RASHMI OBEROI | 3 JUNE, 2019
When You Glide In The Sky
Parasailing, paragliding and paramotor gliding in India
This is not imaginary… It is as real as it gets. Welcome to my ginormous bucket list, which was started in my head where I do keep a tally and check off anything that is over and done. It is a never-ending work in progress, continuously being altered, updated, contemplated and rejuvenated - much like myself.
In my mind, anything is possible and therefore I think that I can complete everything on it. It is my hope that these bucket list ideas act as an inspiration to keep me young and charged. Having done deep-sea scuba diving in the Andamans, I looked to the skies next.
Man’s quest for conquering the skies has led him to invent airplanes, gliders and other aircraft that would let him soar into the skies and gambol among the clouds like a free bird.
Of all the air-sports in practice today, parasailing, paragliding and paramotor gliding in India has won much popularity. Unlike other light aviation sports, these allow the flier to be one with his surroundings and integrate himself with his carrier and soar into the sky.
Therefore, an opportunity offered to me by a dear friend for a paramotor tandem gliding, just couldn’t be refused. There came the invite out of the blue and I jumped right in. Years back when a missed or rather ‘not allowed opportunity’ to skydive went by thanks to my healing bones and unwavering doctor who ignored my pleas, this new chance couldn’t have been better timed.
Once the decision was taken, I did get up at night wondering if my kids would react with shock even though they are used to my crazy, on the spot choices. But what if something happened to me? Who would look after them…my hubby…my dog…my parents? Obviously I think of myself as irreplaceable! Would I go up…and then continue further up on a never-coming back kind of journey? Bizarre thoughts ran through my head all night - at times the heart racing, other times a sense of calm for the decision taken.
Up at the crack of dawn, I was excited… No regrets, just looking forward to the moment ahead. On reaching the destination…the open field beckoned me. I walked towards the contraption studying it from every angle and wondering how that tiny thing would take my weight all the way up. I had visions of landing with a Plop! I was given a low down on the mechanism…instructions…a crisp briefing and soon an indemnity bond was stuck under my nose. Whoa…the heart started to pound furiously once again.
With no time to lose, as the sun was already rising and the wind speed picking up, there was no time for second thoughts and I was buckled in along with the headgear and a walkie-talkie. The pilot continued with his briefing though I must confess at that point my mind was racing a mile a minute!
I looked towards my better half who gave me the widest grin and a thumbs up sign and soon got busy clicking my photographs… Then there was a lot of activity - noise, instructions, double-check on the wind speed and direction, the whirring of the motor and in the wink of an eye we were off. Soon the feet left the ground and we rose higher and higher by the seconds. Sweaty palms, a beating heart and then bliss.
As the wind hit my face and I looked around, nothing could be more beautiful. Suddenly, everything seemed so miniscule and fragile. I felt like a tiny, insignificant, privileged dot in an amazing landscape and huge sky reminding me what life is all about. I caught the sun's rays highlight the yellow fields, the trees casting long shadows against the glowing green grass, birds darting around me, kites lazily circling in the sky, and one of the most beautiful wonders of the world sparkling in the haze of the early morning with the twinkling river distracting me now and then.
The shimmering gold was unreal with the low sun, implausibly gorgeous views, birds my only company in the morning sunshine, every climb another bonus adventure and this is when I felt really free and privileged to be up there.
Similar to base jumping and parachuting, our initial flight causes a range of hormones to flood our bodies: getting ready and preparing for flight, our brain initiates the flight or fight response and starts producing epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine and cortisol, which all raise the heart rate and blood pressure. On take-off, a big boost of adrenaline shoots through our bodies and once settled in the air, this stress and fear that the adrenaline boost has provided will be replaced by feelings of euphoria – which are caused by the introduction of dopamine and endorphins into your system.
And after you land well… feelings of joy and contentment which can last for days. I have been told that the euphoria never disappears - regardless of how many times you go up.
In paramotoring, you rise high in the air with a help of a glider. It is a simple act unlike other flying adventure activities and involves a powered paraglider, which is formed by an engine, a propeller within a cage and an integrated seat harness. All these are mounted on a trike with wheels. There are two attachment points in it that allows a fabric paragliding wing to be attached. The most exclusively used para-motors feature two-stroke types small engines, which run on oil and mixed gasoline. The thrust that is generated by the engine is controlled by the pilot with a hand-held throttle while the paraglider is manoeuvred for turns with inputs on lines called brake-lines attached to the trailing edge of the paraglider wing. The secret is to keep calm and glide.
Flying a paramotor aircraft, or commonly known as a powered paraglider, is easy to learn and simple to fly. The engine gives autonomy and freedom when flying and the paraglider wings give stability and safety, and an overall control over the aircraft.
The impressions during my flight were just overwhelming for me. Much looks different from the air than you know it from the ground. Flying gave me that sense of freedom. There are no borders or fences in the air. The aerial view leaves you breathless. Whether your goals in life are to travel, learn a new skill, or do something totally daring and out of the ordinary, the right time is NOW! Just Do It!!
And so it was natural when I turned to my family and mentioned: “I am ready to sky-dive”… Just Saying!