Biscuit woke me fifteen minutes before my alarm time. He was adamant for a walk straight away, and as a result I was back at 2:30 AM. Spent half an hour on the facebook over a cup of green tea. I developed a slight niggle in the calf and Kakinada express had excused himself citing late night engagements. Given the situation that Chennai express is already in holiday mood, I was looking at a prospect of a solo run. Situation was quite tempting for bunking the run and getting into the bed. Biscuit was aware of the opportunity and was lying in wait on the sofa in the hall. I am due for babysitting Biscuit tomorrow and would have to bunk the run, two days of run deprivation was unthinkable, so off I went much to the disappointment of Biscuit.
I was at the gates at 4:07AM and must confess that I did look around in the faint hope of finding Sundar Purush pacing the pavement. Even though there was the likelihood that Chennai express may have gone ahead of the Hubli Passenger, due to the agreement yesterday that neither would wait for the other and we could meet at the beach road even if we start at different times, I did look for him at every turn. By the time I had wished Balu after negotiating the bridge and I had now reconciled to running alone. Today the water spout outside AVM Kalyana mantapam looked like a good competitor to the Saravana Bhawan. I would try and popularise it among runners returning from their workouts as opposed to their patronizing the Saravana Bhawan.
Reached Light house at 4:49 AM, 42 minutes have become the par for this leg, however slow I run. The speeds on different stretches seem to average out. Met Srinivasan, of the elaborate Namaste fame, after a gap of few days. Crowds on the pavement were back to full house and I didn’t mind weaving through them as I now see lot of familiar faces and greet and get greeted. I tried remembering the first few days when I was literally on slippery ground and figuratively conscious of my attire. Now I seem to have a firm grip of the soles and the even the traditional Chennai walker has come to accept me. The last four months have got me introduced to the cows which frequent Marina and I now recognize the ones who like Banana peels. Today the white one with dark patches was the favoured one.
The skaters were warming up and the early army men and a lone couple gave a hint of a lively time by the time I would be doing my second loop. Time to meet the first of my new friends;
As I was turning into the Flag Staff road, a bunch of kids carrying bat and ball passed me shouting and laughing. As I crossed them, a few laughed, and I gave them a smile back. Two of the boys broke from the group and tagged on with me. After some time, I started to make conversation with them. One of them is called Jeetu (I didn’t get his partners name!). He is twelve years old and is from a village near Calcutta. He along with thirty other kids works for a jewellery unit. They are paid Rs. 6000 a month with boarding and lodging free. They come to play on the Beach road on days when they don’t have work. They seemed a happy bunch. I am dead against child labour and believe that there place is in school and not the workplace however benevolent the employer may be, but, do we need to find a golden mean considering the crushing poverty. Can they be given evening classes along with vocational training which they are getting in their job? Kailash Satyarthiji, are you listening?
I met Manish Suri twice during the run, must be their groups training day at Marina today! I completed the loop at 5:51 AM, not bad considering the freewheeling discussion with Jeetu!
The second loop was even more relaxed as I didn’t mind getting home a little later (Chennai Express has a tighter pre-office schedule!). The pandals set up for the road safety week near the Labour statue was deserted today and the dogs were using the red carpets for their after meal siesta. Met two platoons of the army running contingent and the Good morning/hello from my side was uniformly replied with a running salute (stiffening of the back/arms!) or a Jai Hind. The skaters livened up the Sivananda salai and Mount road.
I was not done with making new friends for today and the place interestingly was the entrance to the Flag Staff house road. A young man quietly started to run alongside me. His steady pace and even breathing indicated that he was a Pro. We got talking. He is Mahesh from Pilibhit in Uttarakhand and presently posted in Tiruchy. He is on a temporary duty to Chennai since last month and would be here for another two months. He is from the Green team (must find out how high it ranks!) of Boxing in the Army and has represented it for five years till he turned thirty (he is 32 now, Sundar’s age!). He told me that he had a major fracture of the hand when he was a young child. All his friends used to tease him. He learnt yoga and strengthened his arm and learnt boxing by observing his teacher from a distance (who wouldn’t take him as he was weak!), your Eklavya! He has two kids aged five and one and a half and he plans to get his family after he gets back to Tiruchy. His wife is educated (B.Ed.) and he plan to encourage her to study further so that she can teach once the kids grow up a bit. Before we knew we were near the Gandhi statue. He got my family details as also my service connection and promised to run when he got time. He plans to teach kids who train near Marina the nuances of boxing as he loves the sport and teaching.
It was a very fruitful two loops today. I reached home at 7:26 AM, a 3:19, 32K. Must complete my weekend run blog later in the day!