Pursuit of Happiness

While jumping off a cliff or a helicopter, Rajiv Bhalla slows down and appreciates life

Barco India MD is always seeking discomfort through different adventure sports  

Rajiv Bhalla (bottom) skydiving at Tucson, Arizona

Remember the final scene from the cult film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. When the three lead actors are running for their life as deadly bulls chase them, Javed Akhtar’s poetry Zinda ho tum plays in the background. However profound the poem may be, most of us might not relate to it as we rarely find ourselves in such adventurous settings. But, that scene perfectly applies to the life of Barco India’s MD Rajiv Bhalla, who actively seeks out thrill and exhilaration through adventure sports, every chance he gets.

Bhalla agrees that he was a late entrant in the arena. While most people develop an affinity for adventure sports in their youth, Bhalla’s passion was ignited when he was in his 30s. As a team-building activity during his stint at Microsoft in 2005, he had to participate in white water rafting at Colorado Springs, located South of Denver, USA. “All my team members had opted for it and I did not want to be the odd one out, so I decided to jump in,” he recalls.

The adrenaline rush that Bhalla experienced that day has kept him hooked. In 2006, he attempted to overcome his fear of height with tandem skydiving at Tucson in Arizona, USA. Sure, it took time to build courage. He even asked his tandem master to push him out of the plane if he seemed hesitant. But, the moment he was in the air, he felt like he was on top of the world, and his outlook towards life changed. “Being suspended mid-air made me appreciate so many different aspects of life – the surreal beauty from miles above the ground, the amazing feeling of weightlessness, and the sobering experience of planting my feet on the ground,” says Bhalla.

He tried skydiving again in 2012, this time in Dubai but by then, he had already checked off soaring, paragliding and cliff jumping from his list. In fact, his wife was also a part of the paragliding experience. “We took off from a 4,500-ft high cliff in Pokhara and glided to the base,” he recollects. “And, when we were in Rishikesh, we went cliff jumping. I loved the feeling of being buoyant in the air before hitting the bottomless Ganga,” he adds.

Over all these years of trying different adventure sports, white water rafting remains Bhalla’s absolute favourite. It offers a heady mix of adrenaline coupled with the ability to enjoy the scenic view and leave the stress of everyday life behind, he says. Since 2013, Bhalla has made it a routine to travel to Rishikesh every summer and take on the rough waters of the Ganges. And because of this undying love for rapids, he is eager to try waterfall rappelling. “It would be an incredible experience to descend a waterfall while balancing on a rope,” he says. Another adventure sport in his bucket list is scuba diving as he wishes to explore the unblemished seascape and the astonishing range of underwater life.

Ever since Bhalla discovered adventure sports, he has found it easier to move out of his comfort zone and explore the unknown. He admits that his late-found passion has taught him many lessons. For instance, just as preparation is critical for any adventure sport, a sustained rigour and teamwork is essential in life and business. It has also taught him that nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it. But, the most important lesson has been, “No matter how fast you are moving, sometimes in life you need to slow down and pay attention to your surroundings,” he says. We might not have had as many thrilling experiences as him, but this we can certainly agree with.