Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Curse of the Blue Agave.

The ring of the phone wakes me up. I get up. The head feels like someone else's. Most probably of the Great Khali. I am wearing my Tshirt. The wrong way. I am wearing my pajamas. The wrong way. My super precious Seiko 21-jewels lay in pieces next to me. My right arm is bruised. My palm punctured by my broken watch. Was I in Mandak? Or Duisburg? Not Siliguri definitely. My thoughts swirled around trying to fix my geographical coordinates. My bunk bed did the trick. Ah, Parmelee. As dazed as a Columbian revolutionary who had his hostages whisked away from under their nose, I carefully climbed down. The phone ring hadn't stopped. Unable to frame coherent sentences, I pick up the phone. There was some good news and some bad news.

The good news was it wasn't mom.
The bad news was it wasn't mom.

Damn Mexicans and their only worthy contribution to the human race.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Three Men on a Boat....of Death.

I have nothing against near death experiences. I have them every four months. As long as they are not too near, I am cool. But I get a little pissed if I am informed in advance that extinction hovered in the vicinity without me being able to do anything about it. Hence the events of last Wednesday left me a little peeved.

Ever since my intern prof mysteriously disappeared and kept in touch through monosyllabic mails, life has been good. In our grief, my lab mate John and me though it would be a good idea if we went fishing Wednesday afternoon. Now when you are fishing in the middle of the week you know your intern has finally taken the right turn. So I readily agreed. So we went off to Douglas lake some miles north of Fort Collins. Offering a soothing view of the Rockies and surrounded by open fields, Douglas lake was the idyllic angler's paradise. When we reached there was just one boat on the lake with the fisherman seemingly asleep. We were to go out on a canoe belonging to John's friend Matt. So it was around 5 in the afternoon when we pushed the tiny canoe into the lake with all of us a little worried about the gathering wind and whether it was a little too strong.

Before things got tough

The next three hours were one of the laziest ever. We slowly rowed around the huge lake enjoying the slowly setting sun. We also happened to catch two huge rainbow trouts too. Now Matt who was pretty good at this told us that its when the sun actually starts setting that we get the best catch. Now during this whole time we had seen not one but two storms slowly approaching from the west and the east. As the whole area was completely open, we could see brilliant flashes of lightning regularly striking somewhere on the western and eastern horizons. By eight when the sun was finally setting both the storms had finally drifted our side. But we were oblivious to the whole thing, excited as we were by the impending deluge of aquatic creatures. As we were admiring a rainbow very close to the shore, a bolt of lightning struck pretty close to where we were. Never a big fan of things which doesn't give me at least a minute to prepare for it, I nonchalantly asked Matt what were the chances of us getting struck by a bolt or two. Both Matt and John laughed and said they have lived in Colorado long enough to know when to be wary of a thunderstorm. I went back to my fishing rod. It started drizzling. Just two minutes later Matt shouted, “get down! Go low!”. Now when one is in the middle of the lake, it is difficult to imagine what we should get low from. Flying fishes? Bullets from the near-by shooting range? I confess I was confused with Matt's exclamations. I looked back to see an equally confused John. We both looked towards Matt who was now lying down at the canoe floor. He whispered, “ I felt static. A lot of it. Didn't you guys hear it?” Simultaneously we noticed his hair were standing kind of erect. Now those of you with a scientific bent of mend will appreciate this. We know that we sometimes get signs where lightning is about to strike. Hair standing on our head, feeling a lot of static energy around you etc etc. Oh wait, thats a coincidence! It took me ten seconds to realize that Uncle Yamraj was near. Another ten seconds of reflection confirmed why. All three of us had these upmarket graphite reinforced fishing rods. Now as luck would have it, graphite conducts electricity pretty well. (Where is a diamond fishing rod when you need one!) So there we were, three idiots, in the middle of a huge lake, during a thunderstorm, pointing three perfect conductors towards the sky. What could possibly go wrong?

Now getting struck by lightning is fine. But being informed a few moments before that you are going to be struck by lightning, is a very different affair indeed. I am sure all of you know that feeling of imminent vaporization. I felt like that piece of sodium which the eight grade chemistry teacher shows around to the class before plunging it in water. The phrase 'sitting ducks' was never more clear to me. Though one part of felt maybe the strike would end up giving me supernatural powers and I could be the next character in Heroes. The worst part was no one knew I was fishing that afternoon. I would undergo a change of state and no one would ever know of it. And even if I survived I would still be in the middle of the damn lake.

That very moment, a bolt of lightning struck right near the shore. Simultaneously our boat swayed sharply to the left. Matt's fishing line was being pulled strongly and it was evident that in the middle of all this melee, we had just caught our biggest fish. Matt, now presented with this conundrum of rowing for his life or getting hold of his fishing line took a quick decision. He chose fish over life. He pulled with all his might and drew the fish close. But then tragedy struck again, the fish turned out to be a huge trout which unnerved Matt further and he let go of the line for a few seconds which was enough for the fish to make its escape. So now we didn't have the fish either and gazillions of electrons could hit us any moment. First thing we did was to stop pointing our fishing rods out and get our wooden oars out. Then the next ten minutes would have done any Onam boatman proud.

On the run

We made it to the shore without getting zapped and packed up the boat in record time and made our way out of there. And we lived to fish another day. Most probably this Wednesday again.

The days final tally

This post is dedicated to Roy Sullivan who survived after being struck by lightning seven times during his career as a park ranger. He finally died after he shot himself over a failed love affair. So the moral of the whole story is you have a better chance with 7 lightning strikes than a woman. May Roy rest in peace. There is another school of thought who believes that a man who could handle seven lightnings but not a woman deserved to die anyway. The reader is free to choose their side.