Friday, March 27, 2015

Together, with Matterhorn

It was a chilly day in Zermatt. I and Pritha were at the ticket window of the Gornergrat Bahn, waiting for the fellow at the window to hand us our ticket to the mountain railway. One minute to the departure time, we found ourselves rushing through the small platform towards the red train, the GGB.

The Gornergrat Bahn or GGB is the highest open air railway of Europe. From Zermatt GGB terminal, it climbs almost 10 kilometers ascending up to the Gornergrat railway station which is at a height of 3090 meters above sea level.

Inside the train it felt warm, a respite from the harsh cold outside. It was the last train of the day leaving from Zermatt to Gornergrat, with only the two of us and another Korean group onboard. As the train ascended steeply on its tracks, it traversed tunnels, forests and gorges, providing spectacular views of Zermatt and then of the majestic mountains around. Since the climb was steep, the transition in the scenery was fast - from green meadows to rocky ridges to snow all around. And then within a blink of the eye, we entered the clouds. It made us realize how high up we were.

Once we stirred clear of the clouds, we couldn’t help but shout out loud. On our right hand side, stood The Matterhorn – tall, proud and formidable. This Swiss icon is one of the most famous mountains on earth, a fascination of most climbers and mountaineers and one of the last alpine mountains to be conquered.

As we stepped onto the snow at Gornergrat, we walked close to the mountain’s edge. That was as close as we could get to Matterhorn. We were no climbers. We were just two simple girls from a faraway land who have always listened to their hearts. And the heart said, go explore the world. Awestruck, we admired its snowy peak as it slowly started to glow orange under the setting sun. It was a sight to behold, a sight that can never be forgotten.

Standing there together, we looked at each other and smiled. Four years back we had met in Chennai while pursuing MBA and became good friends. Four months back she had told me that she will be in Switzerland during this time, on an onsite assignment. And four days back I was on a plane from Mumbai to Zurich, thinking how time flies faster.   

As per a local saying, those who see the Matterhorn become successful and wealthy one day. We are definitely en route to our individual definition of success, but what mattered most that day was that we were witnessing this grand sight #together. It filled us up with optimism for the future, a strength to face every obstacle with courage and to look up and set goals as high as Matterhorn. It was the power of being together.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Start A New Life – Quit Smoking

He taught me how to smoke. And then he left. But smoking didn't. 

I had had my first cigarette in college with friends. It was once in a blue moon that we would head to a roof top restaurant close to our college and smoke Black. During those days, I never considered myself a smoker, as I probably had a single cigarette once in two months. 

Some years down the line, I resorted to smoking regularly after a heartbreak. I smoked when I was in pain. I smoked when I was angry. I smoked when I felt hopeless. So I went from having a puff for fun to smoking daily to relieve stress - a cruel illusion every smoker goes through owing to the mood altering drug called nicotine. 

But then I moved on. My heart healed, but I am not sure if I could say the same for my lungs, for I could not let go off smoking. By then smoking had become a habit. I needed to smoke when I blogged because I felt it helped me ‘think’. I needed to smoke when I traveled because I felt it increased the sense of ecstasy. And of course, I continued smoking every time I felt stress. 

I realized two things after two back-to-back incidents last July - firstly, that smoking definitely was not doing me any good, and secondly that my head was being controlled by nicotine. 

It was a sunny morning in Ladakh, when I attempted the walk up to Castle Tsemo. The lungs that had stayed faithful during half a dozen marathons and numerous treks, gave up. I was panting halfway through the climb. My other two companions were kind enough to wait for me every time I stopped to catch my breath. It was then that I finally realized what I had got myself into. 

Once I returned to Mumbai I decided to reduce smoking from 10 to 6 to 2 cigarettes per day. But the first night I abstained myself from smoking I was hit by the worst of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. First it was just a mere restlessness, which over the night developed into depression, a blood pressure drop and the worst of insomnia that I had ever experienced. I couldn't sleep that entire night and the first thing I did the next morning was take a puff. Months flew by. Every morning I decided to quit smoking and every night I found myself walking back to the cigarette shop. 

Year 2015 brought in some very positive changes and optimism in my life that helped me look up and believe that I can #StartANewLife or improve the one I am living. For either, there were some hindrance on the way and one of them was smoking. But with so much positive thoughts and determination (and not to mention my superb ego), I gained an upper hand over nicotine this time. How could I, who controls and takes charge of everything in her life, be controlled by a mere chemical? I am the master of my own mind. There was no way it could beat me. There was no way it could control me.

It’s been two weeks since I took the bold step of quitting smoking. I don’t feel the daily urge any more. I know this might sound strange considering the withdrawal symptoms I had faced the first time. But who cares? I brought about a good change in my life. I have moved forward to live a better healthy life. When is your turn?