Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Meeting the Parle-G lady

Biscuit seems to have settled into the new place, he woke up with my alarm, maybe, first time after coming to Chennai and stayed up with me for the entire spinning session. We had a leisurely walk starting 3 AM. What struck me while going around the Railway colony was that all the blocks have been named after rivers of India and despite that they together are not able to stem the stench of Cooum river flowing alongside, irony indeed! Back after the walk at 3:45 AM, with another 20 minutes for the Chennai Express to arrive, I tried the plank for 30 seconds (measured by breathe in- breathe out!), and followed it by a power nap. Today I was at the gates before Chennai Express arrived.

Sundar arrived at 4:05 AM, today’s discussion was about my attempt at buying a second hand car and my fears of getting cheated. He has graciously accepted to negotiate and gather market intelligence for me! The run was not as smooth today, maybe, sore from yesterday’s run. Reached Lighthouse at 4:49 AM. Cow feeding accomplished in the first loop itself, today, I did not step on to the green as I had a bad experience yesterday and waited for the cow to come to me. The grass has some other vegetation with thorns and is not barefoot friendly. I have become comfortable with giving the peels in the cow’s mouth without fear or revulsion.

The Marina was very crowded today and we had to weave through walkers and sleeping people on the pavement. A man sleeping and his best friend (read dog!) curled up at his feet presented a heart warming sight! The run on this stretch has now become a quiet affair and usually punctuated with waves and smiles exchanged with other runners and walkers.

Now is the time to introduce the protagonist of today’s blog. Near the Labour statute usually a large number of dogs are found. They assemble and wait for this lady to arrive who feeds them Parle-G biscuit every day. While waiting for their b’fast to arrive, they were playing games and some veterans were just lolling around. I had an interesting exchange with her when I reached the same point in the second loop. Reached RBI at 5:22 AM, today was 3 minutes slower than yesterday. On the way back we were following a young runner who was setting a decent pace effortlessly. Without showing that we wanted to overtake him, both of us tried to accelerate to overtake him. He also looked behind every time we reached near him. We caught up with him when he reached his finish point, the Gandhi statue. We crossed him and an exchange of smiles of mutual respect happened. Reached Lighthouse at 5:52 AM (the gentleman had made us do the 5K+ in 30’ flat!). I gave him a clap of admiration when I crossed him on the second loop drawing a wide grin from him, one more friend added to friends list!

At the labour statue the lady was there distributing Parle G biscuits. I stopped and politely told her that I am a dog lover myself and appreciate her feeding the stray dogs and also asked her if she would mind a few suggestions from me! She immediately got on her guard and asked if it is about littering the covers and told that she takes back all the covers in her bag. I said that the glucose biscuits are not good for dogs and any bakery biscuit without salt/sugar and very less oil/fat is best for them. She asked me if I could help her find a bakery, I accepted and promptly passed on the problem to Chennai veteran, Sundar! We have a saying in Tamil, which goes like this; when a young Brahmin was asked by a lady as to why he was still unmarried, he is said to have asked the lady if she would be his wife!

Balaji Ganesan met us here and joined us for a run to RBI and back till Gandhi statue. I came to know that both Sundar and Balaji are Loyala college students, and in no time the two young Loyola loyalists ganged up and left the Hubli passenger huffing and puffing behind. It took me till RBI to catch up with them. We reached RBI at 6:23 AM. We ended at Gandhi statue around 6:50 AM and had a big break for some photographs with Balaji. Reached home at 7:36 AM. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

It was a strong run today!

Why did I bunk yesterday? The soreness of the soles was not a good enough reason, there was more to it. The Sunday’s run turning out to be more a socializing event than for serious running (more photo breaks than run!) had me in a depressed state. I won’t say I did not like meeting so many runners, however, we should have had more of running together and exchange of thoughts to justify the breaks. Even precious rain time was wasted. The enthusiasm of the group and sincere effort to make us welcome was infectious. Hope we can a good run sometimes soon! It turned out that not only did I bunk, I caused Sundar to bunk as well!

Biscuit had a bad night with some ear infection and did not get up with me. He walked in leisurely at 3:48 AM, when I had almost given up on him and demanded his pound of flesh (read walk!), I gave him lip service and just a few grams of flesh! Even then by the time I dropped Biscuit back and reached the gates, Sundar was already there and waiting (I don’t know how long!). We started at 4:07 AM (maybe, Sundar was eager to start after a day’s break and reached earlier than usual!).

Discussions during the initial part of the run were on the KK Nagar run with @Raj. Then it turned to commercialization in the various running events. The conclusion was the gadgets and gizmos initially and then the group recognition and timings take hold of a runner and beyond that comes the stage when running for running sake happens. The trick is to enjoy the running as one progresses through these various stages. I see @Santosh having successfully graduated to the last stage where he has found a higher purpose linked with his joy of running. Hope I get to some higher purpose before age/injury interferes with my joy of running!

We reached Lighthouse at 4:53 AM. I stopped over for cow feeding (I had only one banana peel with me, as our Man Friday decided to empty the garbage can y’day evening!) She gave me a look as if to say ‘Issse Mera Kya Hogaa’. She accepted it gracefully though! Maybe, I should have kept it for the Ram Shyam duo (I don’t refer to their colour!), only they are together always, a pair of calves. Today they were sitting in silent communion facing away from each other, but, touching each other at the sides, watching the passerby. There is a beggar who wishes me and gets wished every day when I cross him, today he tried to slip in the business angle by showing his floor demand by wagging two fingers at me. I silently turned my empty shorts pocket out and he said ok smilingly (we decided to part as friends, no hard feelings!).

Sundar commented about M S Amma still giving us the cold ones, but, his diagnosis is she must be having a cold and must be making her appearance later in the day. I have decided not to drag her into my posts henceforth and see if she decides to perform again for us!

Today I was running strong and fine sand on the walk way was giving my soles good grip, but, it was bad from Sundar, as his shoe soles have gone bald and he is extracting the last few miles from them. He says this new found love for economy is due to the influence yours truly! The timing at RBI, 5:23 AM, was not exactly superfast, but, the feeling was good and I was not breathless. Now Sundar does not need to take stretching breaks (am I spoiling his good habits!) in between, and we immediately turned back. Lighthouse was reached at 5:53 AM. Today some runners have started exchanging waves and responding to smiles. I think I will start liking this route. We have decided to run a marathon on full moon day by suitably advancing the start time from this month onwards. When we were coming for our second loop we met @Ram Rajagopalan and met his friend and him near the Labour statue. We reached RBI at 6:24 AM (1 hour 1 minute for the loop, quite good!). Gandhi statue signal was reached at 6:52 AM.

Now that the good part is done, the return on the traffic laden road and Sun on the back is the necessary payback. However, the good part was that when I waved to two school kids who were waiting with their grandfather waved back after his prompting (city bred kids are not so trusting of strangers and that too half naked ones!). Reached home at 7:29 AM (3:22 hours for 32+ kilometer!), a very satisfying run today.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The tale of the Fox and the Stork

4 AM came and went, I wanted to go out and join Sundar for my usual Sunday long run. I didn’t want to test my Columbusian skills in the new city. I knew there was a twist in the tale when after locking (it’s a self locking type!) my door after taking my leave from my sleepy wife, I opened the garage and found the number lock on the chain lock too difficult to open without my spectacles. When I moved the cycle to below a fluorescent lamp, I saw that the front wheel was completely flat. I was in a dilemma, should I call somebody to pick me? I had already missed the Sundar Bus. It was already 4:40 AM. Then it struck me, I can run to the venue of the run! Would I make it by 5:30 AM, in time for the start of the run?

Though I had the detailed directions on my mobile saved as a saved message and I had done a last minute revision before leaving, I realized at the very first turn where I had to make a decision that any amount of detailed directions cannot be enough for me. The ubiquitous tea stall vendor came to my rescue. I reached near the first flyover (the T Nagar one!) and to verify the directions, I checked with a person standing at the bus stop. When I asked about the next flyover to Kodambakkam, after knowing my destination, he suggested a ride on a bus, not knowing that I was without a penny in my pocket. He said I should not take this flyover and turn right from under the flyover and take the flyover. I stopped after a good run on the flyover to check about the next landmark in the route, to realize that it was in a fine print not readable to my naked eye in the morning light! I had a run on my hands. I remembered the landmark Lakshman stuthi intersection and I found a traffic cop/bus crew who told me that it’s a straight road till the Vadapalani signal. I had a good run till the signal and another few enquiries after turning left from the signal I was at the Lakshman Stuthi signal intersection (I don’t know if Ram was so happy after seeing Lakshman as I was at finding his namesake signal today!).  Having found the route, I now relaxed and the bonus was a cow tethered to a post munching at a garland (silver strands and all!). I offered her the goodies I had brought and she ate it with relish before going back to her staple. It did not stop for patting of her forehead!

To cut the long story short, I reached outside Sivan Park at 5:20 AM (for a change Hubli passenger was before time!) with MGR smiling down making a V sign for my effort! There was a crowd of runners from the youngest a few years old to some of my vintage at the other end of the spectrum. It is gladdening to see so much interest in running to find so many youngsters up and bright at 5 in the morning on a Sunday!

The loo in the park was well maintained and a young girl was religiously sweeping the walkway showing that all was well with the PM’s Swatchtha Abhiyan. Before late the man himself alighted from a vehicle. My first impression of him was, how much weight he has lost! He was half his size I saw at the start of his run on August 15th when I crossed him during my 12 hour run there. He gave a brief talk , after the customary draping of shawl by the KK runners, on his mission and met the youngsters who had gathered there. The run started after a group photo at 5:48 AM. I tried to run at his pace and found the pebbly road too much of a pain at the slow pace, I joined Satgopan Mohan, who was leading the pack and did one loop with him. I realized into my first loop itself, that no way would my bare feet last the 12 hours on this treacherous road!

After the fiasco of the run today, the story I allude to in the title kept flashing in my mind. To recapitulate the story, the fox is said to have invited his neighbor stork for dinner and served soup on a plate not realizing that it can’t eat from a flat surface ( I am sure Kumar Janardhanan had no such scheme idea when he accepted my idea to run with them today!), I therefore don’t propose to invite them over and offer soup in a tall vessel with a narrow opening like the stork! It is not easy to see the course from a barefoot runners perspective, I was regretting not joining Sundar for the run, or, be with Gerald for the planned run from Gandhi statue to Gandhi Mandapam.

After the first loop, I realized that the route had lot of turns and it would be multi-tasking for my poor old brain to keep track of the route while dodging the pebbles on the road. Mohan wanted to take a break and I tried my luck to do the second loop to catch up with Raj. I missed the very first turn and with the help of vendors found my way back to the start point after a short loop, the duration of this adventure tells me I must have logged 3-4 Km’s. I met Neville and a group of runners and we waited for Raj to reach after the first loop. We got a steady shower to wash off our sweat while we waited.

In the second loop, Praveen Giriya, joined me and offered to escort me back to the Kodambakkam bridge after I finish my run. I did the second loop with him discussing the various barefoot friendly routes (he is also a BF runner!). I decided to do a loop with Raj to catch up with him before returning. We stopped at a water point set up outside a runners house (we had earlier refused a group of young kids holding water cups for the runners!). Raj came and changed his wet footwear (he said he is running in his 6th pair from the start!). The next loop was quite enjoyable as I got to talk with Raj and share his thoughts on the run. He is tense on the outcome of Guinness authority’s decision on whether or not they will recognize his effort after he decided to take a vehicle between cities where he actually runs. He was also worried about the finances and his falling behind schedule in his mileage! Hats off to him for attempting this huge effort single handedly, but, he looks alone and the support not adequate. The biggest challenge I feel would be to keep the motivation going. All the best Raj!

I took leave of Raj and steeled myself while refusing his offer for b’fast as I had to run back. The group gave me a warm sendoff as if I had done a 12 hour run! Praveen and one of his colleague’s joined me to drop me till the bridge. This was the best run with good road and two runners who matched my pace and I could work up a sweat. Some in the traffic found this bare-chested baba funny and I got my share of catcalls. One of the guys asked them if I was their coacher! I wanted to tell them I was their follower! The Chennai crowd is quite knowledgeable about running as many commented about bare foot marathoning! I took leave of Praveen after a warm hug at the foot of the flyover after promise of a longer run soon. The rest of the route was straight forward as I had to only ask for Loyola college when in doubt. I was outside the colony gates at 9:24 AM, surprising both the guard and the police outside the Srilankan Deputy high commission about the wrong direction from which the Hubli passenger came today. I wouldn’t hazard to guess the distance I must have done today, but, considering the time taken (even discounting for the liberal breaks!), it must not be less than 30K, but, a far cry from a marathon which is my regular Sunday morning fare! We will make it tomorrow Sundar!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Business as usual

A clear day at the start and Sundar express arrived at 4:07 AM. It’s like the pilot and the co-pilot discussing weather before take-off at the start of the run. We set the run-meter (no gadget, just a target !) to 30+ today. Two loops of Lighthouse to RBI and back. Sundar’s concession to the old man since I am not sure how much I will run tomorrow with Raj at Sivan park in the 12 hour run. He repeated the direction to the venue from my place for the umpteenth time, am sure will again bother him for the final time and make a note of it on my mobile.

The initial stretch and similarly the final part of the run are harsh on my barefeet and I literally have to walk them on tiptoes! The air was cooler even if there was humidity. The taking off of the shirt was the excuse for the walk as we entered the Uttamar Gandhi Salai, I like this appellation for the father of the nation.

I asked Sundar what his speed for a HM was (that is the distance we do nearly, when we are RBI in the second loop!), he said 1:45, today we took 2:20, that’s what a Hubli Passenger does to Chennai Express. He assured me that I was not hindering his practice and he knows what he was doing. Anyway, I am still not confident of doing it alone, and running with a partner is a new experience which I am enjoying! Today, I was slower than my normal self, maybe, I was trying to turn my thoughts inwards, albeit unsuccessfully. I remember even on my very own NH-218, initially all my observations were on nature and then people and animals and finally it was myself. Doing that with a running mate would be an experience. Sundar is a quiet and contemplative person and our exchanges have come down to a minimum, mainly the weather or pointing out the cow of the day to receive the goodies I am carrying.
Reached Lighthouse at 4:48 AM (4:50 AM by his watch!), cow feeding happened smoothly, I called the chosen one today more gently and she responded, I met her across the fence as a guest meets a prisoner. She had the offering graciously and offered her forehead for petting, I like the way each cow does this after I feed them.

I will not banter about M S Amma any more, she has not taken to it kindly and maybe, shifted base. I will wait till Monday before confirming my worst fears. There was a good crowd of walkers and one runner crossed us from the opposite side of the road and waved. The footpath occupants were at their usual places, they were having a leisurely morning and sleeping late, today being a weekend.

Interestingly at the stroke of 5 AM (Sundar’s watch was 5 minutes ahead!) outside Presidency college, Thirukural about rain was being read out(something to the effect that rain is both food and used for making food!) and I had commented to Sundar that its ironical that they read out this passage after all the rain is over! As we crossed the War-memorial, just when we were reaching opposite the secretariat, large drops fell and a steady rain commenced, cooling the body and washing off the sweat. We reached the RBI at 5:22 AM (a little over 11K in 1:15 hrs). We ran on the pavement on the way back from RBI even though it was wet. We crossed a lot of runners during our run now. A group of runners were doing stretching exercises at the feet of Gandhi. We reached the Lighthouse at 5:50 AM (Sundar time!) A person followed us with very heavy footfall after the Gandhi statue and we made way thinking he wants to overtake us. He came alongside and said that this was his first day and that he wanted to run with us. Sundar explained the science of running patiently to him, he ran with us till the Kannagi statue. Sundar told him to persist with his daily run even if the body is sore for the first few days after the run.

Rain played hide and seek in its intensity and now had turned into a very mild drizzle, and slowly the Sun came from behind the clouds and mercilessly turned on the heat. Sundar had his usual drinks break while I said Hi to runners crossing me near the War memorial round about. We reached the Gandhi statue at 7 AM. The return journey was uneventful except a pillion rider with a sophisticated camera taking our photos when we were at the foot of the flyover. A tea stall regular was also commenting in the morning that we come to run daily. I am sure he will add embellishments and market us to fellow customers. Sundar, we are getting noticed! I reached outside the colony gates at 7:34 AM. I would be interested to see how long Sundar takes for his 30K planned for tomorrow while I find my way to Sivan Park for my meeting with the famed RAJ!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Finally a full marathon in Namma Chennai

A long run was long planned for this festival day. Despite my wife scaring me about crackers burst early in the morning in Chennai and how I could get hurt as I run barefoot, I remained firm to do a full today. A full in Chennai was becoming like the elusive 100th century of Sachin.
Biscuit has been having a torrid time with crackers going off at all times of the day and night and the sound getting enhanced due to the close confines of the flat we stay in. He is very fussy about choosing a spot for his morning ablutions and needs absolute silence (He is like Scooby Doo and is even scared of Autos and trucks!) while he is at it. To give him a peaceful walk, I took him out at 2:30 AM itself before settling with my Charkha. Despite his creating a scene for negotiating a stationary truck (we believe he or some of his near and dear would have been hit by truck in his earlier life!), he had a peaceful outing. I had an uninterrupted Charkha session for little more than an hour.
I left at five minutes to 4 AM with two pieces of Jaangri (Imarti if you please, one of the few Vegan sweets I permit myself!) to wish Happy Diwali to Sundar before the run. Punctual as clockwork he was at the gate at 4:02 AM, he only took a very small pinch of the sweet and I took both the pieces. Why I am saying this in so much detail is that I paid dearly for this indulgence in the first hour and half of the run. For such issues my solution always has been to keep the head down and run it down. There is no GI issue arising out of excess indulgence which cannot be quelled by enough running, at first if it does not work, run some more!
The streets were deserted and though random loud reports, air thick with acrid smoke and scraps of paper from bombs presumably burst the previous night reminded us of the dangers of sniper fire, we got lulled into a sense of security after sometime.
Today the plan was to avoid the Poes garden detour and reach Light house via the Gandhi statue which was to give us 6K (Sundar was wearing a Garmin today and most of the distances proved to be more than what we were counting previously!). Three loops of Lighthouse to RBI and back was to give us 30K making the distance a full marathon with the return distance of 6K being taken. Sundar runs about 1K from his house to reach my colony gates, so he does 2K over and above the distance I report. Today I made a conscious decision to not look at my mobile clock any time during the run and I successfully stuck to it.
The Saravana Bhawan outlet which we pass everyday and gives us free coffee aroma was closed today, a local tea shop was doing brisk business without the competition. The street dogs we crossed were looking haggard and tired, presumably, because of the sleepless night they must have had. I was never a fan of this festival which does so much damage to the environment and puts families into financial distress in their trying to keep up with the Jones (or whatever their neighbours are called in Chennai!), the agony the animals suffer due to the bursting of crackers has made me Enemy No.1 of this festival, and then there is the issue of child labour in this industry. The cracker usage had come down drastically in Delhi through the ten years we stayed there due to a successful campaign by the State Government involving the school children, Chennai seems to have a long way to go in this regard.
The skies being clear today, the rush of morning walkers was back to normal and there were a bunch of walkers exchanging ‘Happy Diwali’ near the Gandhi statue. We started our first loop from Lighthouse after the Garmin confirmed that the distance from my home to Lighthouse was more than 6K.
The cows were busy grazing behind fenced enclosures and I could not find a way to get to them (I must find out how they get in the first place!). Further down the run, I found a solitary cow grazing with single minded devotion, and, I decided to try my luck with her. I stood at the fence and called out to her (it was an impolite sound as she has not been previously introduced to me!). Hearing the promising rustle of the plastic cover and maybe the smell of the goodie within, it came to the edge of the fence and accepted the offering. She also allowed me to pet her on the forehead. I took a close up snap of her and accepting this as part and parcel of the meager offering and submitting to it politely, it returned to the main course of its meal. Sundar has now got used to the routine and scouts for cows and points them out to me and politely waits while I chat up my guest of the day.
Today of all days, I expected M S Amma to bless us with her rendition, but, she was conspicuous by her absence. The only explanation to cover her absence could be that she must have gone to give a live performance to the celestials (how can mere mortals like us compete for her affections with the celestials!). I had kept up my hope of hearing her even if later than usual every time I crossed that Perumal temple in all my three loops and had to return empty handed.

The first loop was in darkness and Garmin showed 12K covered in one and a quarter hour when we stopped at RBI (the distance from Lighthouse to RBI was again confirmed to be in excess of the 5K we used to take it to be!). The walk-way being dry meant a good grip and pace today. In the second loop the light also improved, but, this meant the Sun making his appearance. I actually welcomed him as this meant the running clothes would finally dry well! The queasy stomach and rising bile were conquered by the second loop. Sundar took a drinks break in the second loop at his regular shop and this upset his stomach. When we reached Lighthouse he said he may not be able to do the third loop. He insisted that I do the third loop while he waits near the Gandhi statue. My third loop was tough in the grueling Sun, but, he tells me that I took lesser time than he thought I would. The watch at the signal near Gandhi statue showed 8 AM when I reached there. We reached my house at 8:41 AM and a 4:39 FM was my Diwali present! Now for hogging uninterrupted, this is what I call a Pre-paid plan, as opposed to those who would eat and hit the Gym tomorrow! Happy Diwali All!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

It was a near miss today!

After a weekday 30+K yesterday, I was feeling good about Chennai for a change, maybe, I could get to my normal appetite of a Marathon a day by suitably preponing the start! Today again Biscuit refused to get up with me and I had to do an Ekla Chalo on my spinning wheel. Normally, Sundar Purush messages me before starting for the run, today there was no message till 3:50 AM! I messaged him in panic and not receiving a reply, thought for a moment to go back to bed (I thought he had not recovered from the week day 30+K followed by a full day at office!). Finally however, I mustered courage to go it alone (it was clear sky today and I could get help with directions!). To my surprise, Sundar was at the colony gates pacing while looking at his watch like an expectant father outside the delivery room. It was my mistake after all, we had agreed the previous day to meet at the colony gates at 4 AM today, anyway, all’s well that ends in a long run with a friend who is willing to drop pace to match yours.

It was the usual humid Chennai morning and drier road which greeted us. I had to take my shirt off within a KM into our run. Our prayers about unplayable weather were soon answered by the weather gods and a burst of rain cooled us instantly. But, the fly in the ointment was that anticipating dry weather, I had not taken a plastic cover for my mobile (talking of Mobile, mine has had a heart transplant today, having got a new battery!). We stopped at Sundar’s water break shop and got a plastic cover (for a price!) and in went the mobile and his watch).

Even though the road was a bit inhospitable today to my bare feet due to lot of pebbles (effect of persistent rain on the road, are they substandard or not properly sloped!) on the road, the usually rough road in the Poes Garden detour did not deter us from taking the diversion (lest we are seen as avoiding the route!), the guards did give us a look, but, neither tried to increase acquaintance. Today the plan was to go straight to Lighthouse and do two loops from there to RBI and back so as to avoid the Poes garden detour on the way back. We ran at a leisurely pace today, the reason for which I will share later in my narrative, and had to abort the second loop near War memorial to come back home in time for office.

Both of us having exhausted our usual topics of discussion during the run have largely fallen silent during the run truing the adage that ‘a friend is someone with whom you can be silent with’. Today my running partner shared his story of getting married to a girl of his choice. I shall spare you the details as I can assure you the plot will give any Vijay starrer a run for its money and I don’t want to spoil Sundar’s chances of having a go at the silver screen. I can only say that after knowing about their marriage, my respect for his maturity has gone up many folds (I can appreciate this, being at the receiving end of a failed episode about quarter century back!).

Today MS Amma was back in full form and lit up that stretch with her full throated invocation of Suprabhatam (It must be after all a minion’s absence yesterday after all!). Many cows were standing in a huddle near Labour statue much like a crowd of patients outside a Diabetes and Hypertension clinic. I was afraid to favour one of the ladies in the group for fear of causing a stampede (much like heroines of yesteryear used to mob Rajesh Khanna!), I targeted a cow standing a bit aloof and offered her two banana peels, she took it gracefully and allowed me to pet her on her forehead, if the others were jealous, they didn’t show it!

I passed a youngster sitting and smoking near a bus stop while I was engrossed in Sundar’s tale. Somehow his age and innocent face made me stop and go back to advice him to chuck the habit. It turns out that he is 26 years age and his affair with Lady Nicotine was less than a year old. I told him about my own addiction to the habit for over 16 years and how difficult it becomes to quit as the habit becomes older. He seemed to take it positively. I told him to run if he found time hanging on his hands! I feel like interceding with every individual with a cigarette/beedi, but, am only afraid of ridicule. What emboldened me today was a message yesterday from a runner friend who said that he has quit smoking after a year of doing it and is now enjoying his running and that he watched the movie on running where I have told my story of quitting smoking.

Before i forget, let me mention meeting Ram Rajagopalan who stopped by us in his car when we were on our way back. He told me that was i not in the wrong city, i told him i will make it the 'Right' city!

We had started at 4:08 AM from my colony gates and I finished at 7:34 AM, today the run was about 30K. As for the slow speed, blame it on Sundar’s interesting story!

Monday, 20 October 2014

Break ke baad

It was Sundar's turn to call off the run with fever and body pain yesterday. I did not have the confidence to go alone in the rain, knowing that if i take a wrong turn, there would not be anyone to guide me on the roads. A miserable and wet Sunday spent moping, all the more because all friends were running the Bengaluru marathon while i was twiddling my thumb. Biscuit obliged with a leisurely walk. Sundar compensated by announcing a long run for today to make up for the lost run yesterday. Biscuit did not wake up for his walk today (first time for him, but, he seemed fine when i came back and met him!). Though the road outside the colony was flooded, the rain had settled into a mild pitter patter, spent after two days of hard raining down on the hapless city. Sundar came promptly at 4:05 AM. Today we decided not to take the diversion into the Poes garden lane as we had found it quite flooded the previous time, moreover, the guards with weapons could be jumpy with their precious charge just returned from the prison. This meant we had a flyover climb and reworking of the route to get the mandated 30K+! Gandhi stood alone drenched to the bones. I find the wet pavement too smooth for my barefeet and switched to the road for better grip. A middle aged couple with a shared umbrella were doing a Raj Kapoor, Nargis act in the rain. No cows in sight, or, was i too early for them! M S Amma seemed to be having Monday morning blues and had not started her rendition of Venkatesha Suprabhatam. Kannagi was looking beautiful drenched in the rain and confident in her chastity seemed to dare one to look anywhere but her eyes! Our plan was to run to RBI from Gandhi statue and do one more loop from Lighthouse to RBI to make it a round 32K for the day. The clouds seemed to have enough stock to make us feel humid and run today was not as pleasant as the Saturday’s. The first stop was near the start of the Napier Bridge (5:12 AM). The stretch from this point to RBI was very pleasant on my bare feet and added to very less traffic, this has become my favourite. We reached RBI at 5:42 AM. On the way back we decided to run in the face of the incoming traffic instead of the pavement on Marina side (for better grip for my soles!). Even though there was traffic, the drivers seemed considerate and we reached Light house at 6:19 AM. Now for the second loop to RBI! M S Amma was still not up, but, a few cows were having a breakfast party in the rain. I approached the nearest one and offered my today’s menu (Cabbage leaf and Banana peelings), she gobbled up the cabbage leaf and before I got to give her the next piece, a black beauty with sharp horns came charging for her share and dropped the rest of their packed b’fast and beat a hasty retreat. Chennai cows seemed to have taken a liking to healthier diet I bring for them! RBI reached at 6:19 AM. On the way to Lighthouse, Sundar broke away with the promise to wait for me after his drinks break near War memorial. We reached Lighthouse at 6:52 AM, and now for the home run. Two stretches under the Rail over bridge near Lighthouse station and on the climb at the flyover, the road had lot of pebbles and I had to walk. The soles were soft due to their having been soaked in water for close to 3 hours and they had become sensitive to pebbles. Reached outside the colony gates at 7:34 AM (3:29 minute run for 32k!). Biscuit was waiting eagerly for his morning walk, which worked out like a cool down routine for me.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Hud Hud left us feeling Gud Gud in Chennai

Its been raining incessantly since yesterday 11 AM onward, the roads are flooded and the city is in a disarray. A big shower at 3AM, put a big question mark over Biscuit's walk and the run thereafter. Thankfully the rain subsided just for enough time for Biscuit to have a quick tour of the water drenched neighbourhood, i don't know if he missed the Hubli Golf course after rain, i sure did! Sundar messaged me if the run was on and i texted back sure it was! That must have helped him get past his better half's reservations about the mis(?)adventure. I quickly tucked Biki (short for Biscuit, my 6 year old Labrador, for those who haven't had the previlege of knowing him yet!) in side and was at the gates. Rain was getting harder, but, decision had been made and i was glad for it. While waiting in the rain, i went back to y'day's lift incident (for those of the readers who feel the dead horse has been flailed enough, do switch off for a while!), the few minutes it took for the lift to reach the lady of the 3rd floor to her station and come back were my Petermaritzburg moments. What hurt me most was that it hurt me! Looking at the comments and seeing that the helpers do not take the lift when Biscuit and i are on it (i used to think they were afraid of him!), i only hope the lady's reservation were only skin deep, viz., my attire, sweat  and bare feet (talking of bare feet i felt in august company of M F Hussain!). If the reservation is sharing the lift was anything more pernicious, this Gandhi would have found a mission! Enough of the lift don't you think!
It was absolute bliss to run on the deserted and drenched streets. Even the policemen and dogs were not to be seen, i was only worried if cows would there to receive my offering. Some of the stretches were badly inundated and Sundar must have had it tough with shoes on. The rain came in spells and God decided to put on a sound and light show of lightning and thunder to recognise us bravehearts perseverance. The guards near Amma's residence were standing to attention with weapon in hand, a dress rehearsal in anticipation of her arrival ? By the time we reached the Gandhi statue, it was pouring heavily and Gandhi looked washed clean and the walkway absolutely deserted. A few cows were grazing away unconcerned with the rain pouring on their backs. I called one to the fence with my offering of banana and orange peel and today's winner was a Yama's steed (or his better half?). Her gender was confirmed when i found her with her son trying to find shelter under a small tree on my way back in the first loop from the Napier bridge. We didn't check the time at the bridge as it was raining and i didn't want my mobile or Sundar's watch (now snugly ensconced in a plastic bag in my pocket of the top tied around my waist!) catching a cold. I vetoed his idea of going to RBI as my bare feet would not know the road condition under the water. We decided to do a loop from the bridge to lighthouse and back. The smooth surface of the walkway was slippery and required all my concentration to give my bare feet a good grip at each step. M S amma was giving a private concert for us and her full throated rendition of the Vishnu Sahasranamam ,unpolluted by the noise of the traffic, was heavenly. Second time around when we reached the Napier bridge, it was light and we decided to go to RBI after all. We reached RBI at 6:11 AM (4:03 AM start!) Sundar stopped for a drink enroute and we had a photo session at the bridge. We found a couple walking and a few runners . The runners cheered us and were cheered back in return. The water level on the roads had increased compared to what it was on our beach-ward journey. We had to take to walking where the water was almost ankle deep. A few dogs had gotten up and around to attend to their bread and butter issues (its a dog's life rain or shine, unless you are well placed and born with a silver bone like Biscuit!). Sundar did a good sprint before his water break point, with the result i didn't get any break at that point (anyway my security guard friend was not there today!). More run and walk and we hit my colony gate at 7:43 AM. A good rain drenched 3hour 40 minutes of bliss and not less than 30K of a run. We parted with promise of an encore at 4 AM tomorrow!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Ferrari ki Sawari

Fever and body ache kept me off the road yesterday, thankfully a good night's sleep cured me fully. When i was waiting for Sundar at the gates of the colony, a stray was wooing his girlfriend unmindful of the passing traffic. The road was relatively deserted and looked like, a tired mother taking a break with her kids in school, waiting for the bumper to bumper office rush to start. Today my leg felt absolutely fine and i was running effortlessly, Even Sundar noticed it and commented on it during the run. There was a slight wetness in the air and we thought it must be raining somewhere nearby. To our pleasant surprise, Marina decided to give us a glimpse of the Monsoon Magic, but, i guess there were more people waiting for the drizzle to stop and the joy of running in the rain was short lived. Looking forward to the Monsoons! The cow busy in cropping the green grass looked up from the task and nonchalantly gobbled up the offering of banana peel and went back to eating grass without as much a Thank You! Felt good that the taste of the city cows is improving from the Newspaper and Posters they were being used to grazing! A pair of stray dogs were romancing in the rain unabashed by the crowd of walkers and runners much like a couple on honeymoon! I always admired the cows returning after their morning b'fast in a disciplined manner near the pedestrian crossing, but, a big buffalo knocked down dead by a car (car had one side badly battered!) gave me a queasy feeling. Guess we must have time slots for the four legged ones so that they don't meet the civilised in their visit to the Beach. Today started at 4:36 AM, half way mark at 5:43 AM (it seems the run felt like a Ferrari ride for its smoothness, not for the speed!), returned at 6:50 AM. Had an unpleasant incident in the lift, while i was waiting to get in, the lady in the lift refused to share the lift asking me to wait and that she would send the lift back after she went up, i am only guessing she didn't want me to be offended by the sweat smell and was not my dress or the lack of it (I had put on my top before entering the colony gates and do not plan to shock the Bhadralok of the metropolis before their time!). I shall call her the lady of the 3rd floor for future reference! Tomorrow a longer run and earlier start at 4 AM!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Hubli Passenger on borrowed time in Hubli and not complaining!

Have been trying to get to Chennai where my daughter is already there for some time now. When i was hinted about orders for Chennai yesterday evening, while there was relief on one hand, on the other hand there was the sadness of having to let go of a part of me, my highway! I am sure i can be taken out of Hubli ,but, Hubli cannot be taken out of me. I shall continue to run as the 'Hubli Passenger'! It was with these sobering thoughts i took to my highway at 4:28 AM. Temple stop at 4:54 AM. The moon was out with a bevy of stars and i tried to soak in every bit of the place. I reached the half way mark at 7:09 AM. On the return trip, a lamb got the banana peels and i made friends with its master. A lone calf bellowing at KM 11 called for a snap and some friendly noises from me. Reached the temple at 9:39 AM. Had my fill of water at the temple and cycled back home at 10:13 AM. Must make the best of the stay in Hubli and have as many runs as possible, hope my body co-operates!

Farewell NH-218!

Everything went off with lightening speed after the orders from the Ministry. I was relieved within three days flat much to my relief ,but, with a twinge of sadness. Farewell at the office added a few kilos to my ego, thankfully only figuratively. Even if its customary to only speak well of the dead and the departing (even on transfers!), it does make one feel good. The entire four years at this idyllic place went as a flashback in front of my eyes during myrun today. I left the house on my bicycle at 4:09 AM. It was near pitch dark with the anorexic moon hiding behind a veil of clouds. Tail lights of a flight was competing with a few stars for the Hubli Passenger's affections. The transformer at KM5 was muttering to itself and spitting fire sporadically. Parked the bicycle at the temple and started the run at 4:36 AM. It was daybreak at KM19 and i was able to shed my top and reflective vest. Being Sunday, my young friends were not at the bus stand. Two children at KM 27 (village Taralwad) flagged me down for the usual questions (how old, from where, when i left and when will i get back!), they were waiting for me with a bunch of friends when i returned after touching KM28. I asked the farmer at at a field near KM28 to feed his bullocks the vegetable waste i had carried with me (They refused to take it from my hand!), i captured the moment on my cellphone. The Lord Ganesha statue at KM 21 was still waiting for his Ice Bucket Challenge which i was told would be today, i took one more snap of him. At KM 19, i met my regular friend who wishes me on his morning walk every day when i run. I told him that this my last run as i am transferred and am relocating to Chennai, we parted with a warm shake of hands. When i reached KM 18, a guy came in the opposite direction on his bike and stopped me agitatedly. He asked me why i did not run the last two days, he said he is a friend of one of the Tata Ace tempo drivers who had told him a lot about this barechested runner and wanted to meet me. I told him he was just in time as this was the last run of the Hubli Passenger. We had lots of snaps and he promised to put it on Facebook! I forgot to mention that i had a niggle on my right leg (where the thigh meets the hip) for the first four Km's today, i persisted as i did not want to miss the final run. The leg gave up in the face of my persistence. I finished the run at 9:23 AM where i met the Pujari of the temple who greeted me with a wide smile, i took a snap of passion meeting faith! All in all a very fulfilling and nostalgic run. I am sure i can squeeze in a few more when i come back to move my kit! Farewell Hubli!

Run on the Marina

After two days of hectic socialising and getting to grips with the Metro, decided to do a run today morning. Left at 3:57 AM from my Rest house in Egmore and ran till Marina . Did five loops of Labour statue to Lighthouse and back. Presented my credentials to Gandhi before the nation claims him for a day. The crow was having a measure of his bald pate and he was looking on benignly. Lost my way on the way back, got to see RBI, Port Trust and High Court. Gave up in the face of relentless traffic and took the Suburban train from Park station to Egmore and walked back to the rest house. Reached Park station at 6:40 AM. Thankfully nobody challenged me on the train as it would have been difficult to throw my rank at the TTE in barefoot and shorts! More tomorrow.

Revision of the Marina route

Off at 4:00 AM today for the run on Marina. But for some bad patches where CMRL is working outside Chennai Central station and the Queue of loaded Container trucks outside Port Trust, the start point, the 'Triumph of Labour' was reached without a hitch. Did three loops of Labour statue to Lighthouse and back. Timed one of the loops, It took me 34 minutes, but, i don't know the distance! MS Amma was waking up the Purushottamma, and i felt it was the wake up call for all that is good in one. Cows were grazing under the benign gaze of Amma giving the morning a rustic charm. One of the cows having had its fill tried to cross the road, i couldn't but admire its lane discipline as it stuck to the yellow line in the middle unperturbed as traffic roared past on both its sides. A lesson for the Hubli Passenger to negotiate the chaotic Chennai roads! The runners share the track with sleeping people. I was jealous of their deep sleep amidst all the din in the company of great people (Gandhi, Subhas and Nehru to name a few) and the cool breeze of the sea. When i was in my second loop some of these people had woken up and started plying their trade, a classic case of work from home. I was impressed by a black Labrador (Allwyn!) whom was sitting on the bike in front on the fuel tank without a fuss, must get Biscuit to learn! Some of the kids and a few elders have started warming up to the Hubli Passenger. The bunch of stray dogs around the labour statue did try to bark me down ,but, bowed down to my persistence and grudgingly yielded me the right of way in my subsequent loops. I had no mishaps on the way back and reached Chennai Park station at 6:37 AM, i was also armed with my I-card today. I must plan other routes after i shift here from 6th Oct, onwards! Going to Hubli to home food and my very own highway, Yay!

DNF today

Something is not well, Saturday missed because of late arrival of train, Sunday because of indifferent health. Even though i woke up an hour later than usual, I left home at 4:38 AM after a curtailed session at the charkha. It was a pitch dark night which welcomed me to my run. I sung to myself and kept ringing the cycle bell to avoid a collision. Started the run at 5:07 AM. The fog settled on eyebrows and moustache in cold droplets. The morning train screamed in from the opposite direction with all the lights on like a child sleeping with lights on. The road wet with dew came into life around KM 14, but, i postponed the strip tease to KM 18. The vehicles, even the heavy Multi axle trucks were very considerate to the Hubli Passenger. The luscious Sun came out quietly from behind the clouds and by the time i reached the Hebsur village, KM 19, it was searing my neck and shoulders. A few friends asked me if i had not gone to Chennai, i told them i am back for a week to take my family and kit. I persisted with the full quota despite knowing that the return trip would be hell.I had a long chat with Raj Vadgama between KM 24 and 25, and it felt good to be running with him and exchanging notes about his battles with the adverse weather he was getting. Made my own battle with the Sun bearable. I reached the half way mark of KM 28 at 7:27 AM. A bullock got my affection in the form of banana peels at KM 21 on the way back. I was instantly granted friendship of the lady and her Son who were tending to him affectionately. It is heart warming to see the bonding between the man and the faithful animal. Despite loud cheering from the school kids, the Sun sapped all the enthusiasm from the run. I was staring at the ignominy of a DNF (Did Not Finish) even on my very own highway. I stopped at KM 10 for a drink of water. That only made me go in kicks and start till KM 9 when my legs gave up. The long wait to get a vehicle to give me a lift to the temple beyond KM 7 where my bicycle was parked was painful. The passerby commiserated with the stalled Hubli Passenger and made it worse, finally at 9:42 AM, Umesh came in a three wheeler commercial pickup vehicle and gave me a drop. A forgettable second half of the run. Hope tomorrow is better. With a journalist wanting to take a few photos of my run and an interview therafter, it better be!

Running the talk

It is that time of the year when Gandhi statues are cleaned up and anyone who has any claim on the old man cornered for bytes. Felt good when the local reporter of ToI landed yesterday afternoon requesting for a feature. The request was that my run should continue beyond 9 AM for clear running photos. Given the DNF the previous day i was wary so i started later, Left at 4:54 AM from home, It was at 5:28 AM when i started the run. I consciously kept a very slow pace to avoid crashing before 9 AM. I met my Salman Khan ( i call him that because he helped me take off my top for the first time, he used to return topless after his walk), his name i found out today was Jannu, told him of my transfer to Chennai. The weather was kinder today. Heavy fog meant very tentative running, i kept to the left of the center ( i hate extreme right and left anyway!)  by keeping close to the white line to ensure not getting off the road. It was cloudy and cool till the strip tease point at KM 15. My little friend of KM 19-20 was up and brushing her teeth, she gave me a warm smile. I told her father of my transfer. Sun got tiresome by the time i touched KM 25. I countered it by further reducing my pace. Reached the half way mark at 7:50 AM. Cow feeding at a new house today even before reaching half way mark. When i had plodded on to KM 18, i got a call from the reporter (8:46 AM) that they are near KM 10 and on the way. I met them at KM 14. The takes were professional and it went off without a fuss (i think i am also learning to act while running!). The reporter-photographer team left, promising to call me and come for the interview later. I took water from a farmer at KM 13, a shop at KM 9 and finally at the temple stop. I must have got enough vitamin B12, Venkatraman Pichumani, as all these are untreated water! I don't know about GI disorders, thankfully nothing till now. Finished the run at 10:20 AM and reached home at 10:56 AM (crossed the 6 hour barrier, shed to shed!). Felt good to finish the run finally!

Everyone must be his own scavenger

I am sure Bapu must be smiling on all of us for making a concerted effort for cleaning. Yesterday, I was made to bunk the run with cold stares from you know who! I was also feeling guilty that I was not doing my bit for the packing and shifting work. Neither of us have any great hopes from my ability in that direction, but, the fifth wheel I was yesterday. Miserable at the end of the day! Some uncertainty of how Biscuit would be transported and a late night get together with a colleague who was full of praise for me took me well beyond my usual sleep time. Had a fitful sleep. Woke up at the usual time and instead of stretching the spinning session, left for walk with Biscuit at 3 AM itself to avoid feeling sleepy again. Left for the run at 3:48 AM (I was scared wife would see the clock and catch me at it!). The run started at 4:20 AM. Stars were out in full strength to witness the Hubli Passenger show. They didn't do  much to improve visibility and I had to trust the broken white line in the middle of the road as my lifeline. An early start meant a run in total darkness and no distractions except a few vehicles seeking acknowledgement of their honks! I was contemplating on our failure to maintain cleanliness in public spaces and how Gandhiji would have gone on to lead us in the battle. The focused approach of the PM would really have brought a smile on the Mahatma's face and he would be relishing this birthday present from the nation, however, the glitz and showmanship would have been a little too gaudy for his tastes. The best part is that it is being planned as a five year sustained campaign. To my mind why we fail to maintain cleanliness in Public spaces is because we have all along been concentrating on cleaning the muck instead of giving sufficient attention on creation of the muck. It is the easy availability of manpower for these works which insulates the muck creator from his responsibility. It is in this context that the Mahatma's exhortation that 'Everyone must be his own Scavenger' makes absolute sense. The change has to start from home, washing ones own cup/plate and clothes would be a good beginning. The boys have to be taught this. Sweeping and mopping of one's room should be made a compulsory routine along with play and studies. The patriarch of the family has to walk the talk with the broom and mop to send the right message. In schools sweeping of classrooms to start with (in pairs) and toilets gradually should be made a part of school activity (Socially Useful Productive Work,SUPW, it was called in our time!). As a next step in offices, the culture of office boys/peons for washing cups/plates and wiping the table should be gradually discouraged. In any case people applying for even manual jobs are double graduates/post graduates now a days. The released manpower can easily be trained to do skilled work. Similarly in hotels the customer should be encouraged to drop the waste from the plate to the dustbin and wash the plate/cup before dropping it for proper cleaning. All these would engender a respect for manual labour and empathy with the person who cleans the muck we create. The atmosphere is ripe now and one word from our PM would have the babus outdoing each other in cleaning. Hopefully, the cleaning of the Augean stables can follow in due course! Reached the half way mark at 6:32 AM, a brisk pace for the run in darkness, maybe, the radical thoughts flowing in my mind were doing the trick. A person accosted me at the half way mark and asked a question I have not been asked before, i.e., how much I earned and if I was bigger than the DM (District Magistrate). I told him I have put in more than double the service as compared to the DM and that I get more salary than him suitably impressed him! Praveen and a village elder met me at KM 21 (village Hebsur) and enquired if I had come to pick my family. Exchanged telephone numbers and said my byes (I could still meet them in the next few days!) Reached the temple at 8:53 AM and the Sun couldn't do a thing to me (he must have cringed at my scorching pace, shades of Chennai Express on Hubli Passenger?) Dish antennae removed so no Gandhi movie today! Happy Gandhi Jayanthi folks!

Bismillah with SundarPurush

When I walked out of the colony gates after earning the wrath of the sleeping guard, for not having spotted that the gate was not locked and that the chain with lock was just wrapped around the two leaves of the gates, at 4:30 AM, I was fondly remembered the friendly banter I used to exchange with Rehman bhai at our colony gates in Hubli (sometimes as early as 2 AM!). The full moon greeted me on my morning run meaning it is already a fortnight since I touched base in Chennai on the auspicious new moon day of Mahalaya Amavasya.
The last two weeks have been hectic and we have undergone turmoil in bidding farewell to Hubli. Even though transfers have been many in my two decade long career, the pangs this time in parting with my NH 218 and its friendly denizens has been quite painful, maybe, the Hubli passenger is getting old and mushy!
Biscuit (my six year old Labrador, for those who have not been introduced to him!) also on his part having been used to a duplex residence with an ample lawn and attached golf course has found the concrete jungle of a colony and a 5th floor residence on a flat quite a challenge to say the least. He has learnt to travel in the cramped lift even if some higher mammals find it difficult to share the lift with him, requiring him and his master to climb/ descend the 5 flights of stairs.
The leave taking at Hubli from the Railway friends was quite emotional and this Gandhi wannabes delicate stomach found the well intentioned Love-Jihad of delicacies of my friends a little too tough to handle leading to a tummy upset. It could be the fear of getting through the mammoth task of shifting our life’s belongings by coordinating with so many agencies.
My wife got things to reasonable shape at home yesterday and bolstered by her kitchen’s diet for a day, I advertised for the run today. Sundarpurush a veteran of Bangalore Ultra and a good friend since 2011, offered to chauffeur the Hubli passenger through the maze that is the metropolis, Chennai.  While I was waiting outside the gates of the colony, the policemen on duty showed no interest in the half naked, barefoot baba, while the dog kept up its incessant bark at me for being improperly dressed and being out before time. I tried to wear it down with a gentle smile, but, I think she being city bred will take longer wooing!
We started the run at 4:36 AM and the initial part of run was all about exchanging our life events since our last meeting in 2011 and about my experience in turning barefoot. He pointed out the various landmarks for remembering the route so that I could attempt a solo run if I so desired. Though the route looks straight forward, I would take some more guided sessions before I would venture on my own. Most of the stretch was well lighted except a small stretch near Poes garden (probably in mourning for the famous resident’s continued incarceration!) We got to discussing why most people are feeling some sympathy for her plight. My take is the inordinate delay in meting out just desserts for the purported crime and her behavior in the interim in winning the hearts and minds, particularly, of the poor and needy. We ran up to Gandhi statue on the Marina and did a loop from that point to the Napier bridge and back. There were many familiar sights and friends, not to forget the dogs near the Labour statue, in that stretch. A beggar gave a smile of recognition and I gave a wider one in return, the Hubli passenger’s warmth is slowly but surely thawing the metrozens! Sundar called for a stretching break at half way mark and the time was 5:43 AM. The return trip was also pleasant as the Sun was still not up and warmed up. A water break at Sundar’s joint was the only stop over thereafter before the duo reached outside the colony gates at 6:49 AM. I am given to understand that the Hubli Passenger may have logged 20K in the process. We parted promising each other an encore tomorrow!

Chala Murari Hero Banne

After just one day of running on Chennai Roads I hit a road block in the form of unexplained pain on my right thigh which contrary to normal soreness seemed to aggravate with running. I had the ignominy of aborting the run on two successive days despite Sundar trying to diagnose the injury and suggest stretches for the same. It was with this backdrop that I started for Bangalore on Friday night for the preview shows of running movie made through crowd sourcing by Ash Nath. The movie ‘Two feet to fly’ is a story of six runners from across India who have battled and overcome various disabilities ranging from god given like blindness to self inflicted like smoking. Yours truly fell in the latter category. The story of my dirty divorce with Lady Nicotine and getting hooked with the mother of all addictions read ‘running’ was beautifully portrayed by the creative team. The movie was shown in previews on Saturday and Sunday last to enthusiastic response from the patrons and invitees. The feeling of seeing oneself on celluloid is indescribable. The stories of other characters in the plot were moving. I really felt humbled by the experience. Biscuit (my six year old Labrador for those of you who haven’t been introduced) had a reasonable role in the movie and his name not being in the cast was taken up with the Director who agreed to set right the grave error! Biscuit refusing food for two days during our absence could be due to the new place and our absence, but, I would believe it to be due to the omission to give him his due place in the cast! Ash Nath's belief and persistence in the project and the excellent work by the creative team truly deserve my humble respect!

Dharmender gave me a chance to run the Bengaluru marathon route along with himself, Nagraj Harsha, Saloni and Randeep Arora. The runners were well taken care by the Race director Nagraj Adiga who rode till the half way mark on a bicycle (this would be a worthy tradition for the Bengaluru marathon as Dharmender was mentioning a similar practice in NY marathon where the Race Director runs the entire course after the event!). We started at 6:20 AM ( I reached the start point at 5:45 AM on my nephew’s bicycle and this time for a change didn’t have any problem in locating the same after the run!). Dharmender wanted me to check the barefoot friendliness of the course!
The first break was taken after 10K on the perimeter of the Ulsoor lake where we stopped for a banana/water break. It was a clouded day and the weather was runner friendly and the course really flat, but, even though we had the services of a Traffic police constable accompanied us all through the route to escort us across the intersection, since we were running in traffic, I had to run on the edge of the road and soles took a beating due to pebbles there. I hope it would be better on the race day with complete traffic regulation. Pani Sir caught up with us at near KM 17 and he accompanied me all through the run and also dropped me to where my steed was tethered. Next break was stretched beyond the 20K mark and we stopped at outside the Race ambassador, Reeth Abraham’s residence, who joined us till the turning point and back to her house. The run was enjoyable despite the Sun due to such august company. Meanwhile, the pebbles took a steady toll on my soles. This combined with the heating surface made me go faster despite Dharmender constantly reminding us to be together to make the job of the Traffic constable accompanying us easy. We finished the run at 11:07 AM, a creditable 4:47 FM for the ailing Hubli Passenger!

Cut to Chennai, Biscuit eating enthusiastically on seeing us, gave us lots of pleasure, much to my daughter’s consternation who had vainly tried to feed him in the last two days. The whole of Monday was spent recovering from the FM and the heady feeling of seeing oneself on the celluloid.

Today mornings run was absolutely essential to perform on home pitch, come Tuesday, and I was at the gates of the colony. Sure as clockwork Sunday met me at 4:35 AM and we had a good run, the groin showing up again in the beginning. Sundar was kind to run to my speed without appearing condescending. We reached the half way mark at 5:42 AM. On the way back just when we were about a few hundred meters from my home, a car honked behind me. When I tiredly gave way, it drew across us and the man at the wheel gave us a slow clap of appreciation. Sundar told me that it was one Mr. Gupta of Chennai runners. The run finished at 6:50 AM, an almost even split. The plan now is to sustain this distance and conquer my pain in the leg till Friday and try some long run over the weekend!

Baaton Baaton Mein

Had the usual Chennai quota of run, even if laboured, today. Today the discussions were mostly on the very high fees and prohibitive add ons in most of the runs nowadays. The nagging pain in the right thigh continues, but, it is tapering down. Today i carried vegetable waste and banana peelings for the cows which graze the greens on the Marina. The first cow registered a firm No with a violent shake of its head from side to side, maybe, its diabetic or had it had its fill on the grass! After the next cow gobbled up the offering, the first cow gave a hurt look, tough luck! Sundar usually stops at a shop for water break on the way back, today one person came up to me and asked the usual questions, viz., how old?, age, and where i work. He wanted me to guess his age and comment on his fitness, i told him he had to cut down his belly fat! He is a security guard and my prescription to him was taking rounds of his charge at least during morning and evenings! He offered to get me Tea, which i refused politely, without confusing him with my fundas about Vegan diet! Today we started from my house at 4:35 AM, half way mark at 5:45 AM and home at 6:55 AM. Speed can wait, first i need to show consistency.
I commute to and from work on Local train. I like the way old people and young kids gather around me to lead them across the busy pedestrian crossing ( even though it has a Zebra crossing, no vehicle stops and pedestrians have to muscle their way!) at Nungambakkam after the subway. I try to imagine myself as David chacha (if not Amol Palekar) of Baaton Baaton Mein movie. Pity with the segregation in place boys and girls don't get to interact, we know whom to blame. Slowly co-passengers and beggars on the two stations have started recognising me. As a daily commuter, i am not asked for alms. The way the co-passengers keep themselves occupied during the journey and the vendors and hawkers are a grist for my writer's mill, more about it some other time!