Sunday, November 22, 2009

Running the ULTRA

More running tales! I hope I don’t turn this blog into dairy of my running stories but it’s getting so addictive now that I can’t stop. I’m on a new high when I run and having done a couple of runs, I’m getting to a point of being obsessed with running. Oh well, there are worse things one can be obsessed about I guess.

The Bangalore ULTRA is taking on International stature in its 3rd year. This year, it was held on November 15. The running distances (in km) are 12.5, 25, 37.5, 50, 75 and 100. Yes, there were 18 people who ran the 100! About 600 runners showed up overall.

I chose the relatively sedate 25 km which is a little more than a half marathon distance. The trail in picturesque Hessaraghatta (Our Native Village) is a beautiful one and it’s a sheer joy to be out there early in the morning.

Our day started early; at 3:45 a.m. to be precise as the Jayanagar Jaguars (of which I became a member without my knowledge) numbering about 40 had hired a bus for the 2 hour trip. And yeah, we even had a banner on the front of the bus proclaiming our membership.

We got to Our Native Village just in time to see the 6 a.m. flag-off of the 37.5K and 50K runners. We could also see the 75K and 100K runners making their way in the darkness with flashlights. That’s dedication for you!

The 25K started promptly at 6:30 a.m. and I set off at my slow trot, still apprehensive of running 25 km at a stretch. The path was easier to run on than the KTM though and it helped that it was cloudy the entire morning. The route is 6.25 km one way and back on the same path so a loop is 12.5 km.

I actually did pretty well on the way out and stopped at the 6.25 km water spot for some sandwiches and energy drinks. I headed back to the starting point and made no stops along the way.

Nearing about 20 km is when I started tiring and losing steam. I proudly passed the 21 km, albeit in bad shape. I pretty much had to take a break at the 22 km mark and had more stuff to eat and drink and used a lot of the pain spray on my right leg which was starting to ache, from the calves to the thighs. I also had an embarrassing case of nipple rash and my shirt was spotted with blood in the right places! While quite funny to relate and think about, I must say it burned like hell and was terribly discomfiting for the last 10 km.

I ended the run in a not so decent 3 hours and 37 minutes but was happy to have finished it at all.

The organization and logistics for the event were exemplary and hats off to the Runners For Life group for pulling off a flawless show.

Next stop, Midnight Marathon in Whitefield!

The Tirupati Trip

Road trip! Always exciting and never without some good memories. The family trip to Tirupati was all that and more. There were definitely passengers on this pilgrimage who were unfettered by the focus of visiting the big guy on the top.
The journey consisted of milestones which were predominantly food related activities. A hearty breakfast at Kamat near Kolar saw us open our account with gusto. Starting off with idli and vadai, we moved on to dosais, poori, akki roti, khaara baath, rice baath, kesari baath and lots of coffee. After this devastation, one would think that lunch was furthermost from our mind. However, we are not that kind of a family. In fact, the discussion on lunch had already started during our breakfast.
Realizing the caliber of his passengers, our van driver suggested a roadside stop at Bans for coffee. Here we had Black Forest cake, cookies, sandwiches, fruit juice and well, yeah…coffee too. There was an inexplicable life size chimpanzee on one of the benches which my niece claimed was an Andhra Gorilla. Despite her lucid logic, we are yet to get that one.
The plan was to have lunch (yes, a few hours after Bans) in Tirupathi and then hike up the hill to Tirumala. Estimates on time to climb came in from one and a half hours to five hours depending on whom we asked and at what time. One of the bell boys, when asked if we were allowed to walk up with footwear said that was fine and we were even allowed ‘items’. My niece, who is renowned for lack of self control in a humorous situation, cackled, embarrassing all of us and the bell boy left in a huff.
As we neared the bottom of the hill, the combination of the incessant drizzle, mist, late evening and pure laziness conspired to our decision to drive up instead. My six year old had a question which made us all feel quite guilty; we ate so much so we could have energy to climb, and how come we were not? Anyway, we decided a few of us would embark up the hill at 4 a.m. next morning. Yeah!
Tirumala felt like the Alps and walking barefoot on the wet asphalt was definitely not very comfortable. But, we gritted our teeth as it’s all for a good cause and entered the Rs 300 queue which seemed empty at the starting lines. However, a 5 minute sprint by the team, and we were in a series of rooms, each packed with people. The way it works is that, the first room opens and lets people out, the people in the next room rush to the first room and so and so forth.
To ensure our entertainment, we had a guy ahead of us who was scratching his head like he was trying to get at his brains. There were a lot of expectations of a snowman forming on top of an accompanied child who was in the path of the snowfall.
Ensuring variety during the jaunt to god, there’s a moving bridge open on both sides and as luck would have it, we were trapped there for a good 30 minutes. Caught in the mist, rain, wind and one of my nephew’s considerable gas problems (which he shared with us unsolicited), made for quite a miserable experience.
A mad dash in the last 200 meters and we got our darshan (about 200 milliseconds each). My daughter was very traumatized by the bouncers who are placed strategically to push the pilgrims. Even the women bouncers are sizable and powerful and one shove from them involuntarily launches you about 15 feet.
We finally got out and though we were only eligible for 2 laddus each, my wife was enterprising enough to get a cop to give us a lot more (I will not explain the monetary aspect here).
Tired and weary, some of us decided to turn in and even did the unthinkable of doing so without dinner! Quite a feat for us. One of my nephews, who is perennially looking to recharge his mobile phone (see 'Operation Seabreeze'  blog post for context) wherever he goes decided to head out of the hotel. He was met with a bevy of buxom beauties practicing the world’s oldest profession and was propositioned in no uncertain terms. Being the first time (or so he claims), he scurried back to the hotel room in disarray and had the other two guys accompany him for that all important recharge. Story has it that the 'mamasan' in charge of operations wore a gold chain the thickness of an adult anaconda.
For those who aren’t following the tale acutely, let me remind you that the plan was to ascend the mountain at 4 a.m. The first one to wake up next morning (me) did so at 7:30 a.m. So that climb went out of the window.
Not losing our primary focus, we arrived at the famous Bheemas hotel for breakfast where once again we demonstrated the fine mettle of our family. Overachievers all, though there are dubious opinions that I outdid everyone with my binging…sorry…pecking at the food.
Padmavathi, the wife of the Lord resides down the hill. Apparently, there was some falling out between the couple and the Lord decided to go up the hill and not come down ever and the Mrs decided to make camp permanently below. I don’t want to get into the mythological and religious background now. No pilgrimage to Tirupati is complete without visiting her so away we went.
As usual, I was unsuitably dressed as shorts are a no no for this lady’s abode. I had to scramble around the shops for a dhothi. I picked a pure white one that went beautifully with my brown T-shirt.
Post the temple visit, we headed back for what else, lunch at Mayura. A hearty meal later we were on the road again back to Bangalore. More eating at Bans, another stop at Woody’s and we were all back home, satisfied with the darshan and the Bhojan.
Oh yeah, I have 12 years left to complete my vow of climbing the hill.

Monday, October 05, 2009

But still these words will remind us....

The years between seem to melt into oblivion during a reunion. It’s been 24 years since I’d seen most of my classmates (and some dorm mates) but it was like we had left off our conversations from yesterday. I guess boarding school does that to you. Bonds develop that transcend Father Time .To quote from one of our hymns, ‘distance may part, and seas may divide us…’, our formative years together has made it so easy to relate to each other.

Thanks to a few persevering souls, the get-together became a reality. The chosen venue – Marari Beach Resort, a few miles from Alleppey.

Words do not do justice to the beauty of the place. From the numerous trees to the individual ‘huts’, everything here feels pristine and pure. Well, until our rowdy Old Lawrencians (Batch of ’86) landed up. To understand the depth of our conversations and intellect, one only had to hear the first thing I heard when I met one of my classmates, for the first time in about two and a half decades – ‘hey, did you pee into our house master’s home?’. That pretty much set the tone for the rest of the meet.

Friday evening saw us all hanging out at one of the bachelor pads. Though we had been promised ‘alternate’ arrangements for single people without accompanied spouses, nothing of that sort was forthcoming so we had to make do with alcohol and various varieties of inhalants.

The anecdotes and embarrassing stories began in earnest soon after and we were regaled with tales of utter desperation and incomprehensible acts which seemed so logical in our childhood years. The ‘lending library’ story was arguably the best of the lot, followed by the ‘special jam’ narrative and the pigeon hunting capers.

Sordid pasts of each GUY were mercilessly raked up and narrated in excruciating detail. ‘Guy’ is in Caps because the ladies of Lawrence refused to divulge even a single episode remotely scandalous. We gotta change that for the next one!

The stragglers finally wrapped up around 2 a.m. but not before three of us walked to the beach for the heck of it.

Ah, the food in the resort is quite good, especially the squid and the fish. Highly recommended! Other dishes were not too bad but nothing spectacular.

More swimming in the pool for the kids and adults alike on morning and a stressful massage in the evening filled up most of Saturday. This yarn would be incomplete without the massage account. For one, you are to strip 100% and a miniscule loin cloth provides inadequate cover. Two beefy looking he-men then hammer and pummel the crap out of you and all the time you’re praying the cloth holds position. Once these guys are satisfied that they’ve vented enough, you’re maneuvered into a wooden cabinet with batwing doors which are closed so only your head peeps out. This is the steam bath part of the massage and you’re still not aware that the worst is still to come.

Okay, now for the killer. You are guided into a bathroom and the loincloth is unceremoniously ripped off and a coarse powdered paste thingy is applied all over your back while you stand helpless and dumbfounded at this sudden turn of events. The guy even puts shampoo on your hair for crying out loud! Just when you’ve had enough, the guy applies the stuff on the opposite side of the back, which is…anyway…I was distraught overall…

Luckily, you are handed a towel so you can dry yourself unassisted!

More remembrances of good times in the evening ably supported by the right fluids, memories of those no longer with us, happy and not so happy thoughts, recollections of injustices, it was just a great time for one and all. I’m not sure how much the non-Lawrencian spouses enjoyed these chronicles, but it was great to step back in time and relive the past. After all, isn’t that what a reunion is all about?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

95 to 21 in 20

It’s not as cryptic as it sounds. And no, I’m not trying to boast. Just want to tell the avid readers of my blog (whom I can count on a miniscule part of one finger tip) that if I can do it anyone can.

On January 1, 2008, I clocked in at a light heavy weight 95 kg. Just over a year and a half later, I completed a half marathon.

For a body that has undergone multiple decades of abuse and neglect, I must say it’s quite remarkable that I could do anything of this nature.

The Kaveri Trail Marathon, now in its 3rd year is a grueling 21 km path starting at the Ranganthitu Bird Sanctuary in Srirangapatna (near Mysore). The picturesque surroundings are immaterial to the runners as the heat and humidity get to you pretty fast. The start time of 7 a.m. ensures that the sun is well out and burning bright in all it resplendent glory providing no respite to those of us embarking on this needless mission.

This year saw over 600 runners participating, with about 80 doing the full marathon, 300 or so doing the half marathon and the rest doing the relatively less strenuous 10K. I was surprised to see so many folks well over 50 in both the full and the half.

The running track is mostly without any undue inclinations but the problem is avoiding the stones, potholes, cow dung and deep ravines that have been cut due to rain and the bullock cart wheels. I was constantly adjusting my trajectory and by the time I had done the first half of the run, exhaustion and fatigue had set in for good measure.

I willed myself to run back the remaining 10.5 km and barely managed 5 km before I thought I’d just collapse. The sun was now high up and there being absolutely no cloud cover, I was all set to give up. I walked a couple of kilometers at a reasonable space and it seemed like I would never finish. 4km came and after a lifetime, it was 3 km. I stopped at the water stations and doused my head with water and immediately felt a lot better.

2 km - 1 km was hell and the last 1000 meters was even worse. This was easily the longest kilometer of my life and at about 300 meters from the finish line, I gave it all I had left and crossed over the finish line, beaten and battered but not defeated.

It took me a good 3 hours to get through this madness and there were actually people who finished behind me. However, most of the people older than me finished well ahead of me! Oh well, I’m just relieved I completed this damn thing and don’t have to worry about it…..till next year! Hell yeah! I am going back for more!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

R.E.S.P.E.C.T or how the Cauvery dispute must have started

There’s just something about water that brings out the worst in the two neighboring states. This week, the battleground was our humble home.

It all began with a phone call our maid/nanny/cook/caretaker made to our driver on Sunday. She apparently wanted the phone number for the store that supplies us drinking water. Our driver informed her that he’d already ordered the water can and it would be delivered Monday evening.

Come Monday evening, no sign of water, and every fiber of her Tamilian persona bristled at the lack of water. She marches down to the basement to seek a resolution to the water dispute once and for all.

Now, the Gowda community in Karnataka is not one to be trifled with. Men do not take it lying down when a woman raises her voice to them and that too in public. Our maid, in all earnestness at the injustice of water deprivation, started yelling at my driver. Here’s where things get muddled a bit as it’s a lot of ‘he said’ and ‘she said’. We will commence our narrative with the maid’s version.

She walks down to the basement and tells him that since he didn’t get the water for us, she’ll call for it herself. Illogically, our driver reacted sharply to this request and asked her to take a hike. He also told her that he would get 4 men to come sleep with her. Ok, don’t ask. I don’t see the progression and logic either. He then wrapped up his innovative tirade with a ‘shut your ass up and go’ which is the best translation I can do for a common Kannada curse phrase which sounds delightful in that language but doesn’t translate too well to English.

Full of righteous indignation (and without that all important store’s number), she came back upstairs and burst into tears.

Ok, now for the homeboy version. This lady descends down the stairs like an avenging she-devil and tells him that he’s always ‘dying’ in the basement (again, translation issues apply here). The gist of it is that she demeaned him in front of his peer group so he told her that he won’t give her the phone number.

Cut to an hour later. The four of us in our home – the wife, the maid, the driver and me. The woman starts off the proceedings with high drama with how she will call her husband and the cops and a few other unrelated elements to fix our driver for his hurtful and shaming words. Our driver claims he never said a thing other than refusing to give the number purely going on attitude issues. But he says that she shouted at him for whiling away time in the basement while she toiled in the house. By now, the maid was inconsolable, swearing on numerous gods, saying how the lord above was watching; He knows the truth, the truth will prevail and set me free!

At this point, an independent witness was brought in by the driver. This lady, a cleaner by profession, was of no use as she said the heated debates all happened in Tamil and despite her keen observations, she couldn’t follow the chain of discussions. The maid was quick to dismiss the witness as hostile to her cause and concluded a deep conspiracy in the basement ranks.

My wife (aka Solomon The Wise) now swiftly got into the act. She summarized the events saying that she yelled and he yelled so both were wrong. The content of the yelling was moot, the wise one proclaimed. However, the maid sensed a bias towards the driver and again got worked up, bringing back the topic of the 4 men who were supposed to be dragged in to sleep with her. My driver was unperturbed and he informed us in no uncertain terms that he has sisters and other women in his life and he has never spoken that way to anyone.

Judge Solomon, looking for rapid resolution then gave this verdict (an impressive speech actually with the verdict embedded in it). ‘Neither of you admit to what you actually said. We all know that yelling happened to some degree from both sides. It was wrong of you to go down and shout at him and you should not have shouted back at her. We need both of you equally and while I don’t expect you to gain each other’s respect in the next few days or months but we want you both to maintain professional decorum within these four wall. Now say sorry to each other and let’s all move on’. The chief justice now paused for breath and waited for the response to the judgment.

The driver, being from Karnataka, readily agreed to the terms and conditions and gave his due apologies. The maid banged her head with her hand and wailed that she would rather die than say sorry. She returned to her favorite theme of the 4 men and asked rhetorically if I would be okay with it if someone had said that to my sister (if I had one). As part of the justice panel, I was forced to comment and told her that we have no proof of what he said or what she said and what was of importance right now is that they still talk to each other for home related matters and they can’t expect to involve us in all that.

An uneasy truce now prevails in the household but at least things are going on as usual. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Double the itch, double the fun!

Another milestone, another check mark in the road of life. I remember the days leading to our wedding vividly. The $400 monthly phone bills, the inconsequential conversations, learning as much as we could about each other. Man, we sure had no idea what we were getting into. And that’s a good thing. Looking back, there’s no doubt that this is the best thing that’s happened to me. Yeah, yeah, it sounds clich├ęd and all that, but it’s the gospel truth and no two ways about it.

Is there a secret, a formula, a tried and tested way to be married for 14 years? Absolutely not! All I can say is that we’re best friends first, husband and wife second. We fight about the most absurd things, like losing a game of Wii or not picking up the phone on the first half ring! But, it’s all worth it. Makes life together rich and fun. Cannot think of sharing our lives with anyone else. The bar for the opposite sex is now set so high that no one comes close to either of us when it comes to relationships and bonds. Sounds vain and high and mighty? Probably!

We’ve gone through so much together and the few years of trauma when we wanted to have children made us both so much tougher and brought so much closer together. Now, nothing is insurmountable, nothing too difficult for us to overcome. Sounds like I conquered Mt. Everest? Sure feels like it!

Do I believe in miracles? A resounding heartfelt YES! One is the companion that I’ve been gifted with and the other is the twin trouble we fought to be gifted with. Sounds corny? Probably! But it’s the gospel truth and no two ways about it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Doctor Despite Himself

Frankly speaking, the lack of sleep the previous night was getting to me and I literally dragged myself to go for the play for the sole reason that this was my nephew Anirudh’s maiden theater performance.

I was not disappointed. A light hearted drama by Jean-Baptiste Poquein (better known in literally circles as Moliere), this was done very well by a group of young folk which calls itself Miracle Entertainment.

My only beef was that Anirudh played Leandre whereas I’m very sure he could have carried off the lead role with equal aplomb. And I’m not saying this just because he’s my nephew. In a minor role, he excelled and stole the show with his acting abilities!

I must say a tear or two welled up in my eyes seeing him on stage. My periappa (father’s brother) had acted in the same play 5 decades or so back and to me, it was like seeing him again on stage, which I never had the good fortune to do.

Thanks Anirudh for giving me the opportunity to see how my periappa might have performed and I wish you all the best in your budding acting career. You rock and though you might not hear me wax poetic on your abilities, I love your talent and drive. Keep it up man!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The other blog in my life

Not wanting to dilute the very important aspect of my life (read - eating), I decided to have a separate blog for all the food and restaurant related articles which will hopefully help others with a similar bent of mind in this noble pursuit of great food around the world.

Here's the link:


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You know you're a Volvo bus addict when...

  1. you know the route and timing of each bus
  2. you start to recognize the registration plates of each vehicle
  3. you have a favorite seat which fits you exactly
  4. the conductor automatically gives you the right fare ticket
  5. you get a big silly grin on your face every time you see one of those big red buses even when you’re not in one
  6. every 10 rupee note is guarded with your life and can only be pried from your cold dead hands
  7. without holding onto anything you are still left standing when the brakes are applied
  8. you watch in morbid fascination to see if your driver will actually run someone over
  9. you take the bus to work even on weekends and holidays
  10. you are actually able to get off at your stop during peak hours

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Zak checks in

We finally did the deed. Zak Prasad, born Feb 16th, 2009 officially joined our family yesterday. A tiny runt to look at, he’s sure got lots of attitude and tons of spunk. We’re in it for the long haul and revisiting our early days with the kids sans the diaper changes. Zak actively seeks out the carpet for all his output and stubbornly refuses to sleep in his posh crate. So, we need to wait for him to fall asleep and then put him inside. He loves to eat his Cerelac with water and he perks up the moment he hears the spoon mixing in his bowl. Quite an alert chap the few hours he’s awake and he actually comes running when you clap, something that Sol never did for many years.

It’s not easy to let go of thoughts of our beloved prince but we’ll do our best in giving Zak all our love and affection just like we did for Sol. Looking forward to having him around for a long long time. Hope someone up there is listening?

A wedding in Chennai

It's been a while since we had a massive wedding on the wife's side of the family. This one was especially important as it was the...