“We all have wings, all we need to do, is learn to fly”
This was written on the white board, when 20 of us sat in a small room in Kamshet, Lonavala- not knowing what to expect. We were all there for the P-1 Paragliding Course -a 3 day basic introductory course.
I went for this long weekend “break” with no expectations. What was probably worse-was that I had no information. I had, literally and figuratively, jumped into it. I had no idea what it was going to take out of me…a few friends had planned it and I went along- me, my daughter and our small backpack.
The morning theory sessions took me back a few decades to my school days, although compared to my teachers, the instructors smiled more, were wittier, and encouraged questions as well as mistakes. “Make more mistakes, new ones, all the time- else how will you learn?” This is Experiential Learning. Also, the Physics about aerofoil- upthrust-motion- which I never thought I would ever use- came back to me in a flash. The kids where thrilled with the Geography involved!
As Avi Malik (our chief flying instructor) said- you can learn all the theory you want, but what you DO, is actually what matters. This is true as a life skill, for work and for running- you can train all you want, prepare all you want- what matters is RaceDay or the big meeting or the Flight! The single biggest difference between flying and running is you need make the glider a part of you, an extension- “feel the Glider”. Learn to trust something else- like a Cyclist.
After learning the Alpine launch on Day 1, we practiced landing on Day 2. Towards the end of day, when Avi sir told me, “Pack up quickly and go to the top of the mountain (hmmm- maybe not a mountain- a small hill!) – You’re going to fly!” My instant response was one of disbelief, “TODAY??”
Just before sunset on Day 2 itself, our group prepared for the launch. There was a sudden flurry of movement- and nervous chatter all around. Solo? After 12 hours of training? On Day 2? Which then transformed into excitement- YAY! I can’t wait- but then again…when we had to actually take off- stress-Will I be able to do it?
While the rest of us grappled with these mixed emotions- we saw a beautiful launch- 14 year old Ishita- calm and collected- flew-she ran 3 steps and was in the sky. There was a spontaneous applause for her- our Lead Pilot! If she could- we could. And then the rest of us- in frantic motion…
Spread the glider- check
Clear the risers- check
Attach the glider to the harness correctly- check
Pre flight check- check
Radio on- check
One by one- all of us- were lifted off (there is no jumping here- thank god!)
The thing that we ALL did, was shriek- as soon as we took off. We flying, like birds in the sky. What a glorious feeling!
For me, that moment, when my feet lifted off the ground and I was airborne, was one of panic- Oh my God! Then I heard the instruction on the radio,” Flying position”, so I got some confidence that I wasn’t alone. As I settled in I looked up and saw the horizon. It was just me, the lake, and the mountains beautifully silhouetted against the golden sky. Time froze. The crackle of the radio- and I was back to reality. It was Sachin sir, (the Senior flying instructor) telling me that I had done well, and that now I should prepare for landing. I followed instructions and did what I had to do (I thought!) by landing on my feet beautifully, but I forgot to do everything after. No,I didn’t turn around, didn’t pull brakes,nothing! I just stood there stunned, trying to comprehend what had just happened. I could not. I could only marvel that the wonder of the last one minute of my life. I broke into a ridiculous victory jig and just stood there- what do I do now?
It was me and my glider!
Much to Anita’s amusement (Avi Sir’s wife- also a paraglider)- she told me, “Mushroom your glider”, Aaahhh, ofcourse! I had practiced it 5 times over the last 12 hours! But when the time came, my brains had died. Actually no, I had just experienced the most incredible feeling in the world. So I guess I could be excused! Hugs all around as it was a magical day for all of us. 4th April was imprinted in our memory forever! With this shared experience, our group of strangers was transformed into friends and this bond will remain forever, as we will always remain a part of each others stories and memories.
During the de-brief the next day, we got an insight into our personalities.
Paraglider : I was afraid.
Avi: Fear is good. There are 2 kinds of fears: the good one which keeps you alert. The bad one which paralyses you. So fight that fear, just be Yourself. The only difference between fear and excitement is your attitude about it.
Paraglider: I take too long to learn.
Avi: Slow learners learn the best! Take your time. It will come.
Paraglider: My landing was bad, I landed on my knees.
Avi: Yes, it is difficult in the beginning as you are just getting out of your comfort zone. The more you practice the easier it will become.
Paraglider: I was constantly pulling the brakes.
Avi: You need to relax and have confidence in yourself and in your glider. Take deep breaths and have faith. Loosen up!
Paraglider: I had an out of body experience as I flew.
Avi: Did you correct your form? 🙂
Paraglider: I cannot describe my feeling. I cannot remember it!
Avi: When you are in the moment in the purest manner, the moment becomes yours. It consumes all of you and you are one: mind-body-nature.
Paraglider: I thought I was going to die
Avi: Eventually, everybody is going to die. What matters is, how you live.
Paraglider: Being in the sky is meditative.
Avi: Yes it is, when you are up there, it is just and yourself. Everything that is material you leave behind.
These are lessons for life. Amazing, how they turned a negative feeling into a positive one! A great team, Temple Pilots, each and everyone, well trained to encourage. They were keen observers, gently correcting our mistakes in form, technique and position. The people we met, our P-1 group, all multifaceted, having varied interests like trekking, scuba diving, running, other sports.
Thank you team Temple Pilots. All of you.
Thank you for being patient, and instilling faith in me.
This has been one of the hardest posts I have ever written- I started it 3 times- as I was clueless about how I should write it- a bit like my flying.
We are the sum total of our experiences.
This was on a poster in our classroom…
“The value of an experience is measured by it’s power to transform Life”.
The story of my flight:
THE GLIDER COMES UP