(Again from the desk, just a couple of days ago. Disclaimer, after I wrote this, they actually took us on a very long city tour, and yes, it is rich historically, no doubt).
The German city I find myself in since yesterday is called Potsdam. Familiar to keen readers of world history as the place of the Potsdam Conference at the end of World War II, though, for some strange reason, this is not a matter that comes up in average German discussions regarding the city. Although everyone insists that it is a historical and cultural hub, at first glance it feels slightly gritty, and the large construction crew next to our hotel does not help much in changing that image.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day’s meetings, a bunch of guys and I stepped out of the hotel to a square, with a nice fountain & lots of music and filled to the brim with people in sports outfits. I was salivating thinking about a possible race when one of the guys, who speaks fluent German, asked someone, and found that indeed, there was a race on!
We wound through a bunch of people, walked into a school (called the Einstein Gymnasium!!), registered me, paid up the requisite 15 Euros, got me a t-shirt and bib, and a running chip (!), and I returned to my room to change. Back at the location again, my brown skin and pink shirt (of course I wore my usual Asics running shirt and not their cotton one), sort of conspicuous amidst all the (very tall) German people milling around. I sent the guys off to do their thing, set the watch on Chrono, and before I knew it, we were off.
The Park Sanssouci is a three minute walking distance from the Hotel. I had discovered its many pleasures – interminable steps, leafy arches, fountains, plenty of quiet (aside from chirping birds) paths – early this morning, running here and there and everywhere while two of my (sane) friends walked around wearing their sweaters.
Naturally, come evening, my legs were not particularly in the mood for a run. But the race was for 7.2 km – four rounds of 1.8 km each – 1.8km being called a Prussian Mile, for some reason that we did not understand. The announcements were all in German. I relied on my gut feel that Germans, if not anyone else in the world, would start a race on time – it was scheduled for 8 pm, and after eating a large banana, I reached there at 7:30 pm, well in time.
People would look sideways at me and then glance away. I tried to be nice. I tried to smile but it rarely worked. I soon gave up and decided to concentrate on running, after all, that was my primary purpose of being there, not to fraternise. The first round was not very comfortable, I ran it in 9:15. The next three rounds felt a bit better, I suppose not really knowing the running route can be a bit of a psyching factor in a race. I finished finally in 39:34; which is about 3+ mins less than I anticipated, so I was pretty happy. My legs were a bit off from the jet-lag, the morning run, the slight stress about my morning presentation, and I was a fair bit hungry. Besides, I never like the evening runs much. Nevertheless, an opportunity I would not have missed out on!
Everyone at the conference is now thoroughly convinced of my craziness. My German-speaking friend was sweet enough to wait for me at the finish, walk back to the hotel with me, convince them to give me a bit of pasta (the buffet was removed by the time I showed up), and hang out while I ate. This race, not that it was spectacular in terms of my performance or anything (I think I did the 8 km in campus last semester in 40mins), I dedicate to him, denizen of beautiful campus in South Mumbai.
Back in the room, washed the clothes, switched on the football, and spent a few minutes thinking and missing my little girl immensely. In a way it is a good thing this, that love is sort of immutable and unchangeable and is unaffected by external forces. Or maybe it is not love but just stupidity. Anyhow, I am counting the hours....