31 December 2009

उत्प्लावन का सिद्धांत

This piece was written when I was in LA last year:

I have come US to spend 3 months for some work. I've bought few things for my friends and family members as 'America ki Nishaani'. For myself, I decided to take back to India the kind of memories that would never fade with time. इसे अभौतिक होना चाहिए.. So I decided to learn something.

I chose Swimming.

It is said that cycling and swimming, once learnt can never be forgotten in your entire lifetime, even if you don't practice.There was a big swimming pool here in our apartment complex.I had only weekends to learn this. So the time and effort to do swimming had to be more compared to if I'd been practicing on a daily basis. It is really a tiring job initially. I started work out in Gym during weekends and soon after used to go to swim. That decision effectively meant getting out of the weekend comfort zone. Initially, I found it very very difficult to learn swimming. My trainer got tired of me; all this made me a frustrated learner.

Then I realized that I was practicing in the side waters of the pool, holding the platform on the sides of the pool. Anytime I got tired I caught hold of the platform and rested. Once again, the comfort zone was the biggest obstacle. If I had to learn swimming, if I had to take an unforgettable, unfading, non-material memory with me I had to get rid of comfort zone again. I had previous experiences of leaving comfort zones and the recall of those times helped a lot.After all confident steps taken once, make you more confident next time.I left the sides and moved to the middle, and even though the water was only as deep as on the sides (5 feet), I found that I was learning more quickly. The mind was the enemy; it was proved again in the pool.There was no platform nearby when I got tired so I had to be in water while trying to take rest. This constraint helped me make the water my friend.

So now, if I got tired of swimming I lay flat in water and took rest. I looked like a log floating effortlessly on water.The trainer was none other than my colleague Angom. He has the habit of speaking in formulae and avoids explaining everything in full detail. The learner has to understand/ interpret the formula and work according to his commitment. I started with swimming only with my feet. After my feet started to move my body through the water, I added hand movements. The feet had to work like the back fin of a fish and hands had to move like the oars of a boat or side fins of a fish; cutting the water as well as pushing the water behind. In the combined movement of feet and hands you start feeling two forces. One upward and another forward.

I was still poor in combining both movement at a time.Sometimes I concentrated on the feet and sometimes on the hands. The third stage required me to learn breathing. This is the most important thing, because 'if you do not breath you can not live and living is first condition to swim :) When you are rowing with both hands your body tilts ninty degrees everytime you stretch a hand forward. And during this time you have to take a quick stock of oxygen via mouth. Exhaling can be done anytime you're done with the consumption of inhaled oxygen like you do while standing on ground..........keep on doing like this and sing "मछली जल की रानी है, मैं भी जल का राजा हूँ "
After 8 swimming sessions I could proudly say "I CAN SWIM". I had learnt the free style. I also started learning 'backstroke' as well as 'breast stroke'...but only started, ok? No more ceiling high expectations.  Alongwith I started working on my feet to be able to improve my stamina for doing more chap-chap in water.

Can any reward compare the satisfaction achieved after this confidence building? In future every time I feel low, I'll recall this learning and will be able to regain my confidence. No need to go out for confidence building workshops.It is exciting to imagine that everytime I would swim in India, I'll recall two A's: Angom & America. In this way I'm taking the most precious gift from here that can never be separated from me....Confidence brings best out of you. When you achieve something just by force of your will, the self-congratulations are more precious than any reward from the outside world.

30 December 2009

परदेस में आहार: कभी खुशी कभी गम

ईमान से कहता हूँ, विदेश में खाना खाना एक बड़ा ही रोचक, यादगार एवं शानदार अनुभव होता है, किंतु साथ ही कभी कभी ऐसा भी लगता है की कहाँ आ फंसे। ऐसे में आप बच गए तो आपका भाग्य अन्यथा दुर्भाग्य। भाषा की समस्या पहली समस्या है, परन्तु सिर्फ़ बोलचाल भर का ज्ञान कभी कभी मुसीबत में डालने वाला हो सकता है। आखिरकार आपको सिर्फ़ अपने कार्यस्थल पर ही नहीं अपने दैनंदिन कार्य के लिए विभिन्न प्रकार के लोगों से भी मिलना होता है।
मैं Bacon शब्द से अनजान तो नहीं ही था, बस इतना जानता था कि पुनर्जागरण काल में एक महान लेखक और दार्शनिक हुए थे जिनका नाम था Francis Bacon । इस से ज्यादा इस शब्द की सार्थकता के बारे में तब तक कल्पना भी नहीं थी, जब तक मैं अपने ऑफिस के कैफेटेरिया में उस दिन नहीं गया था। उस दिन का व्यंजन था Navajo Chicken Sandwich । इसके बारे में विस्तृत विवरण तो देखा , उसमे ये शब्द भी पूरे तौर पर विराजमान था। शेफ ने बड़े ही प्यार से बनाया और जब मुझे परोसने लगा तो मैंने बस उत्सुकतावश पूछा "भाई साहब, इन के नाम भी आप बताएं तो मेरे ज्ञानकोष में कुछ वृद्धि हो। मसलन वो लाल लाल सा टुकड़ा क्या डाला?" उसने भी बड़े ही प्यार से फरमाया:
" Hey ! you don't know this? this is Bacon. Bacon. "
मैंने कंधा उचकाते हुए अनभिज्ञता जतायी।फ़िर उसने कहा:
" Bacon you don't know? " लगा जैसे मैंने जीवन के मूलभूत ज्ञान से वंचित होने का-सा पाप कर दिया हो।
मैंने फ़िर अपना सर ना में हिलाया। फ़िर उसने समझाया:
" See this is side part of the pig. Very tasty. Yummy. You'll love this.Try this today and say thanks to me.okay? "
भगवान् का लाख लाख शुक्र था। मेरे माता पिता एवं गुरुजनों का आशीर्वाद था की समय रहते मेरी बुद्धि चेत गई और मैंने उत्सुकता दिखाई।
उसने बड़े ही प्यार से अपनी तरफ़ से मुझे अच्छा खाना परोसने की कोशिश की थी। लेकिन दुर्भाग्यवश संस्कृति एवं संस्कार का अन्तर हो गया। उसकी भाषा में वह एक लज़ीज़ व्यंजन था Bacon । मेरी भाषा में वह था सूअर । खैर जो भी हो, मुझे इनकार भी करना था और ये भी देखना था कि उसे बुरा न लगे। किसी तरह से इनकार किया। फ़िर धन्यवाद के साथ आग्रह किया कि बिना Bacon के बना दे। अंततः खाना मेरे अनुसार ही बना और फिर इश्वर को धन्यवाद देता हुआ बाहर निकल गया।

29 December 2009

बुलंद भारत की बुलंद तस्वीर ?

It is about Ruchika.
When news channels and newspapers started shouting, and candle-marches started showing up on busy landmarks I found my conscience choking. Day by day. It had been condensing gradually. …and one day my friend Jyoti sent me an email. He was equally disturbed after knowing the developments of the case. His mail, sent to all of our friends, urged for partnership in initiating action against such incidents for the sake of our own conscience. Here is an excerpt from his mail:
ONLY PLEDGE that I do make, is, if I come to know of any child (less than 18 years of age) being molested, ever in my life, irrespective of offender's position in society, family, neighborhood, that person WILL be punished... no matter what!
I WILL MAKE SURE I AM A LITTLE BETTER...next time the punishment will be harsher and faster than what we saw in Ruchika case and also will make sure offender won't have smile on his face ever in life.
I offer 3 options to ev'one on this mailing list....
If you go for option 3, then, I NEED A FAVOUR, if you know of any such CONFIRMED incidents(where child sex offender is going unpunished and child is tormented continuously), JUST INFORM ME, I can make arrangement for best level of punishment(per law of land) for such offenders.
Neither myself nor anyone who informs about incident will ever be made public or known for the action(unless they want).
for GOD sake, don't sit silent....children are best gift God can grant...and someone molests them and nobody does anything...I am not sure what do we aim to achieve in life by killing own conscience even in the event of heineous crime of this degree.
Note of Caution: DO NOT provide the wrong information...make sure you confirm it solidly, as truth will be known during course of investigation and ANY act of misinformation will be detrimental for ev'one.
PLEASE let me know, if you are willing to get up and ready to act! It just takes a bit of courage, ev'thing else will follow... believe me! Look at Madhu and Anand Prakash, they had nothing in favour, still they have won……….”
I’ve collected the chronology of events in the Ruchika Girhotra molestation case from the Internet. I have put my comments in Red just to point out where, I think, lapses had occurred which ultimately culminated in such a shameful development of the case. If you ask me, the ultimate responsibility lies with :
  1. The Government which not only dropped cases against Rathore but promoted him several times,
  2. Then with Police department which lodged 11 car theft cases against Ruchika’s brother’s to harass the family at the behest of Rathore,
  3. Then with the CBI court which took 9 years to convict even after charge sheet was filed in its court.
  4. The school was also pressurised to expel Ruchika who was in the same class as Rathore’s daughter.

* Aug 12, 1990: Haryana Inspector General of Police (IGP) S.P.S. Rathore, also the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association president, molests 14-year-old budding tennis player Ruchika Girhotra in his office room.
* Aug 16, 1990- Complaint made to chief minister Hukam Singh and home secretary.
* Aug 17, 1990- Hukam Singh asks Director General of Police (DGP) R.R. Singh to investigate the matter.
* Aug 18, 1990 - Police registers Daily Development Report (DDR) against Rathore wide DDR no. 12. : First lapse/ crime - FIR was not Lodged
* Sep 3, 1990 - DGP R.R. Singh finds Rathore prima facie guilty, submits report. Recommends FIR in the matter. Later, new DGP R.K. Hooda and Home Secretary J.K. Duggal recommend departmental action and chargesheet against Rathore.
* March 12, 1991 - Home Minister Sampat Singh consents to the departmental action. Forwards it to Chief Minister Hukam Singh.
* March 13, 1991- Hukam Singh gives his consent to the proposal.
* March 22, 1991 - Om Parkash Chautala becomes new chief Minister of Haryana. Hukam Singh leaves the chief minister's post. Chautala remains chief minister for 14 days amid political turbulence and instability.
* April 6, 1991 - President's Rule is imposed in the state. Governor Dhanik Lal Mandal takes over.
* May 28, 1991 - Charge sheet approved against Rathore during governor's rule.
* July 23, 1991 - Bhajan Lal-led Congress government takes over. Remains chief minister till May 9, 1996, during which time most of the alleged atrocities on Ruchika's family took place. : Second/ ongoing Crime when Politicians showed their nexus with Police
* April 6, 1992 - FIR against Ashu, Ruchika's brother, for car theft registered wide FIR No. 39.
* June 30, 1992 - Matter for registering FIR against Rathore taken up and Haryana legal remembracer R.K. Nehru recommended immediate registration of FIR against Rathore.
* March 30, 1993- Another FIR is registered against Ashu for car theft, wide FIR No. 473.
* May 10, 1993 - One more FIR is registered against Ashu for car theft, wide FIR No. 57.
* June 12, 1993 - Yet another FIR is registered against Ashu for car theft, wide FIR No.96.
* July 30, 1993 - One more FIR is registered against Ashu for car theft, wide FIR No. 127.
* Sep 4, 1993 - Another FIR is registered against Ashu for car theft, wide FIR No. 147. All the cases were registered under section 379 IPC.
* Oct 23, 1993 - Ashu is illegally picked by the Haryana police and kept in illegal detention for almost two months. Eleven car theft cases were registered against him. :Eleven Crimes committed by Police, obviously to put pressure on Ruchika family for complaining against Rathore. A total of 13 crimes so far.
* Dec 28, 1993 - Unable to cope with harassment imposed on her and her family, Ruchika commits suicide by consuming poison.: Fourteenth Crime by Rathore. Creating circumstances that forced Ruchika to suicide.
* Dec 29, 1993 - Ashu is released one day after Ruchika's suicide.
* April 1994 - The charges framed against Rathore dropped during Bhajan Lal's tenure, months after Ruchika died.: Fifteenth crime by BhajanLal govt.
* Nov 4, 1994 - Rathore promoted as Additional DGP by Bhajan Lal government. Sixteenth crime by BhajanLal govt.
* May 11, 1996 - Bansi Lal becomes Haryana chief minister. Remains chief minister till 23 July, 1999 during which period Rathore was promoted as DGP.: Seventeenth crime by BansiLal govt
* June 5, 1998 - Rathore suspended by Bansi Lal government in connection with a matter relating to a parole case regarding a detainee.
* Aug 21, 1998 - CBI probe is ordered in Ruchika molestation case by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
* March 3, 1999 - Rathore is reinstated as Additional DGP by Bansi Lal government. Eighteenth crime by BansiLal govt
* July 23, 1999 - Om Parkash Chautala becomes chief minister.
* Sep 30, 1999 - Departmental enquiry exonerates Rathore in molestation case, he is promoted as DGP with effect from May 20, 1999. Ninteenth crime by Chautala govt
* Oct 10, 1999 - Rathore made Haryana's DGP (state police chief) by the Chautala government. Twentieth crime by Chautala govt
* Nov 16, 2000 - CBI files chargesheet against Rathore in Ruchika molestation case.
* Dec 5, 2000 - Rathore removed as Haryana DGP. Sent on leave.
* March, 2002 - Rathore retires from service.
* Dec 21, 2009 - CBI special court convicts Rathore in the Ruchika molestation case. Sentenced to six months imprisonment and fine of Rs.1,000.:TwentyFirst Crime by CBI court - taking 9 years from chargesheet filing till conviction.
Last updated on Dec 25th, 2009 at 17:42 pm IST
Source: --IANS
Therefore, according to me, there were 21 crimes done by a nexus of Police, Judiciary and Politicians. And Rathore was awarded six months imprisonment and fine of JUST Rs.1000. Sounds like a Joke. Maybe that is why the idiot (rathore) was smiling when he came out of the courtroom where the judgment was pronounced.
Short Term Solution: Punish all the culprits and Punish them really Hard.
Long term Solution: Moral khatam ho gaya hai bhai.Improve Moral of general public like one shown by Madhu and Anand Prakash.(Madhu and Anand Prakash are the parents of Ruchika;s friend. They are the ones who set the ball rolling - they moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court for a probe in the matter, after a police report had prima facie established Rathore's involvement). We should take care to impart moral values to our children who will create and be part of future India. Teach them to be Kaabil(capable) and not to do anything just for the sake of success. Competition is good but not at a cost that may leave you repenting for life.

24 December 2009

Puzzling Classified Ad

    Innocently Divorced? Huh? Can somebody explain this one to me, please?

Click on the picture to see it (& the circled comment) more clearly

22 December 2009

Dare to Translate - Some Untranslatables

कुछ दिन पहले हमलोग एक दोस्त के यहाँ गए थे, जहाँ मैडम, मतलब हमरी मेमसाहब नारियल बर्फी बना कर ले गयी थीं. पब्लिक को बर्फिया अच्छा लगा, उ लोग बर्फी बनाने का तरीका, कौन समान लगा है ई सब पूछना सुरू कर दिया. एक दोस्त पूछा कि गिट्स-उट्स के पैकेट से बनाईं है क्या. मैडम को ताव आ गया, तुरते बात काट के बोलीं, नहीं मैंने इसे scratch से बनाया है. समझे आप? नहीं समझे? अरे भाई, मेमसाहब हिन्दी में अंग्रेजी बोल रहीं थीं - 'I've made it from scratch'.

अनुवाद, ऊ भी घटिया शब्दशः अनुवाद से हमको बहुत पुराने जमाने से चिढ है. लेकिन का कहें भैया, आजकल तो रिवाजे यही है! तो हम कौन होते हैं इसका विरोध करने वाले? हम तो आपके लिए कुछ और मसाला जुटाए हैं, शौक से अनुवाद कीजिये. तो लीजिये हाज़िर है:

1. Ball-Park figure - अब भैया, ई गेंद है कि पार्क है, कि किसी हसीना की कमर, हमरे समझ में तो नहीं आया, आपके समझ में आया हो तो तनि हमें भी बताइयेगा.

2. Blonde Moment - ई तो हमरे औकात से  टोटले बाहर है - आप ही लोग बताइये.

3. Cooking with gas -  ई तो बहुते आसान है, गैस से खाना पकाना, है न?

 4. Cover your ass - काहे भाई? गदहवा को ठंडा-उंडा लग रहा है का?

 5. Drop the ball - सिनेमा में कान पर बंदूक लगा कर बोलता है न - Drop the gun? तो gun के जगह ball है, और क्या. इसमें क्या भारी बात है? गेंदवा गिराइए, आगे बढिए!

6. Fresh pair of eyes - ताजी ताजी आँखें! आहाहा, आँख है कि फल-सब्जी, भाई? खाइएगा?

7. Heads up - इसमें क्या है, सर उठा के रखना है!

8. (He is going to) chew your butt - हे भगवान, कौन ज़माना आ गया है? ऊ भी कोई खाने की चीज होती है?

9. Kick butt - ई तो हमहूँ translate कर सकते हैं - *** पर लात! क्यों, ठीक बोले न?

10. Knock on wood - जब भी किसी के घर जाते है तो करबे करते हैं - दरवाजा खटखटाते हैं न, भाई?

11. Neck of the woods -ई का होता है?

12. Pain in the butt - हे भगवान्! अरे, ई सब पब्लिक में बोलने का नहीं है!

13. Peachy - ई translate करने का औकात नहीं है हमरा, मदद सरकार!

14. Potluck - बर्तन का किस्मत, और क्या?

15. Redneck  - और घूमिये धूप में कमीज़वा उतार के!

आज  के लिए एतने काफी है; आपलोग भी जानबे करते होंगे और. और एग्जाम्पुल (example)  होगा तो बताइयेगा.

20 December 2009

Lay back, relax & enjoy the show

Watching Shahrukh Khan promoting DishTV (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7AJj5aDhXc&feature=related) set me back a quarter century.  My parents did not have a TV till the time I left for college. In those days Doordarshan was the only broadcaster – it had one terrestrial and national channel for the country. Doordarshan had another channel too, but that was only for the (four) metros. Yet, most of the country did not have even a ‘Door-se-Darshan’ of TV; there was a lack of transmission towers to broadcast the signals and besides, TV sets were very expensive, out of reach of most of the middle-class.
Subsequently/ consequently(?), when I reached Delhi for my graduate classes, the TV in the Hostel common-room enthralled me. You must have heard jokes about people watching Krishi Darshan and Doordarshan news; believe it, for I am one such living sample! Nevertheless, the novelty soon wore off and TV became just another attraction/ distraction for me. I became possibly a more discerning viewer and definitely a more detached viewer.
However, the detached viewer is a rare phenomenon. In college, we used to rent a VCR on some weekends. To cater to all tastes, we would generally get 3-4 movies – a couple of Hindi or English movies and a couple of x-rated movies. The regular movies didn’t get much of an audience, and the common room would be generally less than half-full. Most of the Janta knew that the x-rated movies would be started in the wee hours of the morning. This was for two reasons; one , the audience that watched the regular movies wouldn’t let go of their quota of entertainment. More important, though was the second reason - most of the Janta was out in town and would be back only around midnight. Around midnight, the serious viewers would start trooping into the common room and soon the common room would be chock full. Lights would be turned off, smokers would be turned out or asked to extinguish their cigarettes and the movies would be put on. All conversation would cease and all eyes would unwaveringly focus on the screen. Such concentration! Such focus! It would put even an Arjun to shame. The environment in the common room would be electric; the tension unbearable – people would be constantly shifting positions, seemingly to get more comfortable but in reality getting more uncomfortable. I was generally a part of the pre-midnight audience; I had a standing ban on being part of the post-midnight audience. The main reason for this ban was my being the detached viewer. I could not be a silent viewer; I wouldn’t let go of my wisecracking ways. Also, I was in the habit of observing, not the TV screen, but the other viewers. I would be constantly disturbing the most focused (!) viewers, and, therefore, I was generally turned out of the common room at the start of the movie sessions. A lot of pleading and cajoling was necessary to allow me into the common room, only to be turned out within a maximum of 30 minutes.
Some years later, I had moved on to another hostel, the post-graduate hostel. The students were from different departments and got to meet only for breakfast and dinner. Dinner was invariably followed by an extended session the common room. The common room was much bigger than the college common room, but could get really crowded when all the students decided to congregate there.  That used to happen when there was a cricket match featuring India. Those were the days that Ravi Shastri was found not in a suit but in cricketing whites/ or India blues. Vengasarkar, Srikanth, Siddhu, Srinath et al were the other stars. Tendulkar was around, but he still hadn’t started carrying the team on his shoulders. Indian cricket was still more about misses than hits. That didn’t deter us from crowding the common room whenever India was playing. Woe be to the maverick who, even in jest, would support the other team. Cuss words flew like confetti and with the same abandon; they were directed at all and sundry. At an Indian fielder if he missed a catch, or gave up extra runs. At the opposing team’s players, for just being in the opposing team. And, at any member of the audience for disturbing the rest of us. For disturbing, mind you, a horde of screaming maniacs in which you could not hear even your own voice at times; and a crowd, which would number 300 at the maximum, but would give the outsider an impression of being in a 100000-strong stadium. It really felt like being in a stadium; we would cheer the (Indian) bowler starting his run-up and every ball was expected to fetch a wicket. On the other hand, when the Indian team was batting, every dot ball was met with groans and cries of “Pandu” . (As true-blooded Delhiites would know, Pandu is a not really a cuss word; the real cuss word rhymes with Pandu). Every ball was expected to be dispatched to the ropes, even if Narendra Hirwani was batting.
I never met a bunch of more involved viewers. Never, until I got married, that is. My two daughters are the most involved TV viewers that I have ever come across. We have so far avoided the multiple TV routine that is prevalent in most homes these days. Consequently, it’s an ongoing battle between them and me for control of the remote. However, when my in-laws had come visiting us, I was totally out of the picture. The battle for the remote was fought between grandma and the kids. They reached a compromise; grandma would have control at primetime and in the afternoons, when the kids were in school. The rest of the time, the kids had the field to themselves. My mother-in-law was a lesson in involved TV watching; she would abandon everything else that she was doing and take her place on the couch at the appointed hour. Needless to say, she followed, with ease, the numerous twists and turns that Hindi TV Soaps these days offer – like the guy who dies and is resurrected just a month later, presumably because his salary dispute with the producer has been resolved. Or the couple who have been married, divorced, remarried, re-divorced more times than Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. And then there were the sarees and the jewelry. No matter the level of emotional turmoil in the story at that time, she would never miss the intricate embroidery on the fancy sarees that the ladies on screen were wearing, or the jewelry. One comment on either would be enough to bring forth the attention of my hitherto busy wife. That meant an extended session of oohs-and-aahs  over the sarees and jewelry, the on-screen shenanigans forgotten, if only for the moment. However, the children beat everybody hands down; it’s a knockout, a walkover, a no-contest. Call it whatever you like. I am afraid of being around when Jerry being followed by Tom; I run the danger of being hit if the woebegone Tom manages to catch Jerry. However, every time Jerry tricks Tom I could be rewarded with a hug; the joy of my younger one’s face is spread all over her face. Every frown on screen is mirrored on their faces; every gag on screen brings forth cackles of laughter. Every commercial is met with impatient channel switching, in the hope of catching the action on some other channel. When they are watching TV they are totally oblivious to the world around them; calls to finish their homework, or some other chore – are met with unhearing indifference. At times, too many times if you ask me, they bring their food over; and, it is as if their motor co-ordination is lost. The spoon could as easily go to the nose as it could to the ears, anywhere but the mouth. I can, and have done so, even remove their food and they don’t notice. At times, we have used the situation to our advantage, to push some of the more unpalatable foods. They eat it without any protest; they do not have the time to protest. However, I am not unduly worried. If a TV-deprived person like me can grow out of it, then surely they can.      

04 December 2009

From New York to Atlanta - in a marathon and a half

Seven summers ago, I moved from California to Atlanta. In addition to my meager belongings, I brought really aggravated allergies with me. Atlantans affectionately call their city the allergy-capital of the world. It was a classic ‘from the frying pan to the fire’ move. Atlanta was not kind to me; sneezing and wheezing were my byline(s). When you are sneezing and wheezing all day, you suddenly discover that breathing is a much underestimated art.

I had been very active playing lots of sports and leading the life of a semi-invalid was not exactly my style. To try and get back to a semblance of normalcy, I joined a gym close by, and started to run. Running was not fun, I could not run even for a minute without huffing and puffing. And, I wasn’t really running – my top speed was 4 miles per hour. It was a proud day for me when I could run continuously for 10 minutes @4mph. A little digression here - I don’t know what getting an MBA does for your career, but I do know what it does for your thought process. It makes you think and act jargonese. So, I decided to set myself a ‘stretch goal’. You don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to guess my ‘stretch goal’. I had decided to run a marathon.

I started some research. Most of you know that the best, only(?), research tool these days is called Google. In the best traditions of my Indian heritage, I prostrated myself at the altar of Google Devta; Google devta pointed to me some local running groups. However, there was a catch there – most of them were ‘run for XYZ charity’ groups. You are required to raise a certain amount of money for the charity – usually USD 5000. I do not have much confidence in my selling/ marketing skills – I cannot sell even the best made product, forget the shoddy product that most marketing professionals con you into buying (ouch!). The charities said that if there was a shortfall, then I could contribute the shortfall from my own funds. That clinched it for me - being lowly paid and also being a cheapskate made the decision very easy for me.

Back to Google again. I found a website which offered free training advice and training schedules. life was uneventful – work was based on a regular schedule, no traveling, no overtime, no ‘on call’ et al. So, training was regular and I made steady, if very slow progress. At the end of 2002, I could run(?) close to 3 miles, albeit at a very slow pace.

And then Murphy struck. I found a better job opportunity in Knoxville, Tennessee. Initially, it was designated as a short-term opportunity and I commuted to Knoxville every week. I stayed in a corporate apartment and drove back to Atlanta every Friday. I tried to run as much as I could but I didn’t have access to a gym and I tried to run on the road. One month of running on the road and my knees started to hurt. That, coupled with my weekly commute, totally wrecked my training schedule. Thankfully, within three months, my client decided to extend my contract and I decided to move to Knoxville. In June of 2003, we moved to Knoxville.

I had, earlier in the year, applied to run the New York Marathon. The New York marathon is held every year on the 1st Sunday of November. Because of the large number of potential participants, the organizers conduct a lottery.In June I was informed that I was one of the selected participants. The move to Knoxville put my training back on track, or, to be precise, back on the treadmill. But I had very little time left – the marathon was only 4 months away. And, I was still running only 4-5 miles a day, and a total of up to 20 miles per week. I had to go up to 35 miles per week. I continued my training as best as I could. Come October, and my longest run was still a meager 12 miles – with breaks for water, for Gatorade, to breathe! I had absolutely no hope of making the 20 mile long practice run before the marathon. The good thing, though, was that my speed had improved – I could run at a little over 5 mph, for 30 minutes continuously. I was hoping to complete the marathon in 5 hours – that’s what I had put on my marathon application. A marathoner reading this would have laughed at this claim/ hope.

My brother-in law, who is a talented young actor, came to visit us in October. I took a two-week break from training and we took a trip to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. After we came back, we took another week off to take in the local sights. Could I have done any better sabotaging my own training?

The Friday before the marathon, we started the long drive to New York – about 700 miles away. After an overnight stay with a friend in Washington DC, we got to our hotel in Rutherford, New Jersey with only an hour left for me to go to the race expo in the Jacob K Javits Convention Center in Manhattan to pick up my timing chip and my bus ticket. I had a car, but there was absolutely no way I could have made the 8 mile trip across the Lincoln Tunnel in less than 1 hour. We took a cab; our cab driver turned out to be a Polish immigrant with a PhD in Physics.

On race day I took the bus to get to the starting point on Staten Island. Staten Island was teeming with people. The marathon allows 37000 people; imagine that many people in one square mile, or even less! I felt like I was on Victoria Terminus or Mumbai Central! And guess who I came across? Fauja Singh, the 92 year old sikh marathoner! He started to run after the death of his wife and he ran his first marathon at the age of 89. This was his first, and turns out to be his only, marathon in America; he had a large team of much younger runners running with him. I had absolutely no relationship with him, apart from our shared Indian-ness (incidentally he was running on a British passport), but I felt incredibly proud of him; at the same time, I felt incredibly humbled.

The race started around 10:00 am. It took me about 10 minutes to reach/ cross the start line and then just a half-mile ahead was the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Going up the bridge, it felt like I was running the 14th or the 18th mile – such was my lack of training for hill runs. That meant that by the time I reached the top of the hill, the crowd had thinned and I had an almost free run downhill! The downhill run proved to be my downfall; once again my lack of hill running showed – I ran as fast as I could, and immediately pulled a hamstring. It wasn’t so bad that I fell down screaming or anything like that. It was more like a niggle, but it was bad enough to slow me down. Thoughts of pulling out crossed my mind, but were overpowered by the thought of not letting all the pain of the past year’s training go waste. I decided to continue; I was not even two miles into the marathon yet.

I do not remember much of the initial 7-8 miles of the marathon; I was still within my comfort zone and was intent on running. By this time, we were in Brooklyn and the crowds were out in full force. And the bands, too! The NYC marathon, over the years, has become an event and many bands provide live entertainment along the course of the marathon. The crowds and the bands took me through Brooklyn to Queens. I had done 12 miles now and was getting tired; my body was not responding to my brain! The crowds of spectators in Queens came to the rescue once again. The spectators there were wonderful. There was this old lady standing with plates and plates full of orange slices, there was another person with bananas, or there was another person with cookies. The ones who did not have any eatables still had their unlimited warmth and cheer to offer. There was this girl running next to me from the very beginning – she was wearing a t-shirt with her own name on it; the spectators could see her name clearly and kept cheering her on by name. That positively egged her on. I had laughed at her when I had seen her putting her name on her T-shirt, now I was envying her. The 16th mile got the marathon into Manhattan, but not before crossing the Queens Bridge. My feet felt like lead going up the bridge! The finish line was still miles away but Manhattan offered flat roads, with no more hills. It also offered large crowds – It was still early afternoon and the crowds were out in full force to egg us on. Two/ three miles into Manhattan and I hit the proverbial Wall! The wall is where your body’s store of energy runs out and you have to depend on your body’s stored fat to provide you with more energy. Stored fat I had in plenty, but I didn’t have the oxygen required to turn all that stored fat in to energy. I do not remember how I got into the Bronx and how I came back to Manhattan; my feet were refusing to move, my eyes were unfocused and my mind was wandering. However, coming back to Manhattan brought the finish line closer and I started to (try to) run again. By now the crowd of runners had thinned considerably and there were very few runners to run with. There was this 73-year old man running beside me – he was running his 17th New York marathon and his 43rd marathon overall! I ran with him for about 4 miles, and then I couldn’t keep up with him anymore. I focused on a group of Indians – three boys and a girl; they seemed to be office colleagues. The boys were tired too, but they were taking turns to cheer, and physically help, the girl on. I ran the last two miles with this group; by this time we had entered Central park where the marathon ends. The last two miles were a blur; and I somehow stumbled across the finish line!

I finished in 06:28:39 hrs, but my net time was 06:16:07! Remember the (almost) ten minutes that I took to cross the start line? The timing starts only when a runner crosses the start line. Of a field of 34729 finishers, I was the 33459th finisher; from a field of 23014 male finishers, I was the 22441st finisher. The person who came in first, ran the race in 2:10:30, almost three times faster than I did; I was placed in the 10th percentile. Yet, I felt proud of myself. Crossing the finish line/ running the marathon was not just a physically draining experience, it was a emotionally draining experience as well. I remember exiting Central Park and, not finding my wife and daughter at a first glance, across the waiting crowd, brought tears to my eyes. And then again, when my wife expressed her concern at my bloodied t-shirt (the shirt had chafed my nipples to the point of bleeding), that brought another round of tears.

The New York marathon is an experience I will forever cherish. New York is a truly incredible city. You can actually make do without knowing English in this truly multi-cultural city, not being white does not make you feel like an alien – the city welcomes all and sundry with open arms; not just for events like the marathon but at all times. Of course, you require a fat wallet to live in New York, only then you can get a taste of the ‘big apple’. But the marathon itself is something worth going back for. The people make you feel like a champion even though you know that you are dragging your feet, trying to put as many miles behind you as you can without falling down tired. And they do it in a manner which does not have a trace of condescension; the champion is greeted with the same enthusiasm as are the lowly finishers. If I get a chance, I’ll go run the New York Marathon again.

If you want to run the New York marathon, you can get more details at http://www.nycmarathon.org/. If you want to see some wonderful pictures of the marathon, especially of the runners on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Google will surely give you more than a handful of results.


Running the NYC marathon got me hooked on to running. For one, it gave me a new found respect amongst my peers, never mind the 06:16:07. I had achieved something that not everybody does. I had also gained some self-respect, but more importantly, I had started to see the health benefits from running. The aches and pains of advancing age were still there, but their frequency was coming down and the rate of fat gain had started to slow down.

I continued to run on and off, more on than off and every year I applied to run the NYC marathon again. It looks like my (eventually false) claim to run the marathon in 5 hours still rankles in the organizers’ (or their computers’) minds; for they have not given me another chance to run in the NYC marathon again. I decided to find another marathon closer home this time; and I chose to run in the Atlanta half-marathon on Thanksgiving.

My family and I moved back to Atlanta in December 2007. Ever since moving back I have been traveling every week to my work and joining a Gym for two maybe three days a week, and paying the dues for an entire month, has not appeared very attractive to me. These days I have become a road runner.

Road running is not as scary as many runners, non-runners and doctors make it out to be. I remember, one month on the road in Knoxville had started my knees paining. Now, I have been running on the roads for almost two years and I have been fine. Road running has its own benefits. For one, you can time your runs to coincide with the neighborhood hottie’s runs. This will definitely make you a faster runner; you will be forever running to catch up with her. Jokes apart (this phrase is actually a CYA phrase, just in case my wife is reading this), road running has resulted in an increase in my stamina and also I have gotten more used to running hills. Also, it has exposed me to the vagaries of the weather; this has had two benefits – one intended, the other unintended. First, I have gotten used to running in all kinds of weather, from the dog(jog?) days of summer to the balmy days of spring to the icy days of winter. Second, and this is more a psychological and a more personal thing, it has made me a more disciplined and regular runner. I get only two days a week to run on the road, the rest of the week I run on hotel treadmill. So, I run despite what the weather looks like. Only if it is raining like crazy do I not run out on the road.

Hotlanta summers are crazy; although they are no match for sub-Saharan Africa or even the summers of Delhi, they can still be brutal. Lowest morning temperatures can be as high as 74ºF and maximum day temperatures can go up to 100ºF. In the summer, Sirius, the ‘dog star’ rises and sets with the Sun. Sirius is the brightest star visible to the naked eye, and in the old days it was believed that its heat, added to the heat of the Summer Sun, is what resulted in the hot and sultry weather of July and August. Whatever! I do run like a dog during those months though. Tongue hanging out, panting for breath, looking for the closest tree! The brain gets foggy and I have really fought many battles in my mind on many summer morning runs asking myself if it is worthwhile to die every day before death actually comes to you. On the other hand, winter runs are fun. The mind is perfectly clear and I can run for miles and miles without a drop of water with nary a bad thought crossing my mind. In fact, on some of those runs my mind (the space between the ears, you know) has been so clear that I can actually feel the wind whistling through it!

The fact that the weather would be more conducive to running on Thanksgiving in late November was a major reason for me to choose this marathon. I was at such a juncture in my training schedule that I could run the half-marathon without disruption to my training schedule. I applied to run the half-marathon. I am running approximately 35 miles per week these days, with my long runs hovering at 10-11 miles. My average time per mile in the summers was 10 minute per mile going up to 11 minutes per mile for the longer distances.

The Atlanta Track Club, that organizes the Atlanta marathon and half-marathon, has a very useful tool for prospective runners – the pace teams and practice pace runs. They had a practice pace run scheduled for 3 weeks before the marathon. The pace groups are for different times, based on your anticipated time to complete. I chose the 2:15 pace team, hoping to complete the half-marathon at an average speed of 10 minutes per mile. The pace run was my first opportunity, outside of an actual race, to run in a large group. The pace run was for 11 miles and part of it was along the actual course of the half-marathon. I did complete the pace run in the 1:50 that I was hoping to complete it in. I was as ready for the big day as I could be.

On the day of the race, I reached the starting point much before the scheduled start at 7:00 am. It was quite cold – around 38ºF and it was the best temperature to run in. But the start was still about an hour away, and I joined almost 2-3000 of the participants inside a Wal-Mart, close by, trying to stay warm. The Atlanta half-marathon has a staggered start, with the participants divided into groups based on their anticipated finish times. I was in the group expecting to complete in 2:15. I crossed the start line at around 7:10 am, and straightaway ditched my pace team. Much of the initial course was flat or slightly downhill, I ran the first seven miles faster than my pace group.

Thanksgiving is a major festival/ holiday in the USA and the environment was suitably festive. Most of the course ran through a mix of business and residential areas and there was a small crowd of spectators all along the way. Many of them held up posters encouraging their friends/ family members but they were nice enough to cheer on most other runners as well. There was no one to cheer me on, but I was doing well for myself - I had trained well, I had done hills, I had done long runs – I was feeling on top in this half-marathon. In fact, I tried to pull some of the people I was passing to run along with. Some of them practically asked for it – like there was this girl whose T-shirt read “If not for me, who’d you pass?” I gave her company for two minutes, and then I passed her. Or, there was this bald man whose T-shirt read “Go, Bald Guy, Go”. Then there was this young man whose shirt read “I haven’t really stolen anything, I am just running a marathon”. Then there was this old man whose shirt said ‘I’m slow, get over it”. There were many more, but I don’t remember more. What I do remember is that most of them brought a smile onto the face and/ or engendered a sense of community. You don’t know the person running along with you but you feel a sense of kinship, maybe just because of the singularity of purpose. If you have been on a trip to Vaishno Devi, you’ll probably have had that experience – everybody has the same purpose; and you can feel somebody else’s pain because you are yourself going through it.

I crossed the finish line in 2:11:42 – 42 seconds off my target of 10 minutes per mile. 8581 runners finished the half-marathon; I was finisher number 4958. Of the 4313 men to finish the race, I was finisher #3020. I was not in the bottom 10th percentile! And the top finisher was only 2 times as fast as me.

I felt good after completing this half-marathon; I had made progress! Next target, a full marathon in March! In a time below 04:30:00. After a week of rest, I am back running on the road. If any of you would like to give me company, I’d welcome the opportunity.