Another hundred meters more and I will be at the top of the chimney. The communist era metal stairs were rusting here and there, but it held our weight as I scrambled up it, Andrei right behind me with his new Nokia C2 safely strapped to his chest. I held on to the rails and turned around as much as I could capturing the panoramic view on my GoPro.#climbing #chimneyclimbing #instafilm #chimney

As I looked up the grey brick wall of the disused factory chimney that loomed over me, I laughed out loud. Looking back down at Andrei I gave a thumbs up signal to the live audience watching us on our live Insta feed, and then turned back to the chimney.#climber #urbanclimbing #urbanphotography #yolo

Picture by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash

The 180 meters high Paroseni chimney curved over us blocking the bright evening sun. The plan was to reach the top, record, and air the stunt against the setting sun, and then enjoy the Zaganu that was cooling in an ice pack in Andrei’s backpack. It was only right to pay homage to the bearded eagle that stared at one from the beer bottle label after conquering one of the highest structures in Romania. Andrei and I then planned to drop the Zaganu bottles into the chimney’s mouth and see if we could hear the glass break.#adrenalineaddicts #paroseni #sick #zaganu #beerstagram #abandoned

The wind whipped my face as I surfaced over the rim of the chimney. About five feet wide, it had a metal rail across the centre. My goal was to complete my gymnastic floor exercise routine that I had adapted to the chimney’s rim-track dimensions. After all this was the land that gave the world Comaneci’s perfect 10. #extremehobby #heights #fearless #gymnasticslife #adventures #gymnast

I removed my jacket and sweatpants and stuffed it back into my backpack along with my climbing shoes and handed it to Andrei. I then slipped on my beam shoes and adjusted my GoPro. Andrei sat with his legs dangling over the chimney walls, checking the live feed, and adding a few comments and hashtags. We had more than 40,000 people following the feed already. This one was going to go viral. I just knew it. #worldrecord #trending

Once we got back on the ground, Andrei was going to combine his Nokia recording with my GoPro bits and load it on our YouTube channel. I had just one goal in life – have more followers than Casey Neistat and Flaviu Cernescu and be the greatest adventurer on Romanian soil. This video was going to do it for me.#adrenalinelover #rebels #urbexer

I stretched to relax my muscles, closed my eyes, and breathed deeply, slipping into my competition mode. I felt ready. The sun was also in position. I turned and nodded to Andrei, who immediately climbed a few steps down the chimney’s face and anchored himself so that I had an unimpeded pathway to do my routine. The mobile camera was now strapped to his palm, and he was going to record me. “Screw Coach Adrian. Screw the gymnastics team. Screw the authorities,” I thought as I turned fully towards Andrei to strike my starting pose, “I am going to show everyone that I am not done.” #rebel #alwaysastar

One more deep breath, as I slipped fully into the zone and the whipping of the wind stopped. So much like the hush that settles on a stadium as the audience noise falls away when the gymnast gets ready to let loose. I heard my routine music in my head and swivelled on a one-foot turn. This was followed by a series of split leaps, back handsprings, and cartwheels. When I was across from Andrei on the other side of the rim, I stopped at a handstand at the very edge of the chimney mouth.#nowornever #heartinmouth #risk #crazy #height

Twisting to a standing position, I continued with my routine all the way back to Andrei and ended with a gazelle like split leap and finishing pose. It had taken me barely a minute, but my heart was racing like I had run a marathon. Anger and a desire to prove myself had combined to fill me with a confidence that I had never felt before… not even on the mat. Now that I had done it, I could not stop shaking with relief and disbelief. #extreme #adventure #gymnastontheledge #ontheedge #gymnasticqueen

As the adrenaline seeped out of me, I began to feel the wind again and could hear Andrei screaming with delight as he clambered up the rim. The live feed was breaking all our previous records and the viewership was already in to six digits. We high-fived and hugged each other and jumped up and down for a bit. Feeling like the kings of the world, we sat down with our legs dangling down the inside of the chimney mouth and took our bottles of Zaganu out. Andrei used his keychain to lift the caps off and we took our first sip of the cold beer as the sun set. He picked up the phone to share a photo of my face silhouetted against the setting sun with the hashtags – #goodlife #followyourdreams #bravelife. He fixed the mobile back into the chest strap and leaned back on his elbows to look up at the sky.#heaven

In a few minutes, the bottles were empty. We counted to three and leaned forward slightly to let the bottles drop. And that is when it happened, and it was over before it had begun. As the keychain slipped out of his hand, he instinctively leaned forward to grab it. I turned and grabbed but all I got was a clutch at empty air as his scream ricocheted and echoed all the way down. I did not hear the Zaganu bottle breaking. I could not even hear Andrei hitting the ground.

The next few hours and days were a blur of police enquiry, interviews, and the funeral itself. When I finally logged into my social media accounts, Andrei and I were trending. Our live feed had been the most watched in the history of social media. Once I am done with writing all this down, I am going to complete combining the recording of the live feed with my GoPro recording and load it on YouTube. In Andrei’s memory of course.#RIP #goodlife #keychainssuck #famouslastwords

When hashtags became a thing, I was still playing catch up with social media. It took me a while to understand how it works, longer to use it myself and even longer to not hate them.
I still get all stick-in-the-mud about them at times. This was a story written to explore the brave(?) new world that has a shorthand for every emotion and thought out there, where being viral is more alluring than being alive. It is also an experiment in that I have tried to use hashtags to give an insight into a character’s mind. Do let me know if it is working.
Side Note – I am on TWOT’s book number 3. And I am rather pissed that I am not Aes Sedai.

Mindfulness, and a Slice of Heaven

As a child I could sleep standing. Any time of the day.

It was a quality that drove my parents insane. It was a quality that I was secretly proud of. Having a child put paid to that. However, as she grew older and more independent, things began to return to normal. I could sleep through the night without a hitch. And then something happened. I couldn’t sleep through the night. Occasionally it was because my kid had a nightmare or was unwell. But increasingly it was because of… nothing. I was awake.

Desperately trying to fall asleep. Refusing to get up and accept defeat in the face of a friend who had always stood by me but who had now just… pffffftt… disappeared!

The results were obvious – fatigue, irritability and lack of productivity.

The causes were not so obvious – deficiency of vitamin D and mindfulness, and an excess of social media. Addressing the vitamin D deficiency was the easy part.

Maybe it is a sign of the times we live in. The constant sense of being rushed. The balancing of multiple roles and responsibilities. The juggling act that we fail at on a daily basis.

For the last few months, I had been getting increasingly overwhelmed by it all. This amorphous ‘it’ was also eating into my focus… taking me away from my writing. And while I had decided on not making any new year resolutions, an idea I was toying with since January this year was to quit all Whatsapp groups. I am in one too many. Unfortunately, for me, I am not good at ignoring messages. But I could not just quit. What would others think? Will they be offended? How will I know what is happening?

Then I came across a friend who had quit social media and was happier for it. And I came across a post by a Facebook friend who had quit Whatsapp groups and seemed alright. It was like the universe was sending me messages. So a week or so ago, I quit the groups. I also reduced my time on Facebook.

The first two days I was like a junkie desperately sneaking a peak at my mobile. One or two friends had messaged me directly. Mom and dad had messaged me supporting my decision. Another friend had gone into a panic thinking she had offended me resulting in my decision. Otherwise, silence.

The initial sense of being adrift was however soon replaced by something deeper. The sense of being overwhelmed… of being available 24/7 had receded. I am beginning to enjoy the quiet time. There is a strong sense of reclaiming myself, my space and in many ways, my soul.

Of course, I don’t know what is happening in everyone’s lives anymore. But surprisingly that has not caused me any harm.

I also finally gave in and downloaded an app that guides one through basic meditation. Yesterday, I did some meditation with my 10-year-old before bedtime. The results were almost magical. Yesterday night, she had a good night’s sleep after a long time. No nightmares, no coughs, no midnight bathroom breaks. And, after a very, very long time, I slept well too. Out cold by 10.30pm and my eyes flew open at 5.30am! The rest of the time I was asleep!

The joy. The humbling joy of a good night’s sleep.

This morning I packed the husband and the kid off to work and school respectively. After lazing around I walked into the kitchen to make my morning cup of tea. I did not feel like making a proper breakfast, so settled for a basic sandwich. But I was not in the mood for brown or whole-wheat bread. I wanted to celebrate the quiet in my head. I wanted processed carbs and something sweet.

And then it happened. I had laid the two slices of white bread on the table. The Gods conspired in my favour and the butter was just right and I spread it evenly on the two slices. Spread some mint chutney and sandwiched a lettuce leaf in between. Toasted the sandwich lightly. Strained my tea and cut myself a slice of chocolate cake that I had baked for my daughter the previous day.

I placed the cake, sandwich and tea on a tray and took it into the living room. The sun was streaming in through the French window that opened to the balcony. I set the tray down on the floor and sat there on a slightly chilly wintry morning in my patch of sunlight. Deep breath. The sun’s ray’s warms my skin. I bite into the sandwich and experience true happiness. Heaven. My piece of heaven. There is something to be said about mindful living after all.table-1031148_1920