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....