Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Anarchism is an ethic"

An interview with Henri Cartier-Bresson (by Charlie Rose, July 6, 2000). The interviewer is obnoxious (and reinforces all American stereotypes -- I particularly love the "-Money? -No, film." exchange). However, this is still a remarkable piece of footage. An hour long, it gives fascinating glimpses into the life, mind and times of one of the icons of twentieth century art -- even if he would never admit it.

(Incidentally, a big thumbs up to this lovely little Firefox plugin that lets you record streaming video from Google Videos, YouTube etc -- I just downloaded the full 171 MB of the HCB interview in extremely high quality.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Besur, Betal, Back!

I personally wasn't sure if it would ever happen, but Besur Betal Betar is actually back up, loud as life and twice as natural. A little prodding from DD was all it took.

My apologies to all those whom I promised, months ago, that it would be up "within a week". Please be merciful and spare my worthless life.

Ali Akbar Khan (lots of EP records and 78's among other things) and a couple of fantastic Malhars from Ajoy Singha Roy on the air today. Click here to listen, and enjoy :).

(BBB, for the uninitiated, is a streaming radio station for Hindustani Classical music.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas, folks, and a Happy New Year too.

(And in the true holiday spirit, ahem, this. Humans will be, ah, humans.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kalindikhal - Part 9

24th July (Kalindi Base - Kalindi Pass - Rajparav) : Woke up at around 2:30 am. It was dark and bitterly cold, but the thrill of getting to the pass helped us get up and dress and pack quickly. God knows what the staff were doing all night -- we hope they slept -- but they managed to conjure up food and warm drinks all around. We started off around 4 or 4:30. Everything was bathed in an eerie blue pre-dawn glow (it was quite a bit darker than the pics suggest).

First light soon hit the surrounding peaks, turning them golden-pink.

We moved up an icy, crevassed slope between a dark, rocky outcrop and a huge white bulge.

Fresh snow made it difficult to make out the crevasses. After a bit we roped up, Vishnu leading, and moved on very cautiously. It was tough going, since we were wearing plastic mountaineering boots (and gaiters) for the first time and they're very awkward if you're not used to them (and to the weird, splayed gait needed to ensure purchase on the snow).

There's some ice-axe-anchored crevasse-testing going on in the rightmost pic.

The roping-up proved to be prudent. After some time, we found ourselves on the lip of a crevasse about a couple of feet wide. First Vishnu jumped across, then Vishnoi. Then, to complete the trio of V's, it was Vladlen's turn. As he hesitated on the edge, Happy turned to me and said "Yaar, teri guide ki bahut phat-ti hai!" ("Your guide gets really nerved out"). I was about to make a suitable retort when we looked around and found the guy had disappeared, rucksack and all, and faint shouts of "Help! Help!" were coming from the icy depths :P. Thankfully he'd jammed somewhere inside and not gone all the way in. The folks in front dug their iceaxes into the slope to hold him in place on the rope, and after fifteen minutes of mighty pushing and pulling he emerged, unhurt and surprisingly cheerful. To our eternal regret, we were so caught up in the moment that nobody took a photo.

The rest of the climb was a bit of a struggle (and my lack of conditioning showed), but we eventually made the couple of hundred metres to the pass itself, at 5947m. It was gorgeous -- there's no other word for it. Bright sunlight, blinding snow and an incredible view.

(Click on the picture, enlarge it if necessary, and scroll left to right to see it properly. It covers about 180 degrees. If I can get a 10-foot long print of this from the original file it should be a knockout.)

And here are the lot of us on top. Mukut, Abigamin and Kamet (7242, 7355 and 7756m, L to R) float over the clouds just above my head (I'm the leftmost guy).

After a few minutes on top, we decided to head down the other side to Rajparav. This involved clambering down a steep, snowy slope to a huge icefield that seemed to stretch on and on and on and finally roll over into infinity.

That's our advance party of porters in the right two pics, and the thin lines cutting across the icefield (enlarge the middle picture) are crevasses. We plodded on and on across this white desert, sinking in ankle to waist-deep with every step. It was also pretty hot, and we ran out of water, and had to refill our bottles from a shallow puddle of meltwater a couple of inches deep. The road to Rajparav lay along the right side of the icefield, but as the sun rose higher and higher the surface became more and more soft and treacherous. So we decided to pitch camp a little earlier than planned, just below the lip of the icefield straight ahead. There was no way to walk down, so we had to rappel down the ice. This was great fun -- we rammed a couple of iceaxes into the ground and anchored two ropes to them (the main rappel line, and a safety rope). There was a small snag -- the safety rope was too short, so Mahavir and Gagan Singh stood on a little ledge where the safety rope ended and unhooked the rapeller from it when he got there, so that he could climb down the last few metres on the main line alone. Vishnoi and I had rappelled before (down a three-storey wall of our hostel in IITK :)), so we went last, along with Vishnu, eschewing the whole safety rope business and trusting the main line alone.

Here's the rappelling scene -- the middle third of the picture is ice. Vishnu, the last man down, tied his rope to an ice screw which he had to do some fancy ice-climbing to recover later.

Little meltwaterfalls trickled down the rocks below the lip of the icefield, and we clambered past these channels to get to camp...

... where much fooling around was done.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Justice. Wheeeeee!

From Rediff:
The Delhi High Court has convicted Manu Sharma under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code for the murder of model Jessica Lal.

Justices R S Sodhi and P K Bhasin also found Vikas Yadav and Amarjeet Singh Gill alias Tony guilty of conspiracy and destruction of evidence. They have been convicted under Section 201 of IPC.

The court declared that Manu Sharma, son of a senior Haryana Congress leader, had actually fired the shot that killed Jessica.
And this rather poignant excerpt from an interview with Jessica's late father:
Is it true that Manu Sharma's parents visited your home and apologised to you?

Yes, this is true. On December 25, 1999 we heard a knock at 11 in the morning. I opened the door and saw a couple. The man said: 'You don't know me but could we come in?' I asked them to come in. Then he asked me if my wife could join us. I called my wife.

He then introduced himself as the father of the accused and said he and his wife wanted to call on us, but did not have the courage to do so. For 15 minutes there was no conversation. Then they got up to go. My wife noticed they had left behind some flowers. So she asked Mrs Sharma about them. Mrs Sharma said these flowers were meant for Jessica. We accepted the flowers and placed them on her grave the next day.

PS: Back. Will post.