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!