Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Biscuit once again

                Today is a lucky day for a post about Biscuit (my going on seven Labrador pet for those of you who are yet not introduced to him!). He is exactly seven days shy of his seventh birthday which falls on the seventh of July (now how lucky can it get!).
                There is another story about Labradors getting to be seven which I do not want to believe and Biscuit surely is not giving any indications of it, they are expected to get mature at seven. I just hope it is not true and Biscuit does not grow up, we like him the way he is!
                Last week during our walk, a young man was deferentially walking behind us not wanting to cross Biscuit’s path. I let him cross us as Biscuit decided to give a patch of money plant all his remaining urine after subjecting it to intense sniffing. The man asked if he bites and if he is trained. When he got negatives for these two, he heaped the ultimate insult that it must be costing the moon to maintain him! I think the guy got our relation wrong, we do not keep Biscuit to guard us and we do not count our pennies when bringing up Biscuit!
                I have commented on Biscuit’s pusillanimity earlier, he is just one grade below the Vitalstatisix who believed that the skies are falling. With Biscuit, his nemesis is any vessel (or anything which has potential to make noise on falling down!). To be fair to him, the chances of getting hurt by a hot utensil falling on you is more than the skies falling! Apart from this, he has his fears of diesel vehicles.
                His control over his tongue is something which I would very much like to emulate. He effortlessly switched from packaged food (like Pedigree) to a diet of multi grain chapatis with lots of curds and milk and finally a vegan diet of rice, pulses and vegetables (that too salt free!). To top it all he is consuming this with sweet tasting Ayurvedic medicine said to prevent bone issues later in life. Compared to his austerities, I feel childish crowing about my Vegan experiment (with a few slippages in the earlier part!). I have learnt that this could be because dogs are said to have only a quarter of the number of taste buds which we humans have, factor in the relative sizes of the tongues, we can safely say that the fault is in the taste buds and not our stars!
                He used to rush across the tiled floor on hearing the door bell go at around the time of my return from office. Fearing his hurting himself in the process, Missus and I decided on a plan. I used to give my wife a call on her mobile when I reached the lift the idea was for me to come and meet him inside without his rushing out. To our pleasant surprise, he started rushing to the door on hearing her mobile ringing in the evening at around the time of my arrival. If only offices had Biscuit, punctuality would not have been an issue!
                He has become slow in climbing on to the bed and does not show so much enthusiasm in chasing squirrels and ageing is there for all of us to see, but, the child like habit of climbing on to your lap shows that the child in him would never grow up.
                The advance posting about Biscuit is to ensure that all good people should come to the aid of the party and ensure that their wishes reach him well in time for his birthday.

                On the running front, last two days have been fruitful and I have been able to put in my usual quota of run albeit slower and ending with a battered leg. The good news is that the recovery is getting faster and I am not complaining. The road rollers have been my nightmare too (just like Biscuit’s) considering that they leave behind tar coated jelly as instruments of torture for my soles! Today these instruments of terror were marking the territory around the war-memorial, forcing me to run two loops to RBI and back.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Musings of a grounded runner

Ask any runner, the most frustrating thing for them is not being able to run due to a small niggle. We are broadminded and do not minded being grounded for fancy ailments like Plantar fasciitis, but, to be kept off the daily dose of Endorphins due to a pain in the Bu**! I am not sure if it was the calisthenics called Yoga I experimented with in the call of duty last Sunday that has anything to do with the malfunctioning booty!
Last two days have been very frustrating, I get up at the usual hour go through the motions complete with hydration and dear Biscuit (my going on 7 year old Labrador pet, for those of you yet to be introduced!) giving up his air-conditioned comfort in the aid and support, all for yours truly curling up in bed (one day after having tested the road for a few paces!). Biscuit has been very accommodative in letting me a small portion of my side of bed for the stolen few hours before plain misery overtakes me on getting up at 7 AM! To come from such a state to office to see runner friends on facebook posting (or taunting!) ‘Did you run today’, is plain hell nothing less.
The lone cuckoo (yes the place we live has a lot of greenery and tree cover to support cuckoos!) has in recent times advanced its ‘Morning Raga’ rendition from its prime time of 4 AM to 2 AM (if not earlier!). I know this must be sheer agony to Biscuit’s roadside canine friends who do not get to sleep till after midnight( blast the incessant traffic on the Sterling road!). They any way get up out of a sense of duty to chase water lorries and milkmen by 4 AM. This is definitely not good news to their complexion given that WHO recommendation (as reminded by PGW in many of his epics!) is something of eight hours!
For reasons of adhering to some minimum standards of reporting, I shall resort to narrating events of the run last Tuesday.  I have been observing one emulatable behavior of my bovine friends from Marina. I have noticed that the cows that have crossed the ingesting phase to cud-chewing phase (by which time they settle down on the ground from their standing position!) invariably refuse my offering of banana peels. I usually compare this with my generally permissive ingestion policy, where to please my wife (and more often due to the excesses of the tongue!) I have known to gobble without restraint.
The other instance was my exchange with the Madras Transport Corporation (MTC) bus driver( this was different from the ones I have had with this fan base of mine till now!), who came straight at me, albeit slowly, when I was running along the divider against the traffic. He stopped next me and smilingly asked why I run against the traffic. Now amongst runners the question of whether to run along or against the traffic is as big a question as the one which set of a war in Liliput (which end to break the egg from!). I told him my plain logic, if he decides to knock me down when he sees me in the eye on a straight road then what hope do I have from his colleague who gets to have a go at my back when I run along the traffic. He appreciated my point and left with a big smile and wave, hope he spreads the word among his tribe!
I know I would have a go at the road tomorrow whatever the state of my royal back, I only hope I am good for the weekend runs. I also hope that the Corporation of Chennai got enough time to relay the road on my running route and I do not have to do an encore of Basanti!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Bend it like Babu

Let me start at the very beginning. I was exulting by the time it was 4 PM on Friday secure in the thought that nothing could come in the next two hours to stand between me and my weekend of leisurely run and uninterrupted ‘Yoganidra’ (to the lay people this does not need any explanation after the overdose of Yoga we got fed from all sides this weekend!).
I may have celebrated too soon, my trusted Jeeves (my PA at office) came soon after triumphantly waving a circular asking us all Babus to get motivated to Bend it like Beckham on Sunday morning at 9 AM and happily thereafter. If you think, I was in trouble, I could imagine how deeper it was for the person from the HR who was busy organizing the event. I could commiserate with him, like the bridal mare in the marriage season up north (or the humble Vadhyar(Brahmin who performs religious rites) who become hard to find on the Amavasya day when traditional prayers are made to the dear departed) all experts of the ancient and now vibrant of Yoga were hard to find as the D-Day approached.
I had had a decent run at Friday and Saturday and bunking Sunday would not have been so catastrophic, but, to me not running on Sunday is not Kosher! I quickly back worked and worked out a fool safe routine to be on time for the session.
The day did not start well as it was 4:30AM when I started (sharp pain on my left heel keeps me in suspense till the very end). My initial run till I negotiated the newly laid stretch upto the Gemini circle was very ginger and slow. I knew I was late when I crossed many of the Marina runnerz coming in the opposite direction when I met them on Cathedral road.
To add injury to my tender soles, the Corporation of Chennai decided to play Gabbar with my Basanti by deciding to going for patch work all the way upto the TTK flyover. I have I think remarked about this earlier in my blog after my first barefoot Airtel Hyderabad Marathon attempt where the city’s potholes were given the patch treatment before the day of the run. I say, the treatment is worse than the disease, ask any barefoot runner, it is easier to negotiate a pothole or a bad patch of road than a patch fixed pothole with jelly strewn all around. Even Gabbar was more humane to Basanti than this treatment.
I crossed a military truck ( like the 3 Tonners we used to go to school when we were young) carrying young children dressed in whites for their Sunday dose of Yoga, I could not remove the image of cooped up chicks carted by truck to their salvation ( I must admit the former were not looking that morose, but, were in fact laughing and singing)
My day was made when an older gentleman walking with his wife near Lighthouse ran up to me and asked if I was the guy featured in the ToI article a few weeks back. He said he claimed to his friends that he knew me and that he has run with me (this is true!). He ended the exchange with a parting shot that he was 10 years my senior. Now, if you have been in Government (and have suffered or inflicted the tyranny of seniority!), there is no comeback for this. I gracefully told him, much to the delight of his wife and him, that I would be happy to be as fit as him when I reach his age!
I had the company of Marina Runnerz doing their long run and I crossed them many times with overt exchanges of ‘good show’ flowing both ways. I also had an exchange with one of my teenaged fans from the slum near Quaid –E-Milleth bridge. He taunted me ‘Thalaiva, you would never run at the edge of the road’ (a different way of saying the same thing as the Traffic Police!). I invited him to be in my bare-foot (a play on the original ‘being in other’s shoes’!) by literally asking him to take off his footwear and walk on the edge of the road and a few foot inside. Experience is surely a good teacher, I had a convert. Hope he educates other doubters!
When I was on the way back, just before I was concentrated on negotiating the treacherous stretch (patch worked and jelly strewn!) before the City centre, I heard my name being called from behind. I was surprised and pleased to meet Praveen​Comrades Giriya, who accompanied me till before the Gemini flyover. We had an interesting discussion on his experiences at Comrades this year. I also got to know the damage the trip causes to one’s pocket as I do wish to do the pilgrimage once. If I cannot find any sponsors for the trip, I shall treat myself to it from my retirement package. Wish me that I remain fit that long enough!
I got into a scrap with a hero kind of material (the ones who impress their lookers on by picking on strangers). He was riding triples and without helmet on a two wheeler and was trying to give me advice on not to run in the face of traffic. The message was well intentioned, but, the tone and intent got my goat and Gandhi’s teaching on showing the other bare sole went through the window. I confronted him and it was getting dirty. Luckily Praveen stepped in and poured oil over troubled waters. I have found and I was explaining to him that I get more short tempered as I get farther and farther into my run (physical tiredness leads to short temper, Bingo!).
I reached home at 7:41 AM giving me enough time to take a quick bath and grab a cup of Kanji (wife patented multi-grain health drink) before I went grudgingly to be part of the official arm-twisting episode (read Yoga!).
Though I went in with lot of misgivings and anger, the session was very well conducted and was a refreshing cool down stretching session for my tired limbs. I was telling my wife, it was like with young kids that they resist being fed even Gripe-water (when force fed from a Paaladai, a torture instrument which we all remember with dread!). It takes a few gulps to be force fed before the kid yields to the taste. I even feel that I could even try a few of these in the evening to counter the ill effects of the mental gymnastics we are made to perform in office during the day to be in a better frame of mind for quality family time. A flexible steel frame called bureaucracy seems to be what the country needs now!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Immortality- a curse

Mythology is rife with characters who do penance to achieve immortality. Our own new age guru Steve Jobs has famously quoted ‘Death is the single best invention of life’, I cannot agree more, as the stories of such wannabe immortals almost always turned out to be evil incarnate and the boon-givers smart play of words comes to the rescue in the end. The Hindu divinity aptly gives equal importance to creation, sustenance and finally destruction through its trinity of gods Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, My favourite of the trio has always been the maverick Shiva (I am his namesake too!).
I do not know why these morbid thoughts were uppermost in my mind when Biscuit and I walked out to a perfect English weather of the colony drenched in overnight rain, but, the drizzle was just right for an enjoyable walk. Biscuit did not linger long as he must have been afraid of wetting his coat.
I started my run at 4:37 AM, late, considering the inviting weather. The milkman was also missing in action (he is human after all!). The rough patch from Sangeeta hotel and beyond which was like the treacherous 5th day Eden garden pitch had been smoothened by the roller action of the previous day’s traffic. The wet road also was soothing to the soles. In short, there was no cause to be morbid, if you discount the slight pain in the left thigh.
Having negotiated the narrow Uttamar Gandhi salai, I eased into the spacious and sparsely trafficked Cathedral road. The thoughts restarted from where they had left off. I think the culprit must have been my cousin who rang up yesterday and said despite a block requiring surgery in his heart, he was refusing to go under the surgeon’s knife, as he had had a fulfilling life of 54 years (his benchmark being his father’s age at his death 51!). Maybe, it was none of this.
I was discussing with my wife as to how boring life had become with clothes and items of daily use like utensils having become virtually indestructible and any fresh purchase looks contrived and not borne out of need. Life would have been exciting with pure cotton clothes and mud pots dying naturally periodically ensuring fulfilling work for the weavers and potters and joy for their customers! The same strain of thought continued when I found a milk sachet cover of few days old mocking the mortality of the dried leaves around it (and even me I thought, for the plastic is likely to live more than four times over our lifespan!) when I stopped to pollute the banks of Couum. I think I got my idea to switch to mud/wooden bowls for eating for self and slowly persuade the family to switch to cooking utensils made from them. I remember the Jain sadhvis whom I had met in Hubli with one of my colleagues were carrying wooden bowls for eating. That Jain colleague is till to get me a bowl for my use!
While the rains even if very mild continued for the most part of the run, and, it made the roads sole-friendly, the beach walking pavement was wet and slippery. In fact, at least two of the regulars told me to be careful of the slippery surface. I was not enjoying the run, having to constantly be on guard and run in very small steps. I came on to the road even if it meant Mukka-Laat with a few irate vehicle drivers who though sparse were not largehearted enough to share the road with me. Every runner and cyclist I crossed today exchanged wide smiles and loud greetings. I think each one of us wanted to share the joy of being out in the rain. My schedule has been out of sync with the Chennai Express (read Sundar​) as I have seen him for long and today even the Kakinada express was not to be spotted (could have been due to my delayed start!).
The continued wet weather meant that I did not require a water break and I negotiated the Saravan café from across the road (chance of a missed attendance with the parking attendant!). I however noted that the tumblers which used to be chained to the two taps were still missing (the gate keeper had informed yesterday that the chain having broken the glasses had been taken in for safe custody!). I had the pleasant experience of drinking from my cupped hands after a long time yesterday!
I reached the colony gates at 7:46 AM, a 3:09 effort, not bad at all! I found one of my colleagues walking with his wife which prompted me to offer to my wife immediately on reaching home to go for a walk. The offer sadly was refused and I had to settle for the company of Alan Shore and Denny Crane instead.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Firewalking Hubli passenger style

                After a pathetic day of moping and limping around by evening yesterday I made up my mind that running has to resume. I was able to localize the problem to groin area. It was painful when movements involved stretching sideways or a longer stride length. Started at 4:23 AM. What is normally a slow shuffle of a warm up for me till the strip tease point extended much beyond and it had its consequences for my stock with a young fan of mine. You cannot blame me for that, even when a longer stride was attempted to avoid a pebble or a break in the road, sharp pain resulted.
                Imagine my ill luck when the entire stretch from Sangeeta hotel to the Uttamar Gandhi salai-Haddows road intersection was being relaid. The warm tar and loose gravel-tar mix gave my soles a firewalking experience. When I was slowly shuffling with my soles having gathered a fair share of the hot tar-gravel mix, I was stopped by a young boy dressed only in shorts, bright and smiling. He was with the construction labourers and he asked me ‘Naina (for father figure in Telugu!), why are you so slow today’, as if his stock with his group has been brought down by me. Seeing confusion on my face, By way of introduction he mentioned that he sees me every day and I was too slow today. I took the opportunity to take a break and scrape off the gravel mix sticking to my sole and he got my message. He triumphantly explained to his senior friend that I am usually quite fast. I took leave of him and pressed on the throttle as soon as I crossed the hot zone. In all this confusion and ‘fan se charcha’, my left leg forgot the niggle and started behaving well.
                My meditation zone (the equivalent of the KM 11-13 of the Hubli route!) on my current route is from just beyond the Gemini circle till the TTK flyover. Today’s bee in the bonnet was the irony of a nation considered the diabetic capital of the world (I can independently vouch for this as the most common ailment discussed with me while on the run is also Diabetes!) subsidizing ‘Sugar’ considered white poison. The whopping figure of 6000 Cr was being bandied around. Next we would be subsidizing beedis to support the tobacco farmers! Even subsidizing jaggery would be a smaller evil, and would go to help small farmers instead of the Sugar barons, ‘Jaago Graahak Jaago’!
                My thoughts were also with the Army dogs who I was shocked to learn the previous day are being put to sleep after their active service. I thought the man’s best friend deserved a more humane pay back after it spends the entire life serving us and spreading happiness. Felt good to sign a petition today (change.org) online for putting an end to this barbaric practice. I request all my friends to sign the petition and help Biscuit’s friends!

                Today I had the company of Kakinada Express during the run. For a change I took the Sivananda saalai and regretted it very soon as it became another torture session for my soles. Better sense prevailed in the second loop and we traversed the RBI route instead. It was a 3:10, 32K for the Hubli Passenger today. Mercifully, the leg seems good after the run!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Begani shaadi mein Hubli Passenger Deewana

By the time it was Friday, boredom over the monotony of the daily run had caught up with me and it was out of force of habit and Biscuit’s routine which saw me at the gates for the daily fix. The run was largely uneventful except for an invite for a morning cuppa of coffee by my good friend Jesudas when I crossed him near Saravana Bhawan, I managed to wriggle out without offending the good host pleading being on Vegan diet.
On my way back, a policeman in mufti (you can make them out by their khaki trousers and ample middle!) wished me when I was waiting for my turn at the water point outside AVM kalyana mantapam. He came back after going some distance and told me ‘one advice’. I thought here goes, one more guardian of law advising Hubli passenger to run off the road for personal safety! Seeing my disinterested face, he elaborated that he wanted an advice if I were not in a hurry. Now that’s more up my alley! He said, he had diabetes and asked what he should do about it. I explained to him that a diabetic is like a person without a fridge/bank account. They have no provision to save food/money. They are therefore to delicately balance the calorie intake and expenditure. I also prefaced my advice with a request to go vegetarian if possible as Non-Veg food was calorie intense. I patted his well to do middle (my white hair and six-pack permits me this luxury!) and said that he must slowly burn it up by going slow on the intake and increasing walks. He could graduate to a trot/run after the weight becomes manageable. He went away all smiles, well, all the best to him!
Weekend saw two organized runs, the Marina Runnerz​ first anniversary run on Saturday and some other event on Sunday where one side of the busy Beach road was cordoned off. I was there at both the events, the former with a formal invitation and the latter by accident!
Now, the Beach road has become like the AVM kalyana mantapam, an event every weekend, only the wedding parties at the latter and the sponsors/runners at the former change. Some of the runners are a fixture in these events.
The first event first, the Marina runnerz first birthday was well publicized with a daily countdown on the facebook. I had committed to the run to my good friend Gerald Martin Joseph​ and planned to keep it, even if it clashed with my having to receive my wife at the station (she was coming after a week’s absence and was lugging lot of goodies for me!). My wife understands which is my first love and does not compete for affection!
The scheduled time of the run was advertised as 5 AM and when I left the colony gates at 4:31 AM (after locking Biscuit in after his walk, he asserted his weekend right of a longer walk!). I was afraid that I would be late for the event. I met another runner on the Cathedral road and felt relaxed after he told me that I have half an hour’s cushion as they would be having warm up after 5 AM assembly. I reached in time and nicely warmed up to see a big group of runners from 6 to 60 enthusiastically stretching on the road behind Light house. Luckily for the runners, they did not let me address them and before I ran cold, the start was announced. I had the opportunity to meet ’88 batch IIT Bombay’ite Dinesh Victor​, who also accompanied me in the initial part of the run before I stopped to feed a cow. I got out of the flagging off as I feel it should be by the oldest member of the running group which is being celebrated.
The inner road was a Marina torture on my soles which are used to running on the smoother walkway. Met Kanchan Ravi​ who was enthusiastically offering drinks as a volunteer, felt bad to refuse the smiling lady! Another lady on a bike asked for a photo which could not happen because of the missing photographer, a case of, runners raajee and no kaaji! The route was from Lighthouse to RBI and back. I was given a memento (it looks like the traditional sweet lime and coconut tambulam one gets after attending a south Indian wedding!).
I did not wait for the cake cutting and the celebrations to follow and excused myself to go for my second loop. I was flattered by her (the lady on the bike!) persistence when I found her on the route on my second loop. We did almost two kilometers from Napier bridge to Fort St. George ( must have made an interesting pair, a bare-foot/ bare-chested old man with a young lady in a full cyclist gear!), she finally gave up and my attention was caught by two old men who accosted me with the now familiar questions of age, kilometers run. They said with certainty that I would not have Sugar, salt, BP and cholesterol, to which I remember replying that I have all of them, but, hopefully in the right measure (watch out for them as these new found friends had a role in mediating in my brush with the over-enthusiastic custodian of the law the next day!). I had the company of few runners from Anna Nagar Tower twisters on Cathedral road who had come running to the event and were going back running!
I finished the run at 7:40 AM, a 3 hour 9 minute for 32K with decent breaks between the two loops, I must have overdone myself!
Came back to gorge everything in sight and started for my quarterly appointment at Railway Hospital for blood donation (it is actually due on the 14th and now I know 14th June was World Blood donor day!). I love coming to the Railway hospital for donation as they treat you as royalty every time. I have a confession to make, I am scared of the needle prick and use my influence to avoid the one prick before on the forefinger by the nurse to check the Hb% to see if I qualify to donate. To be really honest, more than the prick, the fear of rejection (I have once been sent back with Iron tablets a few years back!) is the reason for the trepidation. This time also I had fixed up with the Medical Director, to allow me to donate with checking before taking the donation. I got my long term doubt about the reason for refusing donor with Hb% below 13 clarified. Much to my relief, I am given to understand that, it is for the safety of the donor and not the donee! I did get my Hb% checked from my donated sample, it was a PB, a whopping 14.9% (I have been on Iron pills for the last few months, finishing wife’s supplies as they did not suit her!). I remember coming back and joking to my wife that with so much iron in me, I am in the pink of health and must keep away from magnetic personalities! I also learnt one more important fact, that the Hb% goes down by 100 basis points after donation. I have always felt good after a blood donation and make it a point to do so as soon as I become due (once in 3 months is what Doctors recommend!). The feel good factor is I am told due to the release of the hormone Oxytocin, the same which a mother has after childbirth. It finally gives the men a chance to play ‘Mother’.   Theoretically, a person can donate once every quarter from the age of attaining 18 till one becomes 60, that means a maximum of 168 donations! I must have missed a few in the initial years, but, now knowing that retirement from this good deed is also not far, I go like a devout religiously every quarter.
The heady mix of Endorphins and Oxytocin made my day and I spent rest of the day eating and cosying up with my favourite author P G Wodehouse. Biscuit’s overdue bath was rescheduled to Sunday!
Organised runs have a knack of stretching me, more than the bad surface of the inner Marina road, I think it was the showing off to the youngsters which did me in. My left hamstring was sore when I woke up on Sunday. I dragged myself to the gate promising myself a slow and leisurely run. I left at 4:42 AM.
Imagine my surprise when I found Marina taken over by traffic policemen and one half of the road quarantined for the ‘Elite’. I stuck to my inner pavement even if it was crowded by morning walkers and the regular beggars dotting the sidelines.
By the time I reached Labour statue, I could see runners with Bibs and T-shirt with ‘Hindustan University’ emblazoned running alongside. The competitive animal in me woke up and without a care for the distressed left hamstring, I started to pull ahead promising myself that I would relax after beating the next person in front. Competition is addictive, after getting down on the road near Anna square Police station and having tasted the freedom of the empty road, I continued to run on the road right up to RBI and back. To be fair to myself, I refused the proferred water bottle and the shooting photographers informing them that I was not part of the paid seats, but, a part of free seat! I built up the race as of the Eklavya versus the Arjuna.
Though I was accepted and cheered for most part of the run ( I did recognize some Chennai runners!), a policeman (I later got his name as P Mani, not to be confused with ’Money’!) caught me by hand and wanted to offload me to the sidewalk. I would have gladly gone over at the next gap in the road as the road, though free, was hurting my soles, but, the manner of his confrontation got me into fighting him. I told him that he has been posted to keep the cordoned lane free of vehicular traffic and guide pedestrians crossing the road and he has no business to touch runners. I would get off in any organizer has a problem with sharing the public road which was largely sparsely populated compared to the sidewalk. The two gentlemen who I had met the day before were behind me on a bicycle and intervened on my behalf with the policeman. He let me go reluctantly. Having let many runners cross me during this scuffle, I ran quite fast after extricating myself from the arms of the outlaw. The traffic policemen on my running route are generally friendly to me and on that day also I got my fair share of admiring glances and clapping from the brothers of ‘P Mani’.
For my second loop, I kept on the walking pavement and while coming back confronted Shri Mani, who was suitably chastened. But, started on the wrong note saying that he did not know who I was and hence he stopped me. I told them that he has no business stopping any runner and I claim no special treatment. I told him that we will get to know each other better in subsequent interactions as I was too full of anger for him that day.
My left leg was revolting and could go on a Dharna any time, but, thankfully I made it to home safely even if limping. This aspect of organized run, which brings out the competitive beast in me makes me sad. No wonder when good friend Mathew​ from Soles of Cochin asked me later in the day if I would join their annual run in Kochi later in the year, I refused with conviction. To me it is now not only the commercialization, but, what it provokes me to do to my body. A violent act if there was one and definitely not acceptable from a Wannabe Gandhian!
Today’s missing the run and limping around is just desserts for my reckless behavior over the weekend. Hope its nothing serious and the Hubli passenger would chug along from tomorrow!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

MS Amma is back and how!

 This should have been the yesterday’s title, blame it on my ageing grey cells. I was pleasantly surprised to hear MS Amma’s voice booming from over the renovated Venkateswara temple on the Beach road. My run used to be a pilgrimage for the bow to the Gandhi statue and the strains of Vishnu Sahasranamam rendering by MS Amma. I remember how Sundar Purush​ and I used to cross the spot expectantly everyday hoping that she would come back. Now there is one more reason to run on Beach road! I may even revert back to the second loop between Napier bridge and Lighthouse instead of the ‘Napier bridge-Flag staff house road-Mount road and back’ for the second 6K.
 My mobile has been misbehaving and the back light came on and refused to go away, the result the battery drained before the scheduled morning alarm time. Biscuit has nowadays surrendered to the pleasures of the air-conditioner and has gone off his duties as the preferred time-keeper. I woke up after what clearly felt like a longish spell of sleep to find the mobile (after switching on once more!) waking up one last time to show 2:31 AM before dying of battery discharge. The tech-savvy assistants at home (read daughter and wife) have since long refused to contribute to keeping my brain dead (obsolete they say, it is not even two years since it came to me from my daughter!) mobile alive artificially. In this two-minute instant karma world, it takes some people special like the nurses of K E M hospital to keep their friend alive for 42 years. However much I may be sentimentally attached to this antique piece of hardware, I have realized that the next breakdown would be my mobile’s last hurrah! No spinning today and the backlog passes on the weekend to be made up the usual weekend quota with fine.
 Biscuit has been gorging on buttermilk with a vengeance after his relapse from his brief affair with Veganism. It is either that or crankiness at being left without any one of the immediate family, he has been registering his protest by peeing bang in the middle of the hall. I have now instituted one more short morning walk at 9 AM to eliminate the cause for his behavior. There was nothing out of the ordinary in today morning walk, but, for his violently shying away from the water tanker which comes to recoup water in the colony GLR. I was reminded of his brave counterpart in Germany whose deed was posted on facebook yesterday. Biscuit’s worthy canine friend had thrown himself in front of a speeding school bus to protect his owner, an old lady, from injury.
 Started my run at 4:28 AM and nothing special happened during the run. The army men have become more relaxed and expressive in their greetings when we cross during our daily runs. Today a set of army men in full battle gear complete with a rifle were laboring through their mandated monthly test while here I was  in my bare essentials advertising for ‘Less luggage More comfort’. The fan base keeps growing inexorably, today’s addition, an old man who stopped me on Sivananda Salai. He told me he saw my article on Times of India and liked it immensely, he made my day.
 Today, I took the water break and met the parking attendant friend. Just as I had feared, he insinuated that I have missed my runs during the last two days. I got my attendance regularized with the help of few other runners waiting there after their morning run corroborating my version. The water was very cold and I reverted back to sipping the water while drinking instead of performing the South Indian magic!
 Finished my run at 7:40 AM, well in time for a bath and tryst with Alan Shore and Denny Crane on Boston Legal!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Monsoon magic

When Biscuit and I stepped out for our morning walk, rain swept colony roads and the intoxicating smell of wet earth welcomed us (Some sharing of goodies by the rain bearing clouds on their way to delivering to the neighbors!). If I draw an analogy between Biscuit’s walk and our facebooking, if on normal days his stopping at various known haunts to pee and sniff is just reading statuses and at most posting likes, today’s weather made him post lengthy comments at each stop. Since I was already late, I kept tugging at the leash to make him hurry. It was 4:44 AM when I left for the run, this is the latest I have started my run and still done 32K on a working day!
Life after the media expose has settled to a rhythm and the stoppages for interactions and delfies have subsided. The College road having been dug up for makeover, I continued with the altered route from Sangeeta Hotel and Uttamar Gandhi Salai. One side of Uttamar Gandhi salai being dug up and the later hour meant more traffic both ways on the side of the road I ran (for a change I was on the right (I mean left!) side of the road).
The weather was stuffy even though the wet road was easy on the soles. The beads of sweat or ornaments which I flaunt over my bare torso when crossing the cart puller with his load of firewood (Bhala uska paseena mere paseene se sundar kaisa?).
Some boys who ride doubles or even triples and honk while passing you from your left side really is scary. There has been an instance of two youngsters ploughing through three footpath dwellers causing their death and it was fresh in my mind. I tried reasoning with the guy bringing up the rear, but, they seemed beyond reason. They seem drunk up on Petrol fumes and their parents easy money. Endorphins and maturity is no match for their deadly cocktail. I did the next best in telling the traffic policeman near War memorial to confront them and check their vehicle papers and Driving licenses. In most cases I have found riders initially mocking you, but, later coming back to wave at you and make friends. Today’s gang was incorrigible!
Even though one side of the Sivananda Salai has been relaid, the fresh surface is a bit harsh on my soles and I do only one circuit through that road, the second 4K being made up by my run to RBI and back from Napier bridge. Instead of the second loop from Lighthouse to Napier and back, I run from Napier to the entrance of Sivananda Salai and back for the 6K. The RBI route has got me a few more friends from among the police guarding the Fort St. George.
Today, on my way back a Bus stopped behind me and the driver peeped out and asked me how it feels to be in the papers! I then checked the bus number, I thought he could be the bus behind me in the photograph. I checked the article, but, the Bus number is not clear. Must ask Daniel George​ if he has other photos and if the bus route is 27 (H or L) I forget!
A reporter of the vernacular press has approached me for an interview and presently I am finalizing an interview with able support in proof reading of the draft of the interview being done by my friend Thirumalai Munusamy​ and my wife. The article is almost ready and one mandatory snap has been taken yesterday morning and it should hit the stands any time. I am interested in this article and I have given a longish interview as it is likely to reach a wider circle of my daily acquaintances.
Today’s thoughts were on the subsidized canteens in the State and whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. I remember about a discussion with Pankaj Rai​ while running with his group last time on the subject of MGNREGA also. I feel basic food, shelter and clothing of the rudimentary kind must become universally available. The weather in this state being temperate, shelter is out of the equation and with Amma’s initiative, the state has become a land of Idli and Sambar if not milk and honey! Definitely, this would not make people lazy. The human creation being the highest of god’s creation, it would not rest at bread alone. Once the material wants are taken care of, the higher dimensions of the human spirit will find expression. These canteens have become great levelers in the IT crowd rubbing shoulders with the daily wagers and school kids over Idli and sambar!
Wife having gone with her cousin sister for wedding out of station means Biscuit is unaccompanied by any one of the immediate family when my daughter and I are out during the day. He has started showing his fangs in displeasure when I take leave of him at the door. He has my nephew and parents for company during the day, but, he is missing his Mom!
Though I had stopped taking the water stoppages in the last few days, today’s sweaty run made me take an extended drinks break on the way back. The Saravana guard was inside the parking lot arguing with a customer. Hope he does not mark me absent in his diary!
Today’s timing of 3 hours and 2 minutes for the run only means my new route must be short of the 32K, or, have I really hit express pace. Will wait for the Sivananda salai to get ready and confirm over the weekend.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Random ramblings

                Much water has flown down Cooum since I last wrote my Run-ki-Baat. Weather has finally taken a turn for the better with the Sun’s power-play (Kathriveyyil in the local lingo) coming to an end officially on the 29th. While the Environment minister and the Health minister of the country may be at variance on the effects of global warming on the weather, Chennai played true with heat coming down a notch promptly on the completion of the promised torture-period. While I cheated a bit on my policy of no fans/AC’s at home in deference to Biscuit’s insistence, the success at office was near complete.
                Amma’s re-incarnation
                The Hubli passenger was regular in the intervening two weeks since the last dispatch except for a two day trip to the God’s own country on official business. The first major event was Amma’s re-coronation on the 23rd. The water stations have been in place with Amma’s smiling face since the power play started. It was an experience to run through the Cathedral road in the days leading up to the big day and on the day itself. Only, the run on the D-day was curtailed and I had to take an alternative route to get back home to beat the 7 AM curfew. It was a surreal experience to run on well lit road with larger than life smiling visages of Amma smiling down at me from every lamp post on the divider. The ones where she is clapping made me feel like I was running to the beats of a one woman cheering squad.
                Puppy’s day out
                On the Cathedral road before my water stop, a black puppy came on to the middle of the road and started playing with me. After sometime when I tried to guide it back to the edge of the road, traffic started. My heart came to my mouth when I saw it running to cross the road. One taxi hit it slightly and it fell down squealing piteously. I was frozen with fear and helplessness, thankfully the vehicles went around it carefully. Just as I was standing praying for it to get better, it got up and in the gap in traffic made it to the edge of the road. I have not seen it after that day, hope it survived and all is well.
                Jo Bibi se kare hain pyaar who prestige se kaise karein inkaar
                This advertisement jingle keeps coming to me when I negotiate the ttk flyover. I got the connection recently, ttk is the company manufacturing Prestige brand of cookers and the place is very stuffy (high rise buildings on either side with not much of breeze!), much like being inside a cooker. The moment this struck me, it was a Eureka moment for me!
                Swami Sivananda Salai’s sole change
                Usually road tops get re-laid in a flurry around the last few weeks of the end of the financial year to utilize the allotments, but, Corporation of Chennai have been on an overdrive in the past few weeks. It has been torture time for my poor soles. I hate changing routes and to do so to leave out the best part the Sivananda Salai was painful. I substituted the missed stretch by running to RBI and back. As it is the distances reported by me are approximate, now more so (a pinch of salt recommended!). I keep checking up with the cyclists and other shod runners if the road was open something to the tone of ‘Ache Din Aa Gaye Kya?’ Today my soles got redeemed.
                Meet Jhansi(Jr.)
                Readers would remember the episode of the Jhansi (Sr.) who is engaged in the battle of the bulge. There is this young girl, my well wisher on the Quaid-e-Milleth bridge, whose introductory line each day has been ‘Be careful of the vehicles grandpa’. I crossed after a greeting to her, but, something which has been nagging me surfaced today. I have been noticing that both her feet are always heavily bandaged ankle downward. Today in my reverse loop, I spoke to her and her mother, it turns out that she had some infection and some part of her heels have been excised. She would be able to walk with special shoes.  Interestingly, her name also is Jhansi. May she get well soon!
                Pet’s best friend
                I don’t know her name, but, I saw her the first time with her husband and a nattily dressed Golden retriever (he is 10 years old). Initial introduction was when the dog tried to get friendly with me. In the last few weeks I have been seeing her walking alone. She told me that her pet has a bad arthritic condition and cannot walk. What she explained later truly left me in tears. The couple, not wanting to leave him behind (the dog seems to have been coming to the beach with them since it’s initial days) bring him in a vehicle and the couple take a walk one by one with the other keeping company of the dog. Today I got the medicines it has been prescribed hoping to start Biscuit on them right away (the Doctor seems to have told them that the condition is quiet common in Labs and retrievers and it helps to start them on these early). The natural remedy I am told is boiled Lady’s finger. The result, Biscuit has been getting his share of the gooey stuff and he is adoring it! While on Biscuit’s diet, he has slipped from his Vegan diet and has started on curds and buttermilk, but, in moderation. My wife’s team is exulting at the Vegan camp being cut to half! I can only say, if you are right, even ‘one’ is a majority!
                Hygiene Chennai style
                I used to wash the tumbler at the AVM water point and drink water by sipping (in my usual irreverent way!), I was chastised by a middle aged lady a few days back to drink Chennai style, which involves gulping it down without putting the glass to the lips. It’s quite a complicated maneouvre for the uninitiated, but, having learnt once in childhood, it comes back naturally to one. I don’t have to wash the glass after having had my drink!
                Are you chewing Pan-Masala Mr Gandhi?
                Seeing my cheeks puffed with a wad on both sides, the constable guarding the Police Commissioner’s office asked me if I was chewing tobacco? I took affront and clarified it was green tea leaves, left after a few rounds tea have been extracted from them. This helps me in keeping my mouth from getting wet and gives it some work chewing the wad bit by bit. I have started adding grated and dried Amla (not to be confused with the animal lover heroine of yesteryear, Nellikai in Tamil and Indian gooseberry in English) and a Date (guess to get some Iron with Vitamin ‘C’!) in my chew-treat! While the green tea leaves is the main ingredient for a long time, there have been a litany of additives in my running career, walnut, Basil leaves, fenugreek seeds etc. to name a few!
                To Alm or Not to Alm is the question
                In my initial years I used to liberally give out alms whenever I saw a beggar, but, now that I meet so many of them on a regular basis daily on my run, added to the fact that I don’t carry money when I run, I try to engage with them as friends without bringing the commercial angle between friendship. I do hope that they would have the courage to confide in me if their condition becomes precarious (like mobile battery indicator on one bar!). I have not come across any reference in literature to indicate what Mr. Gandhi’s views were on Alms giving?
                Niggle worries
                Last three days, my left hamstring has been showing up just within a few hundred meters into the run. I have been able to quell it with persistence and it goes away after some time. Longer stride and cruising down the flyover has been painful sometimes. Fear with running with a niggle, particularly in the out and back route, is that the longer you postpone the quitting, longer is the painful walk back home. I think spirit would be able to conquer the flesh in time.
Looking forward to the weekend runs!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The power of the media

I have been trying to give a healthy gap between two of my posts and thereby try and filter out the mundane. There are some recurring thoughts which hit me at specific points in my run and by delaying the posts I hope only the persistent ones make it to the post. Be warned that persistent ones are not necessarily the best!
The top of the chart is obviously my making it to the page 5 of the Times of India, last Saturday edition. Last week one old man pulled me up at almost the finish of my run and started lecturing me roughly about not to run on the middle of the road. This is the stretch where lot of tar laden loose pebbles have found their way and I just yield to my soles which try and find the path of least pain. But, beware of the tyranny of the old well-wisher breed. Finally, he asked me if I wanted my photo to appear in the newspaper. I just waved him away and said I was getting late for work and that we could talk over the weekend. He persisted and gave me a reporter’s number and I promised to call during the day. Next day a photographer and the reporter were at the same spot and started clicking my pictures. The reporter, Daniel George​ , was very polite despite my being a bit brusque. I spoke to him during the day and promised a chat during the weekend. Meanwhile, I asked him to read up my blog and earlier reports in a bid to dissuade him. On Friday, he spoke to me over phone and seemed to have researched all about me. He asked a few questions and informed me by evening that if I could send across a photo of mine on the spinning wheel, he was good to go! And on Saturday after I came back from the run, all hell broke loose. It was okay to appear in papers in Hubli, but, this was big!
There were a few minor bloopers in the article which I would clarify to set the record straight. Firstly, I run 32 Kms a day and not 35 Kms, though in his defense Daniel can claim that it is not material going by the now infamous 10% rule propagated by the Karnataka High court. Secondly, in stating that I take MTC bus to and from work, the author has tried to create a rift between me and my employer, the Indian Railways. I am entitled to a free first class pass for travelling to work by the suburban train and I avail it without guilt. I am not so much of a Gandhian in that sense in not going in the Second class compartment. Finally, the author has erred in declaring Ultras to be runs in excess of 50K whereas technically any run more than the marathon distance of 42.195K qualifies as an Ultra. Considering the short duration of the interview, the author has done a great job!
Congratulatory messages started pouring in from friends and relatives, the last time so much excitement was caused by a newspaper report was when I made it to the Civil Services! I was reminded of the first interview which appeared on Livemint and where the crew had spent the whole day with us in Hubli.
I was feeling a little awkward when I started for my morning run on Sunday, but, the Chennai crowd is subdued. Many people did stop and confirmed if I was the same guy who was in the papers the previous day, but, there was no over the top reactions and that suited me. More people have now started wishing me and the run have become better even if I have to provide a few extra minutes for the same.  It seems more than the running, the Khadi and the Gandhi has the audience gripped. Today an 88 year old activist rang up to me to ask me if I could do something about freeing the pavements in Beasant Nagar of hawkers and vendors. I only thought aloud that if Gandhi were alive, would he have chosen the access issues of the haves over the livelihood issues of the have-nots. Have gloated long enough, would reserve the running episodes for my next Mann ki Baat!