Monday, September 18, 2006

I did it!!!

The traffic stopped for me at junctions. I swear it stopped. I was the only one running and long trails of bikes, cars, and buses laden with people with Sunday morning plans waited for me to pass. Some cheered me, some just gazed with a palpable curiosity and some, I guess, just wanted me to pass quickly. And it wasn’t just for me. It was the same for very single runner and yet each felt like royalty.

There was an old lady at the end of the Vidhan Soudha road who shouted ‘all the best’ at the top of her voice. Children were the most visibly excited, and puzzled too as to why such a motley congregation was running itself dead. But mostly there was the curious onlooker who was too shy to root for outsiders.

The loneliness during a marathon can only be contrasted with the assemblage at the start. You are rounded up in a flock and then the gunshot. Galloping, ambling, walking - people start in their own ways only to lose contact from there on. The sights and sounds that you encounter along the way come with an exclusive ownership. You've to run to understand.

The organization was shoddy although the full and half marathons did start on time. There were hordes of volunteers who sometimes didn’t have an idea of what was where. Let me have the pleasure of mentioning the Good Day guys who never as much gave a single biscuit as they had useless paper caps thrust into everyone’s hands. In contrast Real Active juice packs were distributed like small change. But all this was more than made up by the enthusiasm of the participants. Early morning Kanteerava stadium came alive when a gunshot was fired and a procession of chest numbers sprang into delirium.

Shashank ran for the cause of underprivileged children, Mr. Anil was dressed in fake tiger skin that had ‘Save Nature’ written all over it, one firang’s iPod flung itself loose and crashed on the way, an uncle ran with supplies of water strapped onto his belt, many ran in T-shirts with slogans, many with earphones plugged deep into ears, a few checked their cell phones every now and then, and a few others gaped at Deepika Padukone on the walls (at least I did).

There were a good number of oldies running and it made me wonder if they were running for a lost age. And considering Bangalore is teeming with software professionals why were they so less? I know you’ve mock CATs to write and Monday mornings are important and Saturday evenings even more so. When people ask me “How was it?” I don’t know what to say. It obviously doesn't concern you much and you'd rather sleep than participate or come to cheer. And where were the ladies? How can there be so few interested? How can so many be into the same things?

We spend a third of our lives in the shadow of death and soon let our waking time become a litany of hours to be passed. We are convinced by Rang De Basanti as much as we are by Munnabhai. But that’s about it; we still can’t make choices for ourselves.

Lester Burnham (American Beauty) had said, “It’s great when you realise you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do.”

Yesterday I surely did as did so many others who I ran with.

I finished the Times Bangalore Half Marathon (21 km) in 1h 46 mins and Gujja in 1h 53. Initially we had looked at a realistic 2h 10 and then at an achievable 2h. But we had not even half-expected it to turn out so well.

Finishing a half marathon is the craziest impossibility that has turned possible. And completing it in good time is indescribable.

A huge thanks to Pj, Chandu, Ravi and Ritesh for turning up to cheer us.

MUMBAI MARATHON is on Jan 21 next year!!. Of the top 15 finishers in Mumbai m'thon this year there were 12 Kenyans and no Indians :(

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Run Forrest! Run!

I had quit my job, gone for a trek in the Himalayas, came back home – a visitor after almost 2 years. As my luck would have it I chanced upon an old school friend Jay. He had become an Army Lieutenant. I, a truant engineer. He needed some company for his early morning runs. I agreed almost immediately. The casualness of his offer subsequently vanished during the runs. On the first day I jogged 5km in 25 minutes. The distances stretched - 7, 8 10km - (with a concomitant improvement in time) and what had started as a filler became a whole routine. We would run, exercise and then hang around in chai shops for long. I had been doing fairly well until one day he decided to put me to test. It was a 20km python in which I was sure about getting stuck in the middle somewhere in the innards. And I was afraid I would spoil the reputation that I had so recently and so painstakingly built. Jay kept telling me: abbey, daaru, sutta ke baad bhi tu kaafi fit hai yaar.

But I ran. We shifted the time to evening since the summer sun blazed by 630 in the mornings. We walked till Deer Park and from there ran till the Annicut at Naraaj and back. We couldn’t complete the entire length (I was in a dilapidated state). And when I announced 16km at home rather agonisingly there was no jubilation. (and it was at that very moment I pledged to show them that I could run a marathon . . . not so melodramatic of course)

That evening Jay gave me some gyaan on running in particular: (1) It’s your hands as much as your legs which can exhaust you (2) It’s best to know your optimum speed and then stick to it faithfully.

And we talked - I having run out of thoughts to accompany me and he to give me food for thought. He said the clincher was boredom more than fatigue. You thought you were run down when in fact you had been just done in by the sameness. He said one should just run without thinking things or wondering about the route or even noting how much was left to cover. I thought that was a very unimaginative and mechanical way of doing something. But I ran.

I ran every day for about 2 weeks back home and then I continued by myself at NGV in Bangalore. Then I had to go home again and my ritual stopped for almost two months until last week when I heard about the Bangalore Marathon. Sometime after I had started I had promised myself I would run a full marathon but that needs some reckoning still. This time I’m making do with the half marathon i.e. 21km. I collected my chest number the other day and didn’t tick any cause for which I would run on the form. For the love of running if ever there was an option like that.

Yesterday I clocked 15 km in 86 min and there was still some pizzazz left. I felt good even though I was pushing myself after a long time. My target is 21km in 2h 10min.

My preparation has been punctuated with rather long breaks and too little conditioning. But come Sunday morning and I’ll forget. My legs will tell me they can carry me a few yards more, my heart will pump in excitement and my brain has already assured me (during the run only) it won’t meddle with other more important faculties.

The great philosopher Nike(as a sales pitch?) had once said:

"There are clubs you can't belong to, neighborhoods you can't live in, schools you can't get into, but the roads are always open."

Wish me luck!

P.S: The reporting time for the half marathon is 530 am instead of 430 am as has been printed on the handouts and website (in true Indian ishtyle). Better clarify before landing up in the dark at Kanteerava Stadium.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Match Point

1. Guilt

Nola walks off, from the innuendos of the mother of her fiancĂ©, into the rain in the countryside. Chris, boyfriend of Nola’s prospective sister in-law, sees her and follows. Then:

Nola: I don't think this is a good idea. You shouldn't have followed me here.
Chris: Do you feel guilty?
Nola: Do you?

And they kiss in the rain.

2. Lust

Chris: I’m contemplating leaving my wife for another woman. But when the time came to tell her I couldn’t do it. It’s crazy. I can see no real future with this other woman and I’ve a very comfortable life with my wife.
Friend: Ya but then you don’t love her.
Chris: I’m not saying I don’t love her. Just not the way I feel about this other woman. Maybe it’s finally the difference between love and lust.

3. Greed

Chris: I don’t fool myself that I haven’t got used to a certain kind of living. Am I supposed to give it all up?

4. Luck

Chris: The man who said "I'd rather be lucky than good" saw deeply into life. People are often afraid to realize how much of an impact luck plays. There are moments in a tennis match where the ball hits the top of the net, and for a split second, remains in mid-air. With a little luck, the ball goes over, and you win. Or maybe it doesn't, and you lose.

Sometimes luck follows you like a faithful puppy; for the aspiring criminal luck’s like the Hand of God. But guilt is a permanent scar; you’d rather be apprehended and punished than see it everyday in your reflection. Guilt can’t be washed off the face. On the contrary I wonder what are the possibilities if luck helps us in our transgressions – little and big. If we get that little push at the hour of the crime and then things turn out favourably can’t we be led further into our ignoble pursuits?

Match Point is a welcome departure from Woody Allen’s romantic, neurotic comedies although the latter are brilliant in their genre. It’s as the critics say: ‘darker’. I feel at times reviews just shoot over the heads with their fancy talk (called ‘spiel’ which is what I want to avoid to make my point) but then if you watch this movie carefully you’re bound to come up with little clues - that otherwise would go unnoticed – that just make it jump the threshold between a good and a better-than-good movie. Like which book Chris is shown reading at one point and why when Nola says that her building has been burglarized and the woman down the hall has mice it’s something to be kept in mind. The plot is tight and has been lent an ingenious tweak at the end.

The title had led me to believe it was something else altogether but you never know. I’ve practically said nothing about the characters and the setting because I believe the message is sweeping. London, Chris and Nola are just excuses to show human beings as they are wherever they are. It could happen to your best friend if not to you (if you're relieved at reading this don't be surprised)

THIS is for starters.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

If you're going to try, go all the way

The cliche of ups and downs, crests and troughs, snakes and ladders croaks rickety; it sounds outrageously banal especially when I'm forced to listen to humdrum speeches by preachy orators. But when I feel all that ebb and flow, high and low within me I realise the reality of it overshadowing it's commonness. I don't have to wait for significant occasions to feel that and God forbid those moments may pass with hardly as much as a flutter of a butterfly wing inside.

Its there everyday; I only have to pay attention. To the abyss I say I can only rise from it; to the sky I tell the fall shall hit hard. And to everything I murmur: this too shall pass.

Every passing day there come a few moments, a handful maybe even less - a solitary thought, where I feel myself. Nothing much happens to me then but its the afterglow that I bask in. It's like a shot of adrenalin, of resplendent beauty, that eggs me on for the oncoming hours, days, weeks. It pedals me on and my wheels run hard. As barriers, uphills threaten to cut me short, slow me down, the inertia of my happy juggernaut keeps me rolling. I pass by the morass without sinking, I ride through the stench without stinking and I roll on.

My life, each life, is such a story. The rough and the smooth, the evil and the righteous coexist, not peacefully or staticaly, but locked in a tussle as profound as any great battle - dynamically. I live my life consoling myself that my happiness will outlast my living. I dream the momentary will outlast the eternal. I wait for a few drops of rain in what can be an endless summer. And in a way - this way - I root for the underdog. And while I'm at it I learn I don't need to. It'll come when it has to. Bon courage!

May the living keep flying and may the dead rise from the ashes.