Suresh Menon

Friday - - Contents -

A love of the great in­doors trumps the allure of adren­a­line-filled ad­ven­tures.

Aquar­ter cen­tury ago, when bungee jumping was all the rage in New Zealand, I left for a cricket tour there with sage words of ad­vice from friends. Well, ac­tu­ally, one word: don’t. They need not have wor­ried. I did not have the guts to do it then, and in the in­ter­ven­ing years I have not be­come any braver. I was the great in­doors type then, and I re­main so now.

How lovely it is to re­port then that – hold your breath – I have not changed at all. I ducked bungee jumping then, ditto now. I avoided sky­div­ing then, ditto now. Un­like a flow­ing river, you can­not but step on the same me twice. Or thrice.

I write this from New Zealand, hav­ing spent more time avoid­ing things than do­ing them. Not even the de­fin­i­tive book on the 10 bil­lion great ad­ven­tur­ers in his­tory will find a men­tion of my name.

I say all this hav­ing just watched two friends bungee jump and come back to tell the tale. “The high point of my life,” said one. “Mmm­cxqettch,” said the other, his ex­cite­ment mak­ing him more inar­tic­u­late than usual.

A pos­si­ble ti­tle for my au­to­bi­og­ra­phy might be: ‘Why I Did Not Bungee Jump, or Sky­dive or Para­chute Down to Earth or Ab­sail or Walk on a Tightly Stretched Wire Be­tween Two Sky­scrapers?’ When Hol­ly­wood makes that into a movie, ei­ther Woody Allen or An­gelina Jolie could play me, ex­cept that the for­mer is a bit shorter and the lat­ter a bit more phys­i­cal.

Why do peo­ple want to throw them­selves off a plat­form tied by their an­kles to a long rope, and ac­cel­er­ate at the rate of 10 me­tres per sec­ond, when they could be read­ing a good book – or, if it comes to that, a bad book – in­stead? And you can’t get away with say­ing, “Be­cause it’s there”. I mean, so are bad

Why throw your­self off a plat­form tied to a rope when you could be read­ing a good book?

breath and in­grown toe­nails, but we don’t make a big deal of those. On an ear­lier trip to New Zealand, I watched a sport where a per­son with Vel­cro on his chest ran the dis­tance of a room and threw him­self against a Vel­croed wall. The win­ner was one who got stuck at a higher level. There was some­thing de­light­fully ab­surd about this – if life it­self is mean­ing­less, why not Vel­cro your­self to a wall? It is as mean­ing­ful as any­thing else.

Per­haps that is the phi­los­o­phy be­hind th­ese things. Bungee jumping re­minds us of the ab­sur­dity of life. So does honk­ing in a traf­fic jam – and I much pre­fer to get my phi­los­o­phy at a traf­fic sig­nal than hang­ing up­side down over a body of wa­ter with the bridge a dis­tant mem­ory.

Suresh Menon is a writer based in In­dia. In his youth he set out to change the world but later de­cided to leave it as it is

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