Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why do I Run?

Many of us are at that age where we “feel” that our best is past us and the so called vestiges of old age are beginning to creep in. We hear of someone in our known circles being detected with a lifestyle related ailment and think “Oh, but he or she is only XX years!”. Some of us remember our early days when we were thinner, fitter and generally more active. We make resolutions on New Years, Birthdays, Anniversaries and all other such occasions about working on our fitness and staying healthy. Sometimes we follow it through but mostly the rigour of daily routine and the demands of our professional and personal lives take a toll and the resolution becomes just a paper exercise.

Why did I start running? I was never into running, not even as a child. I have played cricket, some amount of football, badminton and the usual games children normally play but running, never ever. I was present at school track and field events but only in the audience. All through my growing years, the only running I did was to catch the bus or the train. Then came the first Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon in the year 2004. Surrounded and mesmerised by the hype, I went for the event – but again as part of the audience. The huge crowds, the carnival-like atmosphere and the enthusiasm levels were so infectious that I found myself part of a huge group of “runners” in the Dream Run (7.5 kms then) category in the second version of SCMM in 2005. Suffice it to say, enthusiasm was one thing and actually finishing 7.5 kms was another and the next day found me unable to move a muscle without groaning. But the seed had been planted and year after year, I took part in the Dream Run till the year 2010. That year, the crowd participating in the Dream Run was overwhelming – one could not run at all, it was more like getting in and out of a crowded local train at peak hours. On whim, I decided that I wanted no more of this and that the next year, I would take part in the half-marathon. And from there it continued.

With that background, why do I run? What makes me wake up at a god forsaken early hour and drag myself out? This is it as I see it:

-      The most basic of reasons, it helps keep me on my feet and fit and builds my endurance

-      Running is one of the few times I get to be really alone, something really needed

-      A long run is one of the few places in life where you are not competing with anyone but your own self

-      It gives me a chance to breathe easy, I mean really breathe easy

-      You automatically belong to a band of brothers (and sisters) who may be vastly different from you in real life but out there, you just run

-      You get to look up to and get inspired by some truly fantastic people

-      It makes me treat my body better and not abuse it with unhealthy food or unnecessary strains

-      While this may sound filmi, running helps me find myself and takes me where I would not usually go

-      Running is pure, it is untainted; it makes me be a better person and helps me reach out to others as well

-      Running takes me from strength to strength – makes me feel I can do anything. I had never in my wildest dreams thought I could last 10 kms, forget 21 km!

-      Off late, it has helped my introduce people I care about to the joys of running and that in itself a high that can never fail

-      A marathon (or half) is a analogy for a good life lived; there are moments of pure bliss, then those of doubt, pain and even despair but at the end, when you finish you feel it was all worth it

-      Most marathons support some charity or the other so it is also a way to give something back to the needy

-      Running teaches me to fight through obstacles and not just let things go

-      It pushes me to take myself seriously, take myself head on and beat myself the next time round

-      During a marathon, there are moments of self doubt where you may feel like you’re done and then that one cheer or shout out from someone unknown can pull you up and help you sail through

-      The high you get from finishing a marathon can only be believed if experienced once

-      And last but not the least, I run to tell my disbelieving body that I can and I will.

Each one of us has different reasons for running. Some of us more than the others. The point is, when we are all out there, pounding the pavement or roads or tracks or wherever we are, we are all in the same single-mindedness and purity that running brings. So, why do YOU run? 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy Birthday, T!

We all have people in our lives who by there being there and not being there leave a profound impact on it, both positively and negatively. Ultimately it is up to each one of us as to how to react to this. The most obvious influences come from our parents as they not only pass on their traits and characteristics but also their way of thinking explicitly and implicitly. Another, not so obvious, influence is that of grandparents. I believe I will not be wrong if I state each and every one of us have a special place for our grandparents in our hearts, both paternal and maternal. Due to the societal norms we Indians follow, a majority of us would have definitely lived with our paternal grandparents for at least some part of their growing up years.

While my paternal grandfather passed away much before my parents even married, I was lucky enough to have lived of all the first 22 years of my life with my grandmother who, unusually enough, I used to call by her first name T. This continues right from the time I started speaking till she passed away in 1999 and even today, in my thoughts she is still T. While I have countless memories about her, what follows in no particular order are things about her which remain and will always be imprinted in my heart forever.

·         When I was just 4, refusing to go out with my parents when they went to a friend's party / wedding, preferring instead to stay at home with T. Spending time in a make-believe airplane that was taking us to America. Me asking her if she would like to eat something on the flight - assuring her that she could get anything she liked, I only had to tell the "air-hostess".

·         Being petrified of Rang Panchami during Holi and her hiding me behind her saree’s pallu when any of my friends came home to forcibly apply colour on me.

·         Listening to the many stories she used to narrate to my younger brother and me (us listening open-mouthed) and then pestering her to repeat a particular one after having just heard it from her anyway. And her obliging us each time.

·         Her crocheting beautiful pieces using wool with those long crocheting needles. In the later years, her carefully saving all the plastic bags that the groceries came in, cutting them into strips and using them instead of wool to make just as beautiful doilies. These are still there in the homes of most of my aunts and uncles and our houses and are used to cover telephones or as table mats.

·         The distinctive sound her slippers used to make as she walked around the house.

·         Her perfectly draped sarees and neatly tied hair.

·         Sleeping adjacent to her at night all throughout with one loosely linked through hers – her sometimes patting me to sleep.

·         Her reading of the Marathi newspaper Loksatta on a daily basis through her thick glasses and then in the later years, also using a magnifying glass to make the letters appear even clearer.

·         Her concern for the health of all of us at home and the home remedies she was master of.

·         The tough life she led; from losing her husband, seeing a lot of hard days but doing everything possible to ensure that her children never suffered, a trait she passed on to all her children and all this without losing the smile on her face and her trust in the almighty about never forsaking them ever.

·         Her weathering some turbulent days with her usual fortitude over certain family issues which seem trivial in the longer scheme of things.

·         Her habit of carefully preserving greetings cards, wedding invitations and hand-made gifts given to her by her loved ones.

·         The patience with which she handled these two extremely hyper-active grandsons.

·         How she could turn out the most delicious traditional dishes and make us lick our fingers after eating and always want more.

·         Her going to sit in the building compound most evenings with her “friends”.

·         Her being able to actually treat her daughters-in-law feel more like daughters and always supporting them in any way possible to her.

·         How all my friends would love her after having met her just once and get drawn to her warm, gentle and loving demeanour.

·         Loving to listen to her reminisce about the days gone by and the incidents she recollect from a long while ago like the

·         How she used to nurse me back to health along with my mother when I used to be delirious with high fever.

·         Her mock irritation when my brother used to tease her.

·         The way she used to pronounce certain words.

·         Her extremely warm persona that radiated all around her in spite of her simplicity.

·         Her pride in her children and even more so her grandsons and granddaughters on their every achievement, big or small.

When it is about T, I can go on and on but then this would have to be a book. I cried very bitterly and developed a temperature when she left us to go to her heavenly abode in April 1999. Life was never the same again. Having said that, I have never really had to miss her as I have been extremely fortunate to feel her by my side every waking moment. In fact, there are times when I see her in my dad. Today is her birthday. While there is no such milestone required to say something which I am sure she realizes, I will still take this chance and say “I love you, T!” I hope I have lived up to any aspirations you had from me and that I have grown into at least a quarter of the human being you were. Though knowing you, you would still be biased and say you don’t expect anything at all. Happy birthday!