Things to carry for mountains

If you have trekked in mountains with rucksack on your back, you know the struggle of keeping the weight to minimum, yet having all the necessary stuff. Having done a 7 days trek in Kashmir and basic mountaineering course, here are few things that I learned to keep in mind while packing for mountains.

Bag cover A must to have if you are traveling in rainy season. It’s better to pack all your stuff in a big polythene sheet before putting it inside rucksack.

Poncho/umbrella Again can’t do without in rainy/snowy season. If you go for poncho, make sure it’s of good quality. Umbrella may appear uncomfortable  at first glance but it helps better than poncho if you can walk with it. Choose as per your convenience.

Water Bottle Keep a 650 ml or 1 l bottle as per your need. Alhough water is available in mountains from rivers and streams, it’s better to know your route beforehand and decide accordingly. Some people prefer water bag with sipping pipe since unlike water bottle you don’t need to take it out of rucksack for use.

Sunglasses If you’re going to glacier or high altitude ice areas, keep one or more sunglasses unless you want to suffer from snow blindness for few days.

Sunscreen/buff Personally I rely on buff far more than sunscreen to protect my face from sun. It also saves my face from cold. Some people find it difficult to breathe through buff. You can use masks with openings around nose. Use sunscreen on any exposed area.

Gloves A good pair of gloves to keep your hands warm. Make sure the size fits you well. It’s better to have water proof gloves if you’re expecting rain or ice.

Long socks Help protect against snow, leeches etc.

Foot powder Smelly and sweaty feet is a common condition when traveling long in mountains.

Blister tape No matter how good one’s shoes are, one should always be prepared for blisters.

Wet wipes To save your ass, literally. Keep enough.

Vaseline Good to use on any chaffed area or otherwise too.

Torch Electricity is a luxury in mountains. I prefer head torch since it keeps my hands free. Remember to keep extra batteries as per your need.

Polythene zippers Good to keep things like mobile, money and daily dose of dry fruits.

Toiletries in small sizes.

P.S. I’d keep adding more to the list.

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Hope

A soldier fighting on the border
With meager supplies and weight on his shoulders
But he keeps battling the enemies
It’s the hope to see his loved ones post the adversary

A mountaineer crawling on the edge of the cliff
Stuck in the unforeseen blizzard, her oxygen subtracting drip by drip
But she keeps pushing through the odds on her way
It’s the hope to stand at the top that makes her stay

A sportsman beating at his craft in the field
Gasping for breath with pain in his knees
But he keeps trying amidst the uproar from the critics
It’s the hope to bag a medal for his people by the blue Pacific

A parent trying to make the ends meet
Hiding his fears and ignoring his own dreams
But he keeps doing the small things day after day
It’s the hope to see smile on his children’s face

A shy girl standing in front of the mic
Filled with inhibitions and musings about what is right
But she keeps trying her best to perform
It’s the hope to touch few hearts that keeps her strong

Young India Fellowship selection experience

I applied for Young India Fellowship 2017-18 batch in the 1st round of admissions. First step was online application. It had questions regarding personal details, academics, work experience, extra curricular and family. It had three essays. Essays were about one thing that matters most to me, my biggest accomplishment so far and things that I want to accomplish from the fellowship. It asked for details of one referee who could either be my Professor or Manager with whom I worked earlier. I submitted my application on 19th Dec, the last date of submission for 1st round of admissions.
Six weeks later, I got an email informing my selection for the next stage which was telephonic interview. I received the call on the aforementioned date. The interviewer asked me questions related to the books I mentioned in my application. He gazed my knowledge about the fellowship program. It was followed by few general knowledge questions about my hometown. The call ended within 15 minutes. It felt more of a stress interview. I confirmed with my interviewer if my application was being considered in the 1st round of admissions or the 2nd round since I received the email from them past the deadline of 1st round. It turned out that this year they had received multitude of applications which caused the delay.
Three weeks from my telephonic interview, I received an email confirming my selection for the personal interview. I had my interview in Bangalore. I reached the venue, an Oyo flat, around 11 A.M. I was given a writing assignment. It had an argument on creativity. I had to analyze and write my opinion on the same in 30 minutes. Almost 1 hour post the writing task, I was called in for the interview. I had two interviewers. Professor Anunaya Chaubey who dons multiple hats – an artist, a teacher and Deputy Dean of Young India Fellowship. He was accompanied by a previous batch Young India Fellow. She was working as a curriculum designer for an organization. 🙂 My interview began with a long discussion over my writing assignment. It led to Professor Chaubey asking me to define creativity. Then we shifted to my work in Morgan Stanley. We also discussed topics around the books I had read. They wanted to know about things I was doing during my sabbatical from work. Few questions were asked related to the fellowship and my plans. My interview got over in less than 20 minutes. I felt comfortable about the interview except for its duration.
Anyway, 6 weeks from the interview, I received an email congratulating me for my selection for the 2017 batch of Young India Fellowship. Happiness 🙂

P.S.: I accepted the fellowship 🙂

Child Sexual Abuse – Myths vs Facts

Generally anything involving the word ‘sex’ is considered taboo in our society. So why this post on such a topic? Well, recently I interacted with someone who has done her Masters in Psychology during which she worked on studying child sexual abuse in India. She is not from India. This came as a boon since her observations were devoid of the prejudices and stereotypes of our society. The insights that I gained from her study challenged many of my perceptions I had on this subject. So here is a highlight of them.

Defining what constitutes child sexual abuse is not as easy as it may appear at first glance. But in the context of this post, it’s not crucial to define child sexual abuse formally. Still if you want to know, child sexual abuse as defined by 1999 W.H.O. (World Health Organizations) Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention states it as mentioned below.

Child sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person.

In our society, we face child sexual abuse in two forms. One is the case of child trafficking carried with the intent of sexual exploitation. In such a scenario, we can’t play a major role unless we choose to become a part of the system/organizations fighting this problem since it’s a highly organized activity involving many socioeconomically powerful people. The other scenario involves the sexual abuse that happens in places as common as households with the children we may know. This is where we (yes! you and I) can play a crucial role in being part of the solution.

Here are few things that I found out which busted some myths and highlighted some reasons.

In India, among sexually abused children, nearly half of them are boys. It’s not something that happens to girls only. So we need to watch out for our boys as well. Bottom line is any child can be a target.

In our culture, we have this unsaid rule that elders are always right. We emphasize this even more to the kids. This adds fuel to the problem of child sexual abuse. Even a young kid has an intuition of safe and unsafe touch. But when an elder, who is not a stranger, does something to children that they don’t understand but which doesn’t feel good, they are left puzzled with the experience. The emphasis that we give to people’s righteousness based on their age often becomes one of the reasons why children don’t talk about the abuse to anyone.

One of the myths is that pedophiles are always child sexual abusers. This may sound too advanced to talk about in our society but I’ll take a shot. Pedophilia is a psychological disorder where an adult feels attracted towards children sexually. But this doesn’t make them an abuser. In fact some of the people suffering from pedophilia know that it’s wrong and try not to feel that way. Though there is hardly any support available for such people. The literature shows that more than half of the child sexual abusers are not pedophiles and many of the pedophiles never molest any kid.

Lastly, we don’t need to make the child feel like a victim by giving all the pitiful attention. That’s unwanted and unnecessary. Just let them know that it wasn’t their fault and help them move on from it.

Also don’t overhype this. Just inform the kids basic things like they have a right to their body and they can say NO to elders if things don’t feel good. Keep a keen eye towards kids. Create an atmosphere where kids are able to talk about if anything bad happens to them.

A little awareness can save an individual from a lot of troubles in future.

Hope this helps 🙂

P.S.: If you have anything to share on this topic, then comment or reach out to me at himshi.bachchas@gmail.com.

Green Trails internship

Like most of us, I am not living a highly environment conscious life when it comes to my day-to-day activities. But the increasing heat in summers, experiencing water shortage when living in Jamnagar (Gujarat, India) for a year as a kid, the occasional readings and videos about the shrinking glaciers and the hazardous waste being dumped in India by the developed nations, has often brought my attention towards our environment (It also led me to find out about the Masters course in Wildlife and Conservation. Another interesting thing 🙂 ). So when one of my friend sent me a link to Green Trails internship, I explored the idea.

Green Trails internship is a one month internship program in the Himalayas by Indiahikes. Indiahikes is a trek documenting organization. They also organize treks. So what led Indiahikes to the Green Trails project?

Well, trekking in Indian Himalayas was a rare sight in the 1990s. But it has gained significant momentum in the last decade. Nowadays we can identify quite a number of people around us going for treks in the mountains. Why do we go on treks? For the love of nature, the beauty, the serenity that those few days offer us away from the hustle of our city lives. But while we engage ourselves in this fun activity, we often neglect one important aspect of it. The waste we generate on these treks can potentially ruin the beauty and the nature of these places in the mountains in the decades to come.

Folks at Indiahikes realized the gravity of this early on. It led them to start the Green Trails project to make trekking in Himalayas a sustainable pursuit. Read here to know more about the Green Trails project.

The process to become a Green Trails intern is quite simple. First, send an email as mentioned on the website. In response to the email, you receive a questionnaire. It includes questions regarding your basic details as well as your common understanding of the cause. Next step is a Skype interview which informs you more about nature of the work and the project. Once selected, you get to know the location of the internship. It’s usually a remote Himalayan village. Your accommodation and meals are taken care of. If you finish the one month successfully, you get Rs. 2500 per week as stipend. You may also get a chance to go on one of the beautiful Himalayan treks organized by Indiahikes during your stay.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t join the internship due to my recent LASIK eye surgery. But I think one can make anything out of this one month. It can serve as an opportunity to learn about the ground level issues, to contribute by driving a project all alone and to experience the mountains with free food and stay.

Recently I also came across someone who studied environmental studies and made changes in her lifestyle to reduce the wastes that she puts out. Watch it in this video.

It’s a relief to come across people who are still doing whatever small contribution they are able to make towards the greater good. (And then we have world leaders who think Global warming is a myth. Sigh!)

Anyways, still optimistic 🙂