Sunday, April 12, 2009

Back to the mountains

The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) is one of four government mountaineering institutes in India.  It is heavily subsidized, and teaches everyone from lowlanders who have never seen the mountains to those who grew up in the Himalayan foothills the skills of mountaineering.  Three- and four-week basic, advanced, and search-and-rescue courses begin with walking uphill and end with technical climbing and rescue techniques.

I had originally planned to hike up to meet two of the courses - a basic course and a search-and-rescue course that a friend was on - but my delay by injury meant the courses were on their way back.  But despite my imposed physical limitations, I was well 
received and made a great connection with the Vice Principal, one Major Thapa, who I look forward to working with in the future.  We had time to discuss many aspects of the climbing establishment in India and, more importantly in the short term, arrangements for me to return in the fall to work with one of the courses as a guest instructor.

Friend Sujay's search-and-rescue graduation formalities included the display of ceremonial NIM sweaters, a rite of passage he had experienced twice before on the basic and advanced courses.  Nice!

With some of my readily available time to myself, I walked down to the market in town.  Four women who had been walking around NIM earlier met up with me and invited me to their house the next day after a friendly, if quiet-ish walk downhill.  Why not?  

Her house turned out to be one of those two room affairs tucked next to the market road, one room for everyone to sleep and the other to cook.  Her family was either gone or kicked out, and the afternoon was spent looking at pictures of their family and friends and utilizing their limited-but-much-better-than-my-Hindi English to exchange basic life stats.  They are all about 24 and unmarried, and traditionally generous to their visiting guest.  The ceiling turned out to be a little low for me (probably wasn't planned with 6-foot foreigners in mind!), but the company was fun, and I look forward to seeing them on future trips to NIM and the town of Uttarkashi.

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