Last Sunday, we celebrated Ayudha Pooja at our Kalari class. It is during this day that we revere the tools/weapons we use & also pray that they may be used carefully in all scenarios. Shortly after the pooja was over, each of us had to do a sampler performance using the tools that we had kept in pooja. The sampler turned out to be an extempore one. So, we aren’t in the usual practice dress.

Pooja setting with our weapons

Pooja setting with our weapons

Present below are two videos of my master:

  1. Using the Silambam
  2. Vett Aruval fight with a senior student


Silambam is an integral part of Kalari. Using just a stick and rapid movements, a defender would be able to ward himself off various attack vectors and give them back a taste of their own medicine. My master performs a basic lesson that is taught to beginners in Silambam.

The first 14 seconds of the video showcases the “Guru Vanakkam” or paying respects to the teacher before starting off. Watch closely. You will be able to hear the Whoooosh sound of the wind. That’s also the speed with which the Silambam is being rotated.

Aruval Fight

Aruval is a sharp instrument that’s used to cut tree branches, tender coconuts and in some cases, heads of humans 😉 . In this video, my master is fighting with a senior student using a sharp aruval. Usually the edges are devoid of their sharpness during practice sessions. But this one was sharp & one has to be very careful when using these weapons. The video below is a 30 second teaser. Fighting with aruvals is taught after about a year and a half of continuous practice.

Hope you enjoyed these videos :) Let me know how you feel in the comments!

Before you understand what this post is about, you have to first read about the Venkateswara Dead or Alive trekking experience. Go ahead. I will wait.

Twiddling thumbs & waiting …


Back? Good 😀

Way back in Cave Pool 1, I was holding the sleeping mat and was trying to swim in shallow waters. As I was doing that, Vinod Sir swam to me and asked, “Hey did you go to cave pool 2 and see that gorgeous waterfall?”, to which I replied, “No .. I haven’t gone there yet.” He was visibly shocked; “What?? You haven’t gone there yet? Having come this far, you don’t want to miss it.” I had my defense ready, “But I can’t swim in deep water.” to which he said, “Hey, that’s not a problem. There are so many *real* swimmers here and you can’t drown. Grab a mat, go to that perpendicular ledge, climb it up and jump in. If you don’t go there, you are missing the essense of the trek!”

That did it. I was very curious at what the waterfall would look like and at the same time, I was afraid to go to the other side because of my scanty swimming skills. Before coming to this pool, I was telling Gowri Shankar that today would be the day that I would lose fear of swimming in deep water and learn diving. Gowri was enthusiastic about it and said that he would surely help me shake off those stupid imaginary fears. I made up my mind that I would dive in to the deep water from the ledge of cave pool 1. Then some swimmer would help me with a sleeping mat. With the mat, I would swim to the ledge, climb on to it and visit the cave pool 2 & see if I could have a dip there.

By that time Vinod Sir came back to the shore. I told him and Anagha that I would be diving and they be ready to save me … in case I drown. The water was very deep and the height from which I would jump would be around 20 feet. They were in position. They were positioned at about 3 feet away from the ledge. Each of them were holding a mat and told me to jump. I climbed to the ledge and went to its edge. Then the fear started off. I just couldn’t get myself to jump.

Another tree design that looks like a man!

I felt my legs trembling and I was profusely sweating. I have never seen a trembling leg before. So I looked downwards to see if my legs were really trembling. But heck no! They weren’t trembling at all. Sweating? I couldn’t digest that also. I felt as if I were sweating but I wasn’t sweating also. Only my hair was wet. My heart was pounding. My intestine was in my mouth. Vinod Sir was shouting from the bottom, “Dude, jump in. We are there.” & Anagha was shouting from the other side, “Jump in Aswin. Nothing will happen. Once you go in, you will come up again & we shall give you the mat then.” As this fear episode was happening, Vinod Sir lost all hope on me and climbed on to the ledge. He came next to me & jumped in to the water as if it was so normal.

Then Vishal came in and jumped. Then Indira and then a few more. One by one, people just walked and jumped. My mind was goddamn racing. “Is it really so simple? Or am I complicating it so much? What the heck is it?” My mind was having conflicting thoughts. “What if you drown?” and then it would answer, “No no… they would save you. No one wants a trek to be spoiled by non-swimming idiot.” and again, “What if you hit the rocks when jumping?” to which, “Ha!! There’s only water below and all the rocks are behind. There’s no way you would hit the rocks.” My legs were trembling even more. Every time I looked down at the water, my mind would give some sort of conflicting lecture or other. At this time, there were 6 or so swimmers down there who were all literally yelling at me to jump. But I couldn’t.

Slowly one by one went away. Anagha was the only one who was waiting & damn patient with me. I was standing there and wondering what to do. Should I climb down the way I came up and miss the waterfall & go back a loser? Or should I get over my fear, jump in and go to the waterfall? Instantly I knew the answer. The trembling came back again. It was a lot stronger this time. From the opposite ledge, Gowri Shankar took a perfect dive. Mind you, he didn’t jump. He dived. He saw me and said, “Aswin!! You haven’t jumped yet? Come on, come on, we are there to save you.” Anagha was shouting the same thing at me she said earlier.

Suddenly, that wave engulfed me. The wave of courage. Mind became clear. I was standing on the edge. Trembling legs stopped. The only thought was, “When you land on water, close your mouth and shut your nose.” Done. I screamed, “Gowri, I’m coming …” and JUMPED!!! I could see myself going down at drop dead speed. I don’t even know whether I screamed. Suddenly, the speed decreased to a crawl and I was in water! What the Hell!! I’m in water. Whoa!! I started paddling my legs under water and was moving upwards. My eyes were open this time. I could see Gowri Shankar’s legs paddling and his hands were on the lookout for mine. I could see that from below. I shouted, “Gowriiii” but he couldn’t hear and I shouted once more. Immediately I realized that I didn’t open my mouth at all while shouting. Mind was playing double games again. I knew better this time. I closed my mouth and shut my nose. I was slowly going upwards.

Tree on the way

A few seconds later, I felt a hand tugging at me. Yay! I hit home. In a shot, Gowri pulled me up. With an amazing speed, head came up first… HUFF .. PUFF… SPLIRTT … HAH .. SPIT .. WHOA .. SPLIRTT .. PHEW … BRRR … Yayy!! Gowri handed me the mat to which I held on to & soon everyone was clapping. Or at least I heard so. Mind playing double games again? Don’t know. But who cares. I asked Gowri whether I can do it once more. This time it was easy. Get up on the ledge. Jump. When in water, close your mouth and shut your nose. Done. It was over in a second. Then myself, Gowri and Anagha swam to the perpendicular ledge, then on to cave pool 2.

Anagha dived here immediately. I dived after her & Gowri helped me with a sleeping mat. Here, he taught me the underwater cycling trick. I was cycling and slowly went under the waterfall. It was pushing me. Then for a second time, we went around it. The water was warm and we moved in once more. Gowri told me to look above & I had a look at the most gorgeous place ever. The two hills created a ceiling with a huge kind of hole in the middle. Through one part of the hole, the waterfall was gushing with a ferocious pace. Through the other part, the hill’s peak was visible brightly illuminated by Sun.

From cave pool 2, we slid down to cave pool 1. I held on to the sleeping mat while sliding down the water slope. At this point, Ravindran helped me and both of us swam to the cave pool 1’s shore.

Phew! What an experience that was. I lost the fear of deep water and height. I will definitely put this to test next time I visit Nagala or Venkateswara. I need to thank an innumerable number for giving me this experience. Gowri Shankar, Vinod Sir, Anagha, Ravindran, Ravi Ghosh, Indira, Chitra, Mohan S, Max and a few more who made it all the better.

Thanks guys! I owe you one! I came back a winner.

Update: My cave pool drama has been written. Do check it out.

Trekking is exhilarating. Trekking is addictive. Trekking is challenging. Every time a trek is announced, I see my spirits being increased to the levels that it had never gone before. Despite any silly setbacks that may occur, you can see me in the finest of moods on the week before the trek & on the trek… Especially since this was one kind of a trek that I had never attempted in my life before.

Welcome to DOA a.k.a “Dead or Alive” trek. These treks have trails the pass through some of the most amazing rock formations, crystal clear deep pools with tasty water, not to mention gorgeous waterfalls and amazing hill-top views that put regular tourist spots to shame. These treks also contain risky up-hills which have to be scaled & long streams; the only way to cross them is by swimming to the other side. Its also on these treks that humans exhibit their best’est’ qualities and is a team building exercise in itself. Where else can you learn how to cooperate and have fun with people whom you have never met before?

Venkateswara Hills

Venkateswara Hills

Chennai warriors travelled to Renigunta by train, where we were joined the Bangalore team. Train journey was awesome. We had formed a gang and teased Mohan S & Karthikeyan about the fact that they wanted to camp together on day 1 on the same sleeping mat on top of each other 😀 . They were teased to death until the station came, where we had to disembark. An hour or so later, the Bangalore team joined in. It was a quick time for introductions. From the earlier Nagala Trek, I met Ajay and Aditya & Mohan S and Ananth joined us from the previous Tada Fort Conquer Exploration. With so much known faces and exciting new ones, time literally flew by.

Read the rest of this entry »