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!