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!).