August is the month of rain and sultry weather in the lovable city of Dehradun. It was a morning in early August 1995, and feeling uncomfortable with my unkempt hair, I decided to visit the barber shop at the T-junction, about a kilometer from the campus of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Chandrabani, Dehradun. I cycled fast from my home along the extreme left of the road. When I crossed the only causeway on my trip, someone in a car waved to me. So, holding the cycle handlebar with my left hand, I waved back with my right hand.
Meanwhile, a small boy playfully cycling along the right side of the road suddenly changed direction and fell on my cycle; I landed heavily on my left fore foot, injuring it. I found it difficult to get up from the ground as there was excruciating pain in my left knee. A person passing along the road on his scooter helped me to get up and took me to my home in the WII campus.
My knee swelled up and I was in pain, yet I could walk around. After a week, I could even travel to Pin Valley NP with some students. On our first evening there, I even climbed a 3800m ridge near Sagnam village. My descent from the ridge was slow and steady. There was no pain in my knee but I had not realized then that the fall had broken two cruciate ligaments, which I came to know only in 1999 when I consulted Dr Khincha, a famous orthopedic surgeon in Bangalore, as suggested by my colleague, Ullas Karanth. Dr Khincha said that I would need two surgeries and that the recovery time could be a year and therefore instead of a surgery, I should manage my life with “careful walking in the hills”.
I received the same advice from Dr Sachin Tapasvi, a famous orthopedic surgeon in Pune. I had consulted him in June 2013 after experiencing severe pain in the knee following a walk of about 80 km in total, in February 2013, in Dampa TR and Nandhour WLS over very rough terrain. When I complained about this pain to Dr Erauch Bharucha, a famous surgeon and a good friend involved in conservation in Pune, he said, “Come to Pune and we will ask Sachin to check your knee”. With this background, I would like to narrate my climb to the top of Karimala Gopuram (Karumalai Gopuram in Tamil) in Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.
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