complaining about it’s various aspects. A cousin of mine who grew up had defended Bangalore then. And right now the tables have turned, I myself could write a long essay exalting my dear singara Bangalore. Places grow on you I guess. Places you live long enough, where you associate some part of your identity to, or call home. A place small enough for you to not get lost in the crowd, unlike a larger city that may overwhelm you. I don’t say stay here forever, but wherever you go from here, Blacksburg will be a place you belonged.
So that’s why we like this town. It’s a first home to so many of us students who have left the cities where we grew up and wound up here. I like this place, ’cause our only theatre Lyric isn’t even regular sized, the town’s population is only 50,000 which becomes less than half during the breaks, every season is distinct, vivid and winter only lasts till April.. :).
I’m writing this mail from a bench at a pond quite like Walden. Took a short detour while walking home and decided to sit awhile and watch the ducks. It’s so pleasant! The season here is just perfect. There are ducks splashing in the water nearby, the sound of kids playing in the lawn behind me, a distant church chimes in the background somewhere and the sun is setting slowly. The evening couldn’t get any more perfect.
Darling, every day we learn, don’t we? At least in all the years that I have lived, I’ve learnt that I know more than the day before. I’ve reached points where I’ve thought there is no more to learn, only to be dunked under a wider pool of knowledge that I had never known before. Not without reason do they say that knowledge is knowing how much you don’t know. When I started off as a serious 20 year old, wishing to uproot the settled dust in my life.. thinking that I was unique in my feelings of restlessness and need for change, I’d thought I had it all figured out. I read Thoreau without even needing to read it because I knew what he talked about when he described his urge to live at Walden. I wanted to find my own Walden. I thought I knew. Now, a few years later I realize I knew nothing. I didn’t know homesickness then. I didn’t know what it takes to be alone. I thought the few hours I used to spend by myself at home was solitude. I didn’t know what it truly meant to be solitary in your lifestyle. I probably still don’t know. I’ve come to realize that any experience that we feel is unique only to us is never really so. Six billion and more of us around, there’s no way I am in any way exclusive. Rather than being insulted, I take comfort in that fact. Sounds like I’m on some track, if not the right one.
Sweetheart, the heart’s wishlist constantly changes, now doesn’t it. Your deepest, darkest desire is rarely the same over a period of time. I thought I wanted the rawest and most naked feelings for my mind. Wanted to feel every decision to the marrow of my bones. When I got that, I wanted the numb pleasantness of the ordinary, the trivialities that come with living in a family. When I got that, I thought I wanted a singular love, companionship. And when I got that too I felt as though I wanted freedom. Can the heart never want what it has? I guess the feeling of wanting goes redundant then. What do we really want? Family, love, happiness. I want ignorance. I don’t want to know what I have. I want to wake up and do my daily day just because I have to and not think about what my heart wants. It can kill you, you know. This wanting in your heart. This yearning to have a hand to hold during sunsets and the yearning to not be held onto when you do. I don’t want pauses in my daily life. I especially don’t want to stop and smell the roses, if I can help it.
I’m sorry to say I cannot follow your path. I cannot live in that cabin of yours called Solitude. It takes too much of me, and leaves a heavy ache somewhere between my throat and my heart. Solitude is for a greater man, not for my soul. I don’t want great things. I live for simple things. I like to go to work, do my experiments, come back home and have chai with friends and cook dinner and watch tv, read a book and sleep. Maybe play a lil guitar, or play frisbee outside. I like nature and I like taking walks to see the sunset, to see the spring flowers and summer grass. But I cannot do it alone. I’m going home now, and I’m going to find my little bubble to live in Mr. Thoreau. I had a wonderful time at Walden, and I take a lot from that experience into my future.
But for now, I’m off to embrace that which defines me. The scared and insignificantly small bubble within which I shall find contentment.
Life goes on, doesnt it? Big surprise there. Children grow up, experiences build up, knowledge.. well knowledge increases too. People keep entering and leaving our lives, places change, situations change, some chosen few don’t, memories don’t. Every one of us in our waking lives has a huge amount of past, present and perhaps a lil future tagging along. What does it all add up to? What drives this constant motion forward? Who can explain. Who needs to anyway. It should suffice that the wheels are always turning. Now here, this way, and now far away. Now so low, now too high. Feeling diverse emotions, with every passing day. What difference does it make? I’d like to think that it does. That being on top of the world thrills you, being back home comforts you and watching sunrises inspires you. That life wont pass you by without leaving its mark. So much for practicality. Forever this debate between blunt reality and not wanting to believe in it. Do we strive to make a difference? To make an impression? Do we shut up and stop being melodramatic in our blogs? Do we go sleep ( I personally am inclined to this one), or do we just live. You cant stop living.. I’m pretty sure of that. So I guess we just go on.
Thanks for reading so far. I honestly had no point to make.