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!).