The following is the first of my delayed accounts, the run on the 31st.
I was feeling very low after the DNF run yesterday. Having set out to do a 30K, limping to 22K was ignominious. Biscuit could sense the tension as I led him through the morning walk silently. He on his part went through his morning ritual without much fuss. I set out for my run with my fingers and toes crossed, after leaving him home.
I did not uncross either the fingers or toes till I effortlessly crossed Reliance Fresh at 1K without breaking sweat. The Sun came out at 3K, the point where the rural-urban divide is, i.e., the Hubli Dharwad Municipal Corporation limit. I was forced to take my first break here for biological reasons, wages of quick hydration without leaving enough time for the kidneys to expel. Sun was covered by a wide patch of cloud as if an artist had made a wide stroke with an angry brush. Sun must have realized that the need of the hour was light and not heat, very considerate of him, on my comeback trail. Sun did come out for a moment, a big ball of crimson red. Now I can appreciate why Bala-Hanuman would have flown to the morning Sun, thinking it to be a juicy fruit. Any child who has not been dinned in about his limitations by elders would have done the same.
I had a minor diversion on my climb between KM 3 and 4. A band of 3-4 eagles were circling over my head. Did I recognize my friend from KM 12, searching for me with the assistance of local guides? Or, was I over-reacting, it could be just a bunch of eagles, like their dreaded cousins vultures, foreboding death. My thought went back to the young office staff of ours’ who’s on ventilator at the Railway Hospital after suffering from a brain hemorrhage, God grant him long life. Suddenly, one of the eagles broke out from the group and steered ahead like a detached Marathon pacer. Instead of accompanying me constantly, confident of my speed and strength today, paid me visits all along the route at intervals.
Intent on the antics of the eagle, I had effortless done the climb after KM 3 and was now passing the Sai-Baba temple. On my left, now appeared the place where the maize patch used to be. The pump-set was flooding the parched land. It was not clear if it was a case of pre-nuptial wooing or the case of indulging the palate of a newly pregnant wife. However, the excess of water flooding looked like a case of trying to drown the incalcitrant weeds; much like George Bush’s authorized lackeys subjecting the terror suspects to water-boarding. I had to take my second biological break at KM8, still no water intake; maybe, my 400ml bottle may last me my distance of 30K, after all.
I crossed Renuka hotel nearing KM9, proudly announcing Tea, Coffee and Cold drinks, didn’t seem to attract any customers though. I noticed the brother-sister duo coming in the opposite direction walking to their morning Urdu class, the boy wore a broad smile, emboldened, I crossed the road and offered him to shake his hands. He shied away at this overt show of friendship in presence of elders of the village standing around. One of the elders encouraged him and he reciprocated my shake hands. I carried the big smile as I crossed back to the opposite side to resume my run. Two of the ladies of the trio, caught the remnant of smile on my face and the infection seemed to spread. I acknowledged them and ran along.
Midway between KM 11 and 12, my watch showed that I had run for 1 hour 2 minutes from the start, good steady pace and no pains or body parts creaking, I touched my head, touch wood. I could hear the persistent beating of hooves of the bullocks behind me, much like a runner behind me preparing to overtake me. My natural instinct made me quicken my pace; I lead the bullocks till the bridge at KM 11. The twin bullock powered, empty cart came abreast of me. The bullock next to me exchanged glances without breaking a stride, envying my, self motivated run to their whip driven one. The efficacy of the whip over self motivation seemed to be the judgment in kaliyuga, at least in the short run! I doggedly kept on not conceding much lead, in the faint hope of catching up if the farmer decided to take a water break for his mounts at the canal at KM 14.
The Sun faced me square as I crossed the bridge just before KM 11. It seemed to congratulate me on my strongly crossing the distance of the previous day’s curtailed run. I took a water break more as a celebration than actual biological need for the same. The bullocks meanwhile put in little more lead. The mild climb at the KM11-12 stretch gave me some hope of narrowing the gap.
The Onion field on the left looked like an arrogant teenager with spiked hair. The few grown up plants on the edges with drooping and yellowed leaves seemed to advice caution to their younger friends, about the ephemrality of youth and looks. The fenced plot at KM 13 had some broken metal dumped, was it that the owner wanted to settle away from the rough n tumble of city life and, I have been prematurely branding him a speculator? Let us wait and watch. Further ahead I crossed a stranded truck, looking closely, it was only a flat tyre, much like an injured cricket player calling for a Relispray, the damage not requiring the batsman to retire hurt or call for a runner.
I looked ahead with the fond hope to see if my competitor bullock cart had decided to take a water break at the canal visible now. No luck, the cart pushed on relentlessly, I resigned to come an honourable second. Intent on the duel with the bullock cart, I had been able to negotiate the difficult stretch from KM 11 easily today. Sunflower patch could be made out at a distance.
Younger sunflower plants waved wildly seeking kudos for having looked after their elderly neighbours. The older sunflower plants stood stoically with heads bowed, few flowers had fallen, the stalks unable to bear the weight of the seed filled centre. The entire patch looked like Bhishma pitamah, the grand sire of Mahabharata, lying on his bed of arrows, watching the battle between the Sun and the younger sunflowers around. They seemed to possess the power to decide their time of death. I had reached the half way mark in 1 hour and 29 minutes.
On the way back, the injured truck at KM 13 had gone on after attending to the minor problem of a flat tyre, leaving behind a spill of oil as its mark of having stopped there. The drivers of sand laden lorries were out in large numbers and drove in a frenzy, as if they wanted to complete the plunder before the year ended.
I crossed the Masjid, it was always a nice moment, as this point meant a minor landmark of completion of a half marathon distance from the start of the run. The injured dog was showing its missing ear with the pride of a Kargil amputee. I did not walk the steep climb in front of the masjid, maybe, I wanted to avenge the ignominy of the reduced run of the previous day.
Row of bullocks were busy feeding, much like, the fielding side in a drinks break at a cricket match. Further down, two bullocks with their necks in harness, were feeding on, much like batsmen with pads on taking a break separately not wanting to share the secret recipe of the energy drink with the fielding side. The disinterested farmer looked on like the on-field umpire waiting for the break to end so that the work could start again.
Warming up to the analogy of cricket, the stretch of KM 8 and 7 dragged on like the boring middle overs of a one day match. The Sun going behind the clouds and a gentle breeze helped in surviving the ordeal. The severe looking electric poles at KM 5 were busy conducting High Tension electricity. The plants in the field below were suitably impressed. A pair of crows were sitting on the HT wire and nonchalantly gossiping like sisters on an annual vacation before the families woke up to drag them to their work.
The gentle slope from KM 5 to 4 and a marked one from KM 4 to 3 was akin to the batting powerplay before one reaches the slog overs of the last 3 kilometers. The plastic waste from the city was rubbing shoulders with the manure heap of the fields. The Line of Control where these met, much beyond the HDMC limit board at KM 3 indicated forcible encroachment by the wasteful ways of the city dwellers. The inert waste of the city shined vainly in the sunlight, the manure dump in contrast despite its smell nurtured wild plants even while waiting to be laid to rest in the fields.
The school van drivers and enthusiastic kids made the run bearable as usual. I got lucky today, the ‘Go Uncle’, and ‘C’mon Uncle’ boys met me in succession. Suitably charged, I plugged on to complete the remaining few kilometers. A mother and daughter duo of rag-pickers working in the garbage dump oblivious of the school going kids made a mockery of the ‘Right to Education’ claims. Maybe, the kid was getting hands on lessons in ‘right living’ from her mother. Further down, a young kid removing tarpaulin cover from the stored coconuts, preparing for the day’s business completed the report card for the RTE.
At the stretch after KM 1, after Reliance Fresh, the street side usually crowded with villagers on Saturdays to sell their fresh farm produce were conspicuous by their absence. They seemed to have thrown in their towels to the proposed FDI in retail, not sure of the sincerity of the political parties sincerity in supporting them. If not for their survival, at least to keep a check on the avarice of the big ticket players, we need to keep this conventional mode of retailing to survive as long as it can.
Closer home, I found a police jeep with an officious looking person next to driver. The continous honking to the slow traffic ahead, I am sure, was not driven by the eagerness of the public official discharge of his duty to people, but, out of the sense of importance of the red light above the vehicle. Public servants will be made to discharge duties with humility only if, public gets educated and empowered. We definitely have a long way to go!
I completed the 30K in 3 hours 10 minutes and 42 seconds. A satisfying end to the year 2011.