Tuesday, 8 December 2015

After the deluge


It was a rusting Hubli Passenger which started with uncertain steps at 4:16 AM today morning after a week of abstinence. Somehow I was not feeling the joy which I had been anticipating. I was imagining that this is how the loco pilot (that is what the good old Engine driver is called now!) of the first suburban train after the last few days of break due to flooding would have felt when the services were up on Monday morning bringing relief to many office goers on what is otherwise portrayed with a prefix blue! I was tentative and watching for potholes and puddles. The Airport had become operational yesterday bringing cheer to stranded passengers.
I knew the physical dullness would give way to joy inside once the endorphins kicked in. I was keen to renew contact with Gandhi and was eager to see how my friends on the pavement had done for themselves. But for a big puddle of water opposite the Hotel Park near Gemini circle which smelled of kerosene, the road to Gandhi statue was clear of water. The road was however badly scuffed and the loose gravel took its toll on my soles. The usual permanent occupants outside the church and bus stops enroute was heartening. There was no sign of the lady at the bus stop and I can only hope she has shifted base!
The clock struck five when I crossed the Gandhi statue after an about turn at the Lighthouse. The friendly and loud chatter of the walkers was heartening. The alms seekers on one side of the pavement and the well heeled near their parked vehicles at the other end meant that the surging waters which had brought all strata of the society together in the last week had retreated to their earlier positions. I thought I sensed more empathy in the giver when they bent to give alms to the seeker today!
Yesterday our office celebrated the 60th Mahaparinirvan diwas of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, what one of our colleagues said after the event was very apt. The one week of flooding in Chennai has achieved Dr. Ambedkar’s ideals of a classless and casteless society and if only we remain that way after the threat recedes. The last one week has surely taught us the price of energy and water conservation. I hope the teachers strike at the hearts and minds of the students as soon as the schools re-open so that the theory classes on Climate change can follow the practical demonstration they have had first hand.
M.S. Amma was soothing the walkers with her soulful rendition of Vishnu Sahasranamam. The guard who usually used to strike a balance between the temporal of the temple and the corporeal of the temple next door by sitting right in the middle of the two had succumbed to the air-conditioned charms of the corporeal inside the ATM today. The attendance of the walkers as well as the beggars was full today. The municipal workers were cheerfully going about their mundane task.
Couum river was flowing majestically and its span today was like the proverbial 56” and the waters diluted with the rainwater was much cleaner. I was reminded of the photograph in the Hindu newspaper yesterday where the swollen Adyar river had spat back a load of plastic and thermocol waste. Guess even holy rivers cannot digest this sin. Talking of the plastic, I must say, it is not all that bad. I remember how it protected the common people from the rain, I think there is no harm in using plastic, the problem is the culture of use and throw indiscriminately!
I met a few runners today, but, the cyclists were conspicuous by their absence. I had the company of Gerald Martin Joseph​ in my second loop from light house for a few kilometers and he was telling me about the relief work he was able to do. I have been feeling absolutely impotent the last few days. The lack of knowledge of the lay of the land, being a novice in swimming and absence of a suitable means of transport rendered me useless and I just satisfied myself by enquiring from the people who deliver milk/paper etc. to us about their well being. I was thrilled when I saw in the papers on Sunday that the NDRF teams largely consisting of North Indians were in need of people who can act as interpreters for them with the local people. I found their number from their website and offered my assistance. Even though they took my number, I was not called to the battle front!
My day was made during the run today when an MTC bus driver stopped and greeted me and I reciprocated by telling him how the MTC had done a wonderful job during the floods. To their credit they were the only public transport apart from Metro who braved on during the floods. My cup was full when a person stopped me when I was in the final lap towards Gandhi statue with the word ‘Hubli?’. I asked him how he knew me. It turns out he is Sakthivel, and he drives a molasses tanker and used to cross me daily on the Highway during my runs in Hubli. He has come here to help clean up the mess after the floods. He was very happy that yours truly is from TN!
Despite ample doses of endorphins and cheers from friends, it was a tired Hubli passenger which reached the colony gates after a 3 hour 33 minute run. I know it would get better from tomorrow!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Demand and Supply


                Now do not get me wrong, I am no Raghuram Rajan wannabe! Even to my untrained mind I see a Demand and Supply play in all the major debates on today;
                Take the Beef ban; by enforcing a ban the supply side is targeted by the powers that be causing much air turbulence. I hold that an Aamir Khan why even the humble Hubli passenger going vegan does more to the cause of the bovine population in a more sustained way.
                For all this reckless construction in the environmentally sensitive zone, if the ‘Caveat Emptor’ sounded by the mother nature is heeded such depredations would die down non-violently. It has been proved now that ultimately the buyer or his progeny pays with all its belongings and even life, not to talk of the collateral damage on the neighboring population!
                And the much talked about Prohibition, if the consumer gets aware, all the liquor in the state outlets cannot intoxicate the people. The talk of the revenue loss due to prohibition sounds like a cruel joke. Is it not like taking a poor man’s kidney (or Liver if you please!) to give him freebies!
                While walking back from work yesterday, the various pipes spluttering out water at the coaxing of the tired pumps made it appear as Chennai was on its back taking a count with Chennai’ites giving it the mouth to mouth resuscitation. What made my day was a young man cheerfully holding me up on the Guruswamy bridge. I shied away thinking some friend of Bacchus was trying me for a touch. He said that he knows me and he sees me running on the Beach. He is Mohammed and he also confessed to not having gone for a walk for the last few days. Any thoughts I had of getting a run today were doused by my wife’s killer looks!

                Sun came out bright and early today, like a maid after a weekend away, dreading the mess that its absence would have caused in the city. I never thought I would welcome my old sparring partner so affectionately ever. It has gotten into its supersoaker mode and Insha-allah Chennai should be home and dry soon.

Chennai is not what it used to be!


                The Sun came out apologetically after taking a hiding for the last few days. The people wading in knee deep waters were egging him on, what do they care if the cognoscenti believe that we are in the eye of a storm! Biscuit and yours truly had a leisurely walk in quite some time now. He could not help growling at his canine friends and got a cold stare from me for being rude to the less fortunate.
                Before the National media turned its attention to the tragedy that was playing out in Chennai, I got to squeeze in a run in the rain. Just when the waters of the sea after scaring the living daylights of the people decide to go back to its peace time station. What I noticed about the rain in Chennai is that it was business like (a la Dravid like!) not flashy and theatrical like aka Sehwag. If it wanted to discipline the greedy land grabbers it did it quietly. I have run through a much more extravagant Light and Sound show in my morning runs in Hubli! When nature decided to reclaim what was stolen from it surreptiously, it did so politely but firmly!
                The next two days were revealing as horror unfolded on National television. The stories of pollution in the national capital and rains in Chennai keeping kids from school was a lesson, which their elders failed to teach them, but, the one they would never forget in their lives. It does not require eminent people gathering in Paris to teach us the lesson of the costs the Climate change is wreaking on us!
                It is not only that the Hubli passenger missed its morning run the last two days, the Railways too had to suspend many trains and the airport closed the skies to make us feel truly marooned. The people of Chennai used this calamity to truly bond. The last two days of commuting to office and back first on the MTC bus and today on foot in knee deep water really brought out the character of the people. The strength of the people sure came out when they were put to test. The tales of humanity makes all the divisive stories which hog the limelight in the National media otherwise truly irrelevant!
                The Aavin (state owned dairy plant in the suburb) and the Hindu (the Chennai’s favorite newspaper) press having been brought to their knees by the incessant rains meant the Chennai’ite woke to a morning without his cuppa of filter coffee and the HINDU newspaper. The message is loud and clear, let us not mess with nature!
                While the bigger questions of town planning have to left to the big people. Each of us if we make an honest effort to live sustainably we would have been the Change that we want to see!
                I sincerely hope that I am able to run tomorrow and maybe then the train service and the Airport authority would take a leaf out of the Hubli Passenger’s book! Stay strong Chennai’ites, maybe, the weather gods have relented and believe that we have learnt our lesson.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Rain Rain go away


                I never thought I would ever recite this nursery rhyme, not after knowing the joys of running in the rain. The morning assembly sounds from the neighbourhood school in the morning was welcome sound after the city’s schools were shut down due to the incessant pounding the hapless city took in the hands of the weather gods in these past weeks. Nature has in its own polite way reminded us that the way of bribing officials to break regulations does not work and that nature cannot be bribed. The pity is that like any other ill effect of the greed of the rich the poor pay a disproportionately heavy price.
                Biscuit, my seven year old Labrador pet, was the face of what collateral damage the rain caused. We were like two padded up batsmen waiting to go out and play watching the rain pounding relentlessly. Even the stolen moments of walk were hurried and reduced to the bare essentials. His canine friends were nowhere to be seen. We worried for their safety and hoped they were able to feed themselves. Most of them have returned and look not too worse for their spat with the rains.
                For all the light and sound, I could only get a few days of the joy of running in the rain. The media and my wife ganged up in overplaying the dangers of going out on the inundated roads. I have, however, been running whenever I could get away. People at the Marina beach road have been surprisingly regular and we greeted each other much like the government employees did on rainy days. We wanted to be rewarded just for being able to reach office. The resilience and the patience of the common people was touching.
                I have been watching the serial Newsroom the last few days and it has been riveting. The viewing time sometimes late into night (by my standards!) or early in the morning have come at the expense of the Charkha spinning time (I hope Gandhiji understands!) or by wholly boycotting the run!
                There has been a gradual shift in the questions asked when people find me running. They now seem to ask ‘How long I run daily’ and not how far or how far! That coming from common people is refreshing as even I have realized after chasing speed and distance that the moot issue is the time spent and not the distance run!
                There is this lady I find staying at the bus shelter who looks like she is mentally unsound. I mostly find her cursing the passersby. I running on the other side of the divider like to imagine, that she is the CM’s canary posted at that place to check the safety and security of women. I have been missing her since the heavy rains started, hope she is well!
                M S Amma has been even more irregular in her morning prayers than my coming out to run. Her voice shaking (or was I imagining!) when reeling off the thousand names of the Lord Vishnu! The aged clock atop the 175 year old Presidency college remained stuck for many days showing a time of ‘Ten past Ten’, reminding me of the old HMT advertisement, ‘If you have the inclination, we have the time’. Whale of a time it was when i got to run in the rain!
                The canine faithful were regular in their vigil and more importantly their friend did come with food for them through rain and shine. On days I found some others taking to feeding them biscuits again. I did not have the heart to comment on their dietary choice lest I get dragged into the intolerance debate!
                The people manning the Beach road, earning their living begging or offering to weigh the walkers for a price, continued to brave the rains. Our shared smiles exhorting ourselves the happy thought that the human spirit overcame the nature’s onslaught.

The Chennai runners and cyclists have been dogged in their morning outings sending a message to the weather gods that they wouldn’t be the first to blink. For the sake of the people marooned by rains I want to officially announce that Rains do go away and come back after things get normal and we runners could play without disrupting lives!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Secularism Indian style


                Biscuit is behaving like an unpredictable lover by his ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’ for the morning walk. Yours truly is playing a diffident suitor feigning detachment (to avoid disappointment at rejection!) each day when I went to call him for a morning walk. The strike rate has been a healthy two on three.
                Elsewhere reports of runner friends romancing the rain in their runs has been adding salt to the scuffed soles. The day before last, being the Police commemoration day, saw my route lined up with gaily caparisoned policemen. Police vehicles were screaming through empty roads using the flashing light on top more for atmospherics than exigency.
                I have been meaning to report on the Parle G lady for some time now. She after commencing the feeding operations, delegates the rough and tumble of handling the hungry mob of dogs to her minion. Her routine is a short jog after which she stops at various flowering shrubs/trees and pins the flowers to her hair bun. She has had to compete with the devout that are out in droves to make up with the Devi for the bad report card they are due for the way her representatives have been treated in the last one year.
                The Parle G lady fully decorated resembles the lady with a headful of flowers mocking Lucky to ‘Get Well Soon’ in the movie Lage Raho Munnabhai. I have been maintaining a distance from the lady after the initial skirmish on the dietary prescription for her charge!
                Yesterday when I was negotiating the TTK bridge, two bikes with triple riders screamed to a slow pace next to me across the divider. I was struck by the similarity in the method of celebrating festivals by the Gen-Next! The lack of helmet and triple riding united the Eid and Vijayadashami celebrants! Courting danger seems to be the new drug of the younger lot. They seem to be absolutely secular when it comes to celebrating festivals on the road.
                Talking of secularism, I was tickled when I saw a vehicle with the front bedecked with garlands and vermillion and the back window glass proclaiming ‘Jesus saves’. Clearly, to be able to drive safely in today’s traffic, multiple gods intervention is required for ensuring safety!
                The boys seemed to be in a mood to rag the half naked old man. I decided to play along. When they asked about my running so early in the morning, I countered with their riding at such an ungodly hour. Their invitation for ‘Aaja meri gaadi mein baith ja’ was responded to with an invitation for a ‘Run pe charcha’. One of the pillion riders got frustrated and started mouthing what should have been bad words, by lack of knowledge beyond elementary Tamil saved me the blushes and deepend his anger. When they decided to part after the nerd of the gang tried his English on me to say that “I look like a skeleton” to which I responded with ‘You have enough for both of us’ (not my original, Bapu wouldn’t mind his repartee on the King of England being used on Machiavelli’s successor in India!). What had given me the courage to sledge them was that my friend, the security guard on night duty at Saravana Bhawan was not far for me to make a dash and seek help!
                After the kids departed, I calmly took stock and really felt good. I reasoned that had I been wearing dry fit and sporting earphones, the kids may not have engaged with me. I remembered similar, if not as rough, encounters earlier after which I have got some die hard young fans in other places on my running route.
If this was not enough, the young cyclist who has decided to make me his ‘Uncle’, again greeted me as if to confirm my vintage beyond any doubt. The only saving grace was a bunch of kids on the pavement near the War memorial, one of whom made my day by calling out ‘Bruce Lee’. Age like beauty seems to lie in the eyes of the beholder!
If yesterday it was ‘Mann ki Baat’ with youngsters, today a bunch of more senior vintage took me on. I generally wave to people as I cross them to let friendliness overtake any combative streak in the group. The group I am referring to was involved in a serious discussion and from the animated faces, the subject could only have been politics. The leader was being listened to in rapt attention. In the midst of this national duty, my wave brought on a protective streak in him. He addressed me in a manner reserved by the elite for the working class (my Gandhi attire seems to have its effect!) and asked me to run on his side of the road. Already late for my run, I reacted dismissively, telling him to mind his business and if he was really interested in my welfare wait for my return to settle the matter of which side was safer!
                The leader clearly felt insulted and wanted to be educated immediately. I stopped, went back to him and in chaste Tamil gave him a lecture on camber of the road and small stones getting accumulated to his side of the road. That seemed to satisfy him, but, his supplementary question on why I did not go for shoes, I had to politely excuse myself and tell him that ‘Barefoot over Shod running’ will require philosophical discussion and this was neither the time nor the place. Luckily for me a guy in a big car had stopped on the other side of the divider and from his intentions it was clear that he would bat for me.
                The last two days turned out to be quite sunny and by the time I was near Gandhi statue after two laps and still 10K short of the marathon (around 7 AM), Gandhiji offered me the light meter and I gleefully accepted cutting short my run. The policeman outside the commissioner’s office did ask me in the tone of ‘Lock kar diya jaye’ of Big B in ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ if I was done for the day.  I think I have exceeded my word limit for the day, must remember to talk about the race with the young lady tomorrow!

                As I go to press, weather gods have opened up the skies and it has poured today. I am hoping that the good weather continues and I get a full marathon in the rain on the next two days.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Aaja meri gaadi mein baith ja!


It is tricky to decide on a headline when you have a few days experience to share when even a day’s run throws up multiple options. Having said that I would go with this heading for today.
Weather has turned for the better in the last few days. While the goodness has not translated into what can call for a proper run in the rain like in Hubli, but, it has been promising ‘Ache Din’. Biscuit, my seven year old Labrador for those who still do not know him, decides on a day to day basis if he should come for the morning walk or give it a pass. As a result, my times of starting the run have widely varied. I used to think that he is innocent and would not show the human trait of pretensions, but, I get the feeling that he pretends to be sleeping when he does not want to come for the walk. So much for their light sleeping and smelling skills!
I left for the run today at 4:10 AM, and yes, Biscuit took his walk today. The walk was not a lover’s stroll, but, a more business like one. He did his bit and wanted to be back in his bed, the barking commoners who came out from under the parked cars to engage him in a dialogue were simply ignored. The chai pe charcha has to wait for the evening show!
The road relaying work just outside the colony till I hit the Uttamar Gandhi salai has been going at a snail’s pace.  My soles have now got used to loose tarred pebbles, hot mix and scruffed up surfaces coming up at different places. What used to be sniggers from the workers initially has now turned into a mutual respect. Knowing the language has also had its advantages.
The trio of Ganapati, Jesus and the Holy Koran were awash in bright light. The statue of Mother Vailankanni, was however not taking chances. She had opted for a silk Sari and a  marigold garland to claim kinship with goddess Durga during navratri.
These few days the cows have been acting pricy probably because of their new found primacy in the animal kingdom. I have had the ignominy of returning with my humble offering of the banana peels unaccepted many times. I should not be too harsh, they may just be avoiding crowds or must have got scared of the proposed cattle traps on the Marina. A bunch of their humbler cousins, the buffaloes were grazing opposite the Venkateswara temple. They seemed to be petitioning Gopala for including them in the protected species category. I did my bit and fed their leader the banana peels.
We runners celebrate age and I personally do not mind when kids call me grandpa, but, a few days back a cyclist wished me ‘Good morning Uncle’ and set me thinking. The famous dialogue of the aunt of the serial ‘Hum Paanch’ (of Vidya Balan fame!) ‘Auntie mat kaho naa’ came to my lips!
While people at the bus stand or guards usually do not talk to me, but, turn to their neighbour and perpetuate some version of press report about my regularity or distance, yesterday a voice spoke out loudly from the dark foyer of the City center. Another friend to the kitty! The guard outside the War memorial has become a regular friend and I get a salute every day. Today waiting to cross the signal at the war memorial round about a MTC bus stopped while crossing me. The driver peeped out and asked me to hop on, which prompted today's headline!
Today I had the company of  Mohan​, the Kakinada express after a long time. He has literally gotten off his high horse (read cycle!) to run with the humble Hubli passenger. He was sharing his rise and falls (two literal ones!) with the cycling during the days of his absence from running. He peeled off after a loop to be with the Chennai Express (Sundar​!).
 The municipal workers, who are condemned to celebrate Swachch Bharat every day, and other people who are out on business at the time of our run usually either disregard us runners and cyclists as somebody engaged in the pastimes of the idle rich. Now they have started to acknowledge me as one of them. This graduation from amateur to professional is a real promotion which I treasure. There are still two mad persons one at the Mylapore crossing who threatens to challenge for a debate between his madness and my passion and another lady at the bus shelter opposite Kalyani hospital who generally is railing at passers by who are still to accept my regularity.
When I am before time to the Gandhi statue, I find this interesting person who is asleep on the raised pavement with his foot kept on his cycle next to him. This is his way of guarding his bicycle against theft. Today his foot had slipped down, but, the cycle was intact next to him. Then there is this beggar lady who given up on any earning potential from me and our relationship has moved up one notch higher in that we have started exchanging smiles. These and the regular greetings from other walkers make my morning run as a monarch’s visit of his constituency.
Last but not the least, my attendance today was marked by no less a person than my chronicler Daniel​ who caught me on my home stretch at the end of my run. Looking forward to two holidays and the long runs which they invariably promise.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Biscuit clarifies!


On our morning walk today, walking through rain which was almost petering out, Biscuit seemed to reassure me that he does not mind being blanked out in a few episodes of my daily log. This clarification is in order because his absence from my yesterday’s narrative has not been taken kindly to by his entrenched constituency. He tells me and I quote that he does not care for politics and religion, guess that must be the secret of his happy and uncomplicated life! I have been giving him a small stroll before I leave for work (this is in addition to the mandatory morning and evening visits of his to his constituency mind you!). He has earned this after I took him out a few times to help him in his bladder control (is he getting old!). Now he has claimed it as a matter of right and promptly at 9 AM (he does not take excuses of my returning late from run!) he is all over me demanding his ride down in the lift. Wish I could be as enthusiastic riding down the lift for going to work after leaving him back at home.
I left at 4:05 AM today and the newly laid tar road was still steaming from the rain having fallen over hot mix. This also meant whatever loose tarred stone chips were there did not stick to my sole and my soles could glide smoothly over the virgin surface. Some sleep deficit in the last few days had me tempted to bunk the run and continue my sleep. I then thought of all the night denizens from ATM guards to all night petrol bunk operators who would miss me and decided against.
Rain had completely stopped by the time I entered Mahatma Gandhi road, it was as if it had come just to tempt me into starting the run knowing fully well that once started there was no way I would return without my usual dosage of endorphins. Wet pavement on the beach road was slippery and I chose to run on the edge of the road for better grip. This however meant some discomfort for the soles from the loose stones lying there.
Contrary to expectation, there were a few cows having an early breakfast and one of them did condescend to heed to my overtures and take the banana peels from my hand. Workers were continuing to relay the pavement across the road fully drenched from the overnight rain. The side effects of wooing the long departed Global Investors continue to pockmark the city. The sanitary workers were chirpier as the cool weather after the rain seemed to liven up their spirits. Ginger tea vendor was making a quick buck when the rainy day lasted. The dogs at the foot of the Labour statue were relieved that their gravy train arrived on time despite the rainy weather. The usual friendly jostle and a few growls were on display as they queued up for breakfast.
The attendance of walkers was thin today, but, the few diehards like me were around to ensure that I did not lack my daily supply of morning greetings. The fall in numbers was made up by the enthusiasm of greeting. It was as if we were telling each other how good we were to having stuck to our routine come rain or shine! The pavements were clear of the sleeping people except under bus shelters with their canine friends sharing the humble cloth used by the person for covering himself.
The runners and bikers were also sparse today, but, it may not be due to the rain. They could have been practicing in some other part of the city. The police guards outside the secretariat had moved to the safety of the gumti, but, I am sure Hubli passenger’s passing must have been noted in their nightly log. Comrade Ram Rajagopalan​ was at his saddle as usual and crossed me more than once when I did the Island ground loop.
When I was on my way back to Lighthouse in the first loop (the pavement had dried sufficiently to let me claim the pavement) near Netaji Bose statue a runner (I got introduced later to Thomas Paulose P​ from Soles of Cochin!) came alongside me and we ran together for the rest of my run. Our pace matched and barring a little introductory talk both of us ran silently enjoying the weather to the soft tap of two barefoot runners. He joined me in my second loop also.
We ran on the road from Napier bridge to Mahatma Gandhi statue on the opposite to avoid the crowd on the walkers pavement. A bad accident between State transport bus and an autorickshaw (which was badly mangled, I hope there were no passengers in the auto!). There was a huge crowd which always gathers at the site of an accident.
I showed him my water point outside AVM Kalyana Mantapam where we took a drinks break. We ran together till the intersection of MG Road and Haddows road. It was nice to have had his company for some part of the run. I reached home at 7:45 AM, 3:40 for a 32K.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A new religion?


                Last time an Emperor attempted to develop a new religion by amalgamating the then existing religion, the experiment failed to take off as it was considered much ahead of its time. In the current situation of religions again jockeying for primacy, I propose considering floating of a new religion. The friendship forged over many hours of running side by side has improved the adage ‘Blood is thicker than water’ to ‘Sweat is thicker than blood’. These were the thoughts crowding my mind when I was negotiating the Uttamar Gandhi Salai the last two days. The triumvirate of Jesus, Vinayaka, and the holy book looking out of an illuminated shelf on the walls of the Institute of Chartered Accountants seemed to be assuring me that ‘All will be Well’ on the communal harmony front.
                The way men, women and children have taken to running in droves, if fan following is the basis of calling Cricket as religion in India, the day is not far when running would upstage cricket in a sweaty coup! Running is universal in appeal looking to men and women from toddlers to centenarians practicing the art.
                Running has replaced alternative medicine and faith healing and is giving a tough fight to conventional western medicine in successfully combating the new age diseases of Obesity, Diabetes, Heart diseases and Blood pressure. The cases of running helping addicts in quitting years of smoking and drinking have been abundant.
The sheer bliss on the face of a runner would put the customary smile on the face of the many new age gurus, who populate the popular TV channels and advise men and governments the way to nirvana, to shame. The stretching exercises and breathing techniques of both the occidental and oriental lineage have been adopted by runners of all caste, creed and religious persuasion without a murmur.
I have said this before, when one is running, the runner is in the most benevolent mood and this feeling includes men and animals alike. The impact a vehicle loaded with chicken being taken to slaughter is very traumatic , whereas, the same goes unnoticed during any other time of the day.
If the senior Bachchan’s idea of social integration was the humble tavern, a.k.a ‘Madhushala’, I propose the public drinking water fount outside the AVM kalyana mantapam for the honour instead when running becomes the new religion. Today a tricycle driver who was sharing the tap with me was lamenting that such facilities are not there in many other places in the city and these would better serve the people than the temple/mosques (I could have quoted lines to similar effect in the Sr. Bachchan’s rendition!). While at it, I would digress to request the organizers of running events which see a lot of charitable activities being supported to consider putting up a few Urinals/Lavatories for the benefit of the runners and walkers. My choice of spots would be Lighthouse, Napier bridge and RBI.
Only incident worthy of mention during today’s run which was otherwise largely routine was that when I flagged down a two wheeler driving towards me on the Rajaji salai, I was scared to find a lady at the helm. I braced myself to be lectured about running in the face of traffic in the early morning darkness. Even though she was in plainclothes, her bearing and explanation that she was clearing the trucks parked outside the secretariat made it amply clear that she was a guardian of law. What came next was a pleasant surprise! She asked me how much I ran after saying that she has been seeing me for a month now. She also knew that I was in the Railways. She absorbed my daily mileage, my name, exact designation at work and its full form before going off to join her post.    
The continuing road work nearer home put my soles to test at the end of my run and it was a bruised and battered sole, but, an elevated soul which entered the colony gates at 7:55 AM after a 3 hour 40 minutes of sheer joy!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Thalai, Thalaiva and Vadhyar


Chennai audience has been magnanimous with their showering of epithets on the Hubli Passenger. It was the usual start at 4.05 AM on the Sunday, a full after a curtailed run of 32K on Gandhi Jayanti day.
As I entered into the Uttamar Gandhi Salai after nervously negotiating the sleeping canine friends, I was welcomed by a well dressed man standing outside the Corporation garbage lorry parking lot. He called out ‘Thalai’ as I passed him (the hero Ajit, the present icon of Kollywood is fondly called Thalai!). I smiled an acknowledgement and moved on.
Youngsters on bikes riding doubles and triples whizzed past, their idea of celebrating Gandhi’s birthday! The teasers were few and the educating effort from their friends made a few of them come back and greet me. I did use the occasion to ask them to join me in the run.
Lounging slum dwellers near the railway overpass near the MRTS Light house station upgraded me to ‘Thalaiva’ (the now famous name for the darling of the entire country, Rajnikant!). What could I say but smile back!
The bulk of the road laying work taken up to impress the Global Investors having been completed, I decided to run the full stretch to RBI for the first and third loop and also the loop involving Sivananda Salai for the middle loop to complete my 30K at the beach which with the home to Lighthouse and back of 12K would complete the 42K for the day.
As usual Marina was thick with runners and cyclists. When I was in my second loop crossing the slum near Quid-E-Milleth bridge, I got the ultimate praise as an old timer called out ‘Vadhyar’, now this is high praise as the title is of none other than the great MGR! I looked around to see if the blasphemy had been witnessed by anybody else and if the caller and called would get into trouble! Thankfully, the praise for my ears only.
Talking of blasphemy, my friend Usha Rani​ in her enthusiasm had already done the ultimate blasphemy in conferring the title Mahatma on me on a facebook post. I must confess that I was initially too pleased and shocked to react and then it was too late to take the post down. I met her on the beach road and told her that she has embarrassed me and she should be thankful for being in a democratic county for getting away with what she had done (it was no less than what Charlie Hebdo did and paid dearly!). I do not know whether her answering smile was remorseful or not.
Last Friday saw me watching Gandhi movie one more time. Every time I get a new perspective. I was this time highlighted on one reason of the enduring charm of Gandhiji which also could explain my popularity in the running circles. When Gandhiji in the movie asks the Life photographer what she doing wasting time on an old man when the World war was raging? Her reply was ‘It is not that you every day come across a person who makes his own clothes’. I have also observed that most of the attention I get and am quizzed about is due to my spinning of yarn and wearing cloth made of that yarn as my running gear!
I was left wondering how the old man would have handled the mess we seem to be getting into over Beef ban. Nothing seems to have changed in the issues he was grappling with at the time of Independence viz., Communal divide, caste divide and the improving of the lot of the peasant. No wonder, Gandhi statue seemed to have his head bowed deep in thought when I wished him on his birthday!
Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan! 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The long and short of it


                Last two days I have been observing that Biscuit has resumed coming out with me as soon as I wake up. Combined with the other indicators of weather viz., width of the sweat drenched band on my shorts at different stops of my run, the length of the tongue hung out by the early morning dog which drags his owner by a leash and the sweat film on the hand cart puller’s bare upper body who lugs firewood and crosses the Hubli passenger near City center every day. Suffice to say that the newspaper reports that Chennai is in for pleasant weather in the next few days was stale news for Biscuit and me!
                There could be another reason for Biscuit’s good mood, a kind Doctor (Dr. Mohammed Ali, I mention his name because his faith is supposed to proscribe dogs!) has cleared food allergy as not being a reason for his skin allergy and he back to gorging on curds. My wife is happy that the support for the Vegan party at home (yours truly) has fallen by half.
                Biscuit has developed a working arrangement with the huge influx of (not sure migrant or refugee) stray canine population which has descended on our colony. Barring a dignified growl at some stray who decides to bare his fang on His Royal Highness, he has been treating them as persona-non-grata. He has been quite a socialist in making overtures to the fairer sex of his kind (purely platonic as he is a confirmed bachelor!). Buoyed by a good appetite and fish oil burnished shiny coat, he has been irresistible to the fairer sex!
                Barring weekly offs on fridays, the Hubli passenger has been chugging along nicely delivering 32K on working days and a full marathon on weekends and holidays. Last few weeks have been good for running as a weekly off for Eid and Vinayaka chaturthi have given me three full marathons every week. Sadly Gandhi Jayanti falls on Friday when I have some early morning work, still 32K could be squeezed in I hope!
                There has been a surge in the number of runners recently, the scene reminds me of the crowded library in college before exams, you guessed it right, Chennai runners are sweating it out in preparation for the Chennai Marathon which is close at hand. I am not complaining as the number of cyclists and runners and the ubiquitous army men on the run has made my runs quite cheery. I have been playing a barefoot Doctor, nutritionist and sometimes sports trainer to runners and people who routinely intercept me for gyaan.
                Apart from the usual human interactions, new addition to my friends list has been Justin, a Labrador, who met me near the TTK flyover. He was as cheerful and bubbly as a four year old Lab is wont to be, but, what broke my heart was that one of his hind legs was wasted. His owner mentioned that the defect was congenital. What was enthusing was his instant friendship and cheer. He surely could not have understood the reason for my gloom, a wonderful early morning lesson in being positive!
                Chennai is getting used to the punctuality or lack of it of Hubli passenger and I am frequently stopped by complete strangers asking me to explain my absence or delay on a given day. I guess this is their way of showing that they care. Last week when a van load of school children crossed me and I was given a resounding cheer, I all but felt fully weaned from Hubli hangover.

                Nice to see Gandhi statue fully cleaned up for his birthday tomorrow, hope he has time for me when I wish him during my morning run tomorrow!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Item number?

               
                Am I thankful that Biscuit cannot read English? What provokes what is to follow is a friend’s comment that Biscuit has become an essential and integral part of my blogs and must get his own brand. Life in general and running in particular is in many ways like a serious Bollywood movie, to break the monotony what is an Item Number in the movie is Biscuit’s role in my blog. He would like to believe that it is like the Aishwarya’s ‘Kajraare..’ rather than a Rakhi Sawant one! Unmindful of all that is being said of him, he continues his strike from morning walks and expects to be given one on his own terms when he declares it is morning (today it was at 9 AM!).
                It was a still and humid morning that welcomed me at the gates of the colony at 4:26 AM. The number of people who call out from the shadows when I take my daily run forms an essential part of connecting with my constituency for me. Increasingly, people when they cross me on their vehicle instead of talking to me talk to their passenger/pillion rider, telling me that I have been acknowledged. Today when I was running with Kakinada express on the Sivananda salai, a driver of MTC bus number, 21G, leaned out of the window and greeted me loudly and left only after he was acknowledged. They say, the City transport bus drivers are the last to respond to Gandhigiri and this exchange today felt good as this means at least one driver who would not dangerously honk behind you while I am running!
                The entire flag staff house road and the road leading to Napier bridge from the War memorial is being relaid. I had to do a Basantiesque ‘Jab tak hai jaan’ to negotiate it. That made me take the second loop of Napier to Light house instead of the usual loop around Island ground, which would have meant the treacherous section to be traversed twice.
                I find all the Municipal Sanitary Workers doing a back breaking job assiduously during my entire period of my run. While the nature’s discards of leaves are but a small portion, the real load is from the irresponsible public. While the incidence of spitting is much less in this city as compared to good old Hubli, I was agitated to find a well dressed walker going in front of me spitting. Luckily for me he was walking barefoot. I told him politely that as one barefooter to another at least he should understand the nuisance spitting causes to people who walk barefoot. He was suitably chastised and apologized for his act, my contribution to the ‘Swatch Bharat’ campaign!
                I found a bunch of boys standing with their two wheelers outside the Girls College near Gemini circle. They stopped their star gazing and switched to taunting me. Fresh from yesterday’s realization of trying to be accommodative of all criticism, I gave them a big smile (did not even growl!). My logic was if they get to taunting me instead of teasing girls it is a heroic act of mine, the possibility of their ultimately getting addicted to running is always there! The pity is the entrance to college has a police booth bang next to it, hope the police crackdown on these guys instead of the people sleeping on the pavement!

                Finished the run at 7:56 AM, a full 3:30 hrs 32K! An official engagement in the evening threatens to disrupt tomorrow’s run, hope I can manage to squeeze in one even if later than the usual time!

Monday, 31 August 2015

When Faith overran Passion on Marina!


Biscuit has made his intentions clear, his younger days of night out on the streets are over. If I need his company, it better be for warm down after my run rather than before the run. I will take some adjusting with nobody to blame for my hitting the snooze button and curling back in bed. I bunked today and am man enough to take the responsibility! I must learn the maturity from Biscuit to take a break from run more stoically and not mope over it.
The lethargy today could be the after effects of back to back marathons over the weekend. The situation was compounded by the lack of rest on Sunday as I had to play chauffer for better part of the day.
I had a Eureka moment during the run this Sunday. It is normal for me to be the target of catcall by youngsters riding double/triple on their fast bikes. I respond to them either by waving/smiling or sometimes by wild gesturing in anger depending on the state of mind and body. When I was called to attention by a transgender person politely inviting me for a cup of tea, I disregarded him and continued in my run. After a few minutes it struck me that my apathy/antipathy to these people is no different from the youngsters who jeer me because of the way I dress (differently from other runners). I turned back and politely told him that I do not drink tea (did not complicate the matter with the excuse of Veganism!). I realized that tolerance or acceptance of difference is not as simple as putting up a rainbow on facebook profile photo!
Many of the runners from the city having gone to Hyderabad for the marathon, the number at Marina in their yellow top uniform were smaller than usual. I witnessed a sea of light maroon (I hope my colour blind eyes got the colour right!) dressed men and women walking on the Marina with a purpose. There was TV crew interviewing the walkers. It turns out that these are devout on their annual pilgrimage to the Velankanni church. Some of the younger ones in these troupes also sniggered at my attire and barefoot, I was more broadminded in my response to their action.
My thoughts during the run were on my decision to avoid organized and paid events. I feel goal setting or participation in such events were for me seeking validation for my commitment to running and the pleasure of meeting like minded runners. Now I find enough runners and appreciative audience in my daily runs and I find no need to travel for it. Met Venkat Venkataraghavan​ on my run on Sunday and our discussion (or more like my monologue!) was on the topic of participation in events only.
A regular pavement sleeper was sleeping with gay abandon with his feet pointing in the direction of the Venkateswara temple, as if, challenging the devout in us to move it to the direction where there is no Lord! M S Amma still had not decided the track for the day to be sung to awaken the Lord from his beauty sleep.
There was company all through my three loops of running with Chennai runners upping the ante for the forthcoming Chennai marathon. I met the power puff girls ( Sita Viswanathan​ and Harishankar Krishnaswami​) twice on Saturday and from the time between the two meetings and the locations, it must have been a very long run. They were running strong!
When I was waiting for the signal to turn red at Gandhi statue, three Muslim gentlemen of middle age stopped to talk to me. After the usual questions of my age, diet and distance routine were out of the way, they asked me if I do not need to carry water on my long runs. I told them that I drink at AVM kalyana mantapam if I feel thirst, as I was that day. I told them that while it is nice of them to admire my stamina, what I found amazing was for them to be able to give up food/water completely from Sunrise to Sunset for a whole month every year. Faith is always one notch above passion! They agreed, but, said they had God on their side in support of their effort!

Friday, 28 August 2015

Garib(i) Hatao!


                Biscuit, my seven year old Labrador to the uninitiated, has been going through a mid-life crisis. He seems to question the virtues of morning and evening walks. Or, maybe, it may not be something that serious? The weather gods have been kind and a shower or two in the wee hours makes him see the joys of cosying up in the bed rather than roaming the staid colony with not much of a night life! He has been able to affect my discipline and I have had a few days off myself.
                Since my last post on Friday last, I have been able to run my usual quota on five of the maximum seven possible. The most remarkable run was on Monday when I had a good drizzle all through the run. I remembered the query most people have when they stop me in my run to ask if I do not feel thirsty during my run. I just had to stick out my tongue to practice rain water harvesting! I was reminded of the Japanese running monks who are stated to reach such exalted state of living that they were able to hear the ash fall from the incense stick and are able to draw moisture from the atmosphere when on fasting (goose bumps!). My aerodynamic head post the Gandhi-cut last week and rain cooled body made the entire experience thoroughly enjoyable. The beach pavement was very slippery and I took to the road to have a better grip.
                On another day, I saw a bunch of policemen with lathis rudely waking up the pavement dwellers from their sleep to clear out. I was encouraged by the smile from the leader of the police team to ask what this sprucing up was in aid of. I was informed that the Honorable CM was to pass by and the place was being sanitized. I remember telling him the story of ‘if you cannot remove Garibi, the sensibilities of the empathetic leader can be assuaged by the removal of Garibs’ I do not think he got the black humour, but, he did go easy on the stick and climbed down to using his throat power alone. I have seen similar action of sanitizing the posh Chanakyapuri area during the President of USA’s visit and most parts of Delhi during CWG games to save the visitors the blushes! Our God’s own country has descended with missionary zeal to cleanse the place of the Men’s best friends to make the tourists feel secure!

                The start of the Marathon season with the much awaited Hyderabad Marathon next Sunday after the summer vacation after the Auroville has the runners abuzz. Wish all the runners all the best on the Hills of Hyderabad!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Down but not out


After a forced break of four days, the juicy reason for the break to follow later, Biscuit and I walked out to a slight drizzle. The weather gods had clearly spent themselves out and the scene was like a bedroom after a teenager’s loud party. We were clearly hell bent to recommence play and the stray dogs peeped out anxiously from the security of under the parked Government cars like the padded up batsmen to go in after a rain interrupted play. Colony roads after rain were clearly no match to the Hubli Golf course after rains and Biscuit headed me back in quick time after his hurried ablutions!
After missing the run on the Independence day due to mobile malfunction (must confess it was actually because my wife switched off the alarm before I could wake up to it!), Biscuit has to take the blame for my oversleeping as he forced me to walk at midnight (His tryst with destiny at the midnight of Independence Day!). When I was walking Biscuit at 6 AM next, a gentleman entering the Railway Club (whom I do not recognize) rubbed it in when he asked ‘why I did not go for a run today’, thankfully Modiji had enough on his I-day address otherwise the Hubli Passenger’s failure to run on I-day could have made it to his ‘Mann Ki Baat’! That I had to fast from my running when my friends were running for 12 hours at Mumbai Ultra was adding insult to injury!
Given the disappointment surrounding the Saturday miss, that I would run on Sunday was as much a given as a India comeback in the Colombo test, and, I did not disappoint! It was a hot and humid day which welcomed me at the start. It was an early start as I had some personal work requiring me to be back by 7:30 AM.
In my first loop of the Island ground, I stopped to talk to three men who were talking among themselves about my regularity as I crossed them. They turned out to be the residents of the slum on the bank of Cooum at the start of Mount Road and they said that they were working on the stage set up for the I-Day event opposite the Fort St. George. They settled the issue of the number of loops I run opposite their place of work. The quietest of them wanted to know if I do not get out of breath, to which his colleague itself answered that I am in full control of my breath as I run slow. He advised me to carry a water sachet. The respect and affection of the common people is really flattering. I later crossed them in my second loop outside Fort St. George.
Just when I was all puffed up with all the adulation, I did a Shibani​ when I was turning back after reaching KM 20, the intersection of Mount Road and Sivananda Salai. I refer to the incident of my fall as that not because I had scratches on my knees, hands and shoulder, but, because I could get up and complete my run like she did at Bangalore stadium run! I seemed to have proved the adage ‘Pride goeth before a fall’.
Since the injuries did not seem as serious as my previous fall on the Marina which required stitches on my sole, I was able to observe myself a bit detatchedly this time. The first reaction after a fall is to see if anybody has observed me fall (this I call the check for hurt Ego!), luckily not many on the road at that time and a few there were had more on their mind than laughing at my fall! I had tripped on the reflectors which protrude out in the middle and edge of the road. My left toe had indulged in a Mukka-Laat with a reflector. I checked for damages, there was blood welling up on both the knees and the shoulder had an angry bruise. The sole of left foot had been stunned by the impact. There was no break in the skin, but, it was the most painful.
I tried to run slowly, after a few steps, I was able to manage a steady run. I decided that I would complete the regular route and If I could keep running without a stop, I would reach home the fastest to lick my wounds at leisure. The bleeding points screamed when sweat started to course through them. I was conscious of every person crossing me on the return trip. Nobody seemed to have seen my bleeding knees. I got a wash at my watering point. Luckily my friend, the guard at Saravana Bhawan was not on duty as I would have had to make a lot of explanations. I reached home and the walk from Gate to the house made all the aches and pains grow multifold. My wife and Daughter must have been pre-occupied or I was brave, I could hide the injuries till evening when I made a voluntary confession before she found out and imposed a longer curfew/grounding This injury also gave me an opportunity to test my healing speed after going Vegan. The legendary stories of Scott Jurek taking much more serious injuries gave me the courage to stay away from reporting to a Doctor. It took me four days to heal enough to be able to go for a run again today!
I used this break to catch up on my spinning (longer sessions) and reading. I have nearly completed P Sainath’s book ‘Everybody loves a good drought’. I was telling my daughter that had I been a twenty years younger when I read this book, I would have become a naxalite instead of a Gandhian. The sensitivity and empathy with which the author has dealt the cruelty the conventional ‘Development’ is wreaking on the bottom of the pyramid is heart wrenching. I can never look at my runs with any pride knowing underfed people do much more routinely for eke out their daily needs. All the talk of Carbo-loading before a half marathon followed by a Beer thereafter  looks childish when I read about a girl weighing less than 40Kg lugs 40kgs of firewood for 30 kms twice a week on treacherous trails for keeping her body and soul together. The best thing about the book was the humour and heartwarming stories of courage and resilience of the common people in the face of natural and manmade extreme adversities! I really agree with the author, if only our people get their basic requirements the sky would be the limit of their achievements!
Today’s run was done at an easy pace in a pleasant shower. Even though I had to carry wet clothes on myself, the run was very enjoyable. I was missed by Ram Rajagopalan​ in his morning spins and today we exchanged notes about our injuries. I got a good pedicure for my feet and the soles were washed clean by the wet roads. I avoided the slippery sidewalk on the Marina and ran on the Beach road. The attendance among the runners and cyclists was really thin. When I finished the run in 3:26 it was the satisfaction of starting after a break and promise of more over the weekend!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Dress rehearsal


                The mandatory Biscuit Puranam first! All this pampering is getting to his head. Today he refused to come out of bed for his morning walk despite calling twice. Third time just before giving up like the third and final boarding call when I entered at 4:10 AM, he deigned to look up at me and showed no intent of coming out with me. This must be the only second time in his whole life that he has done this. For the record, he is perfectly okay, had his normal meal and is behaving as if nothing has happened. Maybe, he has taken Dr. Kalam’s (or was it Chetan Bhagat’s!) advice not to take life seriously and that it is okay to bunk classes once in a while!
                Biscuit’s bunk made me feel uncomfortable, I am not much of a warm up guy, and the missed walk made me feel at the beginning of my run like a cold start. Added to this my right thigh has been playing up. Both yesterday and today, I was hell bent that slow run it shall be before the right leg agreed to co-operate and pull its weight. The engine started operating twin stroke somewhere before Gemini flyover.
                After reading Scott Jurek’s book, Eat and Run, I learnt that even though it is okay to breathe through nose/mouth or both, but, for a truly relaxed run, one must attempt while breathing through the nose only. Having decided to run only 32K and the starts of 4:26AM yesterday and 4:12 AM today meant, I could have a real relaxed run!
                I had the company of my RPF (Railway Protection Force) constable for my run from Lighthouse to Labour statue. He enquired about my absence the previous week and I was able to boast to him about my 24 Hour run in Bangalore. He was suitably impressed and there was no attempt by him to race me. As a result both of us had a steady but relaxed run.
There was heavy mobilization of Traffic policemen on the Rajaji salai opposite Fort St. George, the seat of power till the RBI. Today one half of the road was neatly stripped of the top layer, much like Hanuman with his chest torn open to show its devotion for the popular CM. At the RBI end, one of the traffic policeman came up to me and after the usual questions about age, mileage, tried to advise me to run on the edge of the road. Before I could give him the reply, his senior came up and gave the answer (that I usually give, it must have now been included in their training school!) and said that everyone knows me and it is okay as long as I keep close to the divider. I hope he does not get in trouble with his seniors!
As I was about to get on to the Napier bridge after my second loop yesterday, a policeman asked if I would come for one more loop. He was relieved when I said that I was done for the day, as CM was expected any time, so I can claim that Amma cut my run short yesterday.
Today after a long time I took the island ground loop including Sivananda road thereby avoiding the dug up Rajaji salai on the second loop from Napier bridge to RBI and back. The Sivananda Road stretch has been well laid out and is very pleasant to the feet.
I have been thinking to write about these two people one lady runner and another one a cyclist for a long time. The lady runs dressed from head to toe in the Muslim attire and effortlessly, the guy wears the saffron dhoti and rides equally comfortably. They seem to make a statement that we all are united in our quest for the morning dose of endorphins together. She definitely makes me feel very under-dressed!
Yesterday, the BPCL outlet on Cathedral Road had gotten into I-day mode with instrumental music playing softly. Today, the music had fallen silent. I hope we get good patriotic songs to run on!
If I had thought I had befriended the traffic policemen ilk, I was mistaken. I was pulled up before Gemini flyover with the insistent guardian of law asking me to take the edge of the road yesterday. It was like a punishment for my then tired soles. The argument continues…

If I took 3:21 hours yesterday, I really had an easy one at 3:33 hours today. Looking forward to the I-day run tomorrow, hope the Khaas Aadmis leave some room on the Marina for us Aam runners. I shall be running thinking of the blast my runner friends would be having at the 12 hour run in Mumbai! All the best, Mumbai 12 hour runners!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Trying to get the rhythm going


                Must start with the customary and popular ode to Biscuit’s antics. Bowing to public disapprobation, Biscuit has gotten back to the traditional diet of Rice, pulses and vegetables. But, he is far from giving up buttermilk/curd. The familiarization process with the new additions to the colony canine population continues. Despite the overnight showers having forced the Biscuit baiters to the security of undercarriages of parked cars and garages, the intrepid black dog did register his protest which Biscuit disregarded with √©lan. Tiggy, could not be bothered out of his recommended daily dose of eight of the best! Biscuit is finding the concrete jungle of a colony a little cramping for his majestic walks, as a result, he is being economical with his daily walks. I on my part keen on the early start for my morning run have not been forcing him enough. The squirrel and crow have struck a compromise of a virtual ‘No war pact’ effectively cutting down another avenue of some aerobic exercise. If you call his shouting jugalbandi with neighbor Simba any exercise, that is all he is getting!
                Yesterday I had the ignominy of having to pull out of the run after a few steps due to a thigh strain. Wife had to be summoned on her mobile to let me in without waking up the household. It was a 4 AM start today and testing of the right thigh in the early part of the run signaled some tenderness, but, nothing which would not be masked by a few swigs of the friendly endorphins.
                Watched the vendors of Chukku-kaapi (a concoction of dried ginger, coriander seeds boiled in water, a healthy coffee!) pedaling back home after keeping the guards awake through the night. My respect for these good Samaritans has gone up after their losing battle against the popular liquor outlets of TASMAC has received a boost with the entire opposition in the state demanding prohibition. Some of these vendors have started recognizing me and we exchange greetings, but, they know they have no hope of marketing their produce to me!
                This incident from previous day’s run got missed out. I witnessed a policeman violently shaking an auto driver by his hair asking for his papers. The policeman seemed insulted at the amount offered by the auto-driver. It looked like a case of negotiations for the EWI (Equated Weekly Instalment!) having broken down. I stopped to intervene and was surprised to see both the victim and the aggressor getting together to assure me that nothing was wrong. I felt uneasy for quite some time. I asked a few dapper looking walkers (regulars and my waving acquaintances) if they could intervene. Sadly, this was happening right under the nose of S C Bose statue. I do not seem to have the courage to confront wrong doers, I guess copying Gandhi’s attire alone is not enough!
                Today’s start was later than affording me a chance for a full marathon, but, gave me the luxury of a leisurely 32K with lot of time to linger over the newspaper and bath on return.
                Usually, a big van ferrying chicks to their doom crosses me every day and I am only able to make it out from the stench of their feaces. Today, the vehicle was parked near the war memorial, the tired and cooped up hens next to the war memorial decking up for Independence day made a somber and ironic spectacle. In my endorphin heightened state of doing good to all and sundry, I was tempted to request the driver to let them off and not be a party to the mass slaughter. Better sense prevailed!

                The overnight rain, clouded weather and a light breeze made the run very pleasant. But for the late start and the fear of a busy road in the return direction, I was tempted to carry on for a full marathon. I settled for a relaxed run to reach the colony gates at 7:29 AM. Good news is that the I-Day celebrations at office are scheduled at 10 AM, that should give me enough time for a leisurely full on that day! Personal work on Sunday means I have to miss the Independence Day 12 hour run at Mumbai. All the best to all 12 hour runners on August 15th, will run here thinking of you all!

Monday, 10 August 2015

A runner to every Chennaiyan!


Some footage to Biscuit, my seven year young Labrador, is overdue. He has been a bit moody and is picking on his food the last few days. So, back to Pedigree it is for him. He is also quaffing on Curds like a reforming drunkard hitting the bottle with a vengeance after an unsuccessful attempt at quitting. A family of young dogs (four of them) with no adult has recently moved into the colony. They are giving vocal ground support to the atmospherics Tiggy (Biscuit’s combative Rottweiler neighbor from the other colony, familiar to the faithful following their epic exchanges!) provides from his first floor balcony. Biscuit has been giving them all a tolerant silent treatment. Biscuit has recently made friends with twin girls whose idea of friendliness at present is approaching him from the rear and placing green leaves on his back. They have got to the extent of brushing off the leaves without touching his body. Biscuit is giving them time to approach him at their pace!    
Back to my running saga, probably I wanted to satisfy myself that there was nothing serious with my foot. The moment swelling and pain went down and one day of rest without painkiller drove me back to test my limit on the 6th August. After that I have been guilty of being irregular in my morning runs, I can only blame it on the long gap after the 24 hour run and the accolades getting to my head. The only other drug as heady as the endorphin is the ‘likes’ on facebook!
                I must have been a little low on motivation to run the usual daily distance after the marathon 24 hour run. I have been able to turn in two standard marathons one each on Saturday and latest today! The missing run on Sunday (blasphemy for any runner worth his salt!) was also Biscuit’s doing. He got me up in the middle of the night on a false alarm and after sniffing around for a while let me get back to bed after half an hour. In the process I missed the alarm and woke up too late. Sunday, usually a day of lazing and hogging turned out to be a day of guilt tripping while gorging on my Anatole’s delicacy (read my wife!).
The Saturday run was in a cloudy, but, breezy morning and I turned in a 4:21 full marathon. I was kept away from taking rest after the run as there was an official engagement between 1PM and 4 PM. The Sunday fiasco of oversleeping could also be partly due to insufficient rest after FM on Saturday!
Fully rested on Sunday and bloated with hogging, I decided to get even today. I started early at 3:48 AM intent on completing a full. This would be fresh ground broken as I haven’t been able to run a full marathon on a working day after moving to Chennai.
A pavement dweller sitting on the divider at the start of the Uttamar Gandhi Salai opposite Hotel Sangeeta called me to help him guide a truck driver who wanted to reach Mount road. After seeing him off on his way, my new found friend wanted to shake my hand. He told me that he has read about me in a magazine (reach of the vernacular medium!). I tried to be civil to him and enquired about his amputated foot. He mentioned it was due to accident, but, refused to tell me his age. I must tell my wife not to bother about my running in the early hours, I seem to have friends from all walks of life!
Today, a divider occupant near the slum at the start of the Mount road, took time off from his ‘Dum pe charcha’ with is friends and asked me why I was late. I told him I was running longer due to my bunked Sunday. I have now realized this is people’s way of showing off to their friends that they are friendly with me. He told his friends to try and run with me. I told him what I tell all others who try to pull the leg of their friends by daring them to run with me, You first throw the cigarette butt away and join me for a run, your friends will then most likely follow your advice!
Today my thoughts during the relaxed run was the book I am reading now, ‘Eat and Run’, by Ultra running legend Scott Jurek. Though I am not even a small candle to his exploits, I am surprised by similar results of quicker recovery and lesser soreness after run I have also been experiencing after turning Vegan. We, however, seem to differ on going barefoot. His prescription stopping short at landing sofly on midfoot/forefoot and practicing mindful running. I am in the process of first reading, will do an encore more leisurely!
With no competitor to rush me, I ran a very leisurely pace. I tried breathing in and out only through nose. I still finished in 4:23, reaching the colony gates as late as 8:11 AM. If good weather persists, may be able to turn in more full marathons on working days too! That way, I may stop missing Hubli runs, maybe!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Ring a ring o roses


 I must have been 12 or 13 years old when we were told that a man is going to ride a bicycle for 7 days at a stretch without stopping the cycle or getting down. When I first went to see it, the image of a lean and thin man going around on his bicycle (not the jazzy cycles the exercising people use today!) around a pole holding up a small tent with the loudspeaker beating out popular movie songs (the repeated playing of ‘Jeevan Chalne ka naam’!) is ever fresh in my mind. I am told the youth was motivated by cash collected in the box kept in the pandal for treatment of his sick relative. We used to go and see it every day morning before school and evening after school. We were particularly fascinated by how he took bath and changed clothes (also, biological breaks!), which were managed without bringing the cycle to a halt and with his accomplices covering him with a tent of old bedsheets for privacy.
 When I provoked Dharmendra​ and Nagaraj Adiga​ Sir after the 12 hour stadium run in Bangalore last year for a 24 hour run and I agreed to go for it this year, I was looking for a motivation for doing the run, i.e., going round in circles for 24 hours. I have stopped participating in events for timing or for money (not that I am any express material, the sobriquet of Hubli Express given to me by my admirers notwithstanding!). I took up this challenge chiefly for the following reasons;
 The event would give me a chance to take on the goddess of sleep (look for the original story of Lakshmana with the able support of Urmila his wife in Ramayana and how he overcame sleep to slay Meghanath!) even if for one night. Interestingly, my better half (who could not come to aid and abet me in my foolhardy venture!) has been complaining of feeling sleepy as if she has run 24 hours and,
The unfinished agenda of 100 miles we set out as a team to conquer from Mysore to Bangalore and failed.
The indoor track on which the run is conducted is barefoot friendly. The farthest point you are from an aid station at any given point of time is not more than 200m. This means one can run without carrying any baggage!
The famous hospitality and care of team @Nagaraj was always a factor to make anyone to do anything howsoever crazy!
Having done and dusted the 24 hour run, I must say that most of the objectives were fully met despite some slippages which were entirely my weaknesses.
Let me begin at the very beginning, my wife applied a veto to my Gandhian object of travelling by sleeper class and I was forced to book by AC-II tier (I travel by AC only for long official journeys or while traveling with family!). I accepted it as a small climb down for the larger aim of running. I had the company of Bib Bala and his family in both the outward and return journey.
We reached the hotel before 6 AM and I got in a little sleep. A nice long bath and a session of spinning with tea followed. Since the breakfast on the first day was not included in the fare, and, I was not in a mood to go out with Bala for breakfast, I opted for the complimentary fruit basket (only bananas) to sustain me till an early lunch. The hotel staff took me literally and I was embarrassed when a hotel attendant walked in ceremoniously with a big plate bearing two small yellaki balehannu (a very tasty but small variety of banana famous in Karnataka!). I for one prefer the bigger Robusta variety for my energy for the run. I was anyway hoping for an early lunch to be light at the start of the run. A group of runners were in my room in what was a pre race briefing with each exchanging experience since our last meeting.
We all assembled in the press meet which turned out more like an informal chat with the Race director and introduction of the runners. The race director Nagaraj Sir, read out the riot act about the need for following discipline in eating, hydrating and timely check up. He singled me out for special mention as I had had a sever cramp in the previous 12 hour edition of the same event. I was already suitable chastened by my wife and wanted to be careful in my run this time. A word about Mr. Nagaraj would be in order here, he is tough on the outside and it is evident for people who have associated with him for long that it is out of affection and for the well being of the participants under his charge during the event. I think it comes with the turf, I found the same streak in Kavitha Kanaparthi​ when she addressed the participants before the start of the Nilgiris Ultra. We runners tend to get carried away as a group sometimes to the detriment of our own health and safety!
Looking to the experience of the group which had assembled, I remember having commented to Aparna Choudhary​ (the only female participant who dared to run the 24 hour, though I know she hates to be singled out for her gender, and she belonged to the group head and shoulders above some of us for her sheer ability and experience!) that the combined mileage sitting in the room is mind boggling. The way the participants were chatting on about the menu to be served during the run, you could not make out the toughness of each of the participant.
The age of the participants varied from a barely 20 Inderpal Khalsa​ to nearing retirement Suresh Pillai​. Arun Bhardwaj​ with his past experience and Anil Gujjar with his speed in the past edition were the cynosure of all eyes. What was perfectly elevating for me was that the manager and one attendant at the hotel recognized me from the premier event of Ash Nath​'s movie about runners ‘Two feet to fly’ and wished me luck for the coming event. The attendant got me black coffee when he knew that I do not take coffee/tea with milk!
I had a lunch of Rice (with some sun dried tomatoes and broccoli) and potatoes and spinach vegetable, all other items were strictly off a Vegan’s menu! It was almost 1.45 PM by the time I got to the safety of my room. In the meanwhile, my roommate Abbas Sheikh​ had joined me. I set the alarm for 4 PM and went on to take a short nap. The night of remaining awake to follow was scaring me.  I had a small session on charkha with a few cups of black tea and reached the lobby at 4:45 PM as our reporting time for medical check up before the run at 6 PM was to be 5 PM. We all walked to the stadium from the hotel.
The head of the medical team from Fortis himself turned out to be a runner and running enthusiast. We all came back after a quick check up parroting our scores like school children after receiving their report card. I had a BP of 130/90, a little too high for my liking, maybe, I was tense before the run. Ankush set the ball rolling with his thunderous invocation and we promptly set off at 6 PM. This time we were to run with a timing chip and lap count was to happen electronically ( I remember last time there was lot of confusion in laps run!). I was happy that the band on the timing chip was black and so even though I could not pursue the idea of dedicating this run to the departed people’s president, Dr. Abdul Kalam, I had the satisfaction of wearing this chip as a black band on my feet (if only this band tied around the arm could have worked!).
Dharma was approaching his birthday in six hours time, cake cutting and the mandatory messing up of his face was already done in the press meet. Bala’s daughter did enjoy the piece of cake I got her, at least one piece was justifiably well spent! The dream of running to a near full moon in attendance was thwarted by a cloudy sky. The only saving grace was the light drizzle to keep the temperatures down and the body dry. One other advantage was that the cloudy sky promised that the night would not become too cold as the cloud cover traps the heat reflected from the ground. I was able to run the entire night topless in my shorts. Steady rain and breeze made the run pleasant.
The runners were required to change directions every hour to break the monotony as also to compensate for the banking and camber which makes the runner favour one side of the body. Soon we were looking forward to the first medical break. The enthusiastic volunteers, young college kids, were too eager to ply us with energy drinks, dates, jiggery and chikki. Nagaraj Sir, was waylaying runners at regular intervals near the aid station and force feeding them. My wife need not have bothered about my hydration and nutrition with the race director being so dictatorial in his affection! Even the committed spectators had gone to bed. Only Ankush and the Race director were left herding the devout runners. In three hours, I had put in a few laps short of 30K and I got worried that I may be guilty over speeding, I was conscious of the brakes the villain Sun would apply in the second innings come 7 AM! We had a dinner break with self settling for rice and Dal, the Dal was a little too spicy for my comfort. This was advance loading as the elaborate lunch had been fully countered by the body yet.
The first medical checkup went off fine, with a little argument I was able to stave off the blood sugar pricking of the finger. My weight was one Kg down from the 57Kg at the start (to me it was less luggage more comfort!). The doctor was fine with it, but, I was praying Nagaraj Sir did not notice it. The BP improved at 120/90. Heart rate was at 80. I lingered a little longer in the spare bed and we were out in about 15 minutes. Ankush had warned us of the break in music and announcements during the night from 10PM to 6 AM due to permission issues. In fact the quiet stadium with only nominal lights on a cloudy night was perfect for introspective run.
Even this small break had cooled our core down, I was stiff and shivering when I started. Dharam advised to start with a walk and gently break into a run. Within a lap I was fine and cruising. Meanwhile, Anil Gujjar and Arun Sir were piling on the agony. I was into a nice rhythm and was enjoying the run in the rain. Interestingly, sleep did not bother me then. I was biding my time till 2 PM, when I was hoping my normal wake up rhythm would set in. I remember Dharam and  Santhosh C Padmanabhan​ encouraging me with those magic words. I was missing Biscuit’s company badly.
The weather having increased and reduced the rain setting to high and low kept us cool and comfortable. The barefoot proved a boon when compared to squishy shoes of other shod runners passing me by. The mat was well hydrated and felt like a well wet astro turf to the feet. The khadi wear was not too heavy with wetness and I was very comfortable. With the steady breathing, I was assured that I was not over stressing my heart. The 2 PM medical break was better planned with runners being called for check up in ones and twos to avoid crowding in the medical tent. The medical venue had shifted to the room behind the announcement desk from the tent on the field. The medical results proved my feeling right, but for the weight climbing up a kg thanks to food break, the BP and heart rate had remained the same and I cleared my medicals quickly.
I felt cheated at not having taken a break as the next medical and mandatory break at 5:50 AM for allowing the full track for the 12 hour run start was nearly 4 hours away. When crossing Jagdish Damania​ I could not keep from commenting that we both had made tremendous progress compared to the previous year when comparing how strong we were at 6 hours in to the run. Part of the credit must go to the wonderful weather. The memory of the next six hours is a haze as the body ran unmindful of the passing of the time. The ever alert smiling kids at the aid station and Nagaraj Sir feeding us like mothers often feed playing kids without disturbing their play.
Around 5 AM, other set of runners who choose the second half to run 12 hours and the relay runners started assembling. We were given rousing cheers and the 5 AM change of direction gave us a good feeling of last hour before a mandatory check up and medical break. I do not remember at which point the giant display board was to light up and the lap count was to show up on real time basis. I was not able to read the number of laps or the names because I do not wear my spectacles during the run, however, I could hear the announcements which announced the respective positions and number of laps. Since this came with a time lag and even if I took the position once, I was not able to keep count beyond a few loops. I think I was running in my sleep and the only steering control I was capable of was the mandatory turning every 100 meters and crossing slower runners or giving way to faster runners.
Milind Soman​ was not running at his full throttle, must have not recovered fully from his recent Ironman experience. Every time I crossed him, he greeted me with a ‘Bam-2 Bhole, Jai Bhole’. Initially I thought he was invoking Lord Shiva (who is lovingly called Bhole by his devotees!) because my name, Vishwanathan, is another name for the Lord. It later turned out he was invoking his favorite with every runner!
There was an interesting exchange with Aparna about this greeting by Milind. I explained to her why Lord Shiva is called Bhole (meaning innocent in Hindi). He is supposed to be very innocent and ended up in giving boons to thoroughly undeserving and devious people. All the villains from Ravana, Bhasmasur etc. who were perfectly god fearing, learned people turned villainous after securing a, what they thought, invincibility boon from Lord Shiva. Thereafter, it took the combined might of his two other partners of the trinity, Brahma and Vishnu, to get the world out of harms way by neutralizing the boon.
Now while scanning Nagaraj Sir’s facebook page I find that I had done, 115 laps (46Km) by 11PM (5 hours, avg. 9.2Kmph), 186 laps (74.4Km) by 3 AM (9 hrs, 8.27 Kmph) and 220 laps (88Km) by 5 AM (11 hrs, 8 Kmph). My relative position always was within the top three which I could make out from my long name.
I had a half an hours rest starting from 5:50 AM to 6.30 AM which included my stopping to cheer the participants of the 12 hour run at their start point and the medical checkup followed by a short nap. I did not stop for a breakfast as hot idlis were promised in a short while. The Sun was welcome as it woke me up, but, true to its villainous character it started teasing and finally scorching me as the day progressed. I do not remember whether it was 7 AM or 8 AM, when Nagaraj Sir, literally pulled us off the track to feed us hot idlis. I gobbled 5 idlis. I was however worried about the backlash from the spicy chutney, I should not have given in to the temptation and stuck to sugar as I did last year. There is no point in crying over consumed chutney. I ran carefully after the break mindful of the coming reflux. Luckily, it stayed down and the stomach did manage to digest it. I was also blessed to have been able to take a dump early in the morning in the porta-loo. With this I had successfully conquered the sleep (at least for the night) and the loo-visit, so far so good!
The brisk and chirpy younger lot of 12 hour runners sharing the first three track with us meant more energy to us, but, also more runners crossing and being crossed. The relay runners on the next three tracks were simply burning the tracks. It looked like the long distance trains on the inner tracks were being overtaken by the faster suburban trains. The runners who were running sometimes with their families were making up the outermost two tracks. The children particularly Udaya Napa​'s daughter gave me good company. She told me she had done six laps. Many known faces exchanged greetings and I can only claim old age for my defense of not remembering all of them by name. The greetings and cheer every loop was like energy boosters to the aching and tiring body. Around 10.15 AM (16.15 hrs), I had done 297 laps (118.8Km, 7.3 Kmph). The average speed had been constantly dropping but I was running steadily. The breaks just got more frequent and longer. The sun was now burning my neck and shoulders. I did not even have the presence of mind to take the cap and cover my neck/shoulders with a wet cloth (wife was missed sorely, this struck me only when my wife asked me why I did not do so while applying fresh aloe vera sap the next day to the mauled portion!). Luckily, I did not wet that portion during the run (my ability to bear pain seems to have gone up!). The chafing of the tender portion by the straps of the goody bag the next day had made it gory by the time it was put up for inspection of my daughter and wife.
Now I must introduce Santosh into the narrative, who was pacing Mani and had dropped to the sidelines after 6 AM and started encouraging me actively. He was anyway goading me on with kind words all through the night. Around 12 Noon (18 hrs), when I took a break I saw that I had been shown as having completed 324 laps (129.6 Km, 7.2 Kmph). Now the breaks got too very frequent and mind games became fierce. I wanted to just give up and take a loooong nap. Next two hours of running was purely because of Santosh’s goading. Next I remember was when I had started to walk (which to me is abject surrender, being from the Murakami school of running!). Santosh, failing to motivate me with podium or distance gave me a real gem. He said that most spectators were really rooting for me and that I should not disappoint them.
Fellow runners were very kind to me all through the run, encouraging me every time I crossed them. The youngster, Inder was the most verbal and vocal in his cheering, alternating between Jai Mata Di, Bharat Mata ki Jai and Aap Eighth wonder ho Sir, etc. More than any medal or reward, earning the respect of fellow participants is of importance to me. I shall treasure the praise lavished by Santosh, Arun especially and countless fellow runners and spectators during the run.
I particularly enjoyed running in tandem with Arun and Navin at various times in the run and it was a real honour leading them, those bursts of energy were the best part of the run for me. Scientifically minded Natasha Ramarathnam​ may split hair and say that I gave away the advantage to the trailing runners, but, I was never one to split hair or count pennies!
 Around 2.30 PM, Arun told me that I should aim for 160 Km mark, which was quiet achievable as I had about 38 more laps to be done in three and a half hour. By now team pacemakers were firmly ensconced on one side of the track (opposite to the announcing dias!) and were cheering me every lap. Seeing Pani Sir, really energized me. Ajit Tandur, another good friend was their supporting his Mysore team. I told Brajesh and Dharma that I will try for the 160 Km to make good the failure to hit 100 miles in the earlier attempt In the Bangalore Mysore run with them.
The spectators particularly, opposite the aid station were giving me a rousing cheer on completing every lap. Next two hours was very productive and I had brought down the asking rate to 13 laps in the next 90 minutes. In the interim period I had every spectator and the aid station boys to keep updating me on my lap count. I was not able to keep count on my own (I don’t know if I was losing my mind!). By 5 PM I had only a few laps left to complete 400 laps which I accomplished by 5:15 PM. I suddenly discovered that my left foot had swollen and I had to pull out.
I walked the next few laps limping much to the disappointment of my cheering fans. I had the finish the event walking which shall remain a disappointment for me, this spoilt the joy of having completed 160K and without cramps. What broke my heart was the request from some fans if I could not at least run the last lap. Milind looked at my swollen foot and cautioned me that it could be stress fracture. I decided that discretion is the better part of valour and walked around soaking in the cheers like a preponed victory lap.
The last direction change at 5 PM had meant that we runners were going clockwise at the time of finish thereby the loudest cheering squad was rendered ineffective as it was too far away from the finishing athletes. This needs to be adjusted from the next edition.
What followed was a finisher’s medal around my neck and my walk like a zombie to collect my bag from the baggage counter for my slippers. Many people walked up and shook my hand and I must not have come out as an enthusiastic respondent. Being the third position meant I had to stand on the podium for the longest duration. Even standing at the small height which the bronze medalist gets to stand at was becoming a strain for me. I was feeling dizzy, I somehow managed to hang on till Navin an Arun got on to the podium. I was yawning uncontrollably and was not able to keep my eyes open. I swooned and made to fall and the Gallant and ever watchful Nagaraj caught me mid-air. I collapsed on the bed in the medical tent. I was really scared as the doctor’s checked for my vital statistics. The prick on the finger for blood sugar examination which I valiantly fought off the whole day was finally performed by the smiling lady doctor. I was told that all the signs were perfect. Then I sat up and Doctors and paramedics sat around me for a photo-op, they assured me that I was perfectly ok, but, I collapsed in a heap on the bed barely able to keep my eyes open. Nagaraj was watching and I was afraid that I was in for a night at some hospital instead of the train to Chennai. Luckily for me on saying that Bala and his family were travelling with me, the race director relented and sent me off in his car with a thick blanket to the hotel. Further ignominy awaited me at the hotel as I was not able to stand after getting down from the car. The friendly attendants at the hotel who had cheerfully seen me off for the run the previous evening wheeled me to my room and I collapsed on my bed. Bala covered me in my room mate’s quilt. The time was about 7:45 PM, I had not been able to call my wife or return calls from my brother or Bhupender (a runner friend). My Doctor brother was worried. I was however confident that a few hours sleep would get me fine. It was more a hope than conviction now. Bala stayed in my room as I used the Loo with instructions for me to not lock the door, clearly I must not have been looking good. One hour of sleep later I was fit enough to walk to the shower and a long hot shower made me feel better. I was now confident of making it home. Meanwhile, my wife had been told all the good news of podium finish and prizes, keeping away the swooning part. I told my brother that I was better when he called next at 9 PM. Timely help from Bala and Nagaraj saw me through, but, I missed all the fun of the presentation party. I could not even formally thank Nagaraj, his team of organizers and the volunteers.
As I go to press there is more good news to report. The swollen foot turned out to be a benign sprain. It definitely had the effect of surprising the Medical Director and the Ortho specialist when I walked in announcing the distance and time for which I ran. Surely, I could not have got a clearance for the run at my age if I had asked for it before the run. The swelling has come down with two days of pain killers and a raised foot. The sun burnt neck and shoulders required just a day of ministration from my wife and daughter. Three days of rest (one complete at home, two at office) got back the Hubli Passenger back on its usual run today. As a bonus I had Sundar Purush​’s company for the run today. The ‘Run pe Charcha’ of today with Sundar shall be a subject matter of another blog.
This is one event which keeps me from sticking to my vow of no organized runs by sheer joy it gives in the run and end to end comfort being taken care by the team Nagaraj. Heartfelt thanks to you and your able team Sir!