Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Of communal harmony and related stuff

The following is my account of the midnight run on 6th February, 2012. 
I was straining at my leash to hit the road after one day of abstinence. Had I not refused the services of Mathew’s wife in deference to her religious calling of Sunday, I could have still hit the road yesterday. The day was not bad, I and Biscuit had a quiet Sunday. We refused the temptation offered by the God of Cricket to addict us again by his flattery to deceive; we were proved wise in the end. Biscuit had a long leisurely bath followed by a roll in the lawn; he had his food in the lawn while I caught up on the backlog of my blogging. By evening withdrawal symptoms of not having run overtook me and I started looking for a fix. The situation was complicated in that I had to be at the Railway station to receive my new boss at 05:30AM the next day. I rang up Mathew’s wife (Nirmala, getting very boring referring to her as her husband’s wife, let me introduce you to her) and announced that the red carpet be laid for Biku as he would arrive after an early dinner. I pampered him with one more walk and force fed him, he obliged with the Pedigree but he left behind some milk. As usual the lure of the car ride proved more than the pang of separation from me. He arrived to a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Nirmala’s elder son. Biku did not bother to look back at me and joined his friend in his game with his friends. I departed promising her that I would pick up Biku next day after office.
Working backward to allow for three and half hour for the run, one hour for hydration before and half an hour after for bath and change of dress and latest time to leave for station at 04:45AM, gave me a time of wakeup call as 11:45PM. I forced myself to sleep at 08:00PM, not enough sleep, I know. I will have to sleep walk through office tomorrow. I got up as planned and set about consuming green tea sitting in front of the desktop. I was elated to find that fellow runner; Roshni Rai (veteran of 75K with a twisted knee at Bangalore Ultra) had invited me for a Long run at Pedong, Darjeeling in May 2012. I gladly accepted and invited myself over to be her guest along with my wife and daughter. I waited for the clock to turn 12:00 midnight to shut down the machine and go down to change into my running gear. I was out of the house at 12:15 AM. I went and woke up the outhouse resident to tell him about my absence and that I would lock the gate from outside and be back at 04:00AM latest. I told him not to tell my wife or her agent Nirmala if they called.
I got the guard at the gate to open the gate; he came out rubbing his eyes cursing me for having woken him up. The street was well lit and the lighting was even better than it usually is at 5 AM. It was not very cold and there was a soothing breeze. Mother Theresa looking down beatifically and for a change looked relieved that the spotlights were on Prophet Mohd. on his birthday. The small place of worship was bedecked and well lit, as if the prophet had gone to sleep in his birthday dress. I took a snap of the place and saying my prayers started my run. The run upto the 3K mark was uneventful but for a few dogs who while returning from their late night revelry tried to take me on. I gave them the silent treatment, and if they were very insistent, stopped and dared them to attack me. I reached KM 3 to the safety of darkness. I picked up a conversation with the two policemen at the barricades for checking trucks; I asked them if they will be there when I returned at 03:00AM. They asked me why this night run and I said it was a vow for better police public relations. I need not mention that the humour was lost on the men in uniform. Thankfully so, you do not joke with men in uniform on night duty unless you have the guts to face the resultant Kolaveri!
The city of Hubli has recently hosted the Hindu Shakti Sangama where a conference of Hindu religious leaders was held to strengthen the religion. The city had been painted red with saffron flags atop every vehicle- public or private as an attendant PR exercise. Rather than popularizing or engendering Hindu religion among the population in general, it seemed to embarrass the subtler of the Hindu religion’s followers like me. As a natural reaction green flags propped on building tops and vehicles of the threatened coreligionists. It is to the credit of the Police that no untoward incident happened to threten the communal peace and harmony. I cannot but become nostalgic about Swami Vivekanda’s speech on the conference of religions where he endeared himself and our religion in the comity of nations and religions. The recent controversies on the teaching of Bhagvad Gita or teaching Suryanamaskar in schools leave a bad taste and give a discomforting feeling.
In this context the way Hijab (head dress) has seamlessly morphed into the modern headscarves worn by girls of all religions is a case in point. The security from leering eyes and protection from the elements which the scarf provides has endeared it to girls of all religions. I am also reminded of the furore it created when writer Kamala Das started wearing Burqa and claimed that she found it a good protective gear for women. It does not require any religious persuasion for the girls to take it up. I would have suggested to my daughter to wear it as a precaution when she has to visit our Capital shame of a National capital. Similarly, the march of the Salwar -Kameez over the traditional half-saris in the south is an example of convenience winning over religious persuasion. Easy availability of religious literature in all languages and medium and the religious precepts and practices discussed freely and frankly would demystify and endear the best of each of the religion to form a melting pot of civilization as opposed to the theories of clash of civilization now abounding.
I tried taking a few photographs of the familiar sights beyond KM3, it turned out on returning that nothing came except the moon and the headlights of approaching trucks. The photography sessions only gave me breaks without any evidentiary proof of the run.  Few people on two-wheelers crossed me in a hurry, I don’t know if they thought me an apparition. Some even speeded on seeing me wave at them. I pre-empted the truck drivers coming from the opposite direction from running over me by waving at them wildly in advance. While some took the bother of moving to the middle of the road, others took pleasure in getting me off the road.
The bleating of sheep and barking of Kalappa’s dog showed that mission nourish-earth was in full swing still. Few tractors had parked for the night outside the Sai-baba temple and the drivers had retired for the night under the tree. The tree with the empty nests, which prompted me to take a photograph yesterday to remind me of the feeling at home after our daughter left us for college, was standing proud and tall against the moon. I could not make out if the nests were still empty (what if the birds wards were day scholars returning home to roost in the night)?
I finally was able to see the water collection point bereft of any crowd, the puddle of water left of the previous day’s dispensing made the place look naked and uncomfortable. Every time I see this point I am only reminded of the contrast of Waterful India (where lawns have their fill and cars take a copious bath) and the Waterless Bharat where even school kids have to contribute their mite to collect the precious liquid for their family’s survival). This is what Gandhi must have meant when he said nature has enough for everyone’s need and not enough even for one man’s greed. Can India and Bharat share with empathy?
Mohd. Sheikh’s Masjid true to its size had celebrated the birthday in a more mature and subdued manner. Soft music was still playing and I took a snap of the place. I crossed the Singh’s Dhaba at the Petrol pump after KM 10, the place receives a mention today because I noticed something I have been missing in my run during the day. The name in Hindi say’s Sing’s daba (maybe this Singh made guests sing for their supper). I may have missed this in the bustle of trucks and the customary waves which I have to exchange during my day runs.
I was not able to locate any cotton bolls even in the bright moonlight. Maybe, they must be hiding for warmth and did not want me to get distracted among them and get late for my work. I was reminded of the story of the young boy throwing back starfish stranded behind on the sand after waves receded in the context of my trying to liken collecting cotton bolls to rescuing street children through o individual effort. A grown up (?) man seems to have told the boy on the beach that it would not make any difference to the situation of the starfish by throwing them back one by one, the reply of the boy was very innocent and inspiring, he went ahead threw back one more stranded starfish and told the old man that he surely made a difference to the starfish which he just threw back. While there is a ground for organized effort for rescuing and rehabilitating street children, there is no reason to despair at the enormity of the task and give up individual effort.
The sheep bleating near KM 14 indicated that Jenaab’s family were only working nights and using the day for Jenaab’s education. Was Jenaab sleeping alone at home with mother while father did the night duty with the sheep? I aimed the mobile and shot as I had done at the Kalappa’s family back at KM7. I reached the mid-point in one hour 32 minutes despite many photo breaks. My first water break was at the midpoint only.
On my return journey, I had the moon facing me and it gave me lot of comfort running to him and not having to turn my head to see if he was still following me. The breeze ensured that I had not sweated much. Not many drivers hooted me though a few dipped their lights in acknowledgement. The run was getting boring with darkness shrouding the natural beauty and the road stretching endlessly. I took a snap of the Raghavendra point (where the road branches out into the street leading to his and Shahid’s house), the street was well lit with double fluorescent lamps to each pole.
Just before the climb at KM9, where I had taken a walking break, I found a vehicle with two bullocks in the rear. I took a photograph to pair it with the one of pigs transported for life a few days back. The animals united in their forced sacrifice for feeding the greed of men saddened me. The driver was nonchalantly relieving himself against a tree, maybe, it was just another consignment to be delivered for him. Outside the Saibaba temple I found that the two truck drivers had woken up and were warming themselves against a fire. I took a break and took a snap of them against the fire. One of them inspected my camera work and clucked in disappointment. I didn’t feel like defending myself with the plea of a archaic camera. It was good enough for me as I was not planning to enter it in any photography competition. It will adorn my mobile as wallpaper for some days till another later snap overtook it in popularity. The policemen were nowhere in sight, maybe, they were in a celebratory mood having celebrated the Prophet’s birthday without any untoward incident.
The lady of the Navratan Jewellers Ad smiled on unabashedly, but, I now see her as a cheerleader welcoming me in the fag end of my run without seeing her as a woman of commerce selling wares to me. The Devi’s temple at KM2 was up and about and devotional music was playing with lights on. I took a photograph for religious parity.
I reached the colony gates well in time to allow me a bath and change before going to the Station. I would be sleep walking the whole day tomorrow. The run took me 3 hours and 19 minutes.

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