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.

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