One of the most important things that I have always overlooked when it came to parkour was the application / execution of parkour in a natural environment. Apart from a few treks at times and walking on uneven terrain there has never been much focus on Parkour in a natural setting.
The introduction to Wild Swim kind of opened up a possibility that we could add swimming as a part of the training. I don't know why I never looked at this as an option earlier, but the presence of a legitimate swimmer gave me the push to actually explore the options.
The first visit turned out to be lucky as I tried to find the quarry nearest to my house in Madipakkam. There is one that is next to the cemetery in Moovarasampet and it was fun riding around in the dustiest road in Chennai. Just riding around gave a thick caking of dust on my entire body and bike.
After inquiring with the locals about access to the quarry I was inching closer to the entrance of the access path. The universal question from all the people that I spoke to was “ do you know how to swim? “ even before pointing out the direction that I should be going in.
Even after I got close to the entrance I really couldn't figure out how to start the descent from ground level to the quarry with water that was at least 150 feet below me. Then a nearby shop keeper told me to follow the dogs. The dogs in the area were running through a small thicket of bushes and had created a small foot path.
After walking along with the dogs and walking through some thorny bushes, I had to negotiate through some muddy spots as the waste water from the puncture shop nearby was being let out on that side of the road. Thankfully the volume of the water was not so high that the whole spot was unusable. I could navigate through the space quite comfortably and started walking down what used to be the road through which lorries used to carry huge boulders and stones. SInce it was meant for super heavy vehicle use , it wasn't too steep and one could walk down comfortably.
There was a black pipe that was snaking its way all the way down and water was being sucked through from the top. I could hear the hissing sound as water was moving through this pipe and I just kept an eye out for wet spots and leakages.
After about 200 meters of winding down the road, there was a natural spring that was sending water in a thin stream down the road and had created swampy conditions right in the middle. There were thorny bushes on either side and the middle of the road was slippery with mud. It was a precarious walk down stepping on the large visible stones and making sure that I did not fall.
After about 30 meters the pathway again cleared up and I could start seeing the cliffs and water on one side. There were some human voices at the end of the road even though I couldn't actually see the owners of those voices past the curve.
At the end there was a family, with a mother washing clothes and the children helping her out while frolicking about in the water. I just stood there wondering what I was doing in a spot like this and why I am even putting so much effort into searching and walking. Just walked around a bit looking at the different access points to the water and the high cliffs around, took a few photos of the surroundings to show Sharath and got back.
There was so much unnecessary fear when I was first exploring that area as to what the guys in that place would say. Will I be safe etc. It all seems rather stupid and childish now. But at the time I was a little scared about getting back intact.
The interaction with the people there is what broke that fear first. So many unspoken assumptions and prejudices.
When it comes to Nam ooru Nam kadhai, it is not about entertainment. IT is about creating friendships in places and in between people who would otherwise wouldn't have shared a physical or mental space. We don't want people to come with the thought of looking at things like a circus or some kind of entertainment. People have to be primed to come for interactions and exchanges with the local community.
With the volume of dust in the locality, what can thrive ? How do the people even survive ?
The fear of what might be there under the water. The fear of the unknown, of what might come from under and just drag me inside.
During the third visit, I went by myself and started swimming. There was this unknown fear that kept coming. Anytime I went from above the water and looked down amongst the plants, it felt alien to me and scared me so badly that I had to immediately turn back to reach the shore.
As I was by myself, the fear was much greater than usual. But I had to keep heading back to see if repetition can help me overcome what I knew was an irrational fear, but once I started looking at the plants, the fear just returned and I ended up swimming back to the shore.
Is that the fear of death ? Of dying with no one round ? I have to really contemplate on what was causing that fear to surge through. I know for a fact that If i don't properly address the fear, it might turn into mid-swim panic and that could prove to be fatal.
I am not that great a swimmer in general and the expeditions to the quarry help me work on that weakness. Hopefully as time goes by, I will get better and be able to enjoy the whole experience better.
As we kept visiting the spot, we discovered pathways amongst the plants.
When in a deep forest, if we look up , there will be these lines where adjacent trees don't touch each other resulting in crown shyness. Similarly underwater, I saw these giant gaps deep into the water through which once could be able to swim without getting entangled in the plants. But it takes a lot of guts to look through the densely floating plants and be able to slowly swim through the gaps.
It was quite beautiful in a way. The plants had not just grown and covered the entire water completely. These gaps looked like valleys with the base of the valleys going deep into a green of infinity. And the plants host numerous fish and other life forms within its stalks and leaves.
There were so many eggs that were attached to the plant stalks and there were also so many spores that were floating around the plants. When my feet brushed against these stalks, the current created by my leg made the stalks entwine themselves around my leg. With my head under the water, I could hear the small crackling sounds of the stalk breaking as I tried to release my leg. Sometimes If I was in a bad position the more plants got entangled in my leg the more i tried to release it. It was quite scary.
In certain locations the plants had grown to the surface and there was no way to find a channel but to just swim over the plants. Unfortunately my swimming ability wasn't enough to swim over the plants. Every time I had that fear and freaked out, it was my team member’s instruction to calm down that kept me sane and slowed down my actions and breathing. Without those instructions I would have drowned.
One of the best things that attracted me to Parkour was the concept of leaving no trace. Whenever and wherever we train, we do not leave any trace of us being there. We don't
leave shoe prints or hand prints on obstacles, do not throw trash in the training location and we do not alter the environment in any way. This concept is truly beautiful as it maintains the training spots for generations to come and makes sure that people can find the kind of enjoyment that I experienced.
In a more philosophical context, the fact that we all shall one day disappear into shadows and dust is something that always resonated with me. Our actions are the only ones that are capable of creating a better world and only the results of those actions remain in society. We are the beneficiaries of the actions of millions of people
When I first saw the quarry one of the things that put me off was this huge patch of algae that seemed to be floating in the middle. It looked very uninviting and the water under the algae had begun to turn black. I wasn’t even sure if it was safe in terms of snakes and insects that might be hidden in those dark waters. The algae by itself gave off a very murky feeling. It looked very slimy and created a kind of revulsion within me.
As I was wondering what to do about it, the team members that I had visited with, just dug in and started pulling out the algae patches.
The limitations created by my mind at that point became so apparent. Just because there was a certain texture in the algae and it didn’t feel comfortable for me, I held back even without touching it. But it wasn’t a bad texture at all. Felt like cloth and was quite easy to pull and push around in the water.
We ended up collecting quite a bit of the algae. I kept wondering if it was a good thing or a bad thing in the larger context to “clean up” the system without really understanding the longer repercussions .
Have to keep an eye out for how the other organisms in the quarry are responding to the change that we have created.