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How to run a marathon in 10 days

I wish I could run like no one's timing, I wish I could let my soul lay bare, I wish I could just go a prancing, I wish music's in the air. PS: All characters in this blog are a pigment of my motley palate, any resemblance to real persons is purely intentional.

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Location: Bangalore, India

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How to run a marathon in 10 days

Greetings fellow earthlings!

September 17th was the day I ‘attempted’ the full monty for the first time, through the bylanes of Bangalore… no… no… not like those ancient greeks... more like a modern geek where I tracked my locomotion via GPS.

As I contemplated my run through the streets of ‘apna’ silicon city, in the days leading to the marathon, I felt that in ones lifetime there is always this sudden proliferation of thoughts, fueled by chance and circumstance, that should be captured in words. So as practice for the marathon I also ran a marathon blog, with an article a day that keeps the doctor at bay. Why you ask.. Well why not… err that and have you noticed the prices of apples lately!!!!!!

The basic idea was to capture events of the day, big events, miniscule events and give them an ephemeral life of their own. Each day was packed with a kaleidoscope of emotions; happy, sad, hungry; and I picked up some of them, some waxed, some waned, finally etching themselves in the memory of the third dimension. I wanted to see and capture how it evolved... And its always poetry that begets poetry. There is no other way :-) Poetry in motion …… naaaaahhhh !!!!! more like Limmericks in Portion….

So here it is… again… the blog inspired from those sleazy, slapstick, wannabe introspective motion pictures, ‘How to... in 10 days’.

Why 10 days??? Allegory, metaphor, movie buff, wannabe writer, verbal diarrhoea... :-)

Read the entries in this order.
Sept 8th: Dream a little dream with me
Sept 9th: Reality Bites
Sept 10th: Understanding Others, Educating Ourselves
Sept 11th: The Company I keep
Sept 12th: Hell Freezes Over
Sept 13th: Climb 'The Matterhorn'
Sept 14th: Painter Song
Sept 15th: Midnight's Programmers
Sept 16th: Without Limits
Sept 17th: The Full Monty

After the marathon a journalist came up to me and asked me about my first full marathon experience. Here is what came in the Times of India, Bangalore on 18th Sept.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sept 17th: The Full Monty

I awoke in another predawn, the apprehension and anticipation of the unknown still lingering amongst my thoughts as I look into the mirror, to remind myself of who I want to be. The view through my groggy eyes is complemented with a whiff of unbridled raw breath and memories from the past and the future, as the reality of it dawns on me. I prepare to run the full monty, snacking on a jam sandwich and juice with about 60 minutes to digest it all. Full Monty.... no not like those ancient greeks. After cleansing myself of excess weight, I cover likely friction areas with petroleum jelly, and remind myself to remind myself that its just gonna be like my previous long runs but this time it will take twice the time, energy and resolve to complete. As I recheck my belongings I wonder about the unknowns, their manifestations and how I would react when they catch me off guard. I've prepared for them but time will etch its memories. As time waits for no one, my ride was flat, and with that realisation came this rush of adrenaline as I deciphered the tune of 'Chariots of Fire' from the white noise. There was only one thing I knew I had to do. So I looked deep down within and as my thoughts resonated with my heart I felt a sense of deja-vu, "AUTO!!!!".

Onroute, I detoured to Manish's place with some energy drinks and a rhethorical communique as to where he should meet me with them. He dropped me at the stadium with 10 minutes to go, carrying a 200 ml energy drink that would last me the first 10 kms. Already warmed up from the events of the dawn, I entered the stadium with the metaphorical feeling of entering a new class, as I soon felt at home with the 200 odd full marathon atheletes, with looks of awe from some of the first time half marathon runners, awaiting their turn to graduate to the next level. It was a motley group; the professionals, the confident, the apprehensive, the calm, the eager, the veterans and the first timers. My GPS watch initiated the acquisition of signals as I set about to track my locomotion, and sometime after that we were ushered to the starting line. We were to run 21 kms and run the next 21 kms coming back on the same route.

0 Kms - 6:20 AM:
The gunshot triggered my senses in its entirety, as ironically I embarked on a journey that had already begun. We were cheered on by other atheletes and spectators, as mundane feats of physics in which the energy in the universe remains constant, manifested itself in the transfer of their energy to us as we exited the stadium.

42.195 Kms - 11:31 AM:
I cross the finish line, brimming with energy as ever before. A journalist caught sight of my achievement and as I shared my experience with him, I seemed to have been unconsciously transferring the energy back.

2 Kms - 6:32 AM:
A steady 10kmph as we moved through Cubbon park, and the first droplets of sweat found their way through my pores, to fulfil their purpose and vaporise into the crisp morning air. We acquainted ourselves with other runners through mutual exchanges of pace and poise as we began to group based on our understanding of our abilities.

40 Kms:
The lone runner, my legs fueled by elation as I get a call from Dhruv who was in the stadium and was wondering what had become of my endeavour. I told him that I would be inside the stadium in about 10 minutes as I smiled at anything and everything.

5 Kms - 6:50 AM:
It sure feels good when things go as planned; 10 kmph, non stop running, the wind in my hair, confidence finding its way to the right destinations, complemented with the feeling of being fit to run the distance and an urge to compete with the sun for the centre of the universe. Actually you fool yourself, and then it happens. White streaks, traces of a potbelly, completed his first full marathon in 4hrs 40 mins last year, talks to you about strategy at the beginning of the run, but you never think he will overtake you this soon. Not possible! Ouch!!

37 Kms:
Memories remind me of my form as I crossed this same point a couple of hours back. My body has taken a beating, my legs refuse to run, I'm burn't, I'm worn out, I'm torn, miroscopic tears manifesting themselves as hurdles to be subdued. The sun is still at the center of the universe, but there is nothing that can stop me now, nothing.

10 Kms - 7:20 AM:
The Hebbal flyover opens up to a panoramic view of the surrounding lake. I walk a bit as I breathe in the thousand words of encouragement. Fatigue is setting in but I know I can go on and then I look around for Manish to take the second energy drink. I then send him an SMS, "Crossed Hebbal flyover", to which I get a reply, "Cool. Let me know when you need it", to which I reply, "Now", and then there was silence, as a smile finds its place on my face.

31 Kms:
I'm at the Hebbal flyover and again I crawl to a stop to take a look at the lake before moving on. I pour more water on my calves and head to cool my body. I have crossed a psychological barrier; the 30 kms mark and the finish line seems within my grasp. I will not be able to retrace my steps with the same pace as I had done before, but I know that I will walk and run and walk and run... and walk and run as I overtake many of the runners who are also trying to somehow push forward and reach their goal.

12 Kms:
I find myself on the outer ring road as policemen smile and stop traffic for us as they see us in the distance. I send a couple of more SMSes to Manish asking him where he is. I can feel my sole scrape the bottom of my shoe as it burns. But the smiling faces and cheers from the people manning the water stations at intervals of 2 kms keep me going. Unknown faces standing on the median urge me to go forward and I reciprocate with a smile.

29 Kms:
I've been running this marathon one kilometer at a time. Thats my goal; when I complete one kilometer I set my sights on the next one and to challenge myself I set myself time limits within which I should complete the 1000 meters. I try to juggle a lot of things; time, energy, fatigue, muscle tightness, heavyness of legs, strides, blisters, the urge to walk when running and the even bigger obstacle of convincing myself to start running after a short walk. And as I juggle with my troubles I stop when I cross another runner in trouble, to offer encouragement. The sun is shining brightly on the outer ring road as family members of runners park themselves at some point to cheer their loved ones to go on. And when their relatives pass they move base to a point further on.

15 Kms:
The front runners have already crossed me on the otherside of the road, on their way back. They senses appear to be concentrated on their goal as they run across the horizon with a pace that I can only dream of. I then feel a minor pain in the right side of my abdomen. I try to nurse it and run at the same time but to no avail. My GPS watch shows that my speed is 0 kmph as I stretch and touch my toes. Other runners advice me on what I should do. I am losing energy and patience and time as I try to battle the stomach pain. Its not that excruciating type of pain which will make you shrivel up and die, but the kind that makes running difficult and makes you deliberate about your chances of completing in this state. Thoughts of giving up cross my mind as I trod along the next few kilometers. I send another SMS to Manish, who is stuck in traffic as the marathon runners have higher priority.

27 Kms:
My new target of completing the marathon within 6 hrs seems doable as I set goals of one kilometer at a time. A runner asks me if I have anything to eat. I don't, but I have the energy drink so I offer him some.

18 Kms:
The stomach pain is subdued by fatigue as I seem to have run out of energy. Water doesn't seem to quench my troubles, as another runner notices this and offers me a chocolate sachet. I suck on it, as I thank him and see him disappear as he moves ahead.

20 Kms - 8:35 AM:
I reach the point which indicates a 'U' turn. As I cross that point the marathon volunteers spray our BIBs with ink, so as to mark us. I feel I can't move forward to complete the run, as the traffic has crawled to a halt. People in buses and cars start cheering us on. Traffic was moving so slowly that even I was moving faster than them. Manish SMSes me that he is nearby.

22 Kms - 8:55 AM:
I finally come face to face with some energy drinks. I got them from a pharmacy the previous day. 200ml packs, 15 bucks each, with fruit juice and electrolytes. I lay flat on the ground and as Manish massages my legs, I gulp down 200 ml. I take the remaining packs with me as it would be impossible for him to reach me again with this traffic. He later told me that he felt that I wouldn't be able to complete the run, seeing me in the state I was in. He encouraged me by not telling me that and deserves a big treat for helping me out, not just from the morning. BTW I don't think I was tired... Maybe it was just psychosomatically induced :-)

23 Kms:
My legs start to feel heavy but I change my stride and continue.

24 Kms:
The heavyness increases to the point where it starts to play mind games again.

25 Kms:
I feel I just can't go on. Thoughts of giving up seem to be the best way out of this ordeal. I question myself about my reasons for attempting to do the full monty. As I battled with those thoughts, the 'give up' corner seems to be lobbying its way into my decisions. I needed a new plan, I needed to hold on to something to continue, hold on to memories, hold on to dreams. But holding on to the past alone does not help, you have to hold on to the future too. And in that process you start to sift the superficial things from those that actually matter. Maybe running the 'Full Monty' is indeed about stripping down to the bare necessities, like those ancient greeks who stripped themsleves of all the superficialness of their world and ran, dressed with nothing but themselves. So what if I complete the run in more than 6 hours. As I've told myself before I'm just competing with myself, but did I really believe it then, do I really believe it now. So what if at some point I feel that I just can't move on. I'll just sit down and rest for sometime and then regroup my senses and ask myself again if I can do it.

Everybody is running for something, some run to lose weight to feel better, while others run to gain weight (21 grams) to feel better, even if the weight is ephemeral. Some run to prove something to the world, others run to prove something to themselves, and question that very belief as our reactions speak otherwise. I just need to go ahead at my own pace, one kilometer at a time, one step at a time. I need to do this as I am just another character in that old man's dream, as he is in mine. We may live in different timezones but we complement each other, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sept 16th: Without Limits

Went to get myself registered for the marathon today. My BIB number is 151. So I guess there will be less than 200 people attempting the full monty. BTW today happens to be the 27th Annual Prefontaine Memorial Run in Oregon. I tried to get hold of the movie 'Without Limits', about Steve Prefontaine, which I had seen a long time back but they didn't have it. So I picked up 'Chariots of Fire' instead, a true story of two British athletes, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics.

Both Steve and Eric seemed to have been the enlightened ones when it came to running, for them it was just not about winning. Steve once said, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift", while Eric once said, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." Both knew that the power comes from within, to see the race to the end. Abrahams after losing to Eric the first time they meet says, "If I can't win, I won't run." to which he is told "If you don't run. You can't win." He went on to win gold.

I'm sure those 200 odd people will leave me far behind as I see them run beyond the horizon..... But I'm not competiting with them. I'm not sure if I'll compete the long run too and I don't know what it takes to see the race to the end. Thats why I'm running... thats why I'll try... I mean you can't see movies and feel what those runners feel. You have to do it yourself... You have to try.

Sept 17th: The Full Monty

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sept 15th: Midnight's Programmers

1999... it was third year in college and AJ and myself were burning winter's midnight oil, conjuring a solution to a problem, for an intercollegiate programming competition scheduled a bit after the forseeable dawn. We felt we had a good enough solution, but at the eleventh hour, a unanimous decision came to us, 'Lets not just tell them our innovative solution, we need to show it to them', which got us excited, raising our spirits as we fought through the night, learning the intricacies of graphics programming. Our hard work paid off and we felt good about the whole thing, as we experienced the fruits of our labour, firsthand.

I'm sure we have all been Midnight's programmers at some point, magical realism pushing us to do what it takes to get that great idea out, problems slowly revealing themselves, as we manage to bravely overcome them and decipher magic from realism. But if you think about it, its not just programmers, the same applies to all professions, even mothers and fathers. And deep down inside each one of us wants to tell the world about our stints as Midnight's Programmers, Midnight's Children. Well let me try not to idealise the night of it :-) And as Natalie Goldberg says in her book 'Writing down the bones; Freeing the writer within', "Don't just tell them the story, show it to them" and they will appreciate it, and they do.

The past few days we were Midnight's programmers, working on something beyond the realm of our assigned projects, and we had reached a state of tremendous enthusiasm. But what happens when your efforts don't meet your expectations, do you tell them the story, do you show it to them. Do you gain from those experiences, do you learn.

Sept 16th: Without Limits

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sept 14th: Painter Song

If I were a painter
I would paint my reverie
If that's the only way for it to stay with me

Hummed the earnest expressions on the boy's face as he sat himself down, on a journey to capture the panoramic view with his brush. Converging viewing angles with evocations, he outlined objects without lifting pencil from paper, glances swaying between reality and genesis. A touch of paint, diffusion and clouds took shape on the water that already inhabited their space. I observed silently, as flora arose from brush strokes and so did a voice from the world. We were on the other side of the fence, steps leading into the lake, forbidden to the populace. The guard's firm rhetoric soon found itself being played in the court of pubic opinion. I watched through the commotion in my eyes as the painter continued to paint his song, oblivious of the fact of his landslide victory. I went home after my morning jog, then detoured my route to work to see what had become of the painting. As expected, he had finished and left.

If I were a painter
And could paint a memory
I'd climb inside the swirling skies

Skies that refracted purple, orange and then yellow as I ran the 1.75 kms around the lake to pass that point every ten minutes, a brush stroke etching the blended image in my painting. After a jog I sometimes breach the gates to relax on the pedestal, edging the steps decending into the lake, breathing in the panoramic view, floating above concentric ripples, the reflections of surrounding life on its waters, clear blue skies, the morning bustle, fish in schools, nature at work, imagination at play, painting a picture, the 'Painter Song'.

Sept 15th: Midnight's Programmers

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Sept 13th: Climb 'The Matterhorn'

The "Matterhorn", 4478m, 45°58'N 7°39'E, is one of the most popular mountains in the alps. It can be reached from Zermatt, Switzerland or Breuil/Cervinia, Italy. The first men who managed to climb to the top of this mountain was a group of seven mountaineers led by Edward Whymper from Great Britain on July 14, 1865. Four of the seven men died on the way back.

The ascent of Matterhorn must be taken seriously. This document alone does not contain sufficient information for an ascent of Matterhorn! Even experienced climbers are advised to hire a Guide. Inexperienced climbers should not attempt an ascent of Matterhorn as their first mountain. Route finding is difficult; a guide may well be a good investment if you are to reach the top in one day. A guide is also a good life insurance when the unexpected occurs. There are many easy 4000m peaks in the area to practice on, that will give you the necessary experience. Anyone attempting to climb Matterhorn should be in top physical shape and well familiarized with crampons. Your body should be well adjusted to the altitude. The best time for an ascent is from mid July to mid September, depending on the amount of snow on the mountain.

So we hired a Guide named Baskar, infact the guide recruited us while giving us the pep talk documented above. That was to be our mission from mid-July to mid-September 2004. The team consisted of Vidhya, Mayank, Sandeep, Ajoy, Ayush, Vishvesh, Sudheer and me. Sridhar and Sudhakar were like the gurus meditating on the mountains to whom you went to for enlightenment. They picked us up when we faltered. We managed to reach the mountaintop without much trouble, having scaled a few more challenging ones before this current endeavour.

'Matterhorn' is the erstwhile Impulsesoft’s variant of a Dick tracy watch. Its a wireless data watch that provides informative, entertaining and targeted information on a watch display, by connecting to Bluetooth enabled mobile phones/devices. A thin client by architecture, it could be considered as a dumb screen and keyboard which connects to a remote device over Bluetooth. It could be used to receive and display information and control the remote device, while being easily accessible.

Working in the basement of the quaint house we call an office, we conceptualized the product, designed the h/w (PCB) for the device, and wrote the s/w right from the device drivers to the application stuff, the complete product. One such mobile device that it could interact with was a mobile phone; receive events, alarms, notifications, SMSes, call handling etc. Oh yeah, and in addition to that it could also tell time. We have been recognised for the innovative products that we have churned out. However 'Matterhorn' was one of those devices that didn't see the light of day. It is one of those stories from down under.. err.. the basement and we did it On 'Dick Tracy' Time. We were just like those many teams of geeks around the world that set out to make 'The Soul of a New Machine'.

Talking about Dick tracy watches and souls of new machines, we managed to get our hands on a GPS trainer watch, called Forerunner 305, made by Garmin, that uses the famous SiRFStar3 GPS chipset built by our company. It records your run, including location, speed, pulse rate, calories burnt, timings, altitude so that you can analyse yourself better and monitor your improvement over runs. I'm planning to use the device to record my run during the marathon. I'll be tracking my locomotion again and hopefully this time I won't get lost.

BTW I checked my pulse rate and it went as low as 50 at one point :-)

Sept 14th: Painter Song

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sept 12th: Hell Freezes Over

Mirrors on the ceiling
Pink champagne on ice
We are all just prisoners here
Of our own device

We think, therefore we are. Or as Raoul says, "Maybe we think and act, therefore we are." When we look around there are always choices waiting to be made and in a way we are the choices that we make. Some decide to run a marathon and prepare hard for it, as blisters develop on blisters and improper clothing leave abrasions on your body. Your body cries but it will grow up. That is just the initial phase and you pass through it and then you feel a mountain has been conquered. And then there is the psychological war of making yourself run long and you manage to do that too, just run and run and run and ..... You would not have run the complete distance in any of your practice runs, but you just build up for it physically and mentally. Like body building you pass through plateaus and then sudden inclines and you find your sweet point, and you gain more strength with a recovery of 48 hours rather than 24 as your whole nervous system needs to recover.

Last thing I remember
I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back
to the place I was before

You stray out of your comfort zone and then you go stiff. Have I practiced enough. I think I can do this, but can I really really do it. Did I follow the proper schedule. Is my body fit enough, will I 'hit the wall'. From cramps, to dizziness, to dehydration, running incorrectly can cause more damage than good. Some facts about running a full marathon.
1) constant pounding leads to the loss of about 2 cm in height... so I'll need friends to pull my legs :-)
2) rise in temperature makes the body less efficient... let it rain, let it rain
3) fatigue and dehydration tighten the muscle, causing cramps.... its gonna be a salty run...
4) body loses fluid thru sweating and breathing.... clog your pores by not having a bath and the stink will stop you from breathing...
5) everystep is the equivalent force of 2-3 bodyweight... which means a baby elephant will be running...
6) muscles experience micro damage - tiny tears caused by constant pounding.... oh oooh
7) after the run your immune system is vulnerable... OH OOOHH!!

Bottom line: I want my MUMMY!!!!!!

Relax said the nightman
We are programed to recieve
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave

During the last week before a marathon there is not a great deal that you can do to improve your chances of completing. But there is a lot you can do to build your psychological fitness. Its a time to run the marathon in your head, eat the proper foods in the right amounts at the right time and taper down your practice runs so that your body has sufficient time to rejuvenate for the big day. All this so that you don't 'hit the wall'. And even if you don't complete it this time, there is no escaping, there will always be another. I guess there just has to, cause I am just another character in that old man's dream, as he is in mine. We may be in different time zones but we need to help each other out, "From each according to their ability; to each one according to their needs!"

The lyrics then give way
to an instrumental solo.
Hear the guitar sing.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sept 11th: The Company I keep

The mist cleared in another postdawn, as I strolled along the path I had so many times made contact with. As I moved slowly I saw familiar unknown faces, our mutual contact being the path that we run along. As I moved slowly I felt out of place, which seemed to be reflected on those familiar unknown faces, as I sometimes sustain a constant pace depending on the locations at which we cross paths while plotting them in opposite directions around the lake. But today was different as I moved to park myself on a bench, book in hand. Then they began to appear, one by one, out of the thin crisp morning air. First Mayank and Roma, then Ajoy and finally Karthik. Ayush, Amrit and Bikash couldn't make it, while AJ was running a marathon of his own, breaking records only to be broken again :-) Most of the chosen souls share profits with me from the same company, except for Roma and AJ. This was deliberate since they know that one can't run on bread alone.

I had earlier delegated responsibilities to some of them to interrogate me on my runs at work and play. Last year my erstwhile roomie Ayush was a big help as he often caught me napping in bed when I should have been out there running. You need to convince yourself of a good enough reason to run, to counter the thousands of good enough reasons to sleep, especially those times when you prefer the moonlight to the simmering sunlight and in turn the priceless zzzzzz to the moonlight. I mean, times when you get jealous of the cocks cause even they are fast asleep. I would sometimes "Errrr..." or "wat u talkin about man" my way out but other times their queries would make me feel guilty of my noble intentions.

So the intent of this groggy get together was to get to know what it feels like to run a bit long and to riiiiiiiiise and shiiiiiine baby. "Goooooood Morrrrrning Banngaaloooore!". Yeeeaaaaaawwwnh whatever! Hmmmm... Okay.... Good enough for starters. The rendezvous point was directed through the route that passes in front of Bangalore Hospital, so as to indirectly give directions to the same. We ran a little while before we decided to call it a morning. Did they see the beauty and rewards in waking up really early and going for a run. It doesn't come in a day... But all anyone can do is take you there and show you what they see, like the early morning hikes with my dad into the wilderness. Now that they feel the pain of puffing like an engine and the subtle beauty of the surroundings, will they refuse to interrogate me anymore, rub cigarette butts into my hands. But I still need their help to channelise my energies. I think I'm in good Company but the last mile needs more that that, atleast for me. Mayank called the team of Ayush, Ajoy and Amrit as team 'A' i.e. 'AAA', who would try to help me out in my impending exploits and mindless incantations. But I decided to give Mayank a place in that team too, for the following reason.

I sometimes get into this trance of introspection regarding the professional marathon runners, "Unke paas body haiin, stamina haiinn, endurance haiiinnn, will power haiiiinnnn. Aur tumhare pass kya hain..." then I hear that inner voice resonate, "Arre murkh!!! Tere paaass.... Tere pass MAAA hain... Alice ki MAAA..." and err... oh yeah, "Hain!" (Amit Uncle style).

PS: Gotta run and errr ... anyone remember how hide and seek is played.... Mayank seems to be all pepped up by that emotional talk, that he wants to beat me.... up.... "Hain!"...

Sept 12th: Hell Freezes Over

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sept 10th: Understanding Others, Educating Ourselves.

Was filling up the marathon registration form and came across the fine print, 'Do you want to run for a cause ?' which requires a monosyllabic answer, but then again let me tell you a story. BTW this happens to be my second post with the same heading.

A short time ago, in the galaxy of the digital third dimension, a society in evolution, a place for extroverts, where rivers flow freely, where introspection is a byproduct, where opinions go unfiltered, where one pulls from rather than pushes upon, where I think therefore I am, where I stumbled upon the Chronicles of Eliza. Eliza, in the real world is known as 'Jaya' and in Never Never Land is called 'Jayama'. So like a lot of us Jayama has this dream. But before dreaming of building old age homes in the air, its important to build a foundation on the ground. So last wqeekend, I decided to take her to the 'Home for the Aged', on Husor road close to brigade road, which I had visited eons ago. As per plan we split up and decided to just go around and talk to people. I came across this person named Michael who has walked those interconnecting passageways for the past 5 years. I remembered him from a previous conversation wherein he told me about the people of similar blood that he 'considers' as family and then about his liking for carpentry, both showing respective emotions on his face. He was making frames the last time we spoke. So when I met him again I asked him about his carpentry which he had a lot to say about, and then he left. But then he came back quickly as I was leaving and told me that he wanted to show me what was his uncompleted prized possession. I went to his room and on the top of his cupboard he pointed out to a miniature crib (home). He told me about the pending work and coating of paint and polish that he planned to use on it. The material would "cost him a lot", but as they say in the movie 'Munich', "every home always does", ask any Palestinian or Israeli about that.

Another friend recently told me about this incident while she was commuting by bus. A woman in her 40s, but who aged faster, came and occupied the seat next to her. She emitted a repugnant odour, kept counting a few dollars over n over again... red eyes, talking to herself, singing.... swaying between reality and her own never never land. My friend said that she lied that she had to get down, the lady wishing her goodnight. She then changed her seat but felt very guilty about it, as she didn't want to be next to the lady even though she was donating part of her first salary for charity work. A lot of times ppl just donate money and when you do that you feel you are doing some charity work, 'charity' in the 'out of our way' sense that most of us idealise it to be. I mean even I feel that when I donate. But when you meet and talk to ppl only then do you sometimes feel that maybe its not 'charity'.

Coming back to the question of 'Do you want to run for a cause?' and ask your friends to pledge something when you run. Well here is the gist of the pledge I am soliciting from you guys.. i.e. if you want to. Errr.... so no money, just time... lets say one hour, which I think is reasonable. So the idea is to spend one hour at any orphanage or old age home of your choice. If you need directions, Sneha Nilaya is an orphanage and then there is 'Home for the Aged'. Both are close to the Cisco Systems office in Shantinagar, Bangalore. Just go there and observe and maybe have a one-on-one talk if you feel like it. Orphanages, they cling on to you for attention, old age homes, they cling on to memories and some just have very very low self esteem. You can go there with no intention of returning but it will make a load of difference, maybe to you too.

Sept 11th: The Company I keep

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sept 9th: Reality Bites

"He can who thinks he can, and he can't who thinks he can't.
This is an inexorable, indisputable law."
- Pablo Picasso

And what about those who are not sure, what about myyyyy type. And even if you think you can then how do you go about it. I mean what is it with these intellectual artist guys anyway. They think they know all the secrets of the world and they come up with these quotable quotes that are innndissspuuuttable, mind you. I think they actually take pleasure in coming up with these ambiguous statements that play both ends against the middle, and they expect you to be ennnliggghhtennnedddd, so to speak. Enlightened... I'm confused!!! I think its a conspiracy... they actually want you to think that there are similar truths to decode in their art..... Ahh ha!! Thats why you find so many people staring at paintings.... "Talk to me... Talk to me..." and in the bargain some poor soul who doesn't know what to do with his money goes and buys the so called 'art' so that he can have his own private conversations!!!!!

What if I had to go around saying,"He CAN'T who thinks he CAN, and he CAN who thinks he CAN'T." Innndissspuuuttable... you tell me, and if you think it is then I'll go paint a picture!!!

Ok, I'm in no shape to make polite conversation... Actually I'm a bit apprehensive about my worldwide declaration yesterday. I mean who am I kidding right.... I'm a geek, I'm chubby to put it in a nice way, I'm more of a raging bull, I'm bad at golf, I'm no good at cricket, I've goofed up big time in a girls school, I'm ashamed of my sexy legs, I write poems... poems are like mimes!!! I think I'm a war hero who would like to be born on the 3rd of July, I was a Hell's Angel in school, I've got lost in the woods, I've tried the Emperor's New clothes, I've missed the bus and its friday and I'm sitting at home watching this 'Reality Bites' series on VH1 called 'Can't get a Date'. I mean I've even tried to romance a road.... a road!!!! And then AJ walks in and says, "What are you watching man. Look at Dhruv he just returned after a 3 month recovery from a leg operation and he's getting SMSes from his physiotherapist." Hey I can't help it if this channel is stored as zero, which pops up whenever I switch the idiot box on!!!

Maybe its a sign. I mean I can't do it, I can't help it, I've tried... I even picked up this book from Blossoms about Lance Armstrong called 'It's not about the bike', thinking its about this triathelete who won races by cycling all the way. So if you're thinking of cheating by using a bike I've got news for you, don't buy the book!!! I'm just running so that I can brag about the fact that in doing so I sometimes have 5-6 girls running after me. I think my problem is that I'm just trying to compete with the sun for the centre of the universe and we all know what happens then... I'll get burnt!!! I think I need a physiotherapist... I mean a psychiatrist... Now don't you go telling me to go break a leg or anything!!!

Ok calm down now. Think. Think. Thats what you're good at. Well atleast you think you are. Hmmmm... Breathe... Errrr... I'm a geek in geektown. How do I put my knowledge to use out here.... Engineering, chemistry, physics... laws of physics... hmph... gravity really gets me down!!! Sigh....

Laws of physics... hmmmm.... well I was in Delhi last year where this crow pooped on my head... summer time... afternoon.... Lucky they say. If I was lucky I wouldn't be standing there in the first place. However we decided to clean and cool ourselves down with these sprinklers. The two of us became little kids as we ran around following the spray of water, spurting out of this device that employs simple physics principles in ingenious ways. The energy in the universe remains constant. We were witness to this phenomenon as the force of moving water turned the nozzle around and finally transferred the energy to us. "Cool!".

Today morning while I was approaching the end of my practice run, I exchanged notes with this person, "Lace", I said as I ran ahead. "I know. I can't stop now", came the reply while I turned back to exchange smiles and an understanding, as I ran with a little bit more energy. Energy in the universe remains constant but it can be transferred, with a little help from our inter and intra-personal skills. Eureka!!! Eureka!!!! I smell something out here, like wet mud on a rainy day. Eureka!!! Eureka!!!!

PS: Don't worry I won't go running around naked. Yeah and I hope the runner didn't trip and break a leg... physiotherapist or no physiotherapist. There is this old chinese saying, "Ai Bang Mai Ni". Think about it.

Sept 10th: Understanding Others, Educating Ourselves

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sept 8th: Dream a little dream with me

"As with all our obsessions, our dreams come back too."

There are times when I think and there are times when I don't, this is one of those times. So here I am, at the autumn of my middle ages, staring at my tarot leaves strewn across the ground and with spring I hope will come a soothing gentle breeze. Anticipation overcomes anxiety as I close my eyes to throw light on the synapses that I grasp to move into another dimension. I feel the breeze, its stronger, more like a wind... a strong north wind, says my trusted inbuilt compass that I have been relying on for so many years. Its night and so I can no longer solicit the sun for directions, neither the north star as my view is hazy. But instinctively I look northward... which is errr... UP... and I open my eyes to a realisation that the wind is stronger, and its in my face. Damn the fan is on!!! I continue to stare at that instrument that has falsified my hope, hope that is the only antidote to fear. Its either me or it, I'll stare until it withers away. . But as the standoff continues with the instrument that is dutifully doing its intended lifelong function, I begin to notice its blades cut through space, as time seems to slow down. Its hypnotic buzz and perpetual anticlockwise motion seems to be taking me back to the future.

I'm 21 again, a time when I believe I can take on the world. Its my final year of college and I'm on stage conducting an intercollegiate personality contest. Atul, AJ and myself have scrutinized the contestants forms and have thought of questions to their anticipated answers, just as they have thought of answers to our anticipated queries, to impress the audience. We asked them about how life had been to them and how they had been to life. Some spoke about their dreams, their ambitions, their noble intentions to change the world. Some of them were more candid while others were witty. Most were just confused. I felt suffocated again as I made an effort to breathe. Just a few hours before that I was in a hospital gasping for breath. My chest was congested and a constant wheezing sound accompanied my every breath. I was finding it so hard to breathe that the doctor had to give me an injection.

My sister Sonali suffered from asthmatic attacks till her early twenties and I gave her company sometimes as we went through some sleepless winter nights with pillows and hot water bottles tucked under our chests so that we could breathe. On really bad days I would check that she was breathing before I closed my eyes and I would do the same as soon as I woke up. During one such coup de main, when I was sick at home I watched this movie called 'Without Limits'. A true story about a long distance runner called Steve Prefontaine. Steve once said,"A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding". What struck me most about him was that he set the pace in every race he ran. He wanted to lead from the start. He won races with a lot of guts, once even with a bloody split foot. He would always give it his all. His coach, who went on to found Nike, tried to get him to change his strategy but it took him a big loss at the 1972 olympics to rethink his strategy, where he led from the beginning, before being overtaken by 3 others just before the finish line.

If I was to ask myself in a personality contest, with no audience and no judges, what I wanted to do later on, one of them would be to run a marathon. Not cause it would make good cocktail conversation or look good on a blog. I just wanted to run, not just cross the finish line with the crowd cheering me on, but run all 42.195 kms of it, and feel what it takes to run that long. I was having trouble breathing then, but I knew that it would pass. Even at football I would run out of breath after a short dash but I still played for my school and district. I wanted to run, and know what works for me to run long. I wanted to make mistakes in strategy, understand my weaknesses and then learn from it. I wanted to run, even if I bled. Yeah I was that crazy. I wanted to set my own pace however slow or however fast. I just wanted to compete with myself. All those thoughts were subject to the metamorphosis and evanescence of a few fractions of a second, my wonder years. But then I woke up from my hypnotic haze and realised that my dreams were now mediocre....

When I heard about the Bangalore marathon last year it touched quite a few chords and I heard a bit of music again as I completed the half marathon (21kms). The 2nd Bangalore Marathon is on Sept 17th. I'm not sure if I'll complete the full one (42kms) but the least I could do is try. I'll take atleast more than twice the time as the front runner, if I complete that is, but I'm not competiting with them.

I guess as with all our obsessions,
like looking for the north wind,
the north star and staring at ceiling fans,
our dreams come back too.

Sept 9th: Reality Bites