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“I could not walk even 10 meters.”

Dr Navniit Gandhi Sunday, June 4, 2023
“I could not walk even 10 meters.”

October 2006:

Shyam Menon vividly remembers that day and moment.

The cardiologist at a hospital here in Kuwait had a grave expression on his face when he had looked at Shyam and said: ‘Your right coronary artery is 100% blocked. There are other complications too. You must get a bypass surgery done immediately’.

He could not walk for even 10 meters.

Cut!!!!

Scene 2 in June 2023:

56-year-old Shyam Menon is packing his bag; sorting out his gear for his next climb on the 1,110-meter-tall mountain --- Kjerag in Norway.

Those frequenting the Salmiya garden would not have missed this always pleasantly smiling man, exuding exuberance, even as he---with his load of 14kgs on his back, is sprinting or walking in the garden for about 90 minutes twice a day just before a trek. On normal days, his target is about 25,000 to 30,000 steps (17-18 kms) daily and taking the stairs in the building up to 7 floors thrice in the morning and thrice in the evening.

Born in Thrissur and raised in Surat, Shyam did his engineering from NIT, Surat before coming to Kuwait in 1999. He worked in Ooredoo till 2017. Shyam Menon is also a cricket and badminton enthusiast and had actively played for his company in Kuwait.

In 2006, one fine day, while on vacation in India, he felt excruciating pain in the jaws and then in the chest. He could not even take a few steps. The pain subsided after some initial treatment but intermittently, he experienced severe bouts of chest pain. He consulted many doctors in India and in Kuwait and the opinions were divided. He returned to Kuwait and one day, the pain and the breathing became so difficult that a doctor here advised him to proceed with a bypass surgery immediately or face dire consequences.

Shyam decided to trust alternative medicine and went to Kerala for Ayurvedic treatment. For someone who was advised and warned to not walk for 10 meters, it was a brave decision to not seriously heed the warnings; to trust alternative medicine. Within a week, he was able to walk 1km and as the treatment proceeded, he was back to his normal activities and much more. He resumed playing cricket soon.

Life, however, had other gigantic plans for him!

Says he: “Had never imagined that trekking on mountains was going to be my elixir for life. . The year was 2016. I decided to go with myself on a holiday. Someone suggested that Norway was a fantastic place and I booked my tickets and reached Norway. There I happened to look at a poster of Trolltunga (the tongue of the mountains) and I felt so drawn towards it that I decided to go there.

I had neither planned and nor was prepared. I just asked the locals if it was a ‘possible’ climb for an amateur like me. they said I could do it and I decided to do it. It was a very challenging hike of at least 11 kms one way on rough terrain. There are no shelters on the hike route and no places to buy supplies. The round-trip hike is 27 kms with an ascent of almost 800 meters. I experienced such joy; such a rush of adrenaline that I knew this was my calling.”

There was no looking back for him. There was no end to the peaks and summits that were beautiful and beckoning. He started trekking in the Alps, Norway, Germany, France and NZ. Once on a flight from Cochin to Mumbai, he met someone who told him that he ought to go to the Himalayas. He was told that the Devbhoomi would touch his soul like no other place would!

Shyam decided to take up the Valley of Flowers trek and the greenery of the Himalayas so astounded him that he felt a complete contrast when immediately after that he did the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) trek—a 170 km trekking trail through France, Italy and Switzerland. The Alps were dry and barren compared to the Himalayas. Thereafter, he just kept going back to the Himalayas.

He hasn’t taken any professional training to climb these fascinating peaks. He has made his own decisions and preparations and of course, the guides are there too. Since he cannot stay in India for more than 120 days, (to maintain the NRI status) he does 4-5 back-to-back treks in that short period, while also taking care of other personal commitments in India.

Shyam has completed over 13 treks in the Himalayas and over 9 worldwide. He initially trekked on shorter and relatively not-so-difficult treks and gradually went on from the 11k treks to the higher altitude treks at 17k ft. As the higher peaks beckoned him, he decided to go to Nepal and started climbing the 20k treks.

When he starts narrating the tales of his trails ‘n treks, the listener is spellbound. There are countless stories he has in his kitty of the warm and loving people he has met; of the intelligent guides he has had; of the silly or careful actions of his fellow-climbers; of the threats posed by bears or the wear ‘n tear unleashed by the unpredictable weather and of the looming threat of AMS (acute mountain sickness) etc etc. He says that the most difficult and challenging climbs have been in the Himalayas from Nepal side.

“Indian peaks are not that high or difficult (at least among the ones I have done). Till 8,000 ft there is no issue. Thereafter, oxygen starts depleting. After 11,000 ft, there is no life. There are no trees or even snakes. After 14,000 ft, it gets completely barren but above 20,000 ft, one begins to gasp for air very badly. In Nepal, the climbs are mostly above 21,000 feet. I did one trek this year in Nepal and prior to that, I almost practiced climbing 100 floors daily here.”

He is glad though that he has never had to abort his climb or trek till date due to any exigency.

Lovingly nicknamed as ,Mr Adventurer by a few residents of the building in which he stays, and who see him always with a spring in his steps and a smile on his face, he is passion for adventure personified. He observes keenly and this simple fact oozes from all the accounts that he gives of his journeys and treks. He appreciates divine natural beauty as much as he loves challenges and most important, notices and appreciates the simplicity in people he meets on his journeys.

When asked as to what are usually his emotions when he reaches the peaks, he thinks for a moment and replies: “the paramount feeling while climbing is that ‘you are on your own’. The mountains are so quiet that the only sound is of your heart beating. The focus is all the time on one’s breathing. Every step and every breath matters. In that rhythm, there is meditation. Once you reach the peak, there is exhaustion. For a few moments, one tries to catch one’s breath. Thereafter, you gradually look at the surroundings and drink all the beauty that it envelops. And then a sense of the divine wonder fills your heart, even as you smile knowing that you have done something worthwhile!!”

This adventure-enthusiast has paraglided from the world's top 3 destinations: Chamonix in Austria; Oludenis in Turkey, and Queenstown in NZ and has also skydived in NZ.

“I do not feel fear because I am grateful that after the health-scare, all of this is bonus. Till I can, I shall go and climb mountains. When I can’t, whether due to my knees giving up or any other reasons, I shall simply tour different places. I have been to 41 countries till date, and want to see at least a hundred countries…,” says this adventurer with a prized smile.

Where and when there is such passion---the challenges seem tiny: the icy cold winds or waters; the sleep or food or lack of them both; the funds or shortage of them and the dangers on cliffs and summits---nothing matters! And then there is no fatigue; no regrets and fears about one’s life or even a trace of cynicism towards the world.

In our current times, when we lose heart very easily or get aggressive easily; when we cry easily over life being a lackluster affair, and when we cluelessly search for a passion that identifies us; gives us unconditional joy for long---the interesting accounts of the treks of Shyam Menon infect the listeners too with a thrill!

It is not just about the desire to visit countries and climb peaks that places Shyam Menon in a different league than the million others who too harbor similar desires and the million others who actually travel far and wide. There is something about his indomitable spirit; about the undaunting will of his that he chose to climb peaks and not wilt in self-pity and lament over health issues. It is all about the upbeat aura that he has which is infectious and which inspires…

Dr.
Navniit Gandhi is an academic since 25+ years; a feature writer (300+ articles), and has authored 10 books. Her 10th and most recently authored, published and launched book is titled: NOT MUCH IS AS IT SEEMS Her write-ups can be read at navniitspeaks.wordpress.com For details about her books, visit www.amazon.com/author/gandhinavniit1408
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Express your comment on this article

 
jessie
Thursday, December 14, 2023
Hi Shyam, it is so inspiring. when i saw Shyam Menon i knew it would you. All the best always.

Mohamed Yoosuf
Tuesday, July 4, 2023
Great work Shyam bhaiiiii , real inspiration to many ..Keep it up...

Grammar Police
Thursday, June 22, 2023
the not-so-discreet charms of the bourgeoisie...


Madhav Paradkar
Monday, June 19, 2023
Superb achievement Shyam bhai. U are motivation for so many.

Saumitra Talukdar
Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Hey Shyam,
You''re inimitable, one in a million. Your zest for life is marvelous. You''re an inspiration and will touch everyone''s heart in a special way....and leave an indelible impression. Love you bro.

Shyam
Wednesday, June 14, 2023
Really motivated.
All the best for your travel.
Wish you climb world''s highest peak Mount Everest.

Nishank Agrawal
Sunday, June 11, 2023
Mr. Shyam,....you are true inspiration.
Congratulations on your remarkable achievements as a mountaineer! Your passion, dedication, and determination have led you to conquer numerous mountains in the Himalayas, Nepal, and Europe over the past few years. It is truly awe-inspiring to see someone embrace the challenges of mountaineering and continuously push their limits.
Reaching the summits of those majestic peaks in the Himalayas is an extraordinary feat in itself. The rugged beauty and unforgiving terrain of those mountains demand immense physical and mental strength. Your ability to overcome those obstacles and stand atop those lofty heights is a testament to your courage and resilience.
Moreover, your expeditions in Europe showcase your versatility as a mountaineer. The diverse landscapes and distinct challenges offered by European peaks have allowed you to further expand your skills and experiences. It is evident that you have a deep love for the mountains, and your adventurous spirit knows no boundaries.
At this age, you serve as an inspiration to all aspiring mountaineers, proving that age is no barrier to pursuing one''s dreams. Your determination to continue exploring and scaling new heights is truly remarkable. Your commitment to adventure and personal growth is a shining example to everyone that it''s never too late to follow your passion and embrace the great outdoors.
As you embark on future expeditions, may your path be filled with breathtaking vistas, unforgettable moments, and safe journeys. May the mountains continue to challenge and inspire you, and may you always find fulfillment and joy in the pursuit of your dreams.
Once again, congratulations on your exceptional accomplishments as a mountaineer. Your achievements deserve the utmost admiration and respect. May your future endeavors be filled with even greater successes and unparalleled experiences.
Wishing you the very best in all your future adventures!


Jojy George
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Great going Shyam. Tons of wishes hitting a TON of memories...

Ruhee
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Uncle, you are so inspiring 😍👏🏻

Murali Kutticode
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Glad to have come across your achievements.!!!!! A great fan of those who accomplish what they love most.!!! Best wishes.

A J
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Real characteristics of an ''EBuster'' !

Neeraj Deshpande
Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Hi Shyam. That''s great. Having seen you since school days, this is really very inspiring. Wishing you all the very best for more adventures. However avoid taking adventures with your health. God bless you

Dushyant Mehta
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Wow Shyam. Never knew all this. Feeling really proud for you. Wish you all the best for your future climbs and also pray that you soon finish your Target of visiting 100 countries. Love you buddy.

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