The Group Head – IT of Alchemy Capital Management tells Shweta Gandhi why paragliding is the best thing that happened to him.
Looking up at the sky, quite of a few people dream of flying. Umesh Mittal did too, and for the longest time he wanted to fly airplanes. However, logistics and paucity of time prevented him from learning. But in December of 2013, Umesh discovered something that came pretty close—paragliding. When he attended his first paragliding class, he knew he’d found what he’d been looking for.
A special type of freedom
“This is the best experience one could have in life!” he says in all earnestness. “Preparing yourself to jump off a cliff for the first time teaches you many things about life. Not only are you excited, anxious and fearful but also calculative, calm and trusting—a single mistake can end up hurting you or disabling you for life. The moment you are in the air and you realise you’re flying, all the emotions switch to excitement—you feel like you’re cut-off from the world; it’s not unlike meditation.”
“There’s the whole world below you, on one side a mountain range and on the other, a vast open field and some water bodies. You’re flying in the open air, sometimes with birds for company. There are no worldly trappings up here, you’re on your own and you feel a special freedom. The feeling is indescribable.”
Learning the ropes
“The first time you land, you feel as if somebody suddenly pushed you off a building and you’re going to crash. But you have to maintain your cool and remember to act as per the instructions at the right time and position—if you are too early, you will fall off mid-air, and if you’re too late, you will be dragged into the ground with the glider!”
Umesh learnt the hard way, when during his first landing he applied the brakes mid-air and fell off suddenly, bumping into the cold, hard ground. “It felt like the end, but you have to gather courage, believe in your instructors and observe how others are doing it and go up in the air again.”
Now, nothing can stop him—he paraglides every month. “I remain in the air for about 15-20 minutes in one sitting and try to do at least a minimum of 20 jumps in two days.”
Working for what you want
Umesh learnt paragliding from Templepilots.com in Talegaon near Pune in Maharashtra. As part of the basic course you learn over two to three days, and then they let you fly solo in light, stable wind condition. But before you jump off into the unknown, you have to first climb up the cliff! “They say if you want something, you need to earn it. Clearly, it is true in this case. We have to walk up the cliff fast, because we need to catch the wind conditions while they’re still favourable.”
So how does one ensure safety in such a risky activity? “The team of instructors at Templepilot is pretty experienced in gauging the right wind conditions and weather forecasts. They provide proper harnessing techniques, helmets and test the paraglider’s equipment before every jump,” Umesh says.
Don’t let fear rule you
For those who are scared to try this, Umesh has some advice. “Undoubtedly, this is dangerous, but we tend to build up the fear in our minds. It is normal to be scared at first. You have to push yourself when in that situation and after some time everything else will fall into place. Just give it a try; it’s worth it. Once you feel the adrenalin pumping in your blood as you admire the view from hundreds of meters above the earth, the only thing you will be thinking about is how soon you will be able to go up there again!” After all, as Umesh puts it, “It is not the mind, but the heart that has wings.”