A group of adventure sports lovers finds their bonds life-changing
Bangalore: For a college that lists fun under the curriculum in its “Unofficial Prospectus”, taking fun to another level must be a daunting task. But that is exactly what the Mountaineering Club of the BMS College of Engineering (BMSCEMC or just MC) has been doing for the past quarter century.
Started way back in 1983 by a red-blooded engineering student, Kamlesh Venugopal, the club and its activities are wildly popular both on campus as off it. Mr. Venugopal says the club was an instant success and the only starting trouble was when it came to inducting girls. “We decided to have a core committee of eight members — four girls and four boys — to be in charge, but it was next to impossible to rope in girls. Those days, it was not enough to convince them, you had to also convince their parents!” he says.
In the inaugural year, Mr. Venugopal led two expeditions of BMSCE students to a high-altitude mountain traverse in the Garhwal Himalayas, and another high-altitude trek to Lam Jung in the Annapoorna Range in Nepal.
In keeping with the policy “once a member, always a member,” the club does not keep track of the number of members. Rather the members keep track of its activities and every time a trek, a cycling trip or a climbing expedition is organised, members old and new, turn up to swell the numbers. “Every member on campus keeps in touch with a member who has passed out, making it easy to spread news of any upcoming activities,” explains fourth-year student Vikram Hebbar.
Third-year students Achyut Jamadagni and Chandan Kumar P.R. have just returned from an aquatic sports camp on the Vani Vilas Sagar in Chitradurga. Tanned by exposure to the winter sun, they rib each other even as they describe how they learnt to canoe, kayak, raft and balance on a surfboard among other things.
However, the unforgettable part was the activity dubbed Jannat, they say, recounting how their kayaks were flipped over so that they were made to go underwater. The challenge was to flip it the right way up while staying buckled to the craft. “We were asked to tap the kayak as a signal when we gave up. But then, instead of responding immediately, the instructors counted to 10 before flipping back. Those 10 seconds were the most agonising moments of our lives,” classmate Adithya Raghavan says breathlessly.
“The lesson was to trust our teammates and instructors and not panic,” chips in Chandan.
“What you learn being out in the wild changes your life, whether you like it or not,” says Mr. Venugopal, a committed adventure sports lover even 23 years after passing out of college. “When you are out there, you realise how insignificant you are, and that’s the learning we all take into the future.”
RJ Pradeepa of Radio City, also a part of the club, used his adventure sports background to run a feature called Know Your Bangalore on the channel. “During the programme, I suggested places for people to visit such as Kanakapura and Tumkur, within 60 to 70 km from Bangalore, and ways of travelling cheap. It was ingrained in me,” he says.
Eco and purse-friendly
In fact, the club has a running contest on who manages to have the cheapest trek. Members travel in Grameena Saarige buses, carry their own rations to make upma, and lug everything they need. “We have a strict policy of being eco-friendly,” says club president Arjun Kumar.
He explains how they use salt or neem to brush their teeth, and refrain from using soap. “We don’t litter and don’t disclose our trek routes to too many people for fear that it will ruin the natural beauty.”
“However, the best part about the club is the camaraderie the group shares,” Mr. Pradeepa says. “When I was a tense fresher, this group took me in and taught me so many things. I immediately started hanging out with them, and have never looked back.”
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