Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Spirited Run

I had read about the Nasik Spirit Run, held in the midst of vineyards, and wanted to take part last year. But the registrations had already closed by the time I tried to register. I couldn’t be late this year too & registered myself a good three & a half months prior to the event. The run was scheduled 2 weeks after the Spice Coast Marathon at Kochi (http://theotherwhys.blogspot.in/2015/12/a-spicy-run-along-spicy-coast.htmland I was sure HM would be beyond me, so it was the 10K this time. You Too Can Run has got its hands on a very good property with Zendurance Nashik Spirit Run. This was at the fag end of the daughter’s vacation & this event became a family outing too. She was very happy to know that she would traveling to two different places during this vacation which would be the envy of her friends at school!

It was a 3-day trip for us & when we departed early on 27th November, it was one big family (myself, wife, daughter, dolls, teddies & other soft toys) who managed to squeeze into our small car. The Baroda- Nasik drive is some 350-odd km, but most of it is in Gujarat & one finds it very comfortable. You would also pass through the only hill station in Gujarat & can plan an overnight stopover here. Weather is pleasant in Nasik at this time of the year. It was just a week since we returned from a hectic travel to Kerala & we had decided that this is going to be a relaxed trip, while we were in Nasik (1 full day & 2 less than half days). I was particular abt this because immediately after the run I had to drive back to Baroda.

One has two options to collect the Bib. One is to collect it on Friday in Nasik town. I opted for the other, which was on Saturday at Sula Vineyards. After all, what is a visit to Nasik without going to Sula? I would anyway have to go there for the run, but the family had accompanied me. The leisurely Saturday morning found us at Sula Vineyards. It’s a beautiful green place surrounded on all sides by vine yards and very close to Ganga Sagar reservoir. Now, for the best part. Bundled with the registration fees, is a complimentary wine tasting tour. They also had a discounted offer for those accompanying the runners (Rs. 250/- for tasting 5 wines, apart from the tour). They take you around the factory & tell you a lot about the wine making process, the types of grapes used for wine, etc. Now, this is very informative but totally useless for one who has access to only bootlegged liquor back home! There’s a problem that runners from Gujarat will face. You have the entire range of Sula Wines to buy, but how do bring it back? There can be unpleasant scenes once you enter Gujarat, so it is better to have it here itself. The organisers had advised us to go for the wine tasting tour on Saturday itself, as Sunday could be more crowded & we followed the advice. Having to drive back some 350 odd kms immediately after the run was also a reason I did not opt for Sunday. It would be a better option to do so on Sunday, followed by having the wines of your choice at the Sula bar (which has a terrific view) if you take an off day from work the next day.

The event starts quite early & the assembly is even earlier. As the road leading to Sula is a narrow one which would also be where the runners would run the initial (and final) stretch, one needs to be at the venue well in time. At around 5 am, I was out on my way to Sula. Nasik, being an industrial town, there were enough people on the way to guide me along. I actually saw a lot of people jogging/running early in the morning. Now, being almost 10/15 km from the venue, I do not think they were participating in the run. I think Zendurance/YTCR did not really publicise the event locally, maybe to keep the numbers low. Most probably, these were youngsters who had moved to Nasik after getting a job here. Of course, there were also older ones out walking. This also showed that Nasik has a healthy running culture which can be exploited by race organisers (there’s another event in a month’s time). I found a couple of cars waiting by the side & in response to my query was asked to follow as they were also going to Sula. Thus, window panes now up, I was playing catch up rest of the way. Being early also helps one easily find a good parking space.

It was a wonderful atmosphere at the assembly point. The weather was cold, but not much. While other events start at a large ground or a stadium, this one was within the Sula premises. Beautifully landscaped, it had a cozy ambience. Runners were busy in stretching & warming up in groups, or solo (like I was). The Aurangabad Blackbucks, a running group from Aurangabad had sent a large contingent for the event. There were families too, participating in different categories, who did not have to spend needless amount of waiting time as the races (5K, 10K & HM) started off with a lag of 5 minutes. This is helpful for outstation participants, else the kids would get restless waiting over half an hour doing nothing (they never stretch or warmup!!).

We started off when the first light of dawn was making its presence felt. After an initial stretch of metalled road (leading to the vineyard), we move on to a stretch of unpaved path/road. Rest of the route is meant exclusively for 2-wheelers or pedestrians, though not only because of road width! The organisers had advised us in advance about not running barefoot as this was a mix of road + trail. But we had just begun.

After a pebbled stretch of what would have been a paved road once upon a time, we get on to a narrow kuchha road. At a distance we can see the Gangapur Dam. A small, shallow water body flows below by the side towards the Dam. A statue of a goddess by its side. It appears the goddess is keeping watch over the water flowing into the dam. These people don’t need to worry about the quality of drinking water, for it has divine protection. Nasik is a holy town for the hindus, with linkages to Ramayana.

Nasik is also an industrial town with plenty of interesting destinations. One of these is the Gangapur Dam. An a good part of the route is by the side of the dam. Add the early morning light & onset of cold weather, which teamed up for a wonderful running weather.

This stretch besides Gangapur is quite narrow with a pair of well worn paths made by innumerable people & bikes that have traversed it. The return leg takes one back along this way, thus it is not easy to overtake a slower runner as you have others coming the opposite direction. Of course, one can always run over the grassy patch in between if one is in a hurry. I wasn’t.

I saw two runners ahead with “Nirlep Runners” printed on their jersey who were talking to each other as they ran. When asked “what’s the hurry”, the other runner replied “the organisers would close the race”. I got chatting to the guy in front as I overtook them. I reminded them of the post-race breakfast that may be over as the 5K runners would surely finish ahead as would the faster of the 10K & HM runners. Now, this guy (Yogesh Karandikar, Bib No. 10105) told me he is on a fast. It was Sankashti Chaturthi that day & he would be off meals till dinner time. (You can read more about Sankashti Chaturthi on wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angarki_Sankashti_Chaturthi.) Of course, he could always have some fruit. He had come from Aurangabad & would be going back immediately upon completion. Now, Nirlep is a well known cookware brand & I was curious as to what the relation was. He informed me that they worked with Nirlep in Aurangabad. Their CEO joined a running group there (Aurangabad Blackbucks, that I mentioned earlier). Inspired, he formed a running group in his company too. Some of those who joined initially continued with the habit & a few now regularly travel to events outside Aurangabad. Like our friends here. I couldn’t get to discuss this but hope Nirlep facilitates employee participation in running events by means of reimbursing costs & extra leave.

A little further, and I came across another couple of guys. One of them was carrying a backpack. I jokingly enquired whether Sunday was not a weekly off & if he was immediately rushing to office after the run. He appeared not at all unhappy while informing me that there were no off days at work. To my query, he replied he had come from Deolali. I knew that Deolali was a cantonment town & received the affirmation that they were from the army. Part of the artillery unit, I was with runners who were actually gunners!! So, it was another race day selfie time with soldiers (remember, I had one at Kochi too). These are the people who don’t expect an off day at work so that we can avail weekly offs & annual holidays! One can never be grateful enough to our soldiers!!

The 5K mark is where we turn back towards Sula Vineyards. The HM is two loops of 10.5 K. They have hydration points at 2.5K, 5K, 7.5K & 10K. When we reached the turnaround point (5K), they had run out of Enerzal. Of course, they had enough in stock at the 7.5K mark. I hope they replenished the 5K point too for the HM runners who would be back at this point & would really need it. This is the only crib for a very well managed event.

Just beyond the turnaround, there is a steep drop off the Dam site where we get to a truly off-the-beaten-trail portion. There you see them, going towards the turnaround point & then down below, all in a single file. Immediately as I saw this, I realized we would climbing back up by a similar height but over a much longer distance. And it would not be a good, paved, metalled road. I am relieved that I didn’t go for the 21K!

Getting down we come across this caution sign out up by the organisers & soon come up to a ditch that comes into view at the very last moment. If not for the caution sign, more than a few 1st time participants would surely be stumbling down it. During the younger days we would run through such ditches & enjoy thoroughly. However, age brings not only maturity but also risk aversion along with it.

They should have put other signs too. Like “mind your head” at this point. But this is the only place one needed to stoop & rest of the course can be run with head held high unless one is too tired!

One soon climbs up to road level & it’s fortunately a short climb that one can walk through in quick time. So, a 21K should not be a daunting task as I feared earlier & I may return here for the HM and another wine tasting session.

The gentleman here is not scary enough to deter me from coming back. But I am not a bird & he would be performing his job admirably.

The local residents perhaps find it funny to see so many people out running so early. But the predominance of red colour on their dresses reminds one that we need to be elsewhere soon.

Back in my hotel room after an enjoyable run, the medal too found its parking place!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Spicy Run along a Spicy Coast

I have visited Kochi several times, but none was ever a leisurely trip. So when the Spice Coast Marathon (SCM) announced itself, I checked the date & it fitted within the kid’s vacation. That firmed up the plan, Kerala it was during this vacation. I had registered the previous year too but was not able to travel to Kochi, but that was last year. As we started planning, my daughter’s friends were also interested in joining up for the trip & we were 4 families who were travelling to God’s Own Country this November. Of course, of all the places we would travel to, it was pre-decided that Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon had to be in Kochi so that I could run. After all, wasn’t this the reason the trip had been planned? As it turned out, we got a full 2.5 days, including the race day, at Kochi.

I suggested to the others in the group that they could also take part in the 5K fun run. The moms & the kids agreed, thus, the entire party went together to collect the bibs. The 8 others had it easy, but not me. I found they could not retrieve my registration. I showed them the emails & payment track as evidence. The organisers accommodated me with an unnamed bib, but who cares as long as it has a number on it! I also got to meet Jagdish Damania, who was organizing Mera Terah Run – 13 half marathons (13-miles) on 13 consecutive days (towards the end of December) from the Southern to western end of India (Kanyakumari to Koteshwar). Our local running group (Baroda Road Runners) had already been introduced to this earlier & I was not at all blank when Jagdish mentioned this to me. It is an interesting concept & you can read more about the Tera Merah Run at http://meraterahrrrun.org/. Hopefully, it is still not too late (as on the day of posting) for you to join in, if interested.

The route of the HM took one from Willingdon Island to Fort Kochi & back. It starts early & outstation runners should make travel arrangement the previous evening itself. For, everything in Kerala is connected to some or the other trade union, each having its own strict rules. (Our driver for the trip was not willing to turn up at 4:30 am after dropping us at 8:00 pm.) Once you have fixed up a cab, you can be assured that he will stick to his schedule & safely take you to the destination. Reaching the venue, one came across the first good thing about SCM – there are not too many participants. Unless you long for large crowds, you will love this one. Which is a good thing actually, for the route takes us along narrow streets of a town built ages ago & it would not be desirable to have a mammoth participation. Also, the route is not really closed for traffic & some sporadic vehicles (two wheelers basically) share the road with the runners. It helps when a running event is organised by runners. Full marks to Soles of Cochin (www.solesofcochin.org) for a very well conducted event!

At the assembly point, I got to meet Fergal O’Flaherty, an Irish runner. His jersey, which said “Dublin to Delhi”, intrigued me. On enquiring, Fergal informed that he is running 13 half marathons in 13 weeks travelling through 13 countries over this period. SCM was his 11th run (that’s the sign he is making with his hands). Next weekend he was scheduled to run in Pune, followed by Delhi to end his journey. Later, when I was a few hundred metres away from the finish line, we crossed each other again but I was more focused to finish than stop by & chat (we did exchange a smile & a wave, though). I am sure he has had a successful journey & will have many more of these to come. He has an interesting & inspiring story, one I read on his website (http://dublin2delhi.com/).

2 km into the run, and organisers chose to welcome the runners in a rather shocking manner! Of course, I was not at all shocked, for mainly 2 reasons. One, coming from the 1st “dry” state I knew what these laws usually mean. Second, having been to Kerala often in the past I was aware of the ground realities & we had prepared adequately for the trip (you will have to read till the end for this). However, for those wishing to do the Kochi run I will suggest something better – God’s Own Nectar (aka Toddy). Later in the evening, while loitering in the Allepey backwaters our boat stopped at an outlet that sold toddy. After having a glass of this superdrink, all signs of pain & tiredness vanished. I wasn’t sure whether this was real or only psychological, as I did not feel intoxicated at all (I only had a glass). Talking with a mallu friend upon return to Baroda, I was informed that Toddy has medicinal properties & the locals use it as an externally-applied pain killer too!

It was still dark when we crossed the iconic Mattanchery Bridge into Fort Kochi. Previous day, our driver pointed out this bridge to us from a distance, so it felt good to have struck off one item from the Kochi to-do list. A 72 year old bridge, it is now a heritage monument with traffic allowed for 2/3 wheelers only. Don’t go to Wikipedia looking for some dope on this, as wiki doesn’t have much to inform. But you can always add to the little info provided there (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mattancherry_Bridge) as that would really help future readers.

Moving further, one moves into the old town that Fort Kochi is. It still being quite early & dark, most of the residents were asleep. Very few shops were opened, for those early risers who needed their daily supplies of milk, etc. This was also the time when I felt I needed a break for clearing the interiors. But for quite a few kilometres (and a pretty long time), I did not find any open house where I could ask for use of their facilities. Finally, I came across this sign & what a relief it turned out to be!! So if you intend to go to SCM in future, pls clean the bowels properly, as there are only 3 places where you can do so. Apart from this one near the Jew Street, there is another near the Fort Kochi beach (more of it later) where one turns back as well as the portable ones at assembly point.

The route is practically a flat one except for a small bridge with a minor elevation over a small stretch of backwaters. The backwater is in use as I saw this guy pulling in his nets after a hard morning’s work. He has safely put away his catch, but the cat there doesn’t know about it. Maybe, he may have kept some fish for the cat considering the patient manner it is sitting & watching our fisherman. I very much wanted to wait & see what happens next, but I had already spent a lot of time walking till I came across that toilet. I moved on.

I moved on and came across Maj. DP Singh (Ex-Indian Army) who was on his way back. Maj. DP Singh is India’s own blade runner, but with a glorious past. A battle-hardened veteran, he lost his leg during the Kargil war. Incidentally, he started running after losing his leg & has since become the face of other such amputee runners. He truly defines the spirit of the Indian soldier & it was a proud moment for me while I took a rare selfie! For those of you who have not heard about him, this Hindustan Times report can help you. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/brunch/dp-singh-fought-his-disability-to-become-a-marathon-runner/story-N8i350j4EiWMABE5h4OarJ.html)

Maj Singh had come to Kochi with some 15 other amputee runners. I came across a couple during their 5K run. Maj Singh is not only an inspiration to those suffering from physical disabilities, but all of us who have ever suffered a setback, be it physical, mental, social, professional, whatever. Recall Rocky Balboa, so memorably played by Sylvester Stallone? “It aint about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit & keep moving forward.”

We turn around at the Children’s park at Fort Kochi beach. Yesterday we saw a tree & were informed by one of our group (a teacher) that it was a host tree. Which means that another plant (creeper or a climber) grows on the tree & extracts nutrition from the tree. It was late evening when were there yesterday & I got a chance to click a clear picture in the morning when there was sufficient light.

It was good to have been late & reach this spot when the sun had already risen, for I came upon this sign. Imagine it still being dark when you, an outstation runner having already run 10 km, reach here & find some resident spirits welcoming you! Would they be interested in getting close to a perspiring runner? May be not, as dawn is about to break & they need to get back to their graves. There are also Pay & Use toilets nearby, do these spirits use the toilets? If they do, how do they pay for it? Considering the thoughts, was I going crazy simply looking at this sign? Not really, I think clean bowels, beautiful surroundings, clean & fresh morning air & an increased blood circulation after all this running turns the brain hyperactive.

Of course, I had the luxury of being on a holiday in this beautiful city in the midst of a long run to afford these kind of thoughts. But the residents of Kochi were already out & about their tasks. Like these people who had boarded the ferry to take them across the backwaters. Spare a thought for them, inside their cars or on their bikes, who will be chugging along the waters on this slow moving ferry. They will also be saving some cost in fuel as well as plenty of time. They will also be away from the narrow streets of Kochi so that we runners have a good time. These Rollo-on-Roll-off ferries are big business in Kochi, used more by trucks who bypass the congested city streets through the backwaters.

But the volunteers had an early start to their Sundays specifically for the SCM. They were there, every 3 kms, with water, energy drink, bananas, oranges & salt. Well managed & well stocked, they also did not use disposable plastic glasses which pose the problem of trash disposal (apart from not being bio-degradable). Other set of volunteers manned the route on their bikes & cars to take care of injured runners, while some were simply out there to encourage us. Like these drummers, one of who graciously let me try my hand with music. I don’t think I was really good at it, but I did enjoy this small break. Which was helpful as I realized a little later. this troupe was positioned just before the Mattanchery Bridge on Fort Kochi side. As I was running along the bridge, these two young kids on a bicycle crossed me & encouraged me with “Come on Uncle, you can do it!”. And I thought let me show them I can be as fast as them. I soon caught up with them only to see them go faster. Soon, I was actually sprinting (after almost 17 kms of running) and was exhausted before even crossing the bridge. A tired, famished, slowing me returned to Willingdon Island.

SCM had put up interesting signage along the route marking out the distance. The one at the 18K mark reminded us that it made no sense in slowing down now. Who would want to end up famished & realize that all one had was water? In fact, at SCM it makes more sense to speed up the last few kms (not just for the sake of negative splits) as they have a wonderful breakfast to offer. Freshly made idli, dosa & omelet after a 21K (or a 42K) run can salivate a runner like nothing else. Fast moving queues in front of the counters help in filling up fast too! Now, I actually moved too  fast to break the sequence of events. Blame it on the SCM breakfast, if you will.

Just as I finished, I enquired about the whereabouts of our group & was informed that they had also just finished their run. In fact, the kids did very well, finishing before their moms. Here they all are, proudly showing off their medals! Made of coir, the medal is a beauty too.

You would have guessed where I chose to adorn the medal once I was back in my hotel room!!

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Other Modern Avatars that Modi Forgot

When our PM compared the Punjab CM (Prakash Singh Badal) to Nelson Mandela, other politicians lost no time ridiculing Narendra Modi. Of course, this is another of the bloopers that Modi routinely makes, but I feel our netas were peeved more with the fact that they have never been compared with any one as great as Mandela.

Now, I do not have the same stature as even the local politician but to assuage the feelings of our netas (and other bigwigs), here is my partial list (arranged in alphabetical order) of some of our countrymen who are no less illustrious than Mandela or the senior Badal:

Amit Shah – Forced to leave his home state (though under the orders of the court), he has braved it all out like that another famous exile – Dalai Lama. All but win the Nobel peace prize, but we all know the Nobels are usually a western conspiracy.

Asaduddin Owaisi – For the zeal & single-minded focus on voicing the concerns & protecting the interests of the significant minority, can there be a more suitable person to be considered Martin Luther King Jr of our times?

Asaram – His message of brotherhood to girls about to be raped (Pls read http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-01-07/news/36192700_1_asaram-bapu-religious-guru-gangrape) along with practical tips to avoid it, reminds us of that another spiritual leader who mesmerized the americans by addressing them as brothers (and sisters) – Swami Vivekanand (of course, SV was only attending a conference & had no reason to fear anything).

Laloo Prasad Yadav – (Hope the bhakts don’t gun me down for this one) Sardar Patel may get the credit for a mammoth of an achievement for uniting the various Indian states into one union. But I consider Laloo’s feat of uniting various political parties under a Grand Alliance as equally commendable & more difficult. Do we expect a Grander Alliance in 2019? If this one lasts till then, maybe we can.

Manmohan  Singh – “Read my lips”, famously said George Bush (Sr). Manmohan Singh, throughout his tenure, appeared he too was saying this. But either Madam did the talking or the kid was kicking up a storm & the ex-PM walked into the sunset as silently as he came in.

Rahul Gandhi – Isn’t it our Fundamental Duty under the constitution to develop a scientific temper? While other netas have not moved beyond Facebook & Twitter, only one to have displayed an understanding of fundamental science has been our RaGa. Recall how he applied the concept of “Escape Velocity” in the social domain (if you missed out this one, pls visit http://www.ibnlive.com/videos/politics/rahul-dalit-pitch-rahul-on-velocity-643775.html) & you will agree that he is Stephen Hawking of our political world.

Robert Vadra – Despite not being a Gandhian (well, he does have a Gandhi connection), he is the Vinoba Bhave of the 21st century. And he did not even resort to any padyatra to make people give up their land, yet achieving a similar result.

Sheila Dixit – She revived the Commonwealth Games from ruins to one of the most successful sporting events hosted by India, just as Margaret Thatcher turned around the British economy. And she outlasted Thatcher by 4 years in office too (though never becoming a baroness).

Pictures sourced from:

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Is India Still a Cricket Centric Country?

A few years back this question by Decathlon (see the fine print at the end) would have met with derision, but times change very fast. Today, the sports section of newspapers cover less of cricket than other popular sports. You just need to look at the coverage of various European football leagues vis-à-vis the Ranji trophy & you will understand why these European clubs are on a marketing hyperdrive in India. But once the IPL season starts, it’s a return to the good old times for cricket (the cheerleaders play as important a part in IPL as in this post)!

So rather than a simple, straight-forward answer to this question (after all, Decathlon is offering splendid prizes for this one!!), let us list out why’s & why not’s of India still being a cricket centric country.

Why not?
It is the consumers that certify success of a product & the uncontested reign of cricket in the hearts & minds of the Indian sports fan has ended. At an age when the former porn star, Sunny Leone, has an established career in mainstream cinema, cricket only has very few glamorous WAGs to fall back on. This void is filled with other champs endowed with ample oomph factor – the Saina’s & the Sania’s of the racquet world. Moreover, the men in blue score only in the brash quotient, but are outplayed in the brawns department by the likes of Vijender Singh & Akhil Kumar. And these champs are outshining the cricketers. On the personal front too. If Shikhar Dhawan & Irfan Pathan married Australia-based girls, Sania Mirza got herself a foreigner as hubby!

Professionally too, other sportspersons too have made a mark at international level. While we have a Leander Paes in Tennis who has outlasted Sachin Tendulkar in the longevity stakes, we also have a young Saina Nehwal in Badminton who has successfully breached the great wall of China. If India has had a long tradition in cue sports, the early exploits of shooters have made us a strong competitor with an assembly line of upcoming stars. And each success story in these sports is magnified by the media, in turn spawning recognition, awards, adulation, fan following & endorsement deals. Sounds so similar to cricket, doesn’t it?

In cricket, the best batsmen play higher up the order, while the not so good ones are pushed to, what’s called, the lower order. We have examples of many lower order batsman moving up the order as their skills improved (Ravi Shastri, for one). But in this cricket crazy nation, we also have the likes of Patels (in Gujarat), Gujjars (in Rajasthan), etc., who are going against this basic tenet of cricket. Else, why should these worthies be fighting to be included in the lower order of the social hierarchy (at least, for sarkari benefits). Can you ever imagine Virat Kohli asking to come in & bat at No. 8?

Cricket is called a gentleman’s game. Yet how many gentlemen do you come across in everyday life? Go to an end of season sale in a mall, or travel during rush hour traffic or even witness a ganesh visarjan procession. There is nothing gentle, manly or gentlemanly! And we are not even talking about the rapes, riots or discrimination on various grounds. The reality of India differs a lot from the idea of Cricket.

Traditionally, cricket was a relaxed game played in white flannels by men (the early Lankan stars sported a well-rounded middle too!). Then came the limited overs variety, coloured clothing, year-round games & players who are acrobats. Indian politics too has witnessed a similar transition as cricket. It’s not just the dapper Modi Kurtas replacing the boring white khadi. If the parliament manages to last 5 years, we have major state elections every 8 to 10 months, so much so that the PM is always shunting between election rallies & foreign trips. And the manner in which today’s netas switch sides, ideologies & stance, they put to shame the young cricket stars. (Pls disregard the fact that netas never turn around & ask Howzzat.)

In cricket, an umpire’s decision has always been final. Players take it, even when adverse, in their stride, throw their chin up & continue with the game. With changing times, the players have been given the limited liberty of approaching the 3rd umpire. In India too, the parents have traditionally played the role of an umpire. But as newer generations get more rebellious, 3rd umpires are in vogue – we call them the Khap Panchayats. When parents fail, it is these 3rd umpires that come in & make the truant youngsters fall in line. And just like cricket, there is no appeal beyond the Khap Panchayats. Yes, life often imitates cricket in India.

And cricket imitates life. At least when it comes to corruption, nepotism, conflict of interest, and what not. The IPL has been accused of all these and more. And hasn’t the misdeeds of sons-in-law led to the downfall of the powerful in cricket & political worlds? Pre-IPL days too, match fixing in cricket always had an Indian connection. Let us also not forget the monkeygate, which is a staple of our casteist/racist/communal cauldron.

Cricket terms are used as metaphors in life & vice versa. Take rape, for example. Aversion to rape unites almost all Indians (except the rapists & Mulayam Singh Yadav). Wasn’t it a rape in the capital that led to candle lit marches across the country by people who skipped their dose of Ektaa Kapoor soaps? Rape is also what most Indians term (at least on social media) a typical batting display by Chris Gayle. And it (Gayle’s batting, stupid, not a rape) also gets all viewers glued to the television screens. Cricket still remains a unifying force.

As you can see, it is difficult to decide whether India still remains a cricket-centric country. Well, at least I can’t. But I do know that, looking at the clout wielded by BCCI & the popularity of IPL, cricket has certainly become an India-centric game. And this is something we can definitely be proud of!

This post was originally submitted to Decathlon for its contest
Picture Source: Cheerleaders (http://ipl8livescore2015.blogspot.in/2014/04/ipl-7-cheerleaders-2014ipl-cheer.html), Collage made from various online sources

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How a Joker, a Monkey & a Ladder may get me a Blue Label

Once there was a great circus in a town, which was the sole source of entertainment for decades. But as ownership changed generations, the circus started deteriorating. Dwindling crowds not only meant reduced revenues but also falling respect in the society. But the owners were not really bothered about this state of affairs (how many actually are).

When they could not take this any longer, some performers broke away from the circus under the leadership of the Joker. Now, this Joker was actually a smart chap who knew the pulse of the people. He took his break-away troupe to an old banyan tree on the outskirts of the town & began performing there. The crowds returned & our guys were back in business. The banyan tree, with a wide girth, had an advantage over the tented circus. Multiple acts could be conducted around the tree & people had a choice to watch what they liked. Business boomed.

With booming business, the Joker was on top of his form. And gone were his egalitarian ways. No longer was there an equal sharing of the spoils. The Joker started appropriating more than his share. Obviously, this gave rise to dissatisfaction in the troupe.

One of the star performers was a shrewd Monkey. Despite being a crowd puller, he carried on his antics without any obvious airs. But he did not take kindly to this change in Joker’s style of functioning. He broke off from the Joker and, along with the Ringmaster, carried on his show from the high branch he had latched on to. The Monkey & the Ringmaster had a great time together and the crowds loved them.

http://www.omahazoo.com/exhibits/other/lagoon-island/The new partnership flourished. The Joker’s following began dwindling rapidly & he was soon left with just a few other performers. The Monkey was getting old now & he needed a ladder to climb his branch. But once he was on his branch, he was the master of the show & the crowds’ adulation. The Monkey-Ringmaster combination was doing well, beyond even their own expectations. To cash in on this popularity, the Ringmaster brought in a young Lion to the show.

Now, the Monkey took an instant dislike to this younger Lion. The other older Lions were with the Monkey on this one (actually there were all envious), but the Ringmaster was adamant & they fell in line. But not our Monkey. It was a take it or leave it offer that he made to the Ringmaster. Ringmaster did not take it. This enraged the Lion totally. He made a charge towards the Monkey, who quickly clambered up the ladder to his favorite branch.

The Lion threatened to break the Ladder & shake the tree, if the Monkey did not climb down on his own. Before the Lion could make his threat come true, the Monkey had help from unexpected quarters. You know what, it was our dear Joker who had returned to help out his old comrade. The Joker held on to the ladder firmly, holding it against the repeated charges of the Lion.

As this story is being currently played out in the Great Indian Political Circus, what happens next is anybody’s guess. Keep watching, it is going to be a fun show this time!!

I am not saying that Laloo Prasad Yadav is a Joker, or Nitish Kumar is a Monkey. Nor do I adore Narendra Modi as a Lion. But the electorate has always been the ladder that our netas have used in their political lives. This post is simply in response to Mehul Kala who promised me a Blue Label if I could write on a Joker, Monkey & Ladder (ab daaru ke liye to itna karna hi padta hai). Hope this will not be as long a wait as that for Achhe Din!

Pictures credit: 

Monday, September 28, 2015

When Runners Meet

Our local running community organized a meet yesterday “Meet the Runners”, where some running greats from our town shared their experiences & knowledge. It was a great learning session for new & experienced runners alike. This was followed by a Q&A session on the queries that the attendees had sent in advance.

While I am not worthy enough to repeat what the veterans/speakers said, I have recorded the Q&A for the benefit of all aspiring runners:

Beginners Queries

BS – How to prevent injuries & cure them faster?
Injuries are a part of an active sporting life & the only way to prevent injuries is to rest your posterior on a comfortable seat (avoid beanbag, its bad for the back) & watch the sports channels. Sports channels, because they will give you the same adrenalin rush as your own sporting feats. In fact more than your own feats because I am sure you, as a beginner, don’t have much to crow about.

CK – How to Breathe & increase speed?
Is this a single question or two? If two, I am amazed to see you here & request you to pls share your secret of "how not to breathe". Boss CK, while you will go on to increase your speed (with or without breathing) in due course of time, how does your bro (DK) run?

DS – How do I train myself for running?
At your age, you shouldn’t bother about training. Just hit the road & start. Training is for those aiming for Olympic medals or, if an Indian, free life-time railway passes.

Dr. HHR – How to increase stamina n mileages??
Well Doc, you focus on one & the other would happen. Will come back to your question once you decide. Btw, Are you a qualified medical professional, or a PhD entitled to prefix his name with a Doctor?

JK – How to train myself for long distance?
Simple, run longer & longer! But first, you need to decide what is that you consider a "long distance". The panelists here are all veterans & you need to take this to someone in the audience who would be able to enlighten you in a simpler (and parliamentary) language.

MP – How to build endurance without injuries?
In the same manner as getting into a size-zero dress without tripping, Lady. If you wish to avoid injuries, advise you to avoid running & size-zero dresses.

S – How to improve stamina?
Run till you feel breathless, and then run some more. Stamina is nothing but not feeling breathless. Suggest, you talk to Boss CK after this meet (even I intend to do so).

SPA – Why right Knee pain after 7 -8 kms?
Wow! You are a doctor's delight, coming up with such precise symptoms. Of course, he/she would not be able to administer those umpteen tests on you & the lab-walas would not be too happy about it. Your problem is very interesting, why don't you meet me at my clinic between 6 PM to 8 PM on any weekday?

YG – What methods to build strength and improve speed? Targeting HM in a year.
For strength, hit the gym or join some Packers & Movers. I presume this would be your 1st HM, so don't worry & simply run. It would be your fastest one! Next year, pls come back to this session & we will tell you how to run a faster one.

KB – Is it harmful at my age of 49, if I run everyday?
I would have said Yes, but Fauja Singh was running even after hitting 100 years. Imagine walking down a dark street at night & some dog gets interested in you. Wouldn’t that be more harmful than running, whatever be your age?

PS – How much running for fitness ?
Depends upon how unfit you are, stupid. (SG, why don’t you screen these beginner questions beforehand?) You know PS, it’s a cycle - You are not fit, so you run. You become fit & run more. You run more & get injured. You get injured & are unfit again. So, the Rule #1 of Running is: Just run, everything else is BS. Got it, PS?

Endurance / Strength / Cross training

AS – How to increase the stamina for long runs?
I know you, superman. Instead of doing all those pushups, pullups & squats after your runs, if only you spent that time & energy to run more, you wouldn’t be asking this question here.

AD – How to sustain running year-round, factoring work, travel, illness & laziness?
Even after all this if you can think about running, I applaud you. My advice is, resolve all these peripheral issues first & then think about running. Till then watch sports channels for your daily fitness dose.

DRS – What inspires a runner to run more?
Well, a runner runs more than a non-runner. What further inspiration does he/she need? If you are not inspired enough, suggest you do loops of Dairy Den-Kala Ghoda-Fatehganj late mornings, where you will find plenty of inspiration (before the classes start). In the evenings, do the Bank of Baroda-Rosary loops.

HK – How to increase endurance for running more?
I don’t get your question. Do you mean: endurance for running more, or more endurance for running, or endurance of your spouse's running? Each has a different answer. We will get back to your question next year when you figure out what you mean.

HM – How to build up distance running capacity?
This builds up over time & you need to sweat it out. At one of the running workshops, I learned the formula, which is:

LDR is Last Distance Run, 
DDa is incremental distance achieved in the current run, 
AP is Average Pace of current run, 
t is Time taken for the last run & 
DS is no. of samosas you can eat post-run over and above the max samosas you have ever eaten.

As you can see, this capacity depends the most on the samosas that you eat, so suggest you finish runs near a samosa stall for the most precise measurement of your running capacity.

NP – How to Recover on daily basis?
You are overdoing it dear. Cut down on your running & you have your answer!

PP – How to avoid injuries in running?
You may have heard what I told BS. As you are not listed as a beginner, I will advise you to avoid running altogether to avoid injuries totally.

PP (this one is not the PP as above) – What strength training required to run a full marathon?
A Full Marathon is more mental than physical. While you can increase the physical aspects by running more & longer as well as hitting the gym more often, you should look at developing the mental strength too. Suggest watching Sooraj Barjatya movies back to back, or listening to Himesh Reshammiya during your runs.

SN – How do I train for the full marathon?
Its same as that for a half marathon, but more than twice in nos. For, when it comes to marathons, two halves don’t make a full one. Applies to everything (effort, pain, resolve, etc.) except the distance. For quicker results, switch to Himesh Reshammiya.

SJ – How to prepare for 1st HM?
If you can run a 10K, a couple of months should take you to your 1st HM finish too. But here are a few things you should take care to practice:
  • Know where the cameras are & smile while passing by the photographers.
  • Accessorise! Sweatbands on the wrists/forehead, mobile holder on the arms, handsfree wires dangling from the ears, these all point out to you as a serious runner.
  • Don't wear the event jersey, if you have one of these technical tees (you know, the dryfit types).
  • Every once in a while, wave out to someone on the other side of the road. This will mark you out as an experienced runner with many running buddies.
  • Once you cross the 15K mark, smile at other runners, especially the females. They may get demoralised, but you will be much sought after for advice, post-run.
  • Practice that perfect pose at finishers' podium that you would like to share on Social Media.

VS – Are you enjoying your run?
If you are asking me, yes. Thanks for the concern, really appreciate it. If you are speaking about yourself, you are the best person to answer it.

VT – Do cushioned shoes impact less on knee?
WTF is the cushion for? For least impact, try running indoors on sofa sets at home.

ZK – How to religiously keep running irrespective of in or out season
As far as India is concerned, religion & running don’t mix. Here, you are either supposed to fast or feast on religious occasions & festivals. As you know, both are not good for running or any sporting activity. Make running your religion.

Pace / Speed Questions

DM – How do increase my pace?
You should aim to decrease your pace, not increase it, if you intend to run faster. Also, you need to increase your running IQ.

VJ – How to improve timing at 46yrs of age?
Your timing, in most respects, appears to be very poor. You have crossed half your life & it is too late to worry about timing now. You don’t have much time in your life left, so stop worrying & start running.

This was the 2nd edition of this programme conducted by Baroda Road Runners (this is why I love English; in Hindi, we would have called ourselves Baroda ke Sadakchhap). If you found this useful, pls attend the one next year. 

While the questions are exactly as asked, the answers are what I managed to record.
The names have been replaced by initials to save people potential embarrassment.
The panelists’ names (or initials) have not been disclosed as I may bump into them again & also because I would like to attend later editions of this programme.
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