Monday, 2 April 2012

Nalin's Blog: Adventure – A Much Misunderstood Concept In India

 Nalin Khanduri, Founder GIO

I love the mountains and the outdoors. I’ve been going on wilderness trips for over 20 years now, and yet, I simply can’t get enough of it. This passion for adventure and the outdoors, the mountains and nature, propelled me to start Great Indian Outdoors (GIO), an adventure/outdoors company in 2000, which is now one of the leading ‘adventure tourism’ companies in India. My posts in this blog are mostly about how my life, my passion and my work are so closely connected.

A good example of how partial knowledge of something is more damaging than no knowledge is the much misunderstood concept of ‘Adventure’ in India. Basis few documentaries earlier on Doordarshan channel and more recently on Discovery and National Geographic channel and a few books extolling some great achievements of the human race, majority in India think of adventure as something which takes one to near death or confirmed death experiences. It is considered to be something meant for freaks and firangs. Lots also subscribe to the belief that one needs to be born as more than a man. Nothing can be farther from truth. Meet me once and you’ll know. Also contributing to this wrong notion is the very people who indulge in it, including me. I have found an uncanny habit in the Indian adventurers/travelers of big talk, exaggerating their experiences. Add to it good story telling skills of an average Indian, you have wrong information spreading like plague. In other parts of the globe you will find most people giving true and detailed account of their experiences, which is mostly documented and helps others, plan their own adventures

The statement, ‘I run an adventure company’ sounded really cool to me about 12 years ago when I started my company, but these days quite a few times I underplay my association with adventure. I say I run an Outdoor company or that I run a travel company because of the fear of being misunderstood and also for the fear of losing business. Many a school and parents get panic attacks the minute they hear of someone suggesting an ‘adventure program’ for their children; it’s a different matter you label the same program as ‘outdoor learning program’ they will lap it up. 

Due to insufficient information there is an enigma around adventure and people who indulge in it. I get tons of attention and interesting reactions when people get to know of my association with the ‘A’ thing. Some think I am a dare devil and some as being the ‘Different’ type. There are lots who thought of me as a nursery drop out and were quite amused to know am an engineer/MBA variety. Am sure quite a few also think of me as being frivolous and incapable of earning my livelihood without getting into something as drastic as adventure and also as someone whose been encouraged by his parents to intentionally to go near high mountains, deep gorges and fast rivers due to my inability to show excellence in any other regular field.

Like any other concept, adventure am sure has different meanings to different people. TO ME ADVENTURE IS ANYTHING OUT OF THE REGULAR. You don’t just jump off planes & bridges or check out shark teeth from close proximity or climb up to heights at which planes fly to taste adventure. As per my understanding, a trip to Bombay for a villager from the mountains is an adventure, for an American tourist roaming the lanes of ‘Purani Delhi’ is an adventure, for city bred children staying with villagers is an adventure. Nowhere is death hanging over one’s neck, maybe to an extent with the villager in Bombay!  As by me, a group of experienced mountaineers climbing a Himalayan peak and bunch of amateur city kids heading to the Sahyadris (beautiful mountain range in Maharashtra) represent the same spirit and zeal for adventure. I attribute this wrong notion about adventure to ACT vs SPIRIT and DOING vs FEELING phenomenon. Let me explain. I am fairly convinced that adventure for whatever reasons is wrongly perceived by majority in terms of doing an act; something very physical in nature and not as something you feel and enjoy. Adventure in reality does not necessarily need to be dangerous and difficult. It is about trying something new and enjoying the feeling and celebrating the spirit, which acts as the catalyst in making one try new things. Adventure connotes SPIRIT and not the act. One of the things in my list of ‘top 10 all time adventures’ has to be the salsa dance classes that I attended once. 
Adventure when it becomes a habit, is a beautiful way to Learn and Live. It creates excitement, which keeps your mind and body alive and young. One develops a great respect for discipline. It inculcates initiative and hones planning skills like nothing else. You learn to respect others, to be humble and to enjoy camaraderie. Most importantly it forces one to do a fair evaluation of one’s abilities at all times, which becomes a stepping stone for developing various skills. To put it briefly, it’s a beautiful way to ‘GROW’. In my case, I feel it has added a beautiful dimension to my personality. I have tried many new things, met lots of new people, learnt a lot from varied experiences, got to know myself better and most importantly had TONS OF FUN. Adventure according to me is a 3 lettered word, FUN. Just like any other fun thing you should know how and how much of it is good for you.