It’s Lucky He Didn’t Take The Stairs

  That’s Jyoti Raj in a series of youtube videos gone viral.  It’s an incredible display of bold athleticism performed upon an interesting bit of topography.  From this point of remove, it is impossible to judge the size of the holds or texture of the stone so as to develop a sense of the difficulty, but the ground would come up pretty fast regardless.

  I’d seen the video some months ago and have thought of the fellow occasionally since.  I wrote an essay in high school about the motivational question behind alpinism and am always interested in new inflections.  “Because it is there” never did much for me.

  I was thus thrilled to find in the January 2010 issue of Climbing Magazine* that someone had tracked the climber down and asked a few questions.  Turns out that the footage was shot at sixteenth century Chitradurga Fort in southern India.

  Mr. Raj was a wild child and ran away from home at age 7 after having been kicked out of school.  He somehow made his way to a larger metro area more than 500 miles away where he found work at a ‘sweet shop’ which he left after five years of abuse. 

  Thence to Chitradurga where a family took him in and for whom he ran errands in turn for his keep.  At about age eighteen he was accused of theft and decided to leap to his death from atop a large cliff.  He made it to a perch about fifty feet up, but decided  to get more air to ensure that impact would do more than break bones.

  To his astonishment, as he continued up, people began to gather and cheer.  Heartened, he also found that he enjoyed the vertiginous kinesthetics and returned the next day to begin his exploration of the  seven story fort walls nearby.

  Had he taken the stairs, his would have been the only and last hurrah.  But just as important as his first applause, the concentration necessary to make the upward progress extirpated the negative cerebrations long enough for his mind to clear and absorb the new view.

  That was three years ago.  Now a local celebrity, he has become reacquainted (if not reunited) with his family and teaches climbing to young people.  Why climbing?

  “It gives meaning to my life.  It’s the only thing I’ve ever enjoyed, because life has otherwise been full of hardship.”  Funny how things sometimes turn out…

*Article on page 28 by Dev. S. Sukumar

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