Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The journey from Dream runs to Ultra

 Yesterday was the Sunday solistice for me (the longest day!), day started as chronicled earlier in detail at 1 AM for the early morning run and I got to draw stumps and call it a play at 11:45 PM after dropping my niece on her train. I had earlier in the night yesterday, bravely concurred to Sundar Purush invite for a 4AM run for today. I decided to sacrifice the spinning and Biscuit’s walk letting me wake up at 3:15 AM. It’s a different matter that at 3:45 AM, Sundar announced rescheduling the run to 5:30AM due to a late night (must be the little one!). I was far too gone and Biscuit having gotten a walk late in the evening the previous day was not pressing his case. I decided to leave at my usual time.
 I had planned a 32K today in what would have been a longer run in quite some time. I left at 4:02 AM. The pavement having been dug up to put up barricades to stop two wheelers from riding on the pavement was totally barefoot unfriendly. I took the middle of the road. No drunken revelers today and I had a good start with a smooth stretch of newly laid road to follow. A new arrival dog at the petrol bunk on entering Uttamar Gandhi Saalai did do due diligence on my reaction to his overtures before relenting and letting me go. The guards outside US consulate after Gemini Flyover initiated the introductions today. As I crossed Stella Mary’s, I remembered yesterday’s incident which I forgot to report. Four dogs, three Alsatians and one Great Dane had had a barking match yesterday (I had thought then that the residents of this all Girls institution had turned to men’s best friend for their security having no faith in human’s ability to take care of them!). I had taken a picture of the four hounds shaking up the closed gates in a bid to rattle me (I shall post it depending on disbeliefs, if any, voiced by my readers!). If this was not weird enough, I saw a young donkey tied at the bus shelter with only the smiling visage of Amma to give him company. I had recorded this also for posterity. There is never a dull moment during the morning runs. Today the college and the bus stand attached were back to business to welcome their wards at the start of a new week. Met my friend Venky at his ATM. After enquiring about my missing partner, he bid me bye after asking be to be careful of the traffic.
 I have had one more unpleasant incident during morning run which has gone unreported. There are lot of stray dogs and older vagabonds sitting under the MRTS overhead alignment. I found one of them teasing the cur and he was taking pleasure in the dog squirming in pain. I regret that that I did not have the courage to confront them. I remember this as the chief tormentor wished me as crossed him in my run today. I took the opportunity to take up the Canine right issue and he sheepishly apologized.
 Reached the Lighthouse at 4:45 AM. Given the small peelings and the impatience of the approaching cow, I served it on the grass patch in front of her, but, waited patiently till it fully finished it. People have started to stop for observing this daily morning ritual. Nobody has challenged me so far on this, but, I start revising my defence as soon as I sense an audience building up.
 Today Parle-G lady was present in person with her assistants to supervise the canine feeding operation. The stretch from War memorial to the start of the Mount road was better lighted today. I got a greeting from the armed Army guard standing outside the colony gates. I reached back to Lighthouse at 5:49 AM. Time was on my side to permit me another loop and my legs were not complaining!
 Srikumar Rangarajan joined me near Labour statue and offered to run with me for this loop. What followed was an interesting discussion on barefoot running and of quitting the Tobacco addiction. I suggested he draw on his religious faith to find strength to beat the Nicodemon. What followed was a engrossing discussion on Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and the thoughts of JK and Ramana maharishi. My unsolicited advice to him was to go for a long run whenever he felt the nicotine calling.
 We kept on about the problem of old age when we would lack company having already become nuclear families with one child. To me the entire process of growing up is like graduating from the noise and fun of a crowded Dream run to graduating to a more intense HM with lesser company. Finally, the solitude of an Ultra marathoner is what gives one the maturity of being comfortable with oneself. Isn’t life all about looking inward and finding one’s truth!
 After a small water break at Lighthouse, he joined me on the return journey. We parted at the flyover promising more such meditative runs in future. I finished my run at 7:36 AM. Hope I can keep this distance going for the week, will plan a longer run in the weekend.

Indian Railways worsts Indian Army!

 Two incidents dominated yesterday’s proceedings, one good and one bad! Good one first; 
 A visit to my friend and batch mate, Sunita Vedantam was long overdue. Yesterday I got a frantic call that her grandfather (a Gandhian, all of 95 years!) wants to meet regarding his broken charkha. I found him to be sprightly, alert, good eyesight (w’out specs) and hearing. He showed lot of interest in my spinning and was overwhelmed that I wear shirts made of yarn spun by myself. After examining the charkha, I suggested that he could replace it with a new one which I could arrange from the workshop opposite the Sabarmati Ashram. He was quite insistent that he would like his one repaired. I sent him a spare spindle and some cotton. He has lot of plans for nutritional meals scheme for young children and wanted me to join him. His memory is quite good and recollections from his father’s involvement in the freedom struggle kept us going much beyond our bed times. I was struck by energy and enthusiasm at that age and I came back rejuvenated to start something myself!
 After typing the bad news, refrained from posting for two reasons; firstly, it could be considered too petty an issue by some and secondly, it is best reserved for my memoir. The very act of discussing it in the morning run and then typing it had the required cathartic effect on me. 
 Delay in writing has had the effect of overwriting my yesterday’s run experience with today’s. Suffice to say that a distance of 32+K was done in 3h:22m, a decent time.
 I have been observing a morning ritual of cocks crowing at about 3 AM every day. Maybe, they want to hold on to their Khandani Pesha, even if relegated to non-prime time slot with the advent of Sab-ke-haath alarm (read mobile!). A mystery vendor comes around the same time and I have not been able to decipher what he is purveying. Today, I was able to see the cycle borne vendor. (His voice and clanging of cycle bells reminded me of Hubli baker who was my pacer during morning runs!). He is your regular Chukku-coffee vendor and the guardians of law and guards of the colonies are his customers. Biscuit, was still asleep when I had to wake him for his walk at 3:15 AM. He sleep walked through his morning routine and did not linger over any socialization. 
 Today’s fare for the cow was very healthy, radish and carrot peelings and a few Jola-da-roti (Jowar ki roti which have gone stale), it made a conspicuous and heavy bulge in my pocket. We started at 4:02 AM.
 Most part of the bad road has been relaid and is now easy on my feet. The Taj hotel guard gave a knowing smile finally spotting Sundar Purush and me together (he is also one of the proponents of the theory that Sundar is my son!).
 My legs seem to have recovered fully and the run was at a decent clip and without discomfort. Lighthouse reached at 4:40 AM. Today, I finally got introduced to the guy who was being described as the one with an elaborate greeting with a clap. No surprises, he is another Sreenivasan, but, from Kerala. He was a tad disappointed that I was not from Kerala. I get this feeling that Lord Venkateswara comes to meet us every morning in the form of people named after him.
 The first cow though grazing at the far end of the enclosure, came at our first call itself. I laid out the full meal on the grass floor and allowed it to eat at its pace. While this was on, another cow, decided to join the party. While Sundar and I were discussing if they would fight for food, the second cow proceeded straight to him and stood looking at him accusingly. Even with our limited knowledge of their language, both of us agreed that it seemed to be asking as to why no food comes from Sundar’s house (food for thought Sundar!).
 Neither the dogs nor their Annadata (read Parle-G lady!) were in sight, have they shifted the venue? Today seems to be the walking day for a few of the runners, the one who goes
 Today we decided to do the loop of the Island ground in the clockwise direction, the logic was that the Sivananda road and Mount road are better lighted than the flag staff road. We crossed a few armymen who were in their morning run. They take longer to start socializing. We completed the loop and reached Light house at 5:42 AM, not express, but, nothing to scoff at either!
 Today seemed to be Army’s day out for running. When we reached the Napier bridge for the anticlockwise second loop, we saw quite a few of Army men of all ranks assembling for the start of a run in whites. I told Sundar that we could join them for the loop. We had timed it perfectly, their run also started and we joined them. In the usual bravado of the uniformed men in matters physical, they zoomed past us. Sundar gave them an indulgent smile. We let them all cross us while Sundar had his drinks break opposite the War memorial. Then the Chennai Express exploded and Hubli Passenger followed suit. We slowly ticked off them one by one from the back. First came the not so fit Senior officers and finally when we drew abreast of the jawans contingent running in a group, not only the onlookers cheered us, even their escorts in battle fatigues gave us a grudging smile. We then crossed their lead vehicle and ambulance. The leader who was panting was surpassed with ease and finally we met a runner in full battle gear gun and all. I asked the vehicle following him if he was doing punishment round. I was told it was his practice run. We gave him an appreciative clap as we crossed him. The receiving party at Napier bridge of two jawans gave us a rousing welcome. 
 We did the rest of the run in a daze almost like a cool down run, even a youngster crossing us and looking back as if challenging us, did not provoke us to race with him. Indian Railways was savouring its sweet victory. Thanks to their pacing we reached Gandhi statue at 6:38 AM ( 56’ loop!). Not many runners today, are people already tapering for the TWCM?
 Reached home at 7:18 AM, a 3:16 32+K run, hugely satisfying! Biscuit seemed to be celebrating National Milk Day by favouring milk in his diet today, he was going easy on the solids!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

It was the graveyard shift for the Hubli Passenger today

 I could not let another day of playing a dutiful uncle eat into my weekend run!  If it was the visit to the Railway station yesterday for my niece, it was to be the airport for my nephew today. Yesterday at least I had the fig leaf of resting after a comeback from injury!
 I announced in a tone which brooked no argument that I shall run from 3 AM to be in time for being at the airport at 6:30 AM. Sundar Purush was informed of the change so that he could do his own thing. I was willing to sacrifice and make do with a half marathon (hope my nephew realizes, what it is for a runner to sacrifice his Sunday Long run, when his friends are running the AirTel Delhi Half Marathon!). Sleep and wake up times were suitably advanced, Biscuit’s morning walk routine was delegated to my daughter and niece (He wouldn’t have minded a morning walk at 2:15 AM, only it would eaten into my spinning time!).
 Biscuit got a Bun when I was carbo-loading more out of guilt for having cheated him of his morning walk than it being his feed time. He ate it gleefully without realizing the price he would be paying for it!  Though he did jump around me when I changed into my running gear, he did not resist too much when I did not take him out. He did give me a hurt look from the window looking on to the balcony.
 I was at the gates at 2:55 AM and the target was to be back by 5:30 AM. The policemen camping between Cakewalk and Diva shops did look up at the change in schedule, but, I was not called to explain, only an internal inquiry among the guardians of law was enough to close the issue! The road laying work at the start of College road on Friday had been completed and they seem to have done a good job, the surface was smooth and warm to the soles. Not all were as understanding, a young man (must be returning from night revelries!) cursed me with the choicest bad word in chaste national language as he passed me. I did show my fist to him, I am yet to learn self control. I am really saddened at the unhappiness in the youth who seem to have everything money could buy and are still so angry with life so early in the day. I hope next time such a thing happens I can pray for them instead of trying to pay them in kind!
 I did my strip tease as I turned into the Nungambakkam High road. The impassive guards outside the Taj hotel did not seem to take notice of me, or, is it so? One of the guard’s query about why my Son was not running with me today (read Sundar!) showed that they do observe. He went on to ask why I don’t wear a T-shirt. Dressed as he was in full gear with Cap and boots to boot, I asked if given a choice would he not want to be top less in the sea breeze? I told him going topless keeps me cool! A few days back my friend Venky (the IOB ATM guard near Royapettah flyover!) had asked me a similar question as to why I don’t wear regular shorts and T-shirts. I could sense that he wanted me to look smart like Sundar. My answer to him was, ‘Did Gandhi change his gear even when standing in company of such well dressed personalities put up about him on the beach road?’
 Two dogs near the IG’s office decided to shout me down and the policemen on guard tried to give me moral support by trying to call them back. They did not care for the force of law and only returned after they had given me their piece of their mind!
 Beach road was not deserted, I could still see some walkers. The sanitary workers were working, their bangles clanging joyously. My mid went back to field hands I used to encounter on my run in Hubli. But, what a difference, there if they were working to produce food, here it was the Sisyphusian labour of endlessly cleaning at night what becomes dirty again the next day. The entire work for these people is largely because of the insensitivity and carelessness of the so called civilized city people!
 I reached Lighthouse at 3:39AM. The cow was sighted very soon and a hungry one it was. It was only my new found courage that I was able to feed her without dropping anything and keeping the plastic cover out of her reach.
 I was surprised to find the man with an exaggerated pranaam to be my first greeter in the run today (he would certainly vouch for my run today, if Guinness do decide to document this!). It was too much to expect the regular residents of the pavement to be up so early even if was their busy business day! The dogs at the Labour statue were loitering around like the early Mess goers in our hostel walking around the Mess waiting for the gong to go! The policeman’s room near Napier bridge was open and lighted, but, he the ruling deity was not to be seen. There was a steady stream of Container trailers leaving out of the Port trust and they were making merry while the Traffic Police was not around (this must be the happy hours for the drivers!).
 I had crossed some youngsters in T-shirts and shorts on the beach road and they confirmed that they had volunteered for the previous night’s Dusk to Dawn night half marathon, they must be waiting for the first buses to their homes. There was lot of activity seen inside the Island ground as I crossed it, I did not stop to locate Neville (who must be tired after the hectic organizing for the run the previous night!). The road was better lighted and I did not have an excuse for getting poked on my soles. I completed the loop in decent time without a break. When I came back, I found the youngsters still waiting for the transport to go home. I was rewarded with one more elaborate pranaam by my good friend on the return trip. There was not much progress on the state of awakening of the residents of the Republic of pavement, the dogs continued their vigil for the Parle-G lady and her Sunday special.
 I crossed one runner coming from the opposite direction and we both greeted each other warmly as Robinson Crusoe must have on seeing another human on his island. I reached Lighthouse at 4:42 AM. Though slow, I had enough cushion to catch the Airport express.
 Venky’s partner was sleeping on duty and the Yesudas look alike was surprised to find me on the flyover. I changed my return route to match the same route we take while going out to spot Sundar. I waved to one runner who looked like him. After repeated calls from me, he turned around and addressed me by name and mentioned his name and said he is a Hyderabad runner (I did not get his name!). Sundar was late today. We crossed him returning from his run when we were returning from Airport around 8 AM outside my colony. I reached my colony gates at 5:28 AM, in time for a quick shower and airport duty.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Hubli Passenger limps back to normalcy?

 Three days abstinence from running, something had to give today! My pain was turning out to be like the one Asit Sen complained of in the movie Anand to the Doctor played by Ramesh Deo, a shifting pain. What I would give if Anand’s cure (even if offered in jest) of shifting it out of the body from the nearest extreme could be made to work! More seriously, my wife initially happy that I have taken a break, got worried when the break stretched to the third day. She had started giving me hints of the need for a visit to a Doctor. If the subsiding pain did not do the trick, this threat from my wife had me at the door at 3:55 AM. Sundar Purush on his part was relieved that the Hubli Passenger would be back in business, the reason for it was not purely out of love and affection for me is what readers would see later in the story!
 Biscuit was welcomed by his black beauty in company of two of her street side Romeos in tow. They were having a howling match. I am a man of science and don’t believe in bad omens, but, I still found this a bit unnerving. Biscuit heard them patiently and either, it was not serious enough or he did not get the local lingo, either way, we did our morning walk without being unduly alarmed. The guard at the Diva store was looking like the Krishna among the well dressed mannequins looking like Gopikas! The police outside the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission were dozing, assured that there would be no untoward incident after the fishermen were released by the Lankan Government the previous day.
 We started at 4:03 AM. Sundar was very considerate in never pushing me during the entire run today. The distance was reduced to just an HM (one new loop). Sundar explained during the run that he wants me back on the run as he is finding answering my friends about my absence to be quite a job. The chief among his tormentors was my old and trusted Venkatesan( of IOB ATM fame!). Since he is on day duty, we could only sight his partner when we crossed the ATM, we would have to leave word with the partner on the way back as the reduced run would finish before the scheduled change of guard.
 We reached Light house at 4:47 AM. My right leg was not complaining much, so far so good. The pavement stretch upto Anna Square Police station is normally the easier part. I had a big packet of goodies for the cow and was waiting to unload it. The cow chosen today was also quite impatient (possible hunger!). She came menacingly with her tongue out and took the entire plastic bag, instead of the proffered freshest banana peel (which I normally give for starters!). She took a chunk of vegetable peelings with a portion of the plastic cover as I looked on in horror. The cover fell from my hands. I had no option but to pick up the cover and empty it in front of her. I only hoped she would finish it cleanly, unless people charge me with littering! I put what remained of the damaged plastic cover in my pocket for carrying back any leftovers. We noted the place to be opposite the Queen Mary’s college.
 The walker with an exaggerated namaskar (with hands folded with a loud clap!) was the first to welcome me back. Sundar tells me some of the of people used to look at him with searching stares as if asking, ‘Kahaan hai re doosra jodidaar’, when he ran alone! We beat the 5 AM thought for the day. The weighing scale person and the Artificial Limb beggar had set up shop early today. As we crossed the Labour statue, we looked for the Parle G lady as has become our ritual. She was there feeding her canine friends with care. She was refusing to give any of the food to a beggar who was remonstrating with her for the same, she sure knew her friends in need!
 The policeman at the Napier bridge gumti being absent (even though he had left the lights on in the cabin!) and we had our usual bio-break on the banks of the Cooum (must try the urinals of the Corporation, even if they would mean a diversion!). The Naval Officer’s colony is still ‘O’less at the gates. Being a shorter run, Sundar did not take a drinks break. The loop around the Island ground was uneventful, but, the signs extolling the qualities of Army men and asking people to join them were good for the morale and the right leg knew that it had no leg to stand on to complain!
 I just missed the Yesudas lookalike as we completed the loop. He missed my response to his wave. He was alone today (minus his better half!). Must get Sundar to meet him one day and confirm that the resemblance to the star singer is there!
 On the return run, we met Srikumar Rangarajan and his group coming from the opposite side. Finally found a person using the weighing scales. I am told the ruling rate is Rs. 2/-. I felt good for the vendor, as I see him every day and despair that he gets no business! We finished the loop at 5:52 AM, quite a leisurely stroll we must say. Sundar, however, cautioned me against timing a recovery run.
 The return trip had nothing eventful except telling Venkatesan’s colleague (he wanted us to wait for him!) that Hubli Passenger is back and that we would be back on Sunday morning. Tomorrow’s run called off to give recovery time for the Hubli passenger and more importantly help me carry out my responsibility of picking up my niece from station early in the morning! Reached home at 6:34 AM, a 2:31 outing with leg a little sore, but, not something which should not get okay with some rest!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A pain in the Bu**!

Last two days of staying off running has been literally due to that, a pain in the bu**! I had used the medical term to make it appear esoteric (a.k.a. Lympho sarcoma of the intestine of Anand fame!). Yesterday I listened to my running partner’s advice and abstained, but, today I decided that it has to be shown its place!
We started from the gates of the colony promptly at 4 AM. Biscuit (my 6 year old Labrador pet for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of knowing him!) having got used to my bunking in the last two days did put up a friendly fight before I prevailed and locked him in. Dry roads meant better grip and fewer pebbles. But, this also meant sweat and discomfort of a different kind. I was informed, a little jealously by Sundar Purush, that Venky (my ATM friend, name shortened to indicate the growing familiarity!) had asked for me immediately after meeting him on both days without even a proper greeting. I felt nice to be running again even if the back was making its presence felt even if meekly.
We were deciding the distance to be run today, we settled for one loop (new one around the island ground!). Sundar had come armed with his Garmin to check to see if it was all of 10K to qualify to be a fitting successor to the RBI loop! He did not push me at all and it was 4:43 AM when we reached the Lighthouse. He checked his Garmin reading of 4.3 mi.
I was armed with the stock of a day old vegetable and fruit refuse which was promptly rejected by the quality conscious cow we encountered first. I was able to pass it off to a hungry one we met right after that (I discarded all the old stock on coming back!), they shall be fed not more than a day old stock from now on. That means I need to be more regular and no bunking for me!
The chime of 4:45 sounded just as we were crossing the place where thought for the day is broadcast in the early hours. The dry pavement was very nice to the feet and my complaining back had given up the losing battle!
Today the Parle G lady was back and the crowd of dogs surrounding her clamouring for food showed that more than the menu the dogs also decide their response by who is feeding them. I did not try to strike up a conversation (even though I was dying to find out what kept her from her four legged friends the last few days!), as I firmly believe in once bitten always shy!
I have been missing the old gentleman (the white bearded distinguished looking one who blesses me sincerely!) and want to find out if all is well with him. A new person has taken over the spot vacated by him, will find out tomorrow!
The ‘O’fficers colony sign at Palm grove was still waiting for its O (should I tell the new Defence minister?). Today the Flag staff road was better lighted and therefore easier on my soles, still a small stretch of particularly pebbly one was dark and inflicted its share of pain on me (the course believed in not giving a quarter even if the runner was just returning from an injury break!). Munro did not get off his high horse, but, did seem to acknowledge my return after a break. Meanwhile, Sundar kept referring to his Garmin (like a new cook who sets to boil an egg with a stop watch to the exact specification!). Let me break the suspense, it turns out that the new loop is 80 meters short of 10K (taking one mile=1.6KM!).
I must introduce this character who wishes me with an elaborate clap of the two palms every time he crosses me (something like ‘Baba maaf karo’!), today I got two greetings from him. Met most of the regular walkers and runners except the guy who resembles a younger Yesudas. The beggar with the artificial limb was busy in an animated conversation and did not greet us.
I think we had beaten even the fastest Minnals as their haunt near the Gandhi statue was Minnal-less when we crossed it. We reached Lighthouse at 5:45 AM (good pace for the loop, even if it is 80m short of 10K!). Did try to tempt Sundar into a an additional shorter loop upto labour statue and back, but, he rightly put his foot down. Our wives were surely in for a surprise when they find their husbands back before 6:30 AM.
On the way back, we first met the duo of Sita Viswanathan and Harishankar Krishnaswami's wife  and warm greetings were exchanged. This was followed by lot of Minnals right till we crossed the flyover. I remember, Sundar commenting that how effortless and enjoyable the run becomes when you have runners meeting each other at regular intervals and cheering each other. He compared it to the Bangalore Ultra and for me it was more like the Peddar road climb of the SCMM.
Our returning early meant that we were before Venky reports for his duty. We stopped at his ATM and reported to his jodidaar that ‘all is well’ with the Hubli Passenger. On the Nungambakkam High Road, a car was going at slow speed with blinkers with the driver trying to draw my attention, finally I met Sriram Raja. Hope he recovers from his injury and gets back to the roads quickly!
It was 6:27 AM when I reached the colony gates, causing surprise to the colony watchman and people at home! I agree a 2:27 HM+ is nothing to make a song and dance about.
The prescription for the sore back is a harder bed and prayers. Hopefully would be able to log a longer one tomorrow!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Cooled my heels with Marina Minnals today

Another bunk yesterday, partner had early meeting and I did not go because of lack of company (can you believe it, this from the Hubli Passenger who mostly ran alone!). As compensation, we planned to start half an hour earlier and complete a full marathon today. Consequently, Biscuit’s (my six year old Labrador for the uninitiated!) walk was preponed to 2:45 AM.
We saw an Aavin (local state dairy) van standing like a cow with full udders, waiting for Shanmugam and his team to come and help clear her burden. A puppy was following Biscuit all the way during the walk yesterday morning, in fact, he had to be sent away just outside the lift door with a heavy heart (I had half a mind to bring him home for Biscuit’s company, but, we risked sent out with the puppy!). Today he was with his family and friends. They did not take kindly to Biscuit trying to befriend their family member. Despite all the barking and growling, the two friends made cooing sounds with brisk wagging of tails. Finally a friend for Biscuit!
Heavy drizzle started at 3:25 AM when I was waiting for Sundar Purush to arrive. He was on time and we started at 3:30 AM sharp. I had a small niggle on my left gluteus muscle. In fact the discomfort had been there since morning and I have not been able to find the cause for it. I hoped it would go away with some warming up into the run. Within a very short while the rain subsided fully, necessitating Sundar’s watch going in and out of the plastic cover to seek protection during the rain. The shower only led to the killer humidity coming on in full swing. Had an unpleasant experience of a person from a car swearing at us as he crossed us. Looked like a ‘Bigda hua shehzaada’ from his age and size of the vehicle. I only felt pity for the poor rich kid! All night of partying had not given him a happy morning. Hope he finds peace! Venkatesan was in deep sleep covered from head to toe to ward of the rain and the mosquitoes. We didn’t have a heart to wake him up. Found the gentlemen of the police queuing up for coffee from inside the building they were guarding from the mobile cycle borne vendor, I only hope the vendor gets paid!
We reached Lighthouse well before light at 4:11 AM. Niggle in my leg seemed to have subsided, but, the right leg was not fully contributing to the cause of running! The first cow I spied whom Sundar wanted to be fed was sitting with her back to us, I did not like her attitude. Good I did that, the next cow who was the lucky one today, must have been very hungry. She did not require a second invitation to gobble up Banana peels and cabbage waste. She went back to supplementing this with the greens of the lawns under the gaze of Kamraj. Guess she would take up the chewing at leisure after she gets her full quota. She reminded me of an Ultra runner attacking an unlimited thali at an Andhra hotel after the running event. In fact she was busy gorging when we came back after the first loop.
The dogs were in full alert waiting for the tuck vehicle to come. They were getting restless like the crowd outside the ‘first day first show’ booking window. It was dark when we crossed the road opposite the flag staff house. The road was a bit harsh on the bare feet. I hoped it would be light before the next loop, hopefully! The Mount road was deserted and very nice on the soles. The majestic statue of Munro was watching us from his high horse. We had a doubt if this route is of lesser distance than our regular loop to RBI and back. It shall be tested tomorrow. Met many runners, some familiar faces from Marina Minnals waved. The running becomes so effortless when you keep meeting and exchanging greetings with runners. I think this must be the reason of better performance as well as runners doing more than what they normally do in practice runs in regular events. This should partially clear the doubt of a young lady whom I met later near Lighthouse who was not sure if she could crack the Chennai marathon next month, her maximum mileage till now being only 34K. She got a lot of gyan from the limping baba! All the best.
We reached Light house at 5:11, exactly in an hour. Either the distance was less or we were faster and there was no biological break also today, the mystery will get solved tomorrow! Marina Minnals were doing stretching exercises. The second loop was a drag with my left leg playing truant and not even providing minimum clearance from the ground. The right leg has every reason to complain! Today the dog-food guy, gave the dogs home delivery and we saw dogs eating in ones and twos all the way along the walking route. The dogs were in a happy frame when we crossed them near the Labour statue. The policeman at the booth, usually alert and smiling was sleeping with head buried in his arms on the counter, must have had a bad night! Sundar took his water break at the war memorial and that break unhinged something in my left leg. I made a very heavy weather of the dark stretch with pebbles and must have slowed down my partner. I could not see myself doing another loop with this bad leg! As we turned into the Mount road, running became easier and I somehow made it to the safe territory of the pavement near Labour statue.
I discussed with Sundar that he could do one more loop, while I would cool my heels under the Gandhi statue. After some protestation, he agreed to do his third loop. We reached the Light house at 6:14 AM (the nobbled Hubli passenger effect showed!). I sat on a bench and watched the Minnals doing stretching exercises, was even tempted to do something for my bad leg, but, I desisted knowing my stiff limbs. It is when Harishankar joined me there and we got to discuss the leg pain that it struck me, the culprit must have been the long drive on my new vehicle after taking delivery yesterday. The ride had frequent start/stop and bumper to bumper traffic and the bad back must have translated into the pain. Having known the cause seemed to make me happy.  I met my good friend Srikumar (we did the Navagraha Ottam, the temple circuit together!), he invited me to a long run. I joined the photo shoot after their exercise session and after they dispersed, I moved to the foot of Gandhi to meditate till Chennai express arrived.
At 7:04 AM (50’ loop) Chennai express steamed in to Gandhi statue signal. My leg had gotten frozen by the rest and I had a tough time restarting. After a bit of warming up on the shuffling run, the leg got better. Sundar kept with me despite my slow pace.  I was relieved when I reached the colony gate at 7:46 AM (deducting 50 minutes of staying put at Gandhi statue, I had done 32K+ in 3:26 hrs!). Hope the leg gets to normal for the Sunday run tomorrow!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

It rained Cats and Dogs today

The city experienced heavy rains since yesterday evening, but, Chennai express had made the intentions clear the previous day itself that it shall run to schedule today. Accordingly, Hubli Passenger (back from a day’s break, no reasons offered!) was at the gates soaking in the pitter patter of the rain right from 3:52 AM itself. Biscuit did not get his walk today as, though he does not mind the rain, in the interest of domestic peace and order, he was grounded till the rains went away. My man-friday would get to do the honours today.

The usually active road lay morose under a sheet of water. Even the usually active gentlemen of the police outside the sensitive Sri Lankan deputy high commission seemed to be taking it easy. A few stray dogs came out of the hiding to make arrangements for their rations while the rain gods had somewhat lifted the curfew. I did some exercises without exciting the suspicions of the police and right at the stroke of 4 AM, Chennai express joined the Hubli Passenger for the run.

The rain maintained a steady and nagging consistency of a Dilip Doshi bowling and we settled into an easy run. As I was feeling guilty of having ditched our fan Venkatesan (of IOB ATM fame!) yesterday, I checked with Sundar Purush if he met him yesterday. He informed me that he did not meet him yesterday. The shirt came off outside the Hotel Taj. We looked forward to meeting him outside his place of work. He was sitting outside dressed in a raincoat (including a cap!) much like the much decorated President’s guard. He met us with much gusto, we parted saying that we shall see him on his way back from work when we return from the run somewhere on the beach road.

We reached Lighthouse at 4:43 AM. We didn’t have much hopes of finding a cow to feed the two day’s ration of banana and orange peels which were bulging in my pocket and suffocating my slim mobile. Overnight rain had ensured that they had a very thin attendance today. Finally, Sundar spotted two cows standing inside the enclosure without a cover or care for the rain. My calling them from the sidelines met with their stony silence, they expected the mountain to come to the Mohammed! Without making an issue of it, I walked in to the enclosure as Androcles must have to the den of the lion, amidst Sundar’s protestations of being careful. The younger one of dark complexion was not interested in the offering and the it fell on the Senior brown beauty to do justice to the full meal, which she patiently did. I helped her clean up the plate by picking up the dropped pieces and feeding it to her. Sundar waited patiently in the rain all this while.

There was a good crowd of walkers and runners today, but, when we reached the Labour statue we found that the dogs were not there, neither was the Parle G lady there. Her assistant was searching for the dogs in the rain with precious cargo of food for them, If only the dogs had a mobile and I their number!

Finding the pavement very slippery, I moved to the edge of the road. Though the road gave a better grip, but, the pebbles there completed my misery. I persisted with running on the road till the RBI, however on the way back and thereafter, I stuck to the pavement which was easy on the soles even if it meant some sacrifice of speed. I could hear M S Amma singing from inside the Naval Officer’s mess. At first I thought I was hearing voices, but, my guess got confirmed when Sundar too mentioned it. We reached RBI at 5:17 AM (slowest run from Light house to RBI, 34 mts.).

On the way back we met Ram Rajagopalan near the War memorial. We crossed a lot of runners coming from the opposite direction, I gathered from Ram that they were from ‘Marina Minnals’, Thursday being their run day at Marina. The rain though good for running, is very harsh on the street dwellers and stray animals. Chanced upon a bunch of pups huddled one of top of the other trying to keep themselves warm. Did manage to take a picture of them. We reached Light house at 5:48 AM, good recovery!

Suddenly the rain ratcheted up pace and started pouring heavily, I could feel the sting of the drops beating against my bare body. Sundar let out a stream of Wow’s in appreciation. He received rain fall straight in his open mouth, making full use of the heavy rain, his idea of rain harvesting (he did not take his usual drinks break today!). The puppies had now warmed up and moved away, only the laziest one was sheltering himself under the bus shelter. We again met Ram at Anna square bus stand and he suggested we run the loop around the island instead of taking the loop to RBI and back. When we crossed the Palm Grove Officer’s colony gates (I have been noticing the absence of ‘O’ in the Officers for quite a few days now!). I asked Ram what does the missing ‘O’ suggest, and, before he could answer I supplied the answer, I said ‘O’ podu!

The new route was very easy on the soles and there was much less traffic too. We have hence decided to spare the run through the pavements opposite the Naval Mess onwards (anyway I haven’t been able to get the kids to run with me and it always feels that I am running through their bedrooms!) and go for the loop Ram suggested today. We met a lady coming from the opposite direction on the Mount Road, her umbrella was upturned in the wind and rain. She was laughing as she passed us. I thought it was the upturned umbrella, but, I suspect it could be my bare body! Sundar showed us the scene of his marriage and I returned the compliment when we were crossing Triplicane. That area seems to be accident prone! Ram kept explaining the various monuments we were crossing and it was quite impressive and all with little or no traffic. In fact both Sundar and I felt that we could have run one more loop, but, for the office (how nice it would have been if they declare rainy day for office as we had for schools!).

We finished the run at Lighthouse with the mandatory photo shoot with the ‘Marina Minnals’ doing their post run stretches there. The customary leg pulling of yours truly provided the snacks in the rainy weather. The return run was without any highlight except the spotting of our friend Venkatesan eagerly waiting for his reliever. We reached my colony gates at 7:28 AM.  Hope the rain stays for our weekend long runs!

Monday, 10 November 2014


 We use the word inspiring and inspirational a little too frequently, but, the people I met today (at least two of them) definitely qualify to be right up there. They are not any special characters, just the Mango variety!
 Every day when I get out of the door after successfully locking Biscuit (my over 6 year old Labrador for those who are yet to be introduced to him!) in after his walk, I always find the milkman has beaten me to it. Today after knowing that Sundar Purush is still battling the cold virus, I got out as soon as I got ready, which was 3:45 AM. When the lift reached my floor without my pressing for it, I found the milkman with two pouches of our brand. I got to talk to him when we rode in the lift down. He is Shanmugam, 44 years old. He gets up every day at 2:30 AM and is at the Aavin booth to collect milk packets at 3 AM all 365 days of a year. He works during the day in NBC bearings. He sleeps at 11 PM in the night. He gets the day off on Sunday after delivering milk, but, today being second Sunday of the month, he would be collecting money for the last month’s deliveries. He has two children who are studying. He has studied upto 12th and hopes that his sons study well and do him proud. Now how’s that for inspiration!
 I started my run at 3:48 AM, a full 15 minutes head start, which meant that I need not rush and could linger over my run. I had a nice warm feeling thinking about Shanmugam. As I reached the Sterling road signal immersed in my thoughts, I must have surprised a family of dogs at not a decent time on Sunday morning. When the head of the family came to deal with me menacingly, I saw an auto driver stop by and tell me not to worry and that they won’t do anything. I started jogging and he asked me if I am practicing for the marathon. He asked me how much I would run and my age (familiar questions!). Bu, what came next was new. He mentioned that he is 55 years old, his name was Perumal (I told him I am meeting Lord Venkateswara very frequently in this city!), his wife died two years ago of cancer and that he stays in his auto when not driving and that his two daughters (class IX and XI) are in a hostel and sends most of the money he earns to them for their studies. What do you say, two on two! I could never look at an autorickshaw driver the way I used to before (I still won’t be able to excuse the driver who asked for Rs. 80/- for a 2.8 K ride the day before!).
If you think that’s enough heroes for one day, as I was at the foot of the flyover, a handicapped person struggling with the gradient and coming in the opposite direction requested me to push him till the Poes garden turning. While I pushed him running, he told his story, he works in a courier company during the night near Anna Arivalayam (I don’t know where it is!) and stays near Poes garden and wheels himself to and fro every day.  I know the Hubli passenger must be way behind time today with all this socializing, but, I felt humbled after meeting these so called Aam Aadmi and would never be able to digest if somebody uses the term inspirational for me again!
 A steady drizzle started from the Gemini flyover onwards and it was very pleasant to run. I reached Light house at 4:37 AM ( a full 49 minutes!).  I wasn’t sure if I would find any cows in the persistent drizzle today. Lo and behold, braving the rain, Ram and Shyam were sitting snuggled together and heads bowed. Shyam, the darker one, refused the banana peel. I prayed that Ram would oblige, sure enough, persistence paid and he ate every piece with relish. In all the three loops whenever I crossed them I found them they sat in close proximity. There were a bunch of cows huddled under a tree and unsuccessfully trying to protect themselves from the rain.
 The pavement was wet and I kept a circumspect pace so that I don’t slip. The Labour statue dogs were having cooked rice again. I think surely Parle-G is out of favour now, but, the lady was not there and her assistant was doing the honours. The pavement after the war memorial was empty, but, very wet so I took the road on the other direction till RBI. My friend Srinivasan was at the post at War memorial today. I reached RBI at 5:12 AM (35’). Today there were many runners doing the run upto RBI and I got lot of company and cheers were exchanged. On the way back at Labour statue, a bunch of young boys were standing and looking at my bare chest they asked me if I was not feeling cold. I told them that after a few Km’s of run the body gets warmed up and one doesn’t feel cold. The old man (the decent beggar with white beard!) blessed me saying ‘Deergh Ayushman bhava’. He repeated the blessings every time I crossed him in my run today (6 times!).
 While introducing characters I meet on my run, I forgot this person, he has very impressive moustache (like Kamal’s in ‘Thevar Magan’) and looks very regal. He wishes me very elaborately with both arms raised since last few days. He was walking today, but, with an umbrella.
 The Gandhi statue was bereft of any yellow T-shirts today, there was also no sign of the Dream-runners who were to organize a walk on Diabetes day at 6:30 AM, maybe, rain must have played spoilsport and delayed their party! Reached Lighthouse at 5:44 AM.
 Into my second loop I got lot of waves from cyclists and runners running on the opposite side of the road. I crossed a couple running in tandem and we exchanged greetings. I say Sathya Balan and his friends on cycle near Bhartiar statue and they came back after a loop and waved me again, one of them asked me to come and run with them one of these days! The rain had now stopped and the pavement was getting drier giving me a better grip. Then there was this guy with his friend who was shooting me whenever I crossed them opposite the Secretariat building in both the loops. I ran on the pavement in the second loop. I reached RBI at 6:16 AM.
 The drizzle started again as I was on my return to Lighthouse in the second loop. I met the couple, Shakti and Vinod is there name and I met them near the Secretariat. We had a Trelfie of the three of us. They said I was inspirational, I accepted it graciously (did not bore them with the stuff inspiration is made of, a.k.a. Shanmugam and Perumal!). Venkatesan crossed me near the Kannagi statue and missed me, he did not hear me when I called him from behind.  Reached Light house at 6:48 AM.
 The last loop was steady and more of the same with no notable incident. I kept chasing Ram and his friend and was not able to catch them till I reached the Gandhi statue at 7:50 AM ( RBI at 7:20AM). I met Venkatesan outside his ATM. He offered me his chair and shared his story. His grandchildren are home and he is not taking leave as he cannot. He promised me that he would be there till 7 AM tomorrow. Reached home sharp at 8:30 AM (4:42 FM+, not bad after meeting so many interesting characters, Paisa Vasool won’t you say!).

Hubli Passenger being wagered to beat Payyoli Express?

                Sundar is back at least after wearing down and being worn down by a cold virus. I can understand the impotence a runner feels for having to forego running because of a tiny virus causing a running nose. Biscuit (my six year old Labrador for those who haven’t been introduced to him!), has found a cosy corner for his diurnal routine and the best part is a huge dump of sand is near at hand. Once this part is taken care, the inspection of the various fixed (read trees!) and movable (read vehicles!) assets and marking them becomes a tension free task. He went through the routine briskly. The guard (who is normally found sleeping on his chair and refuses to lie down comfortably!) was not at his seat today. The sounds of plastic containers being moved, purportedly to distribute the milk of human kindness (?) was in full swing in the background. The beat policemen were trying to keep awake while the stroboscopic lights atop the police vehicle competed with the shining finery on the mannequins outside the ‘Diva’ showroom. Shanmugam was not to be seen nor were the milk packets at the door. I sent Biscuit to get on with the second innings of his sleep while I did a 30 sec. plank exercise before leaving to the door. Sundar was early and waiting at the gate.

                We left at 4:03 AM by my watch. I showed him the spot where I had met Perumal. The run was in silence. Today Hubli Passsenger, after a day’s rest, was matching the Chennai Express, recovering from a cold, step for step. The bicycle borne coffee vendor was moving from customer to customer among the many security guards in the locality. I am amazed at the number of people working as security guards in that area. Looking to their physique I can see that they would be no match for an armed robber. They must be only there to raise an alarm and call for help in case of any untoward incident. A more economical and humane alternative could be installing of CCTV cameras and monitoring the same at some central location. The owners of such establishments could come together to set up such a central facility if Police patrol is not considered sufficient. The manpower released could be gainfully employed in our PM’s ‘Make in India’ campaign.

                We reached Light house at 4:43 AM. I now seem to have become a Pro at feeding a cow. The partner I drew today was a huge specimen who did not believe in watching her calories. She took the offering and the pat on the forehead which followed nonchalantly, an old man standing next to his posh car was looking at the entire episode. I was thinking, he would give me some gyan on why we should not feed stray animals and braced for it, but, he thought better of it!

                The run was in darkness and we were quite swift as there was not sufficient crowd on the pavement. We have now started taking the pavement beyond the Napier bridge and almost up to the War memorial. That leaves us only a short stretch on the War memorial round about where we need to negotiate the traffic. The pavement was crowded with sleeping forms as the weather was quite hot and humid today and people had to come open air even if it meant more mosquitoes. Sundar did mention that I was going strong today, maybe, charged up after the break. Reached RBI at 5:15 AM. The return trip was even faster and we hit Light house at 5:44 AM, the entire loop was very satisfying.

                Sundar kept looking for Venkatesan, I told him that his shift must have switched to night from Monday night, maybe, we would meet him at the ATM on the way back (if we are fast, or, he would catch us on his way back from duty!). Today I crossed a person carrying a plastic bag full of broken biscuits (maybe, wanting to earn blessings at a discount from the canines!). Here it took so much effort to get them cooked food and now we have another person starting all over again!

                Reached RBI at 6:15 AM, I was sure that I would be home before 7:30 AM. Sundar took his usual drinks break at the shop opposite the War memorial, while I caught my breath. Today the distinguished looking beggar with the white beard was missed, his place was taken by another person. Hope all is well with him!

                I usually cross a person with a weighing machine, who must be cashing in this age of instant nirvana, where walkers must be checking their weight before and after the exercise. There is another more sophisticated person who has a banner saying ‘check your fat %’, I remember @Gerald had said I would get a negative %. I only remembered the Advertisement, ‘Which shaving cream do you use (Kapil Dev’s Palmolive Ad!), where a bearded man when asked this question, turns around stroking his beard and says, ‘Who me’.

                Our friend Venkatesan was out with a welcoming party right on the road outside his ATM. He first inquired about Sundar’s absence then got to praising us to his friends. He made a statement which made me very good. He said that I was almost his age and that he can bet his salary that even P T Usha (The Payyoli express, and his version of Usain Bolt!) cannot outrun me. After getting this tonic, my pace became better and rest of the run back home (including the pebble filled stretches!) was done in double quick time. Hubli Passenger took leave of the Chennai Express promising more of the same tomorrow at 7:26 AM.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

It was a ragged and tired run today

                Stung by the leg pulling by the Hubli Pass’r for its late arrival the previous day, the Chennai Express before time at 4:02 AM today. The last few days of pebbly torture has taken its toll on my soles and it was a very fidgety start today. I was finding excuses to take a break and all this was not lost on the Chennai Express. The talk today was on how to maintain the enthusiasm in a sport. The house concluded that sincere love for the sport and its pursuit without any imposed targets is the key. Sachin’s book release and his longevity in the sport came up for awe and admiration. Our canine pacer was either fallen prey to neighbour’s envy or was recuperating from yesterday’s long run. We did keep looking out for him, he was missed!

                You have these Chukku Kaapi (a concoction of dry ginger, coriander and cumin powder boiled in water, healthy alternative to Coffee!) vendors plying their stuff on bicycles at least from 4 AM (could be earlier!). Large number of pavement dwellers and guards of ATM’s and colonies must be the committed clientele. There is this one persistent guy who tries to add the two of us to his client list, or maybe, just to break his loneliness and establish contact. I have started giving him a big smile and a wave even before he tries his sales pitch in his sing song voice. Chennai express did press the accelerator after the flyover and it was no surprise that we reached the Light house at 4:44 AM.

                Sundar had spotted the Ramu-Shyamu (must be friends, even brothers don’t stick together so much!) duo as soon as we set off from Light house. I agreed to give the first right of refusal on my treasure of banana peels to them today, overlooking the group of beauties grazing under the benevolent gaze of Kamaraj! They seemed to have talked it over between them, both of them refused to accept my offering and I sheepishly retreated. It was a black beauty with great skin tone and sharp horns who responded to my overture. She did justice to the peels and even did the act of cleaning up the dropped peels before turning her back on me. She being a slow eater meant a  long break for us and Chennai express must have cursed itself for hitching on to a Passenger!

                The stretch from Light house to RBI, but, for a few stretches on roads in between has a wonderful pavement for running. I used to find the pavement, particularly, the black strips on the flooring slippery to my bare feet. Over the last month, my grip has improved and I am able to run freely on this surface. Barring a few badly fixed tiles, the entire stretch is uniform and amenable to running on autopilot. The breaks in the pavement where road to the inner road are a bother as it involves getting off and on the pavement and running on the road not to talk of vehicles.

                Today is will spend some time on various characters I find who walk/run on the Marina in the morning. You have old boys club who walk in a chain and gesticulate wildly with hands while talking taking up the entire pavement. You have couples mainly old probably united in their desire to beat/fend off diabetes walking hand in hand. You have runners, one of them who makes exaggerated gestures with his hands, whom I call Don Quixote, then there is the chuk-buku-rail who makes his two hands rotate quickly like we used to make to imitate the wheels of an engine. Of shapes/sizes, you have the entire range. The beggars dotting the sidelines and a person with a weighing machine to cater to walkers/joggers who may want to measure their daily progress. Cows/buffaloes in the enclosures and a few enthusiastic puppies who run in and out of all this complete the picture. It is only the amateur runners who join this mixed traffic on the pavement, the serious ones take to the road along with professional bikers for having an uninterrupted run. Then there is the inner lane which has groups of runners who belong to different groups and congregate at Marina for the start or the finish. This road is not barefoot friendly and Chennai express sacrifices speed to be with the Hubli passenger on the pavement. Owing to an earlier start in the first loop, we missed the 5 AM chime and thought for the day, we were at the Labour statue when the alarm went.

                The Parle G lady was busy with her assistant playing referee to a horde of dogs who were fighting for a place at the table much like crowd at the Rajni first day first show. I could not control my curiosity and went over to see the reason for the commotion, the menu had chicken biriyani on offer today and the dogs were willing to give/take a hand to get the best pieces! When I tried talking to the lady to find out the reason for the shift to Indian cuisine from the packed biscuits, Hubli passenger was curtly told that she does not talk to strangers in the morning. I came back sheepishly to report to Sundar, who was all sympathy, as it was he who had encouraged me to establish contact yesterday. Clearly the lady is the strong silent one and prefers to have her actions speak and not given to small talks! I was a little disturbed about the episode and kept thinking if I had made an improper advance. I concluded at the end of the run that I should be stoic both to the praise from the likes of Venkatesan and scorns from the likes of the Parle G lady in the true Gita spirit!

                All this socializing took its toll on the timing and it was 5:17 AM when we reached RBI. On the return we put our heads down and did serious running. It was 5:48 when we hit Lighthouse. With improved light and still cool weather, the run was comfortable in the second loop too. The pavements beyond War memorial were a little freer with most of the people having gotten up by now. The kids here are taking time to warm up to me and they are still in the mocking stage, but, some of them have started smiling back. Looking forward to the day when they join me in my morning run even if for a short stretch. The smiling guard at the War memorial was mopping the floor. The traffic cops were busy haggling and did not notice us. Reached RBI at 6:19 AM. I seem to be flying but for the stretch of bad roads. We were looking forward to the meeting with Venkatesan. He sighted me near War memorial (Sundar’s water point!), alighted from his cycle. He complained about the bad traffic. We chatted while Sundar recharged himself. Venky has a 12 hour shift 7 to 7 and for shift change which is on Sunday, he does a 24 hour shift. To my query about what he does the whole day in the cubicle, he said he has to help customers and then he has his newspaper. He carries a bicycle pump and his toolbox for punctures enroute. He rushed off as he was late for his shift. We did not sight him near his ATM (we have name that intersection the Venky point!), must be changing into his uniform.

                I struggled through the busy traffic and bad roads to somehow reach home at 7:28 AM. The timing does not look bad, 3:26 for 32+ KM, but, a concerned Sundar offered a break for tomorrow. Will the ego in me accept a timeout, let us wait and watch ( I put my trust in the healing powers of the night when the body sleeps!).

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

My friend Venkatesan

It has become customary for me to begin my writing with an excuse for the missed run, today shall be no exception. Yesterday’s bunk is attributable to the rain god’s bad timing and Biscuit’s insistence on a walk. That much has to be granted to Biscuit, considering that he patiently sits (to be frank dozes!) for the few hours of spinning session in anticipation of a walk. A steady rain started at 3 AM and there was no sign of a let up till 3:30 AM, when I decided to call off the run (Sore limbs from two days of 32+ and 42+ runs also must have played its part, only, I am not being honest!).
In fact the first item of agenda on ‘Run Pe Charcha’ with @Sundar at the start of  the run at 4:04 AM today was whether to declare the day after FM as holiday for running, definitely it will not be after the Full moon run coming up this weekend. We got to discussing what kind of jobs have come up in cities after the so call boom in Services sector, ATM guards, security guards etc. and how it stifles the human being, being caged in a small cabin/gumti (even A/C does not make it any better, golden cage!). The creativity of working in a farm under open skies and being with nature is too high a price to pay! Where have all the artisans gone. And there was this link posted by @Natasha yesterday about how children in Dharavi are malnourished not because they don’t have food, but, because they have junk food as the mothers work the whole day and cannot cook at home. An idea just struck me, why can’t ladies in that place do community cooking for a price so that the kids get a crèche/food.  Found a guard hosing the road outside a swank hotel and chided him for wasting so much water while the city struggles for drinking water.

The run was steady till the lighthouse and we hit it at 4:44 AM, I think the distance from my house to lighthouse must be more than 6K! Next item on the agenda was locating today’s beneficiary of banana peels. The first gang of cows who were chatting and grazing gave us the cold shoulder despite both of us trying our wooing skills. I wanted to reserve it for the Ramu, Shyamu duo, but, true to my promise of no favouritism, I tried my hand at the lonely cow in the next enclosure, she was quite sweet about the whole feeding episode and went back to grazing, telling me clearly that she appreciates the change in taste, but, the quantity is too small for all the bother.

Surprise-2, the Parle-G lady had come early today and contrary to what her name suggests, she had decided to serve Indian food of some kind of cooked rice to her wards today. Going by the way the dogs were dozing when we met them on our way back from RBI, they must have done justice to the menu today! I won’t take credit for the change in menu from packaged food to cooked food, unless it happens regularly! I resisted the temptation to talk to her and find out.

The two traffic constables were busy talking outside the Port Trust gate and Srinivasan was busy shielding their actions from the war heroes. The weather being cold in the morning the pavement from War memorial onwards was crowded with late risers and we had to weave through sleeping figures. Some kids had got up before their parents and were busy at their games and fights. Reached RBI at 5:16 AM. Sundar set a scorching pace on the way back and I hopefully did not let him down, the result was hitting lighthouse at 5:47 AM (so much ado for just shaving a minute!). Set off the second loop without a break. Today the timing was such that we missed the thought for the day of both 5 and 6 AM. The weather remained cool and pleasant and Sundar suggested that I could stay back for the third loop and complete a FM as it was a holiday for me. Since, I had not mentally prepared before starting, and, the excess during the very first loop, I declined. So two loops it was for today. Reached RBI at 6:18 AM. It’s been a good consistent pace today.

Now is the time for the protagonist of today’s blog to make his entry. A man riding a cycle crossed us and commented ‘Super Thalaiva’ or something to that effect and whizzed past. I remember having mumbled something to me a few days back and I wanted to hear the full praise. I caught up with him and asked him what he was saying, he said that is an ATM guard near Royapettah flyover and sees us every day and has talked about us to his friends. Sundar said that we would meet him on the way back.

We met a youngster running quite briskly near the Labour statue, I commented that he had given me a run for my money last Sunday. He didn’t remember. We ran neck and neck the most part, I losing out every time I had to cross the road break in the pavement. In the last stretch before the Gandhi statue, his having put in a good lead, he relaxed. We stepped on the gas and caught him near the Gandhi statue. My mistake, I said, caught you! He just took off after that as if he was shot in the back. But, he turned around a few meters away and all of us had appreciative clap for each other.

Just as we approached the flyover under which our friend Venkatesan (that’s our friend and admirer’s name!) guards the fortunes of IOB, Sundar alerted me to a smartly dressed guard waiting at the road for us. He shared his story, he is 55 years old, rides his bicycle from beyond Tiruvanmiyur (going by Sundar’s reaction, must be quite far!). He wakes up at 3 AM on the days he has day shift and cooks for himself and rides to work. He advised us to get somebody remove the evil eye off us (we have a practice of warding off evil eye by using salt, dry red chilies on nominated days, and my wife confirms today is just the day, @Sundar do come in the evening!) as lot of people observe us every day. When he found we were smiling at his advice, he said his name is Venkatesan and ‘Naan sonna Perumal Sonna maadri’ (to the Rajni’s tone of ‘Naan oru daravai sonna nor daravai sonna maadri’!). He was very effusive in his hand shake and send off. We felt completely charged after meeting Venkatesan. Chennai you are not as impersonal as you appear!

Reached home at 7:24 AM, a good satisfying run today!

Another day in office

Biscuit had a leisurely walk and romanced a black beauty. He always showed a socialist leaning growling at the well heeled and cooing to the street dogs. She fell for his smart leash and he for her carefree ways. They parted reluctantly when she had the milk van calling, maybe, she gets her supplies early!
I was at the gates at 4 AM, Chennai express (nee Sundar) was late today and he had a good reason for it too. I spent the waiting time in trying to stretch. Found my neighbour’s teenaged son walking at that insane hour. He said he walks when he cannot get sleep. I had an on the spot inquiry, it seems, the culprit seems to be late night coffee.  Advised him to avoid coffee in the night, I don’t know what he will avoid, coffee or this nosy uncle! Chennai Express arrived apologetically at 4:10 AM.
Today we got a new pacer in a brown young dog which doggedly followed Sundar. Much to our amusement he kept following till the flyover where he decided he did not want to do the flyover. We were sure he must have crossed many dog zones in his enthusiasm to train with us and would find it difficult to reach back the safety of his territory. We are eagerly looking forward to see him safe and sound at his start point tomorrow.
Reached Lighthouse at 4:51 AM (one minute shaved thanks to good pacing by our canine friend!). Today found a brown beauty grazing near the edge of the fence. She patiently took each morsel and did not take the next till it had eaten the previous one (brought up well, 32 mastication per mouthful etc.!). A few peels dropped on the floor while I was feeding her. She regally looked at me to pick up and feed her without bending down herself (a.k.a. AB, ‘main abhi bhi fenke hue paise nahin uthatha’!). The Parle-G lady was at the labour statue with cooked rice again, the dogs are surely in for Ache Din! Did wish her from a distance, but, she was too busy feeding the dogs. New guard at the War memorial, he gave a wide smile, maybe, Srinivasan put the half naked runner in his daily handing over note! Chill in the air meant a large part of the pavement beyond the War memorial was still occupied by the sleeping forms. The guy on bicycle selling Chukku Kaapi was trying his best to sing Suprabhathan to the sleepy ones. Reached RBI at 5:23 AM.
Sundar was restless during the run, he was to get medicines home from a pharmacy after the run. He felt bad about delaying the same. He decided to cut short the run after the first loop and go home straight. We reached Lighthouse at 5:55 AM despite a socializing break enroute. He reluctantly left from the Gandhi statue point and I continued into my second loop. The black puppy who used to strut around among the walkers proudly displaying its red collar had been kidnapped by a man and it was being forcibly dragged away. I saw it when it was a little too far for me to intervene. I would have definitely fought for its freedom if Sundar had been there to support me. Met our friend and hero of yesterday’s episode, Venkatesan, near the Secretariat. He inquired about the missing partner (sounded like ‘Kahaan hai re doosra jodidaar?’). No challengers today during the run. Reached RBI at 6:26 AM. The return run was leisurely and greetings were exchanged with running and walking friends. On the way back I met the Sanitary workers who were handling waste with bare hands. I asked them to use gloves. It seems they have been provided gloves, but, do not use them.

The bulk of the household waste is vegetable waste and it is usually the stuff which raises the stink. Looking at the interest with which cows eat them, it seems such a waste. Can we not use the transport lorries which bring fresh vegetables to the various outlets to take back the vegetable waste to the farmers for feeding the animals or composting the same. The customers could be encouraged to hand over the vegetable waste to the same outlets. Could turn out be a win-win situation for all concerned. Reached home at 7:38 AM.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The middle path

I thought Gautam Budha had settled it more than 1400 years ago that we should take the middle path. I also don’t like to upset people, so, to keep the rightists and the leftists in good humour, I suggest the middle path! On a more relevant issue of why I like to run in the middle of the road?

          When is ran on the NH-218 in Hubli, the nearer one goes to the edge of the road, there is more gravel and pebbles which is painful to negotiate when running barefoot. Also, when I run in near darkness, my guide to remaining on the road was the white line in the middle. When I run elsewhere too, I find the road near the divider easier on the bare foot. I have found that drivers behind the bigger vehicles, the much maligned trucks and Road transport buses, are the most considerate to runners. The only accident while running I had was courtesy a guy on a two wheeler! As for the oft repeated comment that the drivers could run you over, I find that it is possible even if you are on the edge of the road. I have found waving to the driver well in advance and keeping close to the centre helps, well mostly! And for the drivers who are upset/angry with life ( I can’t understand how a person could start with so much venom in oneself at as early as 4 AM in the morning!), constant working over them with a wave and a smile (my brand of Gandhigiri!) works. It takes time and sticking to one fixed route and time helps as over time people get used to you. This has been my method of winning friends in my running years, particularly, after turning barefoot!

          Hungry after abstaining for the last three days, @Sundar was at the gates at 4:05 AM, rearing to go! The steady rains earlier in the morning from 2 AM threatened to take away Biscuit’s walk, if not the run. Luckily, the rain subsided by 3:115 AM and Biscuit had his share of walk (can’t say he had had enough when I brought him back at 3:50 AM (it’s a good sign that he wants to be outdoors!). I have heard lot of fuss being made about waking up early, but, seeing the newspaper boys in Kakinada, guy segregating milk crates/pouches being already into work every day of my run, I have a feeling its only a matter of training and the ability to hit the bed early!

          I consciously kept to the middle of the road and can say with satisfaction that no driver cursed me today (well I am not so lucky every day!), the policeman (who counseled me yesterday!) was not available at his post today. Instead, a guy waiting at the bus stop found me running in the middle of the road and decided to get over with his good for the day right away. He was surprised when I told him in chaste (I thought it was!) Tamil that ‘thank you for the concern, I will be careful’.

          We reached Lighthouse at 4:49 AM, a lot slower than usual. Today’s winner of the banana peel contest was a black beauty and the bonus was that she looked visibly pregnant. In my new found enthusiasm, I fed her with my hand well in her mouth and for once I got worried like one does when the ATM machine swallows one’s card, but, presto my hand came back minus the peel. While running we look for the chime of 5/6 AM near the Vivekananda house. Today the 5 O’clock bell went when we crossed the place, the wind direction being unfavourable meant the thought for the day was lost on me (the chaste Tamil anyway stumps me most of the time!). The weather was humid and some light showers did make it nice in the later part of the loop. We crossed a person running with his partner supporting him on her scooter and did exchange a cheery hello. He met us on the second and third loop also and signed off with a chant of ‘Jai Hubli’, he must be knowing me! We reached RBI at 5:21 AM.

          My neighbor and friend of last more than 20 years @Krishnamoorthy has been threatening me that he would join me in the run some day. I was pleasantly surprised when I found him running and his wife in tow walking briskly on the beach on the way back in my first loop. Welcome to the club Kitchu! Today, being Sunday, lots of runners must be doing their long run and we had lots of exchange of encouragements. It felt almost like running in a regular event. It was getting brighter when we reached Lighthouse and the time was 5:53 AM. We met @Janardhanan and his group at the Gandhi statue.

          An interesting episode happened in our second loop, one person blocked our way and introduced himself as one Mr. Shyam. He asked us if we were training for the marathon, which we accepted, but, what he said later stumped both of us. He asked us if Sundar was my Son, Sundar didn’t hear it, I managed the situation by saying we were not related and have been running together for company. I don’t mind a fully grown Son, but, I don’t know what his parents would have to say about this!

          My friend Srinivasan (the guard at the War memorial!) was on duty today also and on spotting me, gave me a broad smile. The Traffic police was busy in his collection spree despite the steady rain. You must give it to him that he is a very conscientious man in uniform! We crossed a beaming Kichu near Anna square.  RBI in the second loop, the 21K mark, was reached at 6:25 AM.

          A young girl was ahead of us for most of the run while returning from RBI, I could see how many jeers and comments boys on bike passed when they passed her. It is shameful, and it must be tough for girls to run. I even told one guy to come and run with her for 5K and then we can see what he is made of! Sundar counseled me to not get into a verbal wrangle with such riff-raff! In the second loop Sundar stops for his drinks break. I don’t know if it happened in this loop or the third one, he came back and told me that the shop owner was asking him as to why his father (read Me!) run barefoot and if it is some religious vow! Now that’s two in a row!

We reached Lighthouse at 6:58 AM, even though not lightning fast we seem to be hitting a constant speed today. Both of us took stock of the weather ( No Sun!), our condition and decided to go for the third loop to do a full marathon. RBI was reached at 7:31 AM and on the return, We met @Venkat and his group near the start of the Napier bridge and it turned out to be a long enough break. I also got an invite for the long run next Sunday on ECR. Looks like a good idea!

Met one other office colleague, Mr. Sinha, who is a regular runner on the way from Lighthouse to home. The pockmarked road and lot of loose gravel made the return journey quite a torture. Reached home at 8:45 AM, a 4:40, FM, not bad at all!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Ekla Chalo

I was at my grumpy best by yesterday night after two days of no running. Thursday run was aborted due to suspected splinter/glass in my right foot. Luckily it seemed to have cleared up on its own with a day’s rest. Yesterday I bunked because Sundar couldn’t join me and I had decided to go solo only after the month of October came to an end!

So when I read a message from Sundar that he would not be able to come today, I braced myself for my maiden solo run in the big bad city! First I waited for the rain to subside. Biscuit’s walk got rescheduled to 4AM. He took his own sweet time over the walk as there were so many smells after the showers. It was 4:48 AM when I hit the road. It felt strange to run alone again. I felt I was going slow with nobody to pace me. Even though it was a late start, the traffic was very sparse.

Today I was able to set up a conversation with myself and the reverie was broken by the beat policeman at the turning leading to the Poe’s garden. He loudly advised me to not run near the divider. I politely explained to him in what I thought was chaste Tamil that I would take care of myself and thanked him for his concern. As for educating him about why I avoid the edge of the road, it will have to wait for another day.

Reached Marina without any slip, it was 5:30 AM by my mobile when I reached the Lighthouse. I did a quick calculation and decided it would be only two loops today if I have to reach home before daughter left for her classes. The still wet, but, drying platform was just perfect for the bare feet. There was no discomfort on the right foot, the body must have neutralized the invader.

The attendance of the cows was thin today. Finally I spotted a few sitting in a bunch with their backs to me. They did not respond to my calls or the rustle of the plastic cover containing the banana peels. I felt rejected and put back the cover back in the pocket to look for a hungry cow. M S Amma continued to give me the silent treatment. The good thing was more walkers and runners were exchanging greeting as I ran past them. I was attracted to one old man who looked very dignified even in his tattered clothes and he was reading loudly from a book (looked like a religious book of verses!) and I wanted to attract his attention and establish eye contact, but, he was deeply engrossed in his chanting. A pair of young pups, one of them limping in one foot, decided to accompany me for a part of the stretch much to the amusement of the walkers. They kept a constant distance from me and having run, maybe, a hundred meters gave up on me. I will have to work on their stamina.

The strays at the labour statue unmindful of the upheavals they have caused on the facebook were playing around without a care. I took a biological break at the Napier bridge beginning (the police booth adjoining was empty today!). Police presence means we shift the scene of action to the other end of the bridge!

Stopped to greet the army person who guards the war memorial, started to talk in Hindi, but, seeing his name badge showing him from this state I switched to the local language. There is a traffic policeman at the entrance of the Port Trust (opposite the War memorial) who is seen collecting money for letting Container trucks into the city. I asked the army man whether he feels anger at the goings on opposite his watch. I expected an angry response of Nana Patekar (I forget the movie where he is the Commando instructor and settles scores with lawlessness in civilian life), or, Angry Indian Kamal Hassan, but, he just gave a smile in exasperation!

Reached RBI at 6:04 AM, a very slow run for the 5K stretch, just shows that the Hubli Passenger with too many stoppages and no Chennai Express to hustle it is very slow indeed! I put my head down and decided to be more businesslike on the return trip. Despite having to  weave through a thicker crowd of walkers and runners, it is to the credit of The Hubli Passenger that Lighthouse point was reached at 6:35 AM. I did look out for a cow and did scan the group of runners doing stretches near Gandhi statue during this stretch.

I finally found a cow standing patiently and I could recognize it as one which has tasted my fare earlier. It did justice to extra peels I had of the last few days. I remembered, the practice of Jain Sadhus and Sadhvis to take food from a random house everytime and never to repeat a house, the idea is not to form attachments by repeated interaction. I must also follow some such thing for my cow feeding!

The stretch was now clear of sleeping people. The beggar who keeps his artificial limb next to him as a qualification for begging was doing brisk business. The decent old man had finished his reading and obliged me with a full smile, must have noticed me in my earlier loop! No sign of the Parle-G lady today and the dogs had dispersed, probably to find their feed on their own! A bunch of mounted police crosses me on every day of my run. Today I made bold to wave at them, it pays to keep the police on your side!

Reached RBI at 7:07 AM. There was a girl running at a distance and it looked I could catch up before reaching Gandhi statue, that looked a good game to break the monotony of the fixed loop running. Without trying to stretch myself ,but, keeping her in my sights, I tried to catch up. The stretch where I have to get off the pavement for crossing the road set me back every time it looked like I have caught up. Finally, thanks to her taking a break in between, I was able to overtake her before the Gandhi statue.

On the way back, I stopped at the police post near the Poes Garden road and talked to the policeman to explain why I run towards the middle of the road, it turned out that he was a different guy from the one who gave me the friendly advice in the morning. He took a break from his paper and after hearing me patiently, appreciated my logic. Hope he educates the men in uniform! Found a mini cab full of school students, I was greeted with a loud guffaw (this is the familiar sequence!), but, a few kids peeping out of the van and clapping for me was a quick transformation (made me nostalgic of my Hubli school friends!). Reached home at 8:15 AM. Looking forward to a full marathon tomorrow!