Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Outbound Program @ Parvati hills

Ever since winter set in, "Out-bound" would only remind me of the 'out of bounds' phrase from the basketball diction where the ball would go out of official play area and a team would have to bring it back in. Both teams would use the time to refresh strategies, study new plays and try execute them when the play resumed on the "in-bound" sequence.

When I received a mail from my employers that I've been invited for an out-bound program, all this flashed across my mind. And then I saw what it actually meant. Just the same. Only, much much more exciting and filled to the brim with fun, with a bagful of learning experiences to carry back.

A bunch of 42 new-joinees, along with our HR personnel, headed to Parvati Hills (approximately an hour from Himmatnagar in Gujarat. Also, please don't trust the calculations I made while throughout the journey). We had to start at 5.15 am, and hence the alarm sounded off at 4 am. Cold wintry morning was braved by most of us and we set off. We had no idea about what to anticipate, and that added the excitement.

5 wonderful hours of sleep, during which my outstretched legs looked like a snake in the aisle of the bus, only disturbed by the call for breakfast (please don't plan to have chips and wafers and cup-cake for breakfast), we reached the middle of nowhere. The problem was, we really didn't know where to head. After half an hour of the bus going front and back in all possible like-looking roads, we finally reached the site.

I was angry at first. The place had nothing but a large house, a couple of trucks and three tractors. Surely, we had only stopped to ask directions?

Whilst my brain took a stroll, We were led elsewhere by a guide. We went downhill and entered into a wonderful little world nobody could've spotted from outside. Trees and rocks protected the beautiful tiny patch of plain and a gorgeous golf-course shaped lake. We were still in awe. More so because it had absolutely no relation to the place we disembarked off the bus (only 200 yards away).

We put our bags into the tents that were pitched up for us and comforted ourselves on the chairs laid out. Out came our training instructor for the day, Mr Sheetal, along with his three colleagues (pardon me, I'm that bad at recollecting names :-( ). As if on cue, they said "Breakfast is ready, go feast." It was 11.30 am, but who cares? To our tummy, breakfast was what we wanted. Over aloo parathas, bread, butter, jam and eggs, we all feasted for 20 minutes and soaked it up with tea.


Our day began with an ice-breaker. We colleagues came from 3 different locations, and from atleast 4 different branches of our company. We didn't know all. And the first half hour went into introducing ourselves and having some fun mingling, and then form groups that would perform activities together.

Our first activity was to build a raft. Any one who was eager to head to the lake had his/her wish fulfilled. We were at the shores, where we were provided with two plastic drums, a bunch of bamboo sticks and lots and lots of ropes at our disposal. Designer heads ran into over-time and all physics came into picture. Rafts were built, people were put on them. Some capsized, only one went to the designated mark. But it was all fun. Especially when you see the "raft-men" laughing at their fall!

Our next activity (once our trousers were dry) was to lift a ball that's resting on a ring held by strings, and moving it to another spot. Both the start and end points were.....an open end of a pipe. The ball rested on the pipe. Simple enough? Just that we had to do it blindfolded. One of our team-mate would guide us, with eyes open, of course.

Next activity - to deposit little ping-pong ball-sized rubber balls from one end of a line to the other, into a bucket. We were ten people, each holding a foot-long pipe cut into half along the axis so we could run the ball from one end to the other of pipe and drop the ball into the neighbour's, to transport the ball across the distance. Well, the distance was 35-40 m per my estimate, and we were, yes, 10. It took us multiple shuffling and juggling to do it successfully time and again over the given time of 20 minutes. It was super fun!

It was lunch. At 3.45 pm no less!! Bas toot pade... Wish we could just eat that all day!

We then had to enact a role play that we had barely prepared for. What we did was the acting equivalent of an extempore. Just that we did it so well for our team to believe :-) . Other teams had done wonderful acts, yes!

It was nearly dusk, and I thought we might get some time off for ourselves before a bonfire. Well, surprise!

Members in each group were tied together and walked into a bus. We were like cows moving in a line on cue! The bus drove us here and there and deposited us into the forest that blanketed the place. Our task - find the way back to the base camp. Not quite easy, as we found out. Our clues like - that star, the red sky of the dusk and "that tube-light there" became sitting ducks, when many more strs showed up, the red light fell into the darkness of the night and many other tube-lights showed up. We trusted our compass, and trekked through the thorny, forest lands, up and down the rocks, everyone striking the pose like traffic policemen when the leader asks "which way should we go". In the end, the guide (who wouldn't give us a clue) said that we had grazed everywhere that was theirs but the camp, and directed us back to the camp. Well, thorns apart, no fun like trekking in the dark with just flash-lights for help.

We brushed though all that we did that day, and then sat around the bonfire, singing songs, warming our hands, making new friends, and waiting for the dinner call, which finally came at 10 pm. The dinner was wonderful, and wonderfully capped with Gulab Jamuns. So tasty, that the ones who wanted to skip dinner were lured into it. Please don't lick the computer screen.

I was tired, and couldn't stand the third karaoke of "Why this kolaveri..." in the last half hour. So, I headed to my tent, only to find my bed missing. I was then told that it was shifted to another tent, where I slept in peace. Some good songs acted as lullabies.


Rise and grind, up before dawn, was up and ready to watch the day break its glory upon the canopy. It was a beautiful picture as one part shone in the sunshine, while the other lay in the shadows. We had tea to get wake our brains up.

First up, we had to pitch a tent. We had just come out of one, and here we were, building one. In 12-minutes (??), the tent was up! I was brilliantly foolish in putting up my side of the tent, which looked like as if someone closed the tent's "ears" on one side. Lucky for me, I could stop cursing myself when I heard the race was to finish it first, and the beauty part of the tent could be excused. #saved

Breakfast. Idly and the bread-butter-jam-egg set-up. Am desi. Idly for me. Hands only. Nom Nom. :-)

Next up : Rappelling. If I had no measure of my fear of height, which included staring 400 feet into the Shimla Railway station from an open cliff above it, I had it here - over a tiny 30 foot high rock-cut. Tiny my foot. I was scared till I set my foot back on earth, you know, the flat horizontal part of earth. Yeah, it is ironical that I of all people have to fear height, but that's how mother nature likes to laugh!

We returned to take bath (not mandatory). And then got ready for the next task. A square was drawn on the floor. And that was divided into 4 quadrants. Each quadrant had 5 pieces of brick-shaped pieces of wood. Each team had to travel from their quadrant, traverse through the next clockwise quadrant and exit from the third. All the time, foot on the bricks (allow me to call them bricks), which can have not more than two feet on it at one point of time. Also, if you put your foot on one and then leave it alone, that will be removed. That was one superb activity! Brought in at the right time to tease our brains. Some lost their cool, some lost their voice. In the end, it was done.

The last "activity" was to recite a slogan/song that each team had composed, to justify the team name each had chosen. 10 minutes of salute to innovative ideas followed. And then the winners were crowned!

Needless to say, lunch followed to cap the day!

Over the two days, we learnt many values from simple activities that are valid to our personal life as well as corporate career. It was an excellent idea for our employers to invest into such a program for us "new-bies", that helped us find a bit more about ourselves, something that we only find about when put to test. It was wonderful when we complemented and supplemented each other as a part of the team, or helping other teams with their work, or working together to complete one common goal.

After all, we're all one.

If you want to your team to take up this wonderful adventure-packed program for your team, or bunch of friends, visit Parvati Hills' website - www.parvatihills.com, and Anala Outdoors will sweep you off the floor with excellent facilities and activities that you won't forget for the rest of your lives!

I enjoyed this trip a lot. *insert more sweet clich├ęs*. Made some really good friends over the 2 days, don't know how many of them I would meet again! It was all fun, all the time!