“Remember keep your legs straight, run fast and when you reach the edge — look straight and jump,” was Sultan Bhai’s terse command for me. I would have readily followed his instruction, but for one simple thing, he was asking me to jump of a cliff in Panchgani overlooking a valley, a straight drop of a few thousand metres, enough to make Protinex out of your bones. But, then, I had willingly chosen to undertake the mission and could only nod meekly in agreement, leaving everything to his good sense.
Paragliding is not for the faint-hearted. The human body, for all its evolutionary beauty, is still fairly brittle and can barely take a big knock. So, surviving a fall from a few hundred feet is dicey, forget about a few thousands. Not to mention, there are scores of videos that are available on Youtube, that capture how things can go horrifically wrong in a matter of seconds. Unlike other sports, the risks are fairly high and you cannot bet on the outcome.
Yet, standing there on the cliff, I must have seen some 9-10 nervous people jumping of the cliff, soaring in the air and returning quite safely to reassure my worried heart. Also the fact that I would not be alone on the trip, there would an experienced hand with me on the sojourn to take care of all the technicalities and also to ensure that after some minutes on the sky, I land safely back on terra firma. Considering my over-healthy frame, my para-guide Babu, waited for the wind currents to increase a bit. His main worry was that once we jump, it should not be that my weight pulls us both down towards certain doom. Hence, I had to wait till early-evening before taking the plunge.
The price for a few minutes in the sky was not cheap. For low-flying 15 minutes, it was 1500 bucks and for high-flying 30 minutes it was 3000. I opted for the latter as I didn’t know when next I will be air-borne, so might as well as make the best of it right now. Before the flight, the guys make you sign a declaration bond, stating that in case of an accident there is none else to blame, etc. Believe me, at that moment the declaration form seemed ominous. Continue reading