The Man who Fell from The Sky

Hang Glider

“So, you would like to go on the paraglider?”, my friend Abdullah had asked.

I was quiet, weighing it in my head.

Unperturbed, my friend went on “It’s a bit risky. But fun.”

Visions of me breaking a leg…or two flashed in my head. I heard a virtual Mona Harris ‘ cautionary voice (The Mrs’) faintly playing in my ears. I reached out for an equally virtual switch and muted the sound of reason abruptly.

We were approaching the site of Abdullah‘s friend who was about to bring me up into the air. I could see the paraglider in the sky swinging magnificently in the 16c desert air. It looked like an epitome of freedom.

“Ok”, I said making up my mind “let’s go for it!”

As if on queue, the paraglider already airborne and quickly gaining height veered sharply to the ground….and dropped like a stone into the horizon.

Alarmed, Abdullah gunned down our Toyota Tundra towards the spot in the Qatari desert the paraglider had disappeared into.

“My friend!”, he said as we sped across the sand. “My friend! ……I hope he is ok!”

We raced into a fenced-in area. There – just barely missing the fence was the paraglider, it’s pilot grinning as he saw us approaching.

“Power failure!”, he said, gesticulating with his hands his unexpected flight path.

“Are you alright?”, I asked

“Yes, I am fine! It’s nothing”

I looked at his recovery crew entering the fenced in area. They didn’t share his opinions and enthusiasm. They also looked slightly shaken.

“So Subandi, you still want to go up?”, on my right – Abdullah was insistent,

“No thank you!” I had answered. In my head, Mona’s voice had just gotten louder.

Besides, I have a plane to catch that evening…and I wanted to go in that other air contraption in one piece. Later on in the relative safety of another friend’s backyard and in front of his barbecue fire, I learned about Abdullah‘s “a bit risky” assessment of paragliding.

“Oh, Abdullah….yes…. he nearly died a few months ago.”, said my other friend “..broke both his legs when his paraglider dropped off a dune!”

Indeed.

I digress.

I have been guilty before of going forward into unexplored territory, disregarding the risks involved. The thing is risk taking is something akin to having blue eyes or curly hair : either you are born with it … or you don’t have it. However, not having such features is not the end of the story. You can always put in some artificial blue contact lens or wear a curly wig. Nobody will know the difference most of the time between the genuine item and an artificial one. The trick is not to tell them.

But then again – what is the point of doing something that does not come naturally to you?

Mostly, it is about growth and about exploring the limits of your boundary. Some people are natural risk takers. Others prefer to play it safe. Most of the time, there needs to be a balance between taking risks safely and taking risks indiscriminately. 

Business people would probably tell us risk needs to be weighed-in in the context of opportunity and impact.

Risk Scoring matrix

They have tools like the risk and opportunity / impact matrix above to find and justify a certain route or decision, and they go through the motion to reach it. Some people are instinctive and may forgo utilisation of such tools. Either way, outcomes  may vary and may not be as what we initially expected.

Thus the terms “bad decision” or “bad instinct” when things go awry.

For me, that day …. my instincts were telling me NOT TO GO on the paraglider, after seeing it fail. I also liked to see the paraglider operator’s track record! But hey, that’s just me.

It also shows that sometimes wanting to be realistic and having fun do not exactly go hand in hand.

There needs to be a balance between having an informed decision and daredevilries if ever you want to have specific elements of fun.

But only do it if your life is NOT HANGING IN THE BALANCE!

🙂

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The Coconut

coconut

I had been playing with the drooping leaves of a not so high coconut tree after my 2 elder relatives – Haji Daud and Haji Hashim had finished putting up The Arch or a Gerbang in our driveway. Back then in KB – people coming back from the Haj would be greeted by a decorated arch when they had reached their homes. Ours would be no different when my mom got back from her Haj.

Leaves from the coconut tree had been used to beautify the wooden arch. It was a brilliant and highly creative job utilising natural materials – something you don’t see much nowadays. After the adults had gone, I remember going to the nearby coconut tree, and pulling the coconut leaves down from the shortish tree in some pretend game. I was 9. That was a good enough excuse for it!

In the next instant, I remember a rustling sound overhead. I looked up and saw a green orb growing steadily larger and larger. My curious mind was trying to determine the nature of the object, in an apparently over-analytical mode – fascinated at its increasingly large size by the second. Obviously I had failed to realise that it was a fairly heavy water-laden coconut on its way down.

Less than a second later, it had connected with my forehead. I saw stars (not sure about the constellation though!) and heard a honking from a car on the nearby road. Somebody had actually witnessed the whole thing…..and was laughing.

A minute or so later, I was upstairs lying back on my Grandmother’s rocking chair, sweating and closing my eyes trying to breathe through the pain. An aunt was beside me trying to determine the extent of my injury but only finding a steadily growing bump above my left eye brow.

My uncle had other ideas.

I heard him ask, ” Bandi, is this The Coconut?”

I opened my eyes through the pain.

I saw the smiling face of my uncle.

He was asking me to identify a fruit.

Apparently he had gone downstairs to the lawn, picked up the offending coconut and carried it upstairs. It was a scene straight from the movies with me being interrogated by a cop. The cop who happened to look eerily like my Uncle seemed to be asking me The Question ….

“Is this coconut the weapon involved in the incident?!”

That week, I wore the scar of the incident with pride. When kids at school asked what had happened, I simply answered,

“I fell down. I got stitches”

The look on their admiring faces would buy me a few moments of being identified as a tough guy/hero. I was only truthful to a boy about the real incident, while waiting for my mom to pick me up from school.

His response?

“A coconut fell on your head? …..Really?! …A coconut…a coconut fell on your head?!….HAAAAAA HA HA HA!”

I learned to keep my mouth shut from that moment.

I also learned the following:

  • Move away from the trajectory of a falling coconut.
  • Do understand that it is not a growing green orb. It is a coconut. Get that straight.
  • It hurts when it connects with your forehead.
  • Do not overanalyse the green orb. Move away! Prioritise the moving away! Analytics can come in later! Self preservation first!
  • Be truthful about what happened to you…. otherwise, keep your silence!

Years later, I also found out that a lot of those realisations and lessons do apply at the work place. Go figure!

But that’s Life 🙂