Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Day Run

We had to rush off to Mysore for a couple of days. Our plan for this year was to NOT GO ANYWHERE. Seriously, it was even on some planner/agenda thing of my husband. To SPEND ALL DECEMBER in Chennai. Because the weather is good (like, heavenly, by Chennai standards). Travelling during December is hellish with all the crowds and the potential for flu and germs. There is the music season which we always miss by our foolishness. In short, December is the best month in Chennai. Plus there is the small tiny matter of my marathon coming up soon. I figured I ought to be in serious training for it and not wasting energy gallivanting. I mean, every single year we would go away during December and although I was really 'only' training for a half marathon those years, things would get screwed up. Or so it felt. So mainly, I didn't want to go anywhere because I wanted to concentrate on my training runs & workouts...

Of course, all best laid plans... We had to go home, for at least a couple of days, to pay respects to one of my aunts who just lost her husband after a bit of a hospital sojourn. I tried to not to analyse it too much. Its a good thing to do. I packed both my asics and my vibrams. Of course we were at a christmas/birthday party the evening before we were to head out. Of course. I had to wake up early and pack. The monster developed a nice phlegmy cough for the occasion. I retorted by having a nasty headache and my period began somewhere near Krishnagiri.

We got home on Saturday, dog tired I mean, I don't even drive on these long ones. And our car is not some old thing with its suspension shot or anything. Its super big and nice and comfy, and well, German. Got to generally love German engineering. Nevertheless, super tired. And DAYAHM. Its freezing cold there. I was ready for it, sort of. Packed two sweatshirts & my trusted green sweater and all the possible jackets and things the monster owns. But so cold there!

I told my mum that I would run the next day, but not early morning. Usually when I visit, I wake up at 5:15 - 5:20 and get ready so I can leave with her at 5:45 or so when she heads off on her morning walk. I walk a bit with her till I warm up and then start running on that trail there. That was too difficult to anticipate this time. I slept in nicely till like 7 am and found to my surprise, that my husband woke up and wanted to go with me. Mum takes her weekly exercise break on Sundays so she was home. With the monster asleep.

Off we went, blowing hot breath smoke out and wearing sweatshirts. I chose my asics. We ran steadily for about 20 mins. Couple of miles. We were on the trail by then. Its really an awesome trail right around the lake there. But the problem is that its only about 4 km long. Which means its not ideal for longer runs. Nevertheless, I stuck at it and the husband chose to hang back and run:walk for a bit. I was warm by the time I hit 10km... I ran in the opposite direction so I could catch up with him. I was wearing my fuel belt and had a Gu. But he didn't want anything. When the hour was up he took off home and I continued on my way.

I was super bored of the trail by then. So I went on the roads. I am a local gal, thankfully, so wasn't bothered by the stares. I mean, not many women run on the roads there, and that fuel belt thing does look weird. I have to pull it down over my ass every few minutes as it rides up. Plus I was coughing a bit (the monster like coughing in my face - just to test out my immunity I guess). And blowing my nose on a little blue towel periodically. But the roads are so damn beautiful. And the trees, are awesome. By then, I was thankful for the coolness, everything was gunning well. Usually I suffer from the elevation - its at 700m above MSL (Garmin says). & I have been training at 0 for ever now. And there are climbs, a fair number of them. Not hills, per se, but climbs anyhow, and my legs don't like climbs. So my pace is generally a bit off compared to my Chennai ones, but this time around, it was pretty good.

I went into my high school. I muttered something to the security guard and oh! the memories it brought back. I used to go all out at the beginning. I really was a sprinter, 200m was too long for me. But I insisted on running the 400 & 800 as well, if the numbers allowed it. I did that little 800m stretch we used to do. I forgot to check on the Eucalytus trees that line one side of this route. But I was so peaceful and happy running there. I was sure glad I didn't succumb to my laziness and return home when my husband did! (For him, it was a long enough run as his upcoming race is a 10k in February & not a monster of a 42k in January!).

I returned home having not even touched the Gu over the course of my 19km. I could have gone longer, I swear. I stopped because I returned to the road mum's place is on and and went back and forth a couple of kms after that but its really boring to go back out again. I came in all energetic for some dosas (mum makes the best dosas!), and discovered that it was Christmas! It was a good Christmas gift for me to have my husband get out there and run my favourite little trail with me, for at least a bit! As an added bonus he took back my nasty sweaty sweatshirt so I could run the rest of the distance unencumbered...

It was a peaceful trip overall, if physically a bit draining. Aunt seemed to be holding up okay. My sis and family came over as well. And the kids went nuts playing, which was awesome. Mum seemed fine. We made a lot of noise and I brought back a bunch of my dad's chemistry books. I also found a pile of my certificates and shiz like that. That was a bit sad and happy. I will never break my own personal bests at the short distances - I mean the track distances - 100, 200, 400, or 800m. Nope, thats done. But its enough to know I was there back then, it gives me hope for the new venture I am taking up in 2012...

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Girl Power!

I reached school a little early this afternoon. I was in the area having lunch with a girl-friend and as always I over-estimated traffic etc. and reached well in time. I have not been picking the monster back from school too often these days since her father is entrusted with that one now. It was my most hated task anyhow so was always happy to hand the reins over, albeit temporarily, to someone else. So today it came back to me.

The weather is not bad now so it was not as awful as usual. I sat down in the helpfully provided benches - just for us early birds I guess. The school phases out the release of the troops. Each higher class comes out 10 mins later. You know. Like that. So the kids I was looking at were in 1st, 2nd standard, I guess.

Two boys came out. Ennada Loosu type conversations ensued. They all looked like someone dragged them through a trash can, or mud or something. They were joined by a few other boys also with a thin film of dust about themselves. One took off a belt. The others promptly followed suit. They hit each other. Then screamed a bit. The security guy yelled at them. Then came and took the belts away. Next they (or it could have been some other boys, I am not sure) tried to lick, and then scrape, and then climb a tree that was there. Soon a small piece of chalk was released and they drew doodles on the school sign board in yellow. What man. What are you saying man. etc.

I moved to the side a bit, as it was finally time for my monster to emerge. There about ten boys were playing a game involving: running back and forth, tripping each other and any small adults in the vicinity, flailing arms and legs about with intention to hit and injure (children/small adults), kicking up dust, yelling, swinging lunch baskets, and stomping. I cowered in the corner till one of the class mommies found me and rescued me.

The monster emerged and then headed back into school. I had to run after her and catch her near the gate. She gave me a smile - she was also covered in dust- but at least she was not saying What Man. Or playing one of those games. She was looking at higher altitudes - searching for her other parent. But I tell you. I was glad when she took my hand in hers and guided me out through the crowd. "Just push them back Amma, that is the only way" she advised me when I complained about kids stepping on my toes, poking their elbows in my ribs, and generally being all in my face. 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Blue Screen

"Amma your laptop has gotten the blue screen" the monster screams periodically. She uses my old Vaio sometimes. To do 'HeyMath' - no, I don't know what that means. She was also diligently doing the math olympiad e-quiz for a couple of weeks. I thought it was kind of nice that they were putting up new questions every day. But also kind of not nice that for 8 year olds they would have a lucky draw for the prizes. I never win in lucky draws, ever. And nor did my baby. I think its because in parts of life that really matter, I am very lucky. My family. My health. Stuff like that.

Anyway usually its not really the blue screen. Its the booting up process still or its something thats actually blue - like a desktop photo or whatever. Of course I freak out big time if I get the blue screen, the monkey, she knows that. In passing, she also accused me of hanging on my laptop way more than actually reading, of late. While trying to convince me that she loves books more than I do. And such like.

I went to an evening meeting last week, at work. I could've just stayed back at the office. But I made a presentation in the afternoon and as a consequence was sweating big time. I couldn't stand it any longer. So as day turned to dusk, I returned home. Which was good because I had to do some work towards her Tamil Cycle Test. I know my mum never really sat down with me for school work. Nor did my dad, in fact, and it was only later on that I would go ask him my Chemistry doubts (and yes, he was painful at those times - never just giving me the answer - always making me bring him his fat books and trying to make me pore over irrelevant pieces of it). But thats cool. I like school work. I like groping around half-blind in Tamil trying to make sense. I do severe pattern match when I write down questions for her to write answers to, as my spelling sucks. As does my vocabulary, pronunciation, enunciation, and pretty much every other aspect you can think of.

I drove myself to the campus after the studying. I found a cool thing - you can go on moving through FM channels so that throughout your commute you can listen to Kolaveri Di - like umpteen times. I know that damn thing by heart now. Reached there just in the nick of time. Encountered a few of my colleagues at the entrance - we were supposed to meet with some of the bigwigs. One of them, he is a good friend. We have run together in the past. Our kids are the same age. We have some collaborations, research-wise. But I haven't met him recently, thats for sure. But for a long time, I was staring at him, saying hello and asking the right questions, I had no idea what his name was. I blanked out. You know I have buckets I put people in in my stupid head. So I knew the bucket he was in (you don't want to know). But his name? Just was NOT showing up in the brain ticker. Till like an hour into the meeting when suddenly it popped up inside a pink coloured balloon.

The lady who sweeps my office, she is one of my friends at work. She has many complaints about her family. She constantly tells me to go have a second child. We obviously talk often, although many a time I am deep inside my laptop, at my desk when she is walking around me chatting. Its not a real excuse - that I was proofing some papers - but I called her Saroja like five times. Saroja is my house-maid person. Super scary woman she is. Big-sized with big bindis and a big voice and so on. And this lady is like 'Its ok madam doesn't matter' when I apologised. I should have hidden under the desk or something.

I get in several fights with my husband because I just don't remember things. Of course he forgets things too but manages to bluster his way through them. When I forget something, I unashamedly accept that I have forgotten and apologise profusely for it. I don't think I can help it. Its NOT a testament to the importance (or lack thereof) of that thing. Its just that I am losing grey matter. As are you. I of course apologise for the fact that I have completely and thoroughly forgotten you - though I travelled to a conference with you (apparently) and we hung out and shared many a laugh (apparently). Of course I feel bad about it. But not too bad because, you know what? I cannot help it. Its my blue screen moment. And it WAS 11 years ago...

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Eat, Fatso!

One of my friends loves those episodes from the TV show where Monica is super fat. He insists that I am going to be like that sometime in the future. It used to scare me a bit when I was in my twenties. But after I was pregnant and had the child and then am what I am right now, it just sounds very funny! I am (reasonably) confident that I can never get that fat by just eating. But the reason he would say that all the time was this - I have a high rate of metabolism, and a small appetite. This means I am hungry often. He is a big huge monster of a guy (if you are reading this, you know I totally mean to mention the size of your jeans here, but because I am a nice girl, I am not. So there), and can survive on like one meal a day. So when we hang out, its like I am hungry all the time and he is just sitting there like a lump making fun of how all my eating will make me fat Monica fat some day....

In recent times, this metabolic rate problem is compounded by my running. If I run in the morning, which I do most days now, I am SUPER hungry through the day. That breakfast, lunch, evening snack - these things had better be forthcoming, or else... So now my colleagues are also making jokes about me. Because I bring a three tier lunch dabba carrier thing sometimes, and one of the tiers has a massive amount of curd rice in it.. (So sue me).

This past Sunday, with the food at the end in mind, a bunch of us signed up for one of those running things you hear about. The person who started it last year said that everyone will run from Chennai to Mahabalipuram - a distance of 50 km. People would finish at a resort there, clean up, eat the buffet breakfast, and his car would bring everyone back to base. Now, they did that last year and enjoyed it and decided to institutionalise it. But a few of us who are still a bit timid about that distance complained.

So here is what we did. We drove to the Uthandi toll booth and parked there. A handful of really super awesome nice folks brought their cars with gatorade and bananas and offered to 'crew' for us ingrates. They weren't going to run. I managed to find a blue coloured, 5 foot tall thing that turned out to be a bathroom (Indian style). Uff. Then we all started running the 30 km route from the toll booth to the Radisson place in Mahabalipuram.

For December, it became a super hot day once the sun came out (We started at 5:30 am; while the real men started at 3:30 am from Alwarpet). So when we all staggered into the Radisson and were garlanded (!) by the meeter-greeter lady there, we were dead. But it was still fun! Ice buckets for soaking the feet and tons of sweet nimbu paani happened. Shower. Then.. Ta..Da... BUFFET BREAKFAST!!

I pigged out on eggs, dosa, vada, chutneys, upma, juice, yogurt, coffee, and fruit. After every round I said 'The beast is not satiated' Finally, the beast was semi-satiated and I was afraid I might throw up in the car if I ate any more so I got up and squeezed into the car for our return trip back. The homies were watching TV so I pythoned out in front myself. Then I ate sambar rice and curd rice for lunch.

"Whats this Kenny?" my husband asked me later that day. It turned out to be the giant pot belly I had acquired from eating. "My lower abs" I assured him as I mentally swore to increase the intensity on my core workouts this week. Damn it, whats the point of running like a banshee if it will only make me fat Monica fat? Dammit. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Some things never change!

It was in Rochester, NY. Damn that cold place. I really don't know how I could contemplate such a move - from Chennai to Rochester? I mean, what was I really thinking? I did have a good year there, lets say, but I was real glad to move on from there... to anywhere, really. Even if it was only a slightly less cold place. I guess I can blame the fact that I was so young that I was utterly clueless about such things as weather. In India, we don't worry much about the weather. Its there. We deal with it. Growing up in beautiful Mysore, all I had to make sure of was that I had my raincoat with me those few months when it might rain. Not that I minded getting wet, my mum did, and would give me hell if I dripped in. In the 'winter' months - again on mum's goading - I might wear a sweater if I found one lying around. Early morning training runs in December in Chennai, I used to zip up the matching sweatshirt for my pants...

But Rochester. Damnation! I was so cold that year, all the time. I started being cold in September, and in March when all the undergrad girls started appearing in their spagetti strap outfits and spring flower dresses, I was still cold. I earned my name that year. Thanks to that jacket (oversized) that I wore all the time, with the hood up and tied under my chin. I looked terrible, but hey, it was so... cold... I just couldn't deal with it. In fact, in all my seven years in cold climes, I could never really manage to be comfortable...

(Yes, I am still like that. Nowadays I feel cold in Mysore).

I was thinking about something else from my Rochester days though. I was in my first semester there. This is back during the age of the Woolly Mammoth and the Sabre-Toothed Tiger, right. In other words, my machine was an apple mac with that tiny little screen - anyone remember those? I would stare intently at that screen for hours on end. I developed the reputation of being able to write really long emails, in those days. No one could keep up with me. Although I think I used to still call it 'Electronic Mail' - because you know, I am a geek like that.

John Ofori showed up one day. John is awesome. I thought he was a god (I don't think it anymore, thank heavens!). He corrected my homework sheet and handed it back to me. I had done well, he said it was pretty good. I was not like proud or anything. It was Math. Linear algebra. I had that stuff down pat (have forgotten a lot of it, but back then, I was taking notes in this beautifully crisp paper with this nice pen and I got a beautiful homework sheet to solve every week - it was just awesome). He asked me about how my code was working out. Okay, I said. Showed him couple of problems I was having.

Thats when he told me to shut the email window down. Huh, I remember saying. Email was my thing. It was the best thing that happened to me. I could type out my gazillion words a day and send it over to my three or four good friends. I was experimenting with saying 'luv' instead of 'love' (How I cringe now, in 2011, after a movie has been made with that spelling. The only consolation I have is that I did NOT invent it). It was the awesomest thing ever. And John, is asking me to close up my email window? Why, but why? I wailed.

You are distracting yourself with that stuff. You ought to concentrate on the code, he told me. He had a very crisp, non-American way of speaking. And because he was god (or so I thought), I did not dispute him. I tried very hard to not have my email and work windows open simultaneously. I emailed when I was taking a break, once or twice a day. I did not obsessively check for new mail. I concentrated on work. It lasted..a..week. I was still a bit embarrassed if I was caught out by someone, with the email window open (people used some shitty email program then. what was it called? lynx? no, that was a browser. shit. can't remember, but it was a really bad email thing, I swear, and lynx was also horrid).

I get extra RAM on my machines these days. I have, any point of time, at least two browsers open. Each browser window has email, facebook, a few web-sites I happen to be reading. I have office programs open at whatever documents I am working on. I have adobe of course, 'cause I am always reading (or hoping to read) journal articles. Facebook is really annoying because of the chat thing that I hate to do so I get rid of that pretty fast. But the rest of the stuff is just always there. Music sometimes too... Oh yeah, two browsers because I use two gmail accounts. In addition to my work email thing.

I am sorry John. I have let you down. I parallel process like its going out of style. I constantly interrupt myself and make myself super inefficient at everything. I read emails in the middle of a paragraph about propane combustion. I even *gasp* *shudder* write this blog while simultaneously making that .ppt for next week.

Oh well....

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Miles to go...

The semester has ground to a halt. I cannot believe how fast it has gone. At the same time, as I put my mind back to the beginning of this semester, it feels like it was an age away. So much has happened in this semester! I really wish the mind were sharper so it could hold on to all those memories, carefully. Part of the reason I maintain this little journal here is that at least, I can read my own archives (seriously, do you guys do that? Or am I the only idiot who does that?) and figure out some of it. I know, I know, that many times there are entire paragraphs in my posts that make no sense. And always, the title of my post has no particular relevance to the material inside it. But it fits in my head, most of the time, and therefore I soldier on, typing words fast as the brain can come up with them...

I taught an elective course this semester. I swore to myself that I would stick to my guns and do 'stuff' with the course. I usually have this crazy enthusiasm for my students and the class material, and even chalk and dusters, at the beginning of a semester. Half-way through, I lose it - feel deflated. Each semester, each class, the experience is slightly different, but also slightly the same. It starts with a week or so when I am busy with other obligations. A paper to submit, conference to attend, something at home, whatever. There is always something going on in the student's schedule at this exact time. A couple of 'loose' classes - unstructured - and I have lost them. Of course many a time, despite my continued involvement and tightening, I lose them. Its a look in the eye. A glaze, if you will. I get thoroughly pained when the glaze shows up. I can virtually feel myself slurring and also responding with my own glazed eye, when that happens. The mid-distance stares, the lack of coherent eye contact, it all goes downhill from there. 

Of course I blame them. How can it be my fault? I mean, come on. I am all that and a bag of chips, aren't I? Well, I cannot seriously convince myself of this so I try to square my shoulders and kick it up a notch. If I am not super busy otherwise, I can get it all back under control, at times. At other times, it doesn't work, and then you have to just let the semester finish and bury the experience in the six-foot-deep hole of bad semesters past, and move on. 

After a long time, this time, I managed to hold on till the end. I felt sprightly as I walked into class. There were a couple of days - I was sick one day, I had a crazy set of things going on early November, lot of shit did hit the fan at various points or time - but it was fine, manageable. We had a session at the end of the semester for some evaluation, and I was super surprised at how well that went. As was I at the exam performance (I had only 1 exam this whole course, which was probably a great idea, all things considered).  I even managed to update the course blogpage the day before the final - I usually have lost enthu completely by that time, as have the kids, and the 'final summary' that I plod on and do for the sake of completeness, is a bunch of squiggles on the blackboard that I draw up based on notes I put together in the absolute late minute possible. 

Maybe I revel in a situation where I am over-extended. When several funding proposals remains on my desk for minor edits, emails marked unread accumulate in my inbox, races have to be organised at the peak of Chennai monsoons, visits to hometown have to be managed in the middle of the semester, somehow, training for  the races have to go on unabated, the monster has a billion things that I have to help her keep track of, vegetables have to be bought every other day, floor tiles for the new house have to be looked at innumerable times, oh forget it, the list is too long. 

It was all fun while it lasted. As always, I have emerged just happy to have survived everything. I look forward to a few weeks of catching up on all those untouched proposals and reviews and stuff, and then the New Year! This 2012, I have resolved to make resolutions. So, watch out for that! 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Food, Dreams, etc.

Over the years we have pondered long over why the monster is as she is about eating. I have hidden away Dr. Spock because its so painful to read what he has to say, realise that I have tried that stuff, and been grossly unsuccessful at it. I recall snippets of conversations with non-desi mothers about the ridiculousness of the desi-mom, and cringe. Of course, bottom-lines out like this. I was (am) like that about food. Its just that my innate sense of duty & responsibility have forced me to change (a bit) in recent times. Also, once I felt like the kitchen was my own and married a man who loved the food I cook, things changed a bit mentally. I cannot blame her, much. Its clear. She has my very absurd relationship with food.  Except for a couple of quirks, which are from her father. The monster. Had to get the worst from both of us. Bloody damn genes, crossing, dna strands. Don't have any idea of how to optimise.

Despite that, last night, I think I was in what can only be termed 'food coma.' I ran a monstrously long run on Saturday. Usually, the craving to eat grossly unhealthy stuff post long run can be high. I managed to eat fairly well and clean all Saturday. I even just sipped on a single, small, solitary beer and left the spirits portion of my unhealthy eating, at that. Likewise Sunday lunch. Homemade, not even super spicy. So, last night when we went to Cream Center, it was like I had to make up for all that. Chana Bhatura as big as the sun, anyone? With little bit of help from others, I managed to eat it, gulp down my iced tea (damn them for adding sugar in it... thats just nasty, folks...). Huge sigh of relief when we returned home and I changed into loose clothes!

Went to bed still a bit in that comatose state. I remember groaning a bit. Damn, its rare that I do such things. I mean, feel bad when I lie down to sleep because of food? Ugh. I had worn a sari, and jewelry as we had to go someplace that required me to look decent, before the dinner thing. Post a very hurried Kenpo (thats some sort of cardio kick-boxing thing) workout, I showered, put on my sari and some random bits of jewelry, and we took off. It was as usual a big tearing hurry. Plus, I was thinking about grad school because of my last blog post, and so on. So, thence, I guess the dream.

I was wearing a yellow-ish sari. I was in Massachusetts, probably Amherst. The sari was troubling me a lot (as was the blue one I wore last night). The reason was that the fit of the blouse was incorrect (which was the problem last night as well). And yes, don't tell me that its because of the increased running mileage. I am in denial about the fact that I might lose some weight/inches as I train for the big'un in January. Denial. I decided to fix the sari by going into a bathroom (only in the dream. In reality, the monster wanted to pee so I took her, and left my sari alone, despite the temptation to tinker with it). I went in the (dream) bathroom and it was the one in my office in Amherst, more or less. By this time my sari was really troublesome, but I decided I needed to pee first. I went in and found that all the stalls were missing toilet paper. I vaguely presume that this is based on my feeling that all the economy falling thingammijig is going to affect me in this manner. By the lack of T.P. in public restrooms (!). Anyway, I cursed. The economy. The University Admin for this cost-cutting measure. The public since one of the stalls was naaaasssstyyy. The sari as I could not fix it too well and had to deal with the poofy bits on the sides which I hate. My body for looking too thin in the mirror after I was done...  (the monster did not exist as yet, the year the dream was set in, else, I could have blamed her for something at least. the monster, who has the day off from school today because of the rain (!)...)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tunnel, light, etc.

Through the arduous years of my Phd, I would tell myself. 'Kenny, there is light, at the very end of the tunnel, but light there is, nevertheless.' With hindsight, I know that it wasn't as difficult as I made it out to be in my own head. I have the 'necessary qualities' - always did. Aptitude, attitude, needn't say more. So, it was, really, no big deal. But who can think like that when all the shit is happening all around you and its so damn cold outside and you have to slog, slog, slog away? (Damn, I even enjoyed that slog, slog, but still felt miserable often).

The big thing about a Phd, I think, is that its just damn frustrating. All the time, its frustrating. When you have results, you have to write a paper. The light shines bright, but the paper writing thing can be a nightmare as its highly unlikely you and advisor will agree on anything. If you don't have results its super scary because then the light fades. Its there, of course, but feels less bright, the light. Then there is the weird shit that happens. Computers crash. Random visitors show up and hog your day. You get sick. Everyone in the group developed arm pain one time (we thought it was a contagious virus that was hidden deep in the methane oxidation code).

There is always that frustration. Part of it is because the end-point is not clearly defined. Everyone asks you 'so when are you going to finish?' Oh! I am so glad that I am over that. I used to hate anyone who asked me the question, and after a point started saying 'Next year' - I was 'going to finish next year' for like three years!! Already keeping sight of that light, at the end of the tunnel, which is really, always always there, is such hard work. I derive all my motivation from inside. Well, most of it, at least. So external validations have to be processed internally to feed the beast. Which takes time. And there is loss in the process. All in all a soup of a mess of 4.5 years of my life. But so long ago now. It has been 11 years almost to the day, since I put the entire Phd thesis behind me...

Now, as I worry about life's incessant problems, I have to put my mind back and be Kenny in her 20s. The one that persevered. The one that conquered. The one who was the black sheep of the group. The one who left all that behind, in a fit of misplaced egoism, and cut out on her own, as a young Assistant Professor, at 28. Oh! How good that felt! I had so many ideas in those days...Bursting with enthusiasm and energy... But then, but then, I couldn't run anything more than 10km those days - never had! I couldn't open out the mac; spend an hour and bang out a document that is needed for later today - took me ages! I couldn't figure out how much material is required for 1 hour of teaching - clearly hadn't figured out that 5 notebook pages generally covers it. Hadn't blogged - hadn't even heard of blogs, and blogging (was writing stuff in a notebook, black bound. Ugh). It was a different world back then, wasn't it. Now my world is different (I have my monster, for one, painful as she is, she is bright strong tunnel light). And I am different too. More skilled all around, more efficient all around. Should focus on being less messed up all around, thats all!

Yes, I am done now. If you are working on your Phd now and think its difficult, oh yes, its difficult. But not more than later life. And all you have got to to do on a daily basis is focus on the light. Let me go think of that now...and also work on my big fat h-index while at it...

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Step by Step

My head is full of running trivia and stuff like that. I have to run a 100m distance 462 times. The current major point of excitement is that the husband occasionally says he will run a half marathon. I think he is serious. But I also know that the title 'Anti Runner' rests pretty easy on him. So I don't know. I would love to run with him. We have done our share of difficult mountain hikes/treks, basketball games, and workout sessions together so I know it could be fun. He is quite competitive compared to me so there might be some benefit to me - such as pushing me harder. But the last time I took him out on a run, a meagre, unsatisfactory 5 k in the stadium, he did not bring up running again for six months. So, I don't know. I am excited but it might all come to naught anyhow.

I ran in the stadium yesterday. I am not feeling 100% as yet. There is the cold and occasional cough. The mind was playing tricks big time. My age comes up a lot. The fact that there is a sudden profusion of white hair comes up too. Now everyone knows that I love white hair. I wouldn't mind having a full head of white hair, soon-ish. I celebrated the day I found the first one (several years ago, documented elsewhere on this blog). I have a lot of hair now - my problems with that excessive hair fall are not there any more, and I have not cut the length in a while so its pretty long and well, big, thats the only word for it. The sister of big foot, big hair, I call myself sometimes. Nevertheless, the fact that in the past week or two I seem to have sprouted a disproportionately large number of them comes up when I am running in a not-strong manner. The vague pain in the heel area makes its appearance often. The fact of the matter is that my right foot is off. I am used to that. I have run with a fairly bad right ankle, played basketball, run relays, participated in the long jump, etc. over the course of my patchy athletic career. No biggie. But it comes up in the mind. But I persist. I put my head down. I roll up my sleeves and square my shoulders. I ignore the world, and go on. I hope my runner friends will appreciate it when I say that its not about a lack of pain. Its about managing the pain and continuing to move the feet.

When I return home, I feel pretty good. So I guess its mostly mind games. I had a full crazy day of work (up until 9 30pm), but I was fine. I am missing a couple of things I am supposed to be doing. Icing the painful foot, for one. Putting my feet up, for another. A more strengthening diet. I am not good at eating. I know I am going to regret that. Perhaps that should be my stretch goal for 2012. To eat well. Do you live to eat or  eat to live? Dad used to ask us that. He claimed he lived to eat. Well, that was too bad for him because the last two decades of his life was spent with more items on his 'cannot eat' list than on his 'can eat' one. He tried to blame mum once in a while, saying the doctor said 'less salt' not 'salt-less' like your mother makes it. But he was kidding. He didn't care much for the salty foods. He was all about sweet stuff. He could eat Sajjige (no, its not Rava Kesari. Somehow, Tamil food can never measure up to Kannada food. So sue me) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And that awful thing called Sajjappa. All fried dough and jaggery stuffing. Ugh. His love of GasaGase Payasa is the stuff of family legend. Its made of poppy seeds and can send you into deep slumber, instanter. Yeah, I don't care much for any of it. I will eat it. But just because...

I really need to figure out a couple of things from now on to January:
1. Time to rest my feet. Feels like the right foot is going to need a lot more TLC than it currently gets. And the calves will benefit from a daily stretching routine as well.
2. Healthy nutrition within the confines of my life-style - the details are not important. Suffice to say that I don't need recipes. Neither my cook nor I have the time to make anything more than we already do. Just have to get creative, and disciplined.

Baby steps. I resolve not to be influenced by what others are eating. I will stick to my comfortable mantras of veggies, rice, curd. I impose a one drink a night (when I drink) on myself. Eat an egg everyday. Bananas. And every evening a foot soak. Yeah. That should cover it for now...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Post Marathon Blues

The night after the marathon, everyone was feeling super good. Emails were flying back and forth, thanking us for the event. And most people said it was well organised, though we knew where the lacuna were. We have a list with things that we should improve on, we will do better next time. "Bask in the post-event warmth" didn't happen for me as you will see below, it was time for me to move on...

  • Nov 7th 5 am: Wake up, and curse my life. Shower. Wear the good jeans for comfort. Go to Central Station and climb into Shatabdi. Curse the cockroach, an inevitable train companion. 
  • Nov 7th till 1 pm: Listen to music, play Conundra, talk on the phone. Try to ignore nosy seat companion who doesn't believe I am married.
  • Nov 7th at Mysore: Attend family function, hobnob, eat a lot, find grandma has lost most of her marbles, feel exhausted, find no one cares about a marathon, move on a bit more
  • Nov 8th, 9th at Mysore: Run in the mornings, with a 15 min walk (with mum) at the beginning as its cold. Visit family, visit high school, go everywhere with little cousin, come close to passing on 'Tips for a healthy marriage' many times, resist the temptation. Get mistaken variously for cousin's college friend, aunt, and in one instance, mother. Assure everyone that the last one is a compliment. She is 13-14 years younger than me, after all. 
  • Nov 10th 2 pm: Regretfully bid goodbye to younger maama whom I haven't seen in a long while, and drape my legs into a Shatabdi, turned the opposite way. Nap, eat, clutch hurting stomach, listen to music, read Erma Bombeck, make lists, all the way to Chennai. 
  • Nov 10th 10 pm: Wait for husband, fail to recognise new car, ride home, try to not act tired. Flit back and forth between T Nagar and home and pack monster's suitcase and a backpack for myself, lie awake till 1 am gripped by various fears and apprehensions. 
  • Nov 11th Super Early am Onwards: Wear a nine yards sari (the wedding one), hope I don't have to pee, and participate in Father in law's 70th birthday celebrations. 
  • Nov 11th Afternoon: Clutch monster's hand and fly to Bangalore in world's worst aircraft (or close to that, at least). Ride in car to Mysore and directly step into Mehendi function. Allow hands to be painted in haphazard manner. Chat to room full of family in animated manner.
  • Nov 12th at various times: Go to wedding location. Move chairs. Smile when people comment on 'matching saris' worn by sister and me. Look for monster every 0.5 hours. Find her playing merrily with cousins and feel less tired. Sit down a lot. Talk a bit. Blink my tired eyes a lot.
  • Nov 13th Early am Onwards: Wear a sari, wear and then take off sunglasses as various wedding events transpire. Try to sing. Hang around. Look for monster every 0.5 hours. Eat. Sit down. Go home and expire for 1.5 hours on couch.
  • Nov 13th night: Deal with hurting cheeks from smiling too much. Love that I could see my teachers and family and friends that I haven't met in a while. Remember dad. Feel sad. Smile for photographs. Sit down a lot. Eat. Go home and pack, feeling very cranky.
  • Nov 14th 4 am: Jump out of bed and bathe. Walk around hoping mum will wake up. Feel reluctant to wake her. Stare wistfully at monster, husband, mum and grandmum sleeping at various locations in the house and step out into the car. Reach Bangalore, hate Bangalore traffic.
  • Nov 14th 8:30 am: Feel excited to be back to thinking about work, and research. Love all the presentations at the conference. Feel cold in the room. Judiciously drink half cups of coffee to prevent having to pee too many times. Consider wearing old sweatshirt thats in the bag. 
  • Nov 14th 10:45 pm: Spread out reasonably clean sheets on berth and go to sleep. Upper berth. Seat no. 37 I tell the TT. 38 madam, he says. Oh yes. The age is 37.. Seat is 38.. Oh well.
  • Nov 14th 4 am: WTF lets their alarm ring for 0.5 hours at a stretch? Seriously. Feel headache grip me instantly. Soldier on to autostand, reach home, change, hug the monster, sleep for an hour.
The rest, is as usual. My nose is blocked with what feels like about a gallon of mucous. Throat is itchy as hell. Head is pounding. Calves are tight, knees wobbly. The house is an unholy mess. The monster has two tests tomorrow but is reading '36 Science Mysteries' and eating Aloo Bhujia one strand at a time. Work at the office is piling up. Deadlines are whooshing by. But no matter. Tomorrow, as she would say, is another day. I square my shoulders, suck in some air, and tell the world 'BRING IT' ... 

Back in radio contact

"Its good to feel like the past week was misty" commented a friend when I told him that I cannot believe its the 15th of November today, last time I checked, it was the 3rd.. or 4th.. The deshvaasi & I were driving around in circles near Bala's office picking up the packet of running bibs...

I have promised MSB a list, so here goes::

  • Nov 3rd-4th:: Talk to the high school principal, security officer, transport officer, dean, OAT person, Gymkhana person, etc. etc. with last minute stuff for the race. Look at the rainy skies and feel the heart skip a beat. 
  • Nov 5th 5 am: Get all pumped up and get a ride from KP to IIT for the 'Volunteer's Run.' Be a little late in getting ready so miss stuff like eating something, small bottle of water to carry, electrolyte...
  • Nov 5th 6 am: Start running the worst HM I have ever run. Feel out of breath. Feel like passing out. Resist the temptation. Finish 10k and run in for bathroom break, for first time in a race, and re-set time goals. Run out and still feel out of breath. Receive reminder about feminine gender, uterine lining, and so on and run in again for bathroom break. Find none in that building. Climb up and down stairs and into another building. Beg sweeper lady to watch over & use men's loo, avoiding looking left, at the urinals (I hate urinals, as a concept). Run back out, and redo time goal. Still feel out of breath. Run slowly and breathe sigh of relief to find SLMP, and gatorade, in a car. Sip gatorade, re-set time goals in head. Take out Mars bar from pocket, peel of wrapper, find it falls down on the mud. Pick it up and trash it. Run ahead with gatorade in hand. See monkey from distance and freak out a bit. See monkey's bared teeth from close by and deftly chuck the gatorade bottle to side and stop running to swear at monkey, and to re-jig the time goal. Pull in to parking lot to find everyone, including the monster (reading Heidi and ignoring the world). Feel sad for my timing of 2:26 (moving time lower, doesn't matter). Sit down and die a little. Hate people for saying its okay. Hate husband for saying its not okay. Hate myself for resisting the temptation to pass out/DNF. Move on to coffee...
  • Nov 5th 10 am onwards: Shop till I (literally) drop, for saris and dhotis and towels and blouse pieces in 10 different colours. Hate world. Watch rainy skies and try to still pounding heart. Walk through rivers of nasty rain water in T nagar, to temple. Think about leptospirosis. Eat dinner at Woodland's.
  • Nov 5/6th 12-12:30 am: Receive call from Security uncle about fallen tree, right on race route. Panic call Guru RamDevji. Calm down and go to sleep again, in a manner of speaking.
  • Nov 6th 3 am: Drag out of bed. Drink coffee. Change. Pack backpack. Kiss monster, and its look-alike-dad. Pop open car. Change mind. Unlock bike and bike over to IIT. Pick up stuff from deshvaasi's house. Cycle to OAT. Frantic calls. Rain water logging. Walk. Lift water thingies. Frantic calls again. No mikes. Yell a bit. Deal with late/wrong/fake registrations. Find monster a volunteer tshirt (big for both of us separately and together). Find all safety pins whisked away. Feel tired. Close up registrations. Go to monster. Hug her for strength. Take bike and go out on the race route, yelling encouragement. Run around fetching cups between aid stations. Deal with one girl with viral fever and camelbak requiring medical assistance, and then, not requiring it. Go find husband. Yell 'On track On track' having no idea if its true. Come back and give him a hug when he finishes (on track). Go back and try to find viral fever girl. Freak out when I cannot. Go to all aid stations to tell people about her. Freak out when I find her nowhere. Come back. Freak out a bit at OAT about girl. Sit down after they tell me she DNFed and went home. Play with children a little. Eat breakfast. Feel better. 
  • Nov 6th Afternoon: Find monster is hungry again. Make her some french fries and eat some rice based thing myself. Nap. Succumb to headache on being shaken awake by monster. Drink coffee. Make lists. Shop for shirts and kid's clothes. Eat dinner at Saravana Bhavan. Pack backpack.... Move on from MARG Chennai Marathon. 

I am still at 6th! I have to list out the rest, but in my next blog post. 

Friday, 4 November 2011

MARG Chennai Runners Race - on Sunday!

This is it folks. The weekend is nearly upon us. I have new-found appreciation now for all the race organisers of all the races I have been to. Its a veritable nightmare! And I haven't even been involved in scary things such as catering (breakfast!), medals, doattend (the web-site that does the online registrations), etc. Just working with the deshvaasi on the race location logistics & within campus registrations. It has been lots of fun, and its only because I am a worry-wart that I am consumed by worries about the race. Yes, that must be the truth. And of course the fact that aside from the race there is life as we know it, going on, and so very busy. I want to say that its all been very happy and maybe on hind-sight I will be happy for this phase of my life which gets over on Sunday. But right now, all I am at 7 am this friday is breathless...

MARG Chennai Runners Half Marathon & 10k Race
This Sunday Nov 6th @ 6 am
IIT Madras  

There is a big life lesson, epiphany type thing that has happened in the process of working towards this. I can't put that in words yet. But one thing I will say, the Chennai Runners have enthu in abundance! They have just been spectacular in putting this whole thing together, and hats off to them. Go read about them at: Stop by the event page at while you are at it. If you are not in Chennai and cannot physically come to us, send your love electronically. And watch this space for a coherent report when Kenny feels less breathless....

Monday, 24 October 2011

Delhi Avenue

This is the main artery of the campus. Which means, I travel it several times a day. Cruising in the car, sometimes I talk on the phone, sometimes I read my notes or papers (Yes, although the child is totally banned from reading in moving vehicles, I am not). I don't like this road over-much then. Its just a route to get to point O (office) from G (gate). Big deal.

But when I run on this road - which I do, often enough - its such a spectacular thing! I used to bike to the stadium, catch up with the peeps there and then we would run around the campus together. These days, as I am trying to up the mileage, I just run from home. Which means that I have to cross that awful road at the ridiculously irritating signal under the flyover. Up to that point my run from home is not bad, barring the occasional idiot who honks at me loudly or yells in my ear. But that signal just sucks. Honking. Trucks, Buses, two wheelers. Hateful. 

So when I enter the campus it feels great because I am now cut off from that big bad world outside. I always think a bit when I cross the security cabin - should I show them my ID? Most times I just breeze past them and hope that they don't care. Or that they recognise me (of course they don't. I don't even think people see me sometimes, like when I am in lines or waiting for the vegetable person. Forget recognising me). 

Soon, I am on Delhi Avenue proper. In all my times here, I have not used Bonn Avenue (you could, equivalently) to go into the campus. Occasionally, I go on it to come back out of the campus, or when I am running loops as we were this past weekend. But, somehow, I am a big fan of the DA. Spot 1 is the temple (the first one). There is one person who does the puja there - he is the thinnest man I have ever seen in my life. He is usually slowly walking to the temple, I run past him, in his orange/brown dhoti, and worry about his rib-cage. On my right then is my friend's house. Ah 15th Cross, I exclaim in my head. Soon enough I am staring at Bannu's car on my right again, and at the beautiful new faculty apartments on my left. I love the white fencing they have going on. In between sometimes, one can see some wonderful birds. Like yesterday I saw not one, but two flamebacks, between 15th Cross and Bannu's car. 

Near the shopping center one finds monkeys, usually. I clutch my bottle tighter then. You never know. They did take away ludwig's precious gatorade bottle one time (the bottle itself is precious. It has a wide mouth that we all seem to like, and is exactly 0.5 liters in volume, an important consideration for runners for a variety of reasons). The next thing you may spot are then deer. If you are lucky, they may jump across the road. One look at the dynamics of that motion makes your own feet go faster, no doubt.  The big map of something - not sure what - is soon passed and there is a nice curvaceous part of the road to encounter after. Now the moving is suddenly very fast. The yellow board that I don't really read but know belongs to the Durga Peeli Amman temple, the white board with the red word 'Stadium' painted thick on it, that beautiful old tree, the building that was the library back in the day, and bang, I have hit the circle with the two elephants standing majestically in the middle of the campus.... 

In a couple of weeks from now, Delhi Avenue will be pounded by many feet. Young & old alike are to flock here. Walkers & runners will tread this path that I have run uncountable number of times on. What started as a small-ish idea has exploded into what we hope will be the first of many mega-running events on campus! Come check it out! 

MARG Chennai Runners Half Marathon & 10 k Race
Date: Nov 6th, Sunday
Time: 6 am
Registrations:  (filling up real fast!) 
More Info:

The excitement is palpable, we are canvassing it hard, getting permissions, training first-time runners, talking all the time about this, and it takes me immense effort to focus on other parts of life, like work, and  deepavali, and that long-overdue visit to Goonj (which I had hoped would be an annual thing), not to mention keeping my sights on that longer goal and getting my weekly running mileage in...  

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Khushboo Hands

It was a long time ago. I think 2000 maybe? Or earlier even. We were back in India for some reason, someone's wedding or some such (not our own, for sure). I had to get my passport stamped so we lugged in that nasty US Consulate line. Like a romantic date. Thank heavens for being young. I don't think we complained much. So my stamping thingie got done and I emerged out, and searched for him. And then started walking towards where he was standing. Now since this was so long ago, some of the details are not very clear in my head, so I am just sort of trying to keep it coherent. Anyway I remember starting to walk to him. There was a down-slope in the road, and suddenly everyone was screaming because some kind of push-cart thing started rolling towards us (me). I couldn't see it at all because, the cart was headed in my direction alright, but there was a big fat lard ass of a guy between me and said run-away cart.

I didn't know which way to turn or run. Sure, I should have turned and run away but I just couldn't see past the lard butt of the guy. Of course the next thing I know I am flat on the ground outside the Chennai US Consulate place and there is a fat guy fallen on my hand. I yanked my hand out from under him (using cranes, husband, and a couple of other engineering marvels). And we laughed and laughed. Seriously, so different being nearly-forty. Now I don't think we would have laughed. We returned back home like nothing had happened.

The next morning I looked down in alarm at my hand. It was swollen like an idli. That flat part between the fingers and the wrist, looked ridiculous. Also a bit like blueberry idli due to the colouration. We took it to a doctor who hardly believed the ridiculous story and gave me some medicines. It was okay in a day or two after that. But I think there was pain, I vaguely remember. This event in our life is referred to as 'Khushboo Hand' event. Because my husband looked at my hand and said, 'Well, Khushboo has hands that look like that every day' and I laughed.

On tuesday, I was innocently standing under a tree outside my office and talking to Pratap. I was convincing him to run in the MARG Chennai Runners Marathon on Nov 6th. Its such a beautiful route, I was telling him. So many beautiful trees, I was saying. Plop. A fat red ant from one of the beautiful trees you will run past on Nov 6th, fell on my hand. Zing. It bit me. FUCK OFF ANT I said (in my mind) and picked it up and threw it away (because Pratap would be shocked to hear me swear).

"See, I am not complaining much though an ant bit me" I told the monster when I went home and she was saying her hips hurt (!), pointing to the slight swelling and the place where it pierced my skin. The blasted red ant.

I twisted and turned and scratched all night, woke up and ran my wednesday morning planned workout in a half-assed manner, and when the sun came up, looked at my hands. And found myself starting at Khushboo Hand Part Deux. You knew this was where this story was going, right? Apparently, I am such a colossal pansy that this stuff happens to me. I had to take Allegra, feel sleepy through a bunch of things, apply copious amounts of Caladryl, and cut my nails pretty much to the base. Now it feels a bit better though its still big. Like if Khushboo successfully went on a diet... 

Friday, 7 October 2011

A little bit about running routes...

So, there we were, Andaman Islands. I have a rule for packing for trips. Each of us owns a pull-man. And I strongly recommend fitting all out shit into that pull-man each. And wheeling it around individually. This can be a bit stressful at times, because, after all is done, my shoes and my big bag of toiletries (puh-lease. Its not Make-Up. Just enough toothpaste to last us a month, my special soap & condi, & plenty of stuff for when I have my period. Which I do. Invariably. Whats a beach holiday without a glorious period outbreak?) well, they rarely fit into my little brown suitcase. Thankfully, the husband was bringing his big backpack (for unspecified reasons), and his big suitcase (I really don't know why). I don't object when he carries bigger pieces of luggage because they are not my problem or responsibility. He will never whine about them. Unlike other people I travel with. Or myself.

So I merrily wore my flipflops on the flight and packed my asics & the vibrams. I wanted to really chill out and run nicely there. Specially given my new toy (no, its not a boy), the Garmin. For once in my life I would be able to tell what distances/pace/elevation I would be indulging in. And perhaps, just perhaps, I could see our location on googleearth/maps upon returning. I was pretty excited, for sure!

We reached the hotel (about 2 hours by ferry from Port Blair) in the afternoon. It looked really calm and peaceful though the guy spooked us a bit about insects and scorpions and snakes - after the fall of darkness, that is. We unpacked gently and hung out and laughed about the mosquito net thing and went to dinner. Which was good. As was the beer (choice of Tuborg/KF; lots of good alcy otherwise; one day I had a pretty swell Bloody Mary).

The next morning, bright and early, I stepped out in my vibrams. I thought it was obvious that I have to run along the water, on the beach. And perhaps if luck was on my side, I would traverse the perimeter of the island! Some such ridiculous plan in my head. I was happy to find satellite (GPS) reception on my watch, and also remember the way to the beach. But when I got there I was not so happy. The tide was in, which means the water was close and I had to run in the slopy part of the sand. There was tons of sea-weed and crabs scuttling everywhere and not a single soul far as the eye could see. Our part of the beach was also separated from the rest of the island beach parts of the world by some green rock formation that looked spooky. Yes, spooky, thats the word. I was thinking 'dang where are my truckload of gujju aunties , white couples with overhanging tummies in bikinis, and such like? where IS everyone?' The water was also super loud - in an angry sort of way. I left many footprints in the sand as I ran back and forth and forth and back on the small itty bitty stretch of the beach that I had at my disposal. Then I gave up and went back to the hotel reception.

Who asked you not to run in the forest? John said, hiding his cigarette behind his back.

Well, don't waste your cigarette on my account, I countered and took off again.

I went along the route we took to get to the resort - through the forest - not very thick - just some really crazy tall trees with mungo jutting out roots that I had to skip over. I love skipping over things in my vibrams, so yeah, that was pretty fun. The trees made some grunting sort of noises at me and I thought I heard some growls too, but convinced myself it was all good. Plus, there were people around. Not tourists. Which is good. I was on the main-ish road, soon enough. I took off, waving at kids all spruced up for school. I encountered many a beautiful bird and on either side of me were these lush farm lands with patches of forests. I went past the cow that first day and found this massive hill - like a 60 degree angle in the road, I swear. I got up on to it, saw my ridiculous pace as I puffed up the hill, and decided to call it quits.

Back down the hill and past the cow and the beautiful red-headed andaman woodpecker. Kids still waiting for the bus? Oh damn. Wave. Wave. Smile. Grin. Soon I was running through the grumpy woods and was in the resort. On that first day, including the beach part of it, I only ran 7 km. My pace totally sucked - which is fine if I keep in mind that I suck royally at running uphill, and there was a fair bit of elevation I had to contend with (especially after I saw the Garmin entries, this is like obvious). But it was so fun! Seriously fun!

I ran this route (skipping the beach), getting further and further along the road past the tethered cow, a couple more days during our stay there. The air smells better, I swear. And I just love the green of paddy fields. Of course I love having a road cut through a crazy wild forest. Who doesn't? 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Two ways to do this

We were away on vacation last week. It was pretty awesome family time for the three of us. I am sure glad that there was no TV (or internet or phone service, for that matter) because I really think we managed to chill out a lot thanks to that. (We did watch a movie on the ipad, I admit. Mounaraagam, was nice).

I woke up (inside the mosquito net) one night - the second night we spent there - and found that the monster was burning hot. I promptly did what any self-respecting adult would - woke up everyone else. The father of the burning hot monster said 'mmm looks feverish' and rolled over. The monster said 'appa, amma is just stark raving mad. i am just warm because of wearing this fat blanket thing not in the least bit sick'. Of course, I am mad & crazy no doubt, but I am not wrong about these things.

Of course I have my emergency pack of anti-pyretic. Except that it didn't seem to work too well. Calmly, composedly, we went to the reception desk and told them we need to see a doctor, the next morning. We bumped over to the Primary Health Care Center. Sarkari hospital? Oh my goodness. I took a book and sat there and read it. The monster curled up in the chair and slept. The aunties in their multi-coloured saris gave me glares at first, and kind smiles later. Calm. Very Calm. The doctor spent about an hour and half on the phone (after arriving about an hour late). All fifty of us in the line waited, patiently. I  read a bit more, and breathed deep. And tried to ignore the rampant paan-spitting occurring around me.

A generic anti-biotic was named on a scratchy piece of paper. There was no consultation fee. The pharmacy lady said 'Do you know hindi?' and gave me the meds, also free. I stared at the tablets. First time for the monster. My girl has grown up out of liquid syrup medicine land. She loves to drink them. She used to be able to list all the various kinds of cough, cold meds Dr. Guruji used to prescribe for her in Mumbai, even in the lispy, just started to talk stage. Eons ago. The white pills stared back at me. Calmly we bumped back to the resort, talking to her about how eating food is critical when on anti-biotics.

The tablet ritual was not pleasant, mainly because of a yelling father. But we managed to persevere, and hopefully she has now learnt to swallow the damn thing and will do it without fuss when in future she needs to. Yeah, the things a mother has to teach her daughter. Its dreadful.

In January when we went to the Maldives, they made us jump off a boat and told use we could snorkel. I thought I was going to die, covered in salty sea water. I made them take me back on the boat and breathed in huge lungfuls of air. The monster blithely took off with the boat boy helping her out. And claimed she saw a fish that looked like a man praying. Among other things. In the intervening months I have convinced my mind to not freak out or imagine a watery grave. We had a couple of great snorkeling sessions, all three of us, last week. The monster is still way more comfortable than I am in the water, but, we progress.

So yes, I have a tendency to completely freak out. When the monster gets sick. Or when I am in the middle of a large body of water (seemingly endless). The rational part of the brain, the one that can recognise the symptoms of a cough/throat infection, the part that can see that the floating ring is just there if required, these things tend to bury themselves and hide. Its a matter of finding them. And letting go of obsessive worrying. Even as one is swallowing salty sea water (whats the big deal, spit it out Kenny, here come on, come up and spit it out). Or waking up every 15 mins to touch a hot forehead (Oh Kenny. Turn here. Sleep now. She'll be fine). Yep. There are two roads. I have the choice. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A tale about how running can make you fat…

The Kaveri Trail Marathon is supposed to be one of the tough marathon courses in the country. It winds through farmlands and past a river. Rocks abound. The weather is usually very warm, and the entire trail lacks tree cover – absolutely NO tree cover. Whenever I spoke to friends, even the ones from Chennai, said that the weather and the sun were a big deal at KTM. Even the organisers, at the start of the race, warned everyone to avoid trying for a PB here, and to ensure good hydration.

I missed the KTM last year due to a stupid reason. I signed up for it, was ready for it as usual – in a half-assed unscientific type of trained way I run these races. But I had to go to Mysore (which is 12 km from race start) just a couple of weeks before or after the race, anyhow, for something to do with mum. I didn’t want to put the entire family out again by traveling twice. I kicked myself a lot for it, later, when I thought calmly about it. Then I rationalized it all by insisting that I would run four good half marathons a year, and that’s it. Not more.

Originally I planned for all of us to go to Mysore for this year's half marathon race. Visit mum. Hang out. Run. Come back. I figured that we would drive, in that case. But just in case, I booked us train tickets last month. But then mum had to be in Bangalore, so she wasn't going to be there. The homies dropped out as my husband had something else to do. I cancelled their tickets. Sadly. But at least, I had my trains booked and ready to go. 

Training went just fine. I just refused to think about the race. I ran my weekly mileage goals, kept my sights ahead, all the way into 2012, throughout. Lots of my friends went to Hyderabad, for that race. I didn't, again for the same stupid reason that I had work there just a week later and would hate having to go back to back weekends. Felt a slight pang when they told me of the fun they all had, but got over it. Because training is just as fun for me, and I have been enjoying a bunch of things about that.

Anyway, off I went on Saturday early in the morning. As usual some stuff came up in the last minute and monster's school was cancelled on Friday and my husband was busy and it was all crazy as hell. I would've hated my life and cursed myself a lot if I was thinking about the race. But since I wasn't it was just the usual, BAU scenario. I met up with the other guys on the station platform, and stepped into my seat there.

The ride in was comfortable. I worked a bit on my stuff. Aside from a tendency to chomp on food loudly, the people I shared my little seating area with were nice. Coincidentally, I was next to another runner. We exchanged a few pleasantries and went back to our business.

At Mysore, things were awesome. Weather was great. Uncle fed us (the deshvaasi, I convinced to hang out with me) lunch and we hitched a ride to collect our bibs. We ran into some other Chennai folks while we did that, had a cup of coffee and returned back. I was very happy to see that my running bib had my name on it. Nice touch! But still not thinking much about the race. My goals were made a month before - I wanted to run a strong race, and then continue to run after the finish line, at a slow pace if necessary. I figured clocking 25km was crucial for my weekely mileage goals at this stage, in addition to a piece of mental confidence thing I wanted to work on. In short, a simple goal of NOT DYING in the race - despite everyone telling me that this is a course on which everyone, even experienced runners (WTF! I am an experienced runner, seriously, sometimes my mind is so messed up..), do.

Pre-race evening carbo load, including beer, some nice conversation with my little cousin, and plenty of curd rice. In bed by 10 pm. Not even super excited. Or nervous. I slept well, again, strangely enough. I think it was because I threw out my usual time goal and gave myself a nice comfy one of 2:15. In light of the nature of the course. Deshvaasi asked me if I would set the pace. Hell yeah, I would, considering I was armed with my latest toy - a GPS watch.

"You didn't take your ipod? What will you run with?" my husband texted me.

"My Garmin. Get it? Its all set" I replied back.

I think I take my ipod when I feel a bit less confident mentally. Or its vice versa. I wanted to avoid it this time. Hear the birds instead, Kenny, I told myself a I packed.

I met some of my old pals from amchi mumbai and totally tuned out from the race announcements. Before I knew it, we were off. I made sure to hit the mat carefully as usual, and weaved through the usual mess at the beginning. Since this is a small race, the situation was not as irritating as it is in other places. I run with friends often but we never run slowly, abreast of each other, at the beginning, when everyone is in a rush to get out on the road/trail, so I don't understand why people do that. It bugs the life out of everyone behind you, especially if you are slower (EVERYONE is slower than someone else, I do know that, but there is a point wherein people are insensitive in this matter).

I saw my new toy was doing fine and telling me that my pace was good. Given my goals. I ran hard but did enjoy the scenery. My Kannada brethren were all over the trails - after all it was their farms on one side we were passing. I said 'Namaskaara' to many of them on their bullock carts and raised my hands up in salutation and made them smile. The turn around point was a bit confusing apparently. Actually by then I had new josh as I had seen the full marathoners on the other side, and the faster bunch of half marathoners as well, and had clapped and good jobbed and high fived so many of them. I was so happy and chilled out this time, I don't know why.

I didn't even touch my Gu - when my spirit starts to flag is usually when I eat Gu. The aid stations were excellent so I picked up some oranges (my absolute favourite) and a sip or two of Enerzal at some stage. It wasn't planned, I just went by my mood. I didn't even carry water like I usually do, as I trusted the organisation here to take care of my needs. I didn't have too many needs, however. I only started to wane at around 1:50 or so, by which point I was close to the finish. I would see the pace slip down on my garmin, and convince myself to up it again, and so on and so forth till the very end when I did the usual Kenny Sprint - which is another mantra. Whatever happens, Finish Strong. Unlike my last race, I kept my shirt on this time. :-) Found that I had hit the mat in 2:04 or so, which was super satisfying. Not just for this course, but because I have been feeling a bit slow of late - since Auroville in February which I did in similar time. I had also already run 27 km earlier in the week and was a bit concerned that with the train ride and everything my legs wouldn't be fresh. I am sure that the fact that the weather was actually nice and not boiling hot and sunny was an important factor!

Still, how fresh my legs were! My calves were a bit tight of course, but aside from that, I felt perfect. Almost energized. I ran a bit more on the perpendicular road, cut my timer chip off, and wandered back on to the trail. Deshvaasi came in (he ran barefoot!) and showed me the blood clots on his feet (, I fetched him some electrolyte and water, let him dip his feet like the others were doing, and back on to the trail. I intended to run till the 2km mark and then head back, but I gave up - once I found a friend and decided to get him to shave a bit off his finish time by goading - then when I went back again I just felt bored and started thinking about the return trip so I got back.

Food at the race was excellent and because I felt so fine I could manage to eat a lot of it as well, including very sweet ice cream. Then I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had come in second in the Women's Open category, and got to run up the stage and collect my certificate. Today they called me to tell me that they revised my position to third, due to some confusion. But still, PODIUM, BABY! I was ecstatic as were monster, husband and mum whom I called quickly. My friend, the rocket, who ran the full marathon, also came in third, which felt super great. I am so damn proud of her! We train together and it really feels like we are family. Or at least super close friends for the past umpteen years!

I came back to mum's place again and found that uncle had again cooked for us! And after a shower and some chit chat, managed to eat a pile of food again! Then, on the train back, I gutted down everything on offer - and believe me a lot of it was on offer! I actually felt a bit fat and waddly in the night as I lay down and thought about how after all these years of running I had won something meaningful in a race that I was just super chilled out about, and how it hardly mattered when I compared it to the feeling of strength and happiness I had as I ran, and of pure unadulterated enjoyment I carried with me over all those kilometers.

Overall, it was a super fun trip and it was great to meet all the friends and family that I met, and it was fun as always to have conversation with the deshvaasi. Mysore was beautiful and peaceful and calming like never before. As I always feel, it was great to go but its also good to be back and to move on to the next thing on my horizon....

Monday, 12 September 2011

Gender Strong

The monster goes to an after school thing few days a week. She spends an hour or two there while I am at work and does something. I have long since stopped trying to figure out what she does there - I am confident that she is well cared for and enjoys it there, gets some exercise and has a couple of kids she is friends with. The trick is, I have discovered, is to not expect too much from all these places. Not to think in terms of value per rupee spent. Childhood is a hard thing to quantify like that. The monster is a reasonable child but is still a child and can be very distracted and inconsistent with everything (except for obsessive reading).

They do an 'end of the term' event usually, at this place. I have missed a couple of these events (not a big deal), but I do make an effort to go. That is when  you learn about what the kids were up to through the term. Not very important to me, because I have long ceased trying to figure out if my hard earned is well spent on this, but still, I go, because the monster thinks I should.

Last week was supposed to be a different sort of event. It was a cricket match - parents versus children. I thought the idea was great, although I know that the monster is neither too interested nor too good at cricket. I personally loathe the game, and feel very harassed the few times I am forced to play it. Partly, its the hype. Partly, its that everyone, especially men, is to into this game. Mostly, its because I am convinced that it doesn't require the type of fitness that say, tennis, requires; and seriously, doesn't involve enough running (like, say, soccer, which I love).

But my husband was travelling. I tried to convince my parents-in-law to go. In general, its a bad idea to send grandparents to these events. Because of their expectation that their grandchild is a superstar. And their ingoing assumption that the teachers and other kids are not appreciating said grandchild's superstardom enough. Nevertheless, I was hoping to get out of this one. They were also travelling though, so it came to me.

I asked the monster if I had to wear white or something awful like that (I don't own such a thing, but could have worn the lightest coloured running tee I had). She said it wasn't required. I could wear my running gear and it would be fine. So I did that. Including my timex watch, for good measure. We cycled over to the location (its just a street away from our house, monster and I have been cycling over whenever we can, raising eyebrows and smiles along the way).

Big surprise. 'Parent' was interpreted as 'Father' Oh! there were mommies there. But they were well manicured and sitting down. One of them was enthusiastic and yelling instructions. One of them actually wore sneakers, as part of a well-co-ordinated outfit. I should have been supportive of her but I was strongly discouraged by it all by then. I ignored everyone, refused to participate in the bonhomie, if any. I fielded. I bowled my over (good length, low on pace, one wide, overarm). I batted (three balls, connected reasonably, kid was bowling well and fast, was caught by the umpire!). I watched the monster dream away on the boundary line as she fielded, feel happy and excited when we told her they were winning (they were not, but we made them win, per the teacher's insistence). If my husband was in town, I might not have gone, for sure, 'cause I had meetings that I had to re-jig. But if I had gone, there was no way I was sitting down. I know I made some of the Daddies uncomfortable by insisting on playing. But there was no way I was letting my monster down....

I was glad when it was all over. At one point, I was so depressed by it all. I live my life by not asking for slack. I don't meet the guys for a morning run and ask them to take it easy 'cause of my gender. They are all just spontaneously nice on days when I am dying, but again, I would do that to them too, on their off day, I think its even. I don't go to work and make excuses for myself. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been caught by surprise when I am walking between buildings and someone offers to carry my books for me. I don't enter the basketball court and expect that the guy guarding me will be gentle (in fact, in earlier times, I would get super pissed off if I sensed that he was up to something like that. I would come back and kick his ass big time, so that he respects me as a player. Not anymore. 'Cause the angst is gone plus I have retired from that game). I naturally assumed that this stuff that I fought against in my youth, would be all solved and taken care of by now and the monster's generation wouldn't have to deal with it.

She is one of the few girls in the class. She is bad at it - not demonstrated any skill/interest in it. But not because she is a girl! I know a friend of mine - her daughter is very good at cricket and gets coaching for it. But still raises eyebrows. Like back in the 80s when I used to lace up and go run the road race in my hometown and mom got flak for it. Or when my friend & I used to ride the cycle non-stop for hours and get yelled at by sundry aunts for being girls and doing such things which was the purvey of boys. That was THIRTY years ago. Seriously.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Me Pocket Full of Empty

My musical influences from childhood are really, absolutely ridiculous. Now, how on earth would I know almost the entire lyrics to Calypso Blues? Of course partly because it reminds me of an innocent time long ago, has very funny sounding lyrics, and a foot-thumping beat, I love the song. Although I hadn't heard it in a long long long while.

Me throat she sick from neck-tie
Me feet she hurt from shoes

Its all very...lyrical.. and though he claims to be 'so sad' it doesn't feel overly sad or anything. (These Yankee girls give me big scare; is black the root is blonde the hair?).

Don't got de money
To take me back to Trinidad

Its not as if I understand the sentiment behind it or anything. But its a song about home, as much as it is about missing home. Thats the bit I understand. I know about home. Its sometimes a place, sometimes a time. And mostly, you can never go back. Its best sometimes not to think about it. At others, it gives you a comfort, the thoughts of home and how good you had it back then...

In Trinidad one dollar buy
Papaya Juice Banana Pie
Six coconuts, one female goat
and plenty fish to fill the boat

(I admit a couple of quick google session, hadn't realised its Papaya Juice and I thought it was One Man a Pie, whatever that might imply). Coconuts! Somehow the entire reason I remember the song is... Coconuts. An integral part of growing up. I must have said this before. But up on the roof (which is another song BTW which I like) of my house, back home. I would climb up via the window. Typically when everyone was asleep. Or I would climb up on the guava tree and on to the roof. And everywhere the eye could see were coconut trees. I would then forever associate that scene - the top of coconut trees swaying gently in the hot afternoon breeze - with home. Till I travelled a bit more and there are memories of Kerala and Sri Lanka interspersed in there in the ol' head of mine.

Speaking of coconuts, you know what happened just a few days ago, here in Chennai? A coconut fell on the windshield of our car and splintered the glass. Dang! I wasn't there. I was at work. When they called and told me, I was like 'What? One coconut, not six, right?' Right. So, insurance, garage, speaking to Shiva and Manivannan, and appraisals and oh heavens! Life is too complicated, all I want to do is

Sit by de ocean...
Me heart she won't feel so bad

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Meanwhile, away from Chennai

September is an awesome month. I feel close to the end (December). Weather is supposed to be better but is really crappy as usual in Chennai. Which means I get more sph (sweat per hour) during my workouts. As we all know, its all about the volume of sweat. Its all about that. & its Teachers Day month, not that it means a helluvalot to me or anything. Despite day job and all. Its just that its nice to think of it. & the monster has some time off later in the month, which is always a bit of a relief due to the hectic mornings we suffer due to school.

I went away meanwhile for a couple of days though, doing non-teaching related things. Meaning, trying to sell coal. It was a closed conference (am getting more and more invitations to these despite loudly yelling about how ineffective these are unless we PLAN it better and stuff like). Mine was the last last last talk in the conference. Which kind of sucks as everyone is keen to leave. I am a big girl now and don't let that affect me. Actually I also don't fret and get nervous about these talks at all, so whatever. Things ran over time so that by the time I finished my spiel, there was hardly any lunch left (the other session had finished on time). I felt a bit bad that I denied food to my audience, but not that bad, really, since the food sucked.

I met lots of people. Since I had been up late reading a novel on Thursday, and my flight on Friday was pretty early, I was pretty tired. So I did not make the usual effort to chat people up. I looked around and felt cold vibes, as a consequence. I knew a couple of guys, talked to them a bit, but my heart was not in it as I was really tired out. I should have complimented the girls at least, the ones passing on the mementoes and so on. The ones who wore such nice salwar kameezes compared to their counterparts in Chennai.

Anyway, I was standing in line for dinner and I saw a knee. Seriously. A knee. I looked up and up and up there was...well...Hagrid. He had shaved and cut his hair and worn a blue shirt. But really, it was Hagrid complete with the Trashcan Lid-Like Hands. He helped himself to about a kilo of biryani and said 'Is this veg?' Strange thing to say, no? I assured him it was. Then he slapped the Lid on his head and said 'Doh! I wanted the chicken' - He didn't actually say Doh! but it was so..Simpson-like..the action.. and yes, of course, he would want the chicken.

Then I met two (or was it three?) people who were so...very...thin. I was talking to one of them, face to face. He turned on his side for something. And boy! I couldn't see him any more. Two-dimensional, you know. It was most disconcerting. I wanted to sit him down at a table and feed him lots of food, preferably the chicken biryani - though I would be loathe to touch that myself, never having touched chicken in my life. There were others also who were indulging in this type of disappearing act. I wondered if it was something in the air (or food) there...till...

I met two almost spherical people. Lets call them Tweedledum and Tweedledee, shall we? Neither of them ate anything. But they talked and talked and talked and hardly stopped for breath. In the early part of the night I was fascinated by the struggle the buttons on the shirts were putting, staying in place, against all odds. Later when it got dark and I couldn't see and I was really tired and the beer was finished (it was tepid, my least favourite flavour), I got worried that they would talk themselves to a heart attack or something. I mean, I don't know for sure that they are more prone than I am, but it looked like buttons, veins, such things could pop, anytime, as they talked.

When I got back to the airport I was fairly hungry. Since the homies were at a wedding, I knew there was curd rice at home and not much else. So I queued up at the chat place. 'Medium Spicy' I declared. A lady was sitting next to me, also travelling alone, I gathered. We both breathed fire over our respective chaats, in unison. Lesson learnt: In Hyderabad, Kenny ought to go with Mild. These guys know how to do spicy. For real. I was reading a Feynman book thing while eating and wondering about how my daughter has the bad habit of reading while eating while all other kids are so bloody awesome about eating. People gave me pitying looks as they passed by, maybe also because by that time, my kameez had sprouted a couple of holes. Seriously, I paid oodles of money for that crap at a boutique and I got something that seems to spontaneously disintegrate. There is a reason why I prefer my button down shirts, they never do that. Na-ah.

I celebrated Onam early by wearing my Mallu off-white sari to my presentation. It was a bit smushy in the final analysis but I wore it with long wooden earrings. Bannu, you would have approved everything except the smushi-ness. Which is a problem with cottons. You have to pay attention as you are wearing it, to ensure that you dont smush it at t=0. Most critical. Lesson learnt. Have I told you I hate it when people refuse to use the mike when they make presentations? Well, I hate it. And I always use the mike, when available, although I know my voice is squeaky coming through it.

Finally, I want to say that I was rewarded for my efforts of the early morning, very well. I was at a resort that claimed two separate places for 'Rain Dance' - What The Fuck is Rain Dance? I kept thinking as I fell asleep. I woke up early (ish) in the morning and decided to find out. I donned my running gear, cursed my gender (its all very satisfying that I can make babies and come up with complicated thoughts on simple life situations but really annoying to deal with having a period every month, I swear), and took off in my nastily dirty vibrams. The rain dance was a disappointment, just looked like a place to get wet in. But there were lots of streams and bridges and lake-like creations with boats moored, and a lawn and lots of swimming pools and slides in the hotel premises. I ran everywhere and then on to the road and there were trucks and I came back and it was still not even an hour but then I saw three kingfishers, one crow pheasant, a beautiful little bulbul and the usual mynahs strutting around, and a bunch of other things that I couldn't identify. Sure, I got looks, honks, and the crow pheasant gave me the most baleful eye (you are so glossy and shiny and beautiful my friend, I told it), and & wished I had company so I could get more adventurous. Oh well, at least I did not snooze through it all.