Ready to run !

Sports of all kinds have generally played a minor role in my existence. Of course I was a part of the usual 40 kids playing with one football in an intra-class free-for-all at school, and yes I played badminton with the neighborhood kids in the evenings… there was that summer when I realized I liked being a spin bowler but yet; no sport really stayed with me across the years.

I watched lawn tennis on TV, attended cricket matches in dusty stadiums, and generally cared two hoots about who won or lost…. preferring books and a silent corner over a crowded playing field anytime.
In short, I was an absolute nerd growing up. And guess what, I still am.

So it took an extreme turn of circumstances for a short , not-so-slender-but-completely-happy me to finally find myself registering for a 6K run at the Mumbai Marathon.

No its not a case of midlife crisis, though it might be because yours truely recently turned a whopping 30!
Lets step back a few months. A week shy of my 30th birthday, a random blood test revealed that I have extremely high cholesterol for my age, something in the range of 250 when it had no business being anything above 200. Talk about inconvenient truths. I was the one in the house who picked at his food while others hogged, who used to wax eloquent about the joys of healthy eating whenever someone cared to listen.. and in the entire family, guess who manages to wrangle a life style disease more suited for obese people digging into cream pies … tadaaa… Me !

So after the initial wringing of hands and silent dinners where I stared accusingly at the people and the food surrounding me, I joined a gym, got a personal trainer, and diligently got up early morning each day to be tortured in public by a guy who seemed distinctly half my age. The gym was nice, the sauna was nicer still. I wished I could spend more time in the latter and lesser in the former. However , as much as I used to detest lifting my 10 lbs when dudes around me were doing like a 75 lbs nonchalantly… I used to look forward to one activity where I found myself doing better than a lot of people around me… running!

I was surprised to find that I could run for a pretty long time and cover pretty long distances. It was fun running to my favorite music, and if I did it for a long enough period of time at the gym I came across as a serious health freak. And the best part, it all added up to a lower waist size for my jeans. Suddenly, before I knew it, I was a runner !

Soon I was reading up (I am a nerd remember?) about the intricacies of a proper stride, reading blogs by runners and watching youtube videos of people running more in a day than I had in a lifetime. Am not sure if I was a better runner at the end of it, but I was surely more informed!

It used to hurt at times, still does. My ankles and shins disagreed with my intentions with each aching step. It was not a happy day when I puked after having run for hardly a kilometer.

Till one day finally, I completed my first kilometer on the trot and a month later, I paced my first five kilometer run.

There are few things that I have ever done in my life that have given me a greater sense of achievement than making the transition from being a guy on the verge of being put on cholesterol medication at an age less than 30, to a guy who manages to outrun at least some of the runners at Central Park…and yes being a guy who has almost normal cholesterol levels (am getting there !!).

For the last one month, I have been camping at a hotel… and my running has at best been intermittent. The reason I am writing this today is to remind myself how much being a runner has meant for me in such a short while already. Come tomorrow, I promise that I am hitting the road again. Right now, I am harboring hopes of completing a 10 km race before I hit 31.

Yes, at the end of it I am still probably an absolute nerd…

But trust me people…this nerd can run !

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A Happier Diwali

Candle on the window sill
Candle on the window sill

Wish you all a very Happy Diwali !

I hope the coming year is bright, beautiful, peaceful, and safe and is the beginning of the best years of your life.

This Diwali finds me alone in a hotel room in New York City. In all the thirty years of my life, this is the first time that I would not have family around me.. or is it?

There was a Diwali when I stayed back at my engineering college to study for my upcoming MBA entrance examinations. And the celebration meant lighting candles at a temple nearby. It was a dark night, but the sky glowed with a blue luminosity that can only be found in the mountains. The villages on the slope of the hills twinkled in the darkness, a silent symphony of light that stretched out deep in the Himalayan valley. The temple was surrounded by a stone verandah… the floor cold against my  bare feet. My match sticks were repeatedly blown out by gusts of wind and I had to shield the flame with my hands to light the candles. The candle flames were so fragile, and looked like they would be extinguished by the wind the moment I left the temple…. Or so I thought.

The next morning, I strolled by the temple again… and discovered that the candles had indeed burnt their way through the night. Left on their own, they managed to outlast the wind and shine in solitary splendor at the cusp of the hill.

This Diwali, comes in the wake of some very sad times for some of our friends… Mine and Radhika’s. A friend just lost her mother, and another friend is by her mother’s bedside willing her to live longer. Both victims of cancer. They are in our hearts and in our prayers today.

It hurts when the comfort of familiarity as we know it, is torn and cast away. When something as unnecessary as a disease takes the life out of someone you deeply love. For a while, whatever we do seems pointless… like lighting up tiny candles or setting off noisy fireworks when you are the only one to see them light up the night. The tears flow till they dry up and leave us bitter and brittle to the core..

I lost my mother when I was young, and I remember the hurt.

But What I also remember is that one fine day, I started noticing the flowers in the garden again, found myself stretching in the warmth of the winter sun as I recalled how much my mother would have enjoyed both. And I smiled.

The people we love never really go away. Their thoughts, and actions and what they would have done, become our constant companions. I still find myself silently evaluating things like my mother would have done… and if I ever lie down while eating, I hear her voice telling me to sit up.

With time, we do heal.

And accept that those we love, are gifts. The time we spend together is a greater gift. And come what may, memories of that fifteen day long happy vacation filled with laughter are never going to be erased by the long times mourning for what we lost…

We start laughing again, and hold hands and smile. The joy returns to our lives… and the next year, we find ourselves cleaning our homes and lighting up candles again.

Hope lives on. And it keeps  us alive !

Diwali, is so full of hope. It looks ahead to a future of prosperity and makes us grateful for what we have been given in the past.. even if all that is left of it are beautiful memories.

I hope for a beautiful future for me and Radhika, and am thankful for our loving family and that means everything to us. This Diwali I will light a candle alone at my hotel window sill, and kick back and spend a quiet evening with the beautiful memories and voices of the past surrounding me.

Truely, a Happy Diwali.

Yes we can…

First Black President of the United States…Yes we can.

Iran.Afghanistan.Cairo.Multilateral ism… Yes we can.

Barack Obama: Nobel Peace Prize Winner 2009…Yes we can.

Even though I agree to have been surprised with Obama’s selection, and agree that he hasn’t really done anything yet to be able to equal the numerous people awarded the Nobel for their lifetime of contribution, I cant help but sympathise with the Nobel selection Committee , ’cause haven’t they too voted for that hope that Obama signifies – the hope of a diverse yet united world working towards a better future? The hope that the impossible can yet be possible…that dialogue and diplomacy can take the place of aggression & war? The hope of a newly humble United States leading the world , together, towards a greener , safer tomorrow?

Maybe I am just an idealist..but well, thats the audacity of hope…