In A World Without Climbing
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
by Tulsi D Sinam
For as long as I can remember, I grew up in a world full of sports. Starting right from my childhood days with a national level boxer in the family, who was also a jockey and cyclist, to being introduced to karate and athletics early in school, I fell in love with both forms and the movement they gave to my body. My tiny feet were still getting used to high jumps, when what would become the love of my life fell into my hands- a basketball. The moment I stepped into the court, I knew this was my game and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I say that I religiously went to court every evening of my school life thereafter. However, the lines of the court didn’t stop me from stepping out onto the next field. I was constantly looking out for new sports and I loved every bit of this little journey. Growing up, I heavily invested my time in training for badminton and volleyball besides basketball and athletics.
They say that what wakes you up in the morning is the thing you should make your life about. Those years, my days were all about giving it my best as I was surrounded by coaches, great players and seniors who played for the country, there was not much beyond sports in my routine besides the mandatory studies we all had to do. But my inquisitive nature yearned to learn more and see what else the world has to offer.
During my mid-school years, I signed up for a 12 days rock-climbing trip that was being organized for all Delhi school students. It was then in Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh when I touched a rock surface for my first climb, it suddenly dawned on me what had been missing from my life! Right then, I started thinking about the days when I would casually hike up the hills in Manipur and would think to myself what else could be explored here, but had little to no idea. In my world of sports, I was missing the one which made me feel closest to nature. Being born in the beautiful valley of Manipur, the mountain ranges that peeked through our windows teased me from afar and felt like it was calling me home, but wasn’t I home? Years later I would learn that being home is a feeling, and not always a literal place.
I drew my attention back to the rock in front of me and started climbing with guidance. Climbing came so naturally to me that I couldn't believe I am climbing for the first time, let alone the instructors. This was different from all the other fast-paced sports I played, it was slow and required me to make sound judgments before and after every move lest I fall even though I had a safety harness. I was afraid of heights!!! How ironic is it that where I felt I belonged the most, was also the gateway to my fears?
Soon I learned that I am not scared of heights, I love that feeling of fear and the adrenaline rush that gives me the push every time to attain new heights, literally and figuratively. Unfortunately, post-school, I spent a decade in limbo concerning adventure and sports in my life but somehow kept myself intertwined with various outdoor activities. Also, I ran and ran a lot and cycled through the city roads even more. As much as I love aerobic exercises and freedom screams from within when I cut through the air, it doesn’t ask much of our mental strength and especially when working out indoors. The physical exhilaration and benefits post any work out are not to be ignored here. Now that I look back upon the last many years, I wish I had kept an eagle eye on the rising climbing community here in India, I wouldn’t have lost days, months, and years doing other adventure sports just superficially.
It was in 2018 that my not so fierce eyesight landed on a striking structure building up in front of my apartment, which turned out to be none other than a climbing gym, BoulderBox. That was also the year I started questioning my life here in Delhi for it didn’t have many opportunities for people like me who wanted to pursue climbing. There couldn’t have been a better sign to continue staying in Delhi, a city I anyway advocate so much for and to get back to something I have been wanting to. I believe that it is never too late in life to do what one truly desires to, and I haven’t looked back since I started climbing at the gym and the road ahead just seems to widen up more as I look forward and climb ahead.
In the last year, I had to unlearn things I knew about body movement and learn new techniques that are taught for climbing. My temporal lobe could no longer recall anything that I learned about climbing a decade ago. There are specific techniques used for each sport and so my early experiences made me more than comfortable adapting to new methods and norms of climbing. I was even more stoked because this wasn’t limited to just the overwhelming heart thump we experience post an exercise like running or workout but required me to also use my brains continuously to carefully plan and strategize my moves on the wall up.
I quickly fell in love all over again with the stimulus of climbing and it changed me for the better in two ways. First, it triggered various muscles in my body which are being utilized for the function they are physiologically meant for. Nothing seems more lifelike to me than the feeling of knowing how all the muscles are moving in coordination and the emotional sensation it creates every second. The emotion of fear and excitement building up simultaneously with disappointment creeping in when not able to do a certain move ending with a sigh of contentment if I top out or a deeper sense of courage and motivation to try harder next time if I fall. However, there is never an emotion of doubt for me with climbing, and that makes all the difference. Secondly, the concentration level is so high at this sport that its effect stays with me way after I call it a day, increasing my focus level and alertness in everyday mundane activities. It largely helps me to be in an active meditative state.
It almost becomes second nature and helps tremendously in daily life as our brain continues to stay alert and have faster reflex or reaction than someone who doesn’t play at all. I often compare myself today with my then not-so-active self and I can see the difference. This is the main reason why I insist people on taking up a sport and be regular at it. It doesn’t have to necessarily become a profession but just for self-satisfaction and to enjoy the game and the life that it opens up for one.
I am just a person who yearns for both mental and physical challenges at the same time and climbing gives me just that. Having said that, I stand surprised that I was living in a world without climbing for so long….but not anymore!
All images are provided by Tulsi and selected images are from Praveen Jayakaran from CLAW 2019, Hampi.