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Test of Unity

“Tomorrow is a ‘holiday’ because of ‘Holi Day’!!!”, our principal’s words echoed through the morning school assembly. There was no reaction from the students. With exams round the corner, an unexpected holiday was the last thing we expected. Our confused principal repeated the words a bit louder “Tomorrow is a ‘holiday’ because of ‘Holi Day’!!!”. It was then that news sunk in and shock waves started to have its effect on us. We cheered and jeered and praised our principal more than required in the hope of securing an additional holiday. Alas, one day is all we got.

Baldwin Boys High School is one of those schools which loves to give holidays for every occasion. Out of 365 days in a year, our school used to function for only 180 days. We would get holiday if our school won a tournament; if Government declared 4 days holidays due to Cauvery River dispute, our school would give 8 days off. There was no reason to not like Baldwins.

On the day of Holi, festival of colours, a few of us decided to play with colours. We pooled in a bit of money and one of us was able to sneak out of the school for a few minutes and get colour powder of different hues. It is a simple game of colours: mix the colour in water, and splash it onto others. We went about chasing our reluctant friends and throw colour at them. As they fell prey to colours, even the hunted joined the bandwagon and within minutes, we had a sizeable crowd, able to be noticed. We spent the best part of the day chasing our friends across all three play grounds, disfiguring their appearance by applying colours on their faces and body. Someone shouted that it was his ‘Imported’ shirt, from Dubai – we would not care. We made sure that he would not be able wear that shirt ever again. It was real fun to say the least.

In a matter of time, colours were not just on our bodies but all over the school campus. There was a trail of colours wherever we went. It was one of the best festivals I enjoyed in school. As time passed, we knew at the back of our minds that we were enjoying slightly more than required. Although we were celebrating and soaking ourselves in the festival mood and spirit, there was an inkling feeling that we had crossed the line of discipline and we all might get reprimanded in some way or the other. Our minds said we should tone down but our hearts said ‘just live the moment’: just like in the movie “Shawshank Redemption”, where the hero, Tim Robbins plays the music through the loudspeaker to his prison mates in spite of knowing that he would be in trouble, we also wanted to enjoy the festival of colours to the fullest before we get punished. It is quite relatable, if Tim Robbins is each one of us, then the prison is our campus, the music is the colour, the prison mates are our boarder friends.

We were tired and hungry and just then the lunch bell rang. We all ran towards the dining hall but better sense prevailed over us. We looked at each other, we agreed that we were quite shabby for the dining hall standards and took a unanimous decision to wash ourselves clean before dashing into the dining hall. We scurried towards the big bathroom but to our horror, the taps were dry; nothing new for us, but today we needed water more than ever. Someone sucked through the taps to get the blocked water run through, but there was not a drop of water in the tank and we just didn’t know what to do. As we approached the dining hall, one of the P T masters saw us. He made a face as if we had stolen his kidney. He gave us a lecture and asked us “Are you all kids?”. Of course, we were kids; almost all of us had barely entered our teens. We kept silent; we were mature enough to know it was a rhetorical question. We were waiting for orders to eat something, so we just wanted to get done with the lecture. In a few minutes, another P T master came, then NCC master joined them, then our warden, then the dietician; it looked as if they were eagerly waiting for some fun. They went in a huddle discussing something seriously while we glanced at each other trying to comprehend the magnitude of our crime. Warden was the target as his boys had done something terrible. “Food is getting cold”, was the only thing on my mind. I never liked hostel food; vegetarian food got step motherly treatment in our hostel, but on that afternoon, I was so hungry that I would have eaten even cold food.

The ensemble scanned us thoroughly and just as we were wondering about the outcome of the great huddle, one of the wise men asked us “Who started?” Is that all they came up with from that huddle, I thought, just two words. But yhey were prophetic words indeed – quite frankly, I was a bit rattled at this question. This question would test our ‘Unity’. The staff kept scanning us to check who will be the first one to buckle. We were not afraid of any of them except for Mr. Ward, one of the PT Masters and he was the only one not present that day (what luck); he owned a cane that a few swings of that would create such art on our skins that would put Picasso to shame. “Call Mr. Ward”, said one of the staff. This one statement petrified almost all of us. Once again, all of us were looking at each other, hoping to get sympathy from one another and trying to figure out how to escape caning from Mr. Ward. The only way of course if by naming the culprit.

Just then, I recollected a story my father told me about how the members of a union in a factory he worked at were so united that, all the members preferred and took a pay cut rather than name the culprit among them. Now, for the first time in my life, I was part of a union, a “Holi Union” whose unity was being tested. “I will take a few canings from Mr. Ward rather than reveal the name of the person who got the colours”, I resolved. That seemed the right thing to do as even we were partners in crime. There was no guarantee that the rest of us would be spared anyway. I silently prayed to God to give me strength to withstand the pain that would follow. “Who started? From where did you get the colours?”, he thundered again. Nobody uttered a word. He asked the same question, this time individually, to each one of us and all of us uttered the same three golden words – “I don’t know”. It was indeed a crime those days for a boarder to go out of the school campus without the warden’s permission. If that culprit were to be identified, he would have one hell of a day with parents or guardians being summoned and what not. We knew the importance of unity that day. It was amazing to note that none of us relented to any questions asked by the staff. “I don’t know” seemed to be the ‘mantra’ of the day.

Our warden ordered us to enter the dining hall and stand in a single file. We paraded into the dining hall much to the amusement of the other ‘clean’ friends enjoying their meals. They all had a good time making fun of us and passing witty comments. Within minutes, to our surprise, the Principal came visiting us. We don’t see or talk to our Principal often and now his physical presence seemed more towering that usual. Given a choice, we would have preferred Mr. Ward’s caning to confronting our Principal. None of us mustered the courage to make eye contact with him. Even he lectured for a few minutes. The only sentence I understood was that he will never give holiday for Holi in future. That really didn’t matter, but we have to pretend as if that holiday was important for us. If the holiday was indeed denied the next year, our contemporaries knew whom to blame.

We were awaiting our sentence as we knew that we will not be left scot free. The principal told something to the remaining staff and left the scene. Now the punishment for playing Holi is that we will be provided lunch only after we were “colour free”. We all looked at each other and whispered to one another – ‘Is that all’. We once again had to pretend as if it was a harsh punishment: we made sad faces and as soon as we turned our faces away from them, we were beaming with joy; a sense of achievement was written on our faces. The “Holi Union” had passed the test with flying colours. With no water in the tank, we had to approach that one source of water: a borewell in one corner in the small field. All of us collected our soaps and mugs, stripped ourselves till our underpants and sprinted to the water source. This image is still intact in my memory. Just imagine a bunch of 12-year-olds to 14-year-olds in just their underpants, and rest of the body smeared with colours, scampering for water as if they had never seen water before. It would have made a spectacle for anyone!!! This mammoth bathing session was a sight to behold. We enjoyed playing with colours but getting rid of colours was even more enjoyable.

What a perfect ‘Holi’

The bunch of boarders have remained united ever since. We will continue to help each other forever. As one of my friends remarked during one of the first reunions, if school mates studied with each other, we boarders lived with each other. We were indeed a family.

Lady Boss

The following is a series of Whatsapp status I had shared whenever I met my Boss. I am from Bangalore, India and I run from my home to Sadashivanagar, through new BEL Road almost every day. There is a small and beautiful lake in Sadashivanagar and that’s where I used to meet this woman. An enigmatic lady who made me want to meet her regularly.

Hope you enjoy the slide show.

Thanks for stopping by.

My time with Kites

Happy Makara Sankranthi to everyone.

A couple of those who wished me on the eve of Sankranthi enquied if I know how to fly kites and if kites are flown in my city. It reminded me of my time in Gulbarga when I lived with my Maternal Grandparents and Uncle during my primary school days. I currently live in the city of Bangalore and unfortunately, I have flown kite just once in this city. I heard that flying kites require a formal permission from the police today.

I remember visiting Gujarat during this festival season a few years back and kite flying was seen in every nook and corner of the city. It was vibrat indeed but we also witnessed adverse effects: kites stuck on trees, electric poles and wires, street lights, top of buildings that it took away the beauty of the city, not to mention enormous casualty caused to the birds. No wonder that kite flying is banned in Bangalore.

When I was in ‘Gulbarga’ though, Kite flying was serious business. People no doubt enjoyed flying kites, but the involvement was at another level. What was more enjoyable is targeting others’ kites in the vicinity and bringing it down to make it your own.

Without School, Children in Sri Lanka Make and Fly Kites

One of the incentives of having lived in tier-2 cities, towns and villages is that the interest and involvement is far greater even when doing the smallest of things. I haven’t seen so much involvement in flying kites in major cities. We never bought kites in Gulbarga, we made them. Check out the ingredients.

  1. Colour papers – for Kite and its Tail
  2. Flexible sticks – usually from the coconut broom or bamboo
  3. String – 10 metres to 30 metres
  4. Glass powder – as much depending on the length of the string
  5. Gum – specific gum for the thread
  6. Gum or cooked rice
  7. Spool – for the string
  8. Cloth – long enough to tie around both the hands for two people

I was part of the neighbourhood cricket team; this team could also be called kite team, marble team, gilli-danda team and so on. We friends pool in a bit of our pocket money to buy these ingredients. If the team works together, the process mentioned below will take around 2 hours.

The string we get is quite strong but not strong enough to cut the strings of rival kites, so we have to make our string stronger and more importantly sharper. We first collect dry leaves, twigs, stems, barks that are strewn on the nearby streets or parks; we collect a few bricks and arrange them such that a vessel, lent to us by a friend’s mother, could be supported. We would then light the dry leaves and twigs and pour some water into the vessel and allow the water to boil. The string is then soaked in boiling water. Once the string has absorbed the water, excess water is removed and the gum or adhesive is poured into the vessel. When the string becomes sticky, we apply glass powder on to the string. This is a delicate and the most important part of the process and one has to protect one’s hands by tying a cloth around one’s hands. The cloth mentioned under the ingredients is used to tie our hands not only at this juncture but also while flying the kite, else we will just cut our hands. The string is now hung around the trees or clothline and allowed to cool and dry. Once the string is dried, it is rolled around the spool.

NGT Bans Synthetic Threads Used For Kite Flying

Any boy my age in Gulbarga would know how to make a kite. The paper is cut in a shape of a Kite or a Rhombus and the flexible sticks, one made into a semi-circle and one left straight are stuck along the diagonals. The two sticks are tied with string and gum or cooked rice is used as adhesive to paste the stick and the paper.

Buy Ruhani Toys & Gift Gallery Paper Indian Fighter Cheel Kite Patang  (Multicolour, 25x22, Large) - Pack of 25 Online at Low Prices in India -  Amazon.in

Quite an art, isn’t it. The expert amongst us will tie the string to the kite. There is a complete geometric process to it. Once the Kite, its tail and string are all connected, we check the direction of the wind, and see which kite should be targeted and accordingly choose an appropriate place to begin our hunt.

We don’t wait for Sankranti to fly kites. It is flown whenever the wind plans to visit us. One or two who take the responsibility of flying the kite cover both their hands with the cloth. One of us would hold the kite and try to lift it helping it to float with the help of the breeze, and one who has the string will pull it towards himself to help it lift with the drag, once it lifts to a particular height, the breeze will push the kite further and the boy with the spool will roll spool to release the string.

Kite flying in the sky to see what the village boys flying kites remember  childhood. - Imgur

This to and fro game of pulling and releasing the string continues till the kite has flown above the trees and buildings, as that’s when the kite gets unobstructed supply of breeze, marking the onset of our poaching extravaganza. The swifter one pulls the string towards oneself, the higher the kite flies , else the kite flies horizontally and it falls reach the height required to poach rival kites. If our kite goes around rival’s kite, then we can more or less cut the string of that kite. An element of skill is required to fly kites and poach, therefore the best among our team flies the kite and rest of us resort to being spool operators, navigators and commentators, but all the while, everyone’e eyes are glued to the kite.

What is the science behind a kite cutting another kite? - Quora

Sometimes, when we cut a rival’s kite, it flows off with the breeze instead of clinging on to our string, so we chase the kite to see where it lands. A bunch of us are ever ready for such a scenario. The kite lands sometimes on rootops, sometimes on trees and sometimes ot top of moving vehicles. There is a lot of fun involved in chasing the kite as we all run in different directions and see who gets it first. The one who gets it becomes the hero of the day. It is also a team effort as it is difficult to ascertain the landing of the kite, so if one misses, the other one gets it. There are times when we have chased a kite for kilometres and we get a huge sense of accomplishment when we get the rival’s kite intact: much like the WWF wrestlers who take the rival’s belt. But there are times when we have just missed it. I remember a time when a the kite haf fallen on the busy road and we were trying to get close to it when a vehicle ran over it. Many-a-times, when a kite it stuck on a tree, the kite is invariably torn and there are times when we lost it to the winds.

There was a time when I was finally elevated to fly the kite but, the string has cut my palm inspite of tying cloth around my hands. I presume the padding was not thick enough. I almost hunted down a rival kite once but due to duel between the two, both the kites perished; it was such a ‘so near yet so far’ moment. Kite flying was fun indeed. It gave us a kind of joy to cherish forever.

From kites to bonfires: The various flavours of Makar Sankranti all over  India - Education Today News

15th Jan 2022

My favourite Football match.

La Liga was perhaps the most exciting when Messi and Ronaldo played for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively. Ever wondered how would the team comprising of both Messi and Ronaldo be? Read on…

Can any of you guess as to which is my favourite football match? It is not ‘El Classico’ – Barcelona vs Real Madrid, nor is it Brazil vs Argentina nor Italy vs Germany. It is not even India vs Pakistan, nor Mohan Bagan vs East Bengal. Well it is match I not only witnessed in person but also was a part of it. Let’s say it was Team A vs Team B.

Whenever you watch a game of football on television, have you ever wondered as to why the spectators and players display so much unnecessary passion on the field? If so, then you have not played the game the right way!!! It is not just playing for your country or state or college or club that ignite passions, but even if you are playing for your house or a random team. Sports took centre stage once I joined Baldwin Boys High School in Bangalore in 7th grade. That’s when I learnt that if a sport is not played with passion, one will never grow as a sportsman. I also realised that one can follow, understand and enjoy watching a sport more if one has played the game in the right way by following the rules, displaying sportamsnship and performing with right spirit. Our school was divided into six houses and these six houses competed against each other in sports, debate and other such competitions. Each of these competitions was taken part with so much of pride and spirit that the essence has become a part of our life.

I hadn’t played any team sport apart from Cricket till I joined Baldwins. It was compulsory for boarders to play from 4:30 to 6:00 pm every single weekday day and during weekends one could play the whole day. We had to study from 6 pm to 7:30 pm, so bell is rung at 5:50pm (first bell) to let us know that in 10 min we have to sit for studies. At 5:55, bell is rung a second time; at this juncture, we had to either be in the dorm, or be ‘running’ towards the dorm.

It was halfway through my first year (7th Grade) in Baldwins when I had learnt enough of hockey and football that I was worthy enough to be selected in the playing eleven. I am born asthmatic making me tired soon while playing most active sports, so I settled being a defender or ‘backie’ – slang for a defender. My position was right back in Football and left back in Hockey. During my hostel days in Baldwins, we had this peculiar way of choosing the teams. Any two of us would be designated as captains. One of us would toss a coin and the one who wins the toss gets to choose the first member of his team, then the other captain chooses his first team mate and so on till there are no more people left or till captains have eleven members each. The one who wins the toss would invariably choose Abrar as his first pick and then his best friends. “If you have Abrar in your team then your team would win that match” was the belief, be it in Football, Hockey or Cricket. He was good in other sports as well such as Table-Tennis, or Basketball and excelled in Athletics. He had this knack of excelling in any sport he played. In order to win the game, one had to win the toss so as to choose him in your team. There was never a draw when we played as we used to have penalties if such a thing ever happened. In other words, a face saver never existed – it is either win or lose.

It was during one of those Football matches when Abrar had scored 2 goals against us and we were yet to open the account. Our team captain made it clear that we are going to lose anyway and now it was a matter of pride. “We shall not concede any more goals”, he yelled. The time was 5:30 and in another 15 to 20 minutes, we would have to stop playing and we have to make sure that we don’t shame ourselves by conceding more goals. The entire team went on the defensive and the other team was trying its best to annihilate us. One of our team mates, Govinda, had other plans. In other words, he didn’t care for the captain’s message and he managed to score a goal, a solo goal. It came out of the blue. Now every member of our team was beaming with a big smile. ‘We are not going to lose without scoring a goal’ – is a big consolation.

Nevertheless, we were in a tricky situation and even the captain was clueless – should we attack or defend, should we go for an equalizer or settle for a ‘not so ignominious defeat’. In another 5 minutes however, Govinda scored another goal. There was a ‘hush’ silence for a second to see if the goal is given or not and once the goal was confirmed, we were so ecstatic and we screamed so much that almost the entire hostel who were playing other matches in other grounds, stopped their games and came to see our match. We all bellowed and hollered and hugged each other and what not. ‘Common guys’ lent the air. Both the teams went in a huddle to figure out the strategies for the next few minutes. Both the captains gave 45 seconds of the most motivational speech of their lives. The play resumed and this time without any strategies. It will be down to penalties I thought – It is good to lose via penalties than an outright loss. With a bit of luck, a weaker team can also win through penalties. Just then the first bell rang. We all decided to play till the second bell. Abrar wanted to prove a point and tried his best to score a goal but our team fought valiantly with renewed energy as if our lives depended on these final 5 minutes. “I will let the ball pass through only over my dead body” – I said to myself. I was thinking and I am sure everyone else in our team were thinking – “is it possible…”? Guess the chorus of the evening? – It was ‘Govinda’, ‘Govinda’. I don’t know whether we attacked or defended as a team, but I know for sure that the opposition attacked us and this helped Govinda make spaces in the other half and and in the next few seconds, just before the second bell rang, Govinda scored another goal!!! That is one of the best hattricks you will ever see. Clenched fists were thumping towards the sky. If you wondered what interjections are, you should have been here that day. “Yaay”, “Wooaah”, “Ooooh”, “Shucks!”, “Ayyo!”, “F@$k”, “H#*y S~^t”, and other grawlix filled the air. It was disbelief to everyone who watched and played the match that evening. The second bell rang soon after. I don’t really know as to what would have gone through Abrar’s mind that evening, but I am sure that he felt terrible. I had never seen him that furious. He wanted to carry on but our team wanted to stop. Our team had won and that feeling of achievement lasted for a long long time. I had never experience so much passion, teamwork, pride in playing arena ever before. I feel blessed that I was part of such an intense match and more so to be part of the winning team. Whenever I see any match where a team comes from behind, I am reminded of this game. This game also taught me the power of resilience, teamwork, self belief, and ‘never say die’ attitude.

It is one of those incidents that can change your perception forever. “So Abrar’s team can lose…” was the realization. From that day onwards, the captains were never afraid of losing the toss. “If you choose Abrar, we choose Govinda” was the attitude. In a matter of time, Govinda became the first choice for many captains including me (whenever I was made one). Over a period of time, it was an unwritten rule that Govinda and Abrar would never be in the same team so that the teams could be even and the games become entertaining.

Govinda, my classmate whom I am still in touch with me, is in my opinion, one of the biggest underachievers among my school friends. For someone who excelled in such an array of sports, he was quite a calming nature – similar to Rahul Dravid of Cricket. He is the best sports captain our school never had. Our school has a culture of appointing a boarder as the Sports Captain and he could have easily become one. He achieved stardom in hostel without trying hard. A lot of us respected him and would have been exceedingly happy to see him as a sports captain or a prefect. He never tried and he never bothered to impress his teachers. Abrar (a year junior to Govinda) went on to become the sports captain the following year and brought a lot of laurels related to sports for our school.

Now to answer the question – If you ever wondered how the team that comprises of both Messi and Ronaldo be, then it is like having Govinda and Abrar in the same team and fortunately it has happened as both Govinda and Abrar were in my house – ‘Oldham House’, and it was difficult to beat our house. No wonder that Oldham house was sports toppers during my time in Baldwins. Both of them also represented our school helping our school in bagging inter school sports trophies.

Free Runners “Shut up and Run” – Its significance in my life.

Sports, Fitness and Running have been an essential fragment of my life since my childhood. I am born Asthmatic and it hindered my progress, however, since I adored sports, I was able to overcome that so called weakness of mine to an extent. ‘Amy Van Dyken’, an American swimmer secured 4 Gold medals during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She was the most decorated athlete during that Olympics. I stumbled upon an article about her that mentioned that she took up swimming as a therapy for Asthma!!! That was the last day I gave Asthma as an excuse for any fitness or sports related challenges in my life.

I have been running intermittently ever since my college days. My customary route was from my home to Sadashivnagar police station and back. I used to run that stretch of 7.6 kms (up and down) in 35 minutes. I wonder how long would I have taken to run 10k during my college days. It is a pity that I never ran 10k till Sunfeast 10k came into being in Bangalore several years back. If I extrapolate my running time, then I ought to run 10km in about 47 min to 48 min (Never achieved that till date) but I took 72 minutes to run my first clocked 10Km run.

I ran Mumbai marathon in January 2013. I was perhaps at my peak of fitness as far as running is concerned, but I had never run beyond 10Km at a stretch except for one 16Km run and another 17Km run. Many people warned me that I was taking a risk and not to run a marathon by skipping half marathon. My father had told the whole world that I was taking part in a Full Marathon and flying to Mumbai to achieve it blah blah, so there was no looking back. It took a solid 6 hours to complete the marathon though. I struggled to run after 30km as that’s when God decided to convey that I have a hip joint.

From then onwards, even as I write this, (Dec 2021) that I am at my fittest ever. There have been a few factors that has affected my running over the last few months. One of those is joining a running group called ‘Free Runners’ or simply ‘FR’, an informal WhatsApp group where runners post their times, distance etc. The other good thing is to download ‘Strava’; I was not able to cheat myself on running goals.

Let me share a few snippets before I joined this group. I used to run on new BEL road, I saw this old man who ran faster than I could. He would put me to shame with his agility and speed and I wondered, “Who is this ‘thatha’ who runs faster than I can”. From that day on, as soon I saw this man, I would attempt to run faster or just change my direction. Many years later I would realise that this man is the founder of ‘FR’. Krishnan Sir, as we all fondly call him, is still an active runner.

‘Krishnan’ sir in the middle flanked by his bodyguards

One day, when I was running on new BEL road, after M. S Ramaiah hospital, I saw this girl run towards me, passed me, took a turn at the signal and in a matter of time she overtook me. A few minutes later, I saw this girl once again running towards me and she passed me for the second time, I said to myself “I should not allow her to over take me a second time” and I ran as fast as I could and succeeded. That’s when I figured that there is an untapped energy left in me and I have to raise the bar. The very next day, 21st June 2020, (International day of Yoga) I ran my first 10k non-stop, that too without using an inhaler. That was perhaps the turning point of my life as far as running is concerned.  I gave her a thumbs up the next time as a gesture of ‘Thank you’ and months later I learnt that even she is a member of FR and a regular podium finisher in major races. I have kept a track of her to know if it is true and Farheen has been on podium in almost all (if not all) the races she has taken part since. From that day onwards, I have regularly run 10k non-stop and slowly progressed, and as of today, I have run maximum of 30Km non-stop.

I did not have a proper schedule and still don’t have a proper schedule for running. I could start any time from 4am to 9am, so I end up seeing a lot of different people depending on what time of the day I start, but there was this one man I used to see on a regular basis in spite of my erratic schedule and no matter which route I take. I used to ask myself, “This man again!! Doesn’t he have family or kids? Why is he always loitering on the roads”. After months of seeing him, I happened to talk to him one day and learnt that there is a fitness club of sorts and joined that club and was quite active till COVID hit me. It was through him, Santosh, that I happened to join Free Runners.

Santosh – Wonder when and where he gave this pose

You have seen how a few runners from Free Runners have indirectly been helpful to me even before I knew the group existed. After joining this group, I have met some awesome people. I was pleasantly surprised that quite a few runners I regularly see are part of this group. I improved my time steadily and I was able to run 10Km non-stop regularly in an hour. I was delighted with this progress and set sights at the 47min-48min. Within a month of joining this group, by first week of April 2021, COVID hit me. I didn’t run for 3 months and when I got back to running in July 2021, I could never run more than a Kilometer at a stretch; when I huffed and puffed for 10Km, it took more than 80 minutes. I wondered if I could ever run 10km in an hour again? I put my concerns about running in the group and more than a few would motivate and provide solutions. “Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect. We take what we get and are thankful it’s no worse than it is.” –  Margaret Mitchell. A timely quote to remember. I can’t complain much, can I? The second wave wiped out a few families and here I was complaining about my 10km time. I realized that this group has actually helped me get back on road, else ‘Inertia’ would have easily hit me after so many days without running.

Around this time, when Bangalore had the highest number of COVID infected in the world during the second wave, similar waves were created in the runners group. One of the runners ‘Wishwa’ was on the onset of Marathon of Half Marathons. He finally adjourned at 50 half marathons in 50 consecutive days. By the time he ran his 50th marathon, I was able to run about 5Kms in a total of 10kms. I was happy to be a part of his running journey on his 50th Half Marathon. An event was organized to commemorate his achievement, and on that day, I met another local legend, Manoj Bhat. That day morning or the previous day he had run almost up to the foot of Nandi hills (started at 3am) but had to return a bit earlier as entry was prohibited due to COVID concerns. I mentioned in the group that this group should have a motto or a mission statement. I was told it already exists – “Shut up and Run”. No wonder, everyone just follows this statement like gospel.

With Wishwa on his 50th Half Marathon

How many more crazy people were around, I pondered? There were quite a few. I didn’t know there were so many runners who observe regular fasting on ‘Ekadasi’ and even run on both the days. I thought I was the only one. Over the next few months, I have seen runner after runner losing their minds. Gaurav Midha ran 21 Half Marathons in 21 consecutive days.

Gaurav celebrating his 21st consecutive Marathon

The three musketeers – Shashi, Wishwa, Mahadev continue running and posting their daily achievements and what’s worse is the recovery run they do the next day is better than my personal best!!! This should either put you to shame or motivate you; I chose to get motivated. I remember matching my pace with Manoj Bhat and he said it was his slow running day or whatever 😊. Many other runners – Vazz, Arun Joshi, Bhadresh, Anuradha, Manju, Raghavendra, Satish, Mr. India, Anjani Kumar, Praveen, Rajkumar, Narasimha, Laxminarayan, Niteen, Gopi, Neel, Naveen, Satish, Satish Iyer, Raghavendra, Pats, Rakesh, Sudhindra, Rajesh, Dr. Eshwar (Forgive me if I missed anyone) continue to motivate directly or indirectly and provide guidance. All these stories are from of the band of runners that has just over 100 runners in the group and this is just the beginning.

I have seen wonderful milestones being accomplished by several runners in the past two to three months. Dr. Vijayakumar completed his first Marathon in Mysore and was given a special memento for persisting and completing. Govind has improved leaps and bounds in his running. Satish Iyer, Manju and Bhadresh ran virtual Boston Marathon, Anuradha is becoming a regular podium finisher in her age group. Manju continues to rock but prefers to keep a low profile. Ashok goes beyond and not only trains young guns but also helps blind people to run. Santosh is a silent worker, the soul of the group, prefers not to be in limelight. Manoj Bhat took part in Ultra Marathons. He has wonderful ways of running marathons – 108 pradakshinas around Udupi Krishna temple!! That’s more than 45Kms.

Dr. Vijayakumar recieving a special award for ‘persisting and completing’ his first Marathon

‘Govind’ – Most improved runner this year

Regular Podium Finishers – Anuradha (Left) and Farheen (Right)

With Manoj Bhat
That’s a glimpse of Manoj Bhat’s recent 45km run
108 pradakshinas around Udupi Krishna temple

On personal front, my journey from July 2021 till December 2021 is phenomenal. In less than 6 months after running post recovery, I have finally reached a phase where I can run 10Km under an hour quite regularly. I ran my best 10Km with the official time of 51:47 during the Bengaluru 10km run on 24th October 2021.  I stopped consuming processed sugar since 13th November 2021 and that has done wonders to my running, especially at the Half Marathon. I have improved by 23 minutes in Half Marathon. I have run my first Half Marathon under 2 hours on 19th December 2021 when I clocked 1 hour 53 min. I hope to replicate this performance at a racing event to get the official time. What is surprising is that I am a lone wolf and I hardly run with others and in spite of it, the Free Runners group has been able to motivate me. Whenever I have bumped into someone while running, I have gained a lot of knowledge and the push to run longer and faster. I Thank ‘Free Runners’ for helping me in my cause of running. I would have never become the kind of runner I am today without this group. I don’t know how much more I can achieve personally but I have achieved what I wanted to in the year 2021. Thank you all once again.

‘Free Runners’ – May your tribe increase.

‘Free Runners’ tribe

31st December 2021

Unforgettable meal at TAJ

This incident took place in 1996. I had been to Delhi to visit my friend Anshu and he came back with me to Bangalore. Out of his one week stay in Bangalore, one day was spent watching cricket match; another day was the New Years Eve. The remaining five days, we watched 5 movies in 5 different theatres across Bangalore. There were no multiplexes in Bangalore at that time.

It was beyond midnight when had come out of the theatre after watching a second show movie. Both of us were quite hungry but unfortunately there weren’t any restaurants open at that time. Finding food at home was not an option as I had told my mother not to expect us for dinner.

Anshu had the brilliant idea of going to TAJ as there is a coffee shop in that hotel which is open for 24 hours!!! I was confused to say the least as we had exhausted all our money and did not have money tmore than Rs. 100 between us and we have to spare atleast Rs. 30 for a litre of petrol to get home. We nevertheless zipped to TAJ on my Bajaj Chetak scooter. Anshu explained to me the idea as to what we do in the coffee shop.

Once we reached the coffee shop, I sat in one place and he sat in another place; in other words, we both sad on different tables. We both ordered a tomato soup each. I checked the menu; it was indeed the cheapest item on the menu priced in the range of Rs. 30 to 40. Once we got our soups, we got together and enjoyed our meal!!!

coffee shop
This is how the coffee shop in Taj would have looked. This is the pic of present day Cafe Mozaic in Taj which is open 24 hours.

Why do you think we ordered sitting at different places? You can guess before you scroll down for the answer.
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Those days, along with a big bowl of soup, one would get a bread basket which looked something like the pic below. I don’t think any hotel provides such a big basket even now.

BREAD-BASKET

Yum isn’t it. It also comes with one or two small packs of butter. My eyes widened as soon as I saw the basket. I used to be a big time bread lover those days. 

But why did we sit at two different places?? That’s because, if we both ordered from the same table, we would have got only one basket for both of us. Now that we both got our individual baskets, we came to a common table to relish our meal. This is simply one of my best meals in TAJ.

Dog Attack

Never wake up a sleeping dog they say, but then that was hardly my intention. The first third of the walk was fine till I observed a couple of sleepy dogs staring at me. I chose not to disturb them and continued to walk swiftly.  Slowly these dogs got up and started ‘should I bark or not’ kind of growling at me. At this time, another dog lazily woke up and started barking and these two dogs also followed suit. The road was deserted, all shops were closed and there was no one to look up to for help.

This happened a month ago. I had been to Delhi for a conference. My flight was delayed by a couple of hours so it reached Bangalore slightly past midnight. As the buses at the Bangalore International Airport were ready to leave, I took one of the buses instead of a taxi and got down at Ganganagar. This place is two and a half kilometres away from my home. I did see a couple of autos but since I was familiar with the area and the weather was good, I preferred taking a walk. This was not the first time I was taking a walk at this hour, but it was indeed after a long time. The road was empty and silent and I remembered the song from the movie ‘Shahenshah’ –  “Andheri raaton mein, sunsaan raahon par…”

A couple of decades back, when I was still in my high school, I was walking with my elder cousin, Suhas, a similar thing happened. Four or Five dogs surrounded us and started barking at us. My cousin said to me not to panic and not run. “Look straight into its eyes and these dogs will stop barking once they realise that you are not afraid of them” he said. And after a minute or two, the dogs stopped barking and left us alone.

I tried to use similar strategy. Let me tell you all that I did not panic. I had a laptop bag in one of my hands and used it to ward off their attacks. I removed my jacket and swung it with my other hand to distract them. One of the dogs came quite close in order to bite me. I kicked its mouth with one of my legs. The dogs were a bit apprehensive after this and stopped attacking me but they were walking towards me. Maybe they were waiting for me to make a mistake. I slowly started walking such that I could face the dogs. I never showed by back to them as I thought that once they see my back, they might start attacking me. After a minute or so, the dogs just stood still and after another minute they went retreated. I guess I was out of their territory.  I walked swiftly towards my house. I did see a lot of dogs on the way and none really bothered me, but the remaining part of the walk was just not comfortable.  I had read a few incidences of dogs attacking young kids in Bangalore and those images kept flashing in my mind as I walked.

There is a thin line between foolishness and bravado; this was definitely foolishness from my side to take a walk at that hour. Forget the dogs, what if anyone else had attacked me. I do not carry any gun or knife to protect myself and I am neither a karate expert nor a Shahenshah. I thank my stars that these dogs did not wake up or influence the neighbouring pack of dogs. I don’t know what would have happened if I had run after the dogs started coming towards me. I sincerely thank my brother Suhasanna to have given me those words of wisdom which came to such good use that day.

Should I complain to the authorities concerned and get rid of these dogs? I don’t really know. I don’t blame the dogs for whatever I went through. I believe that they were just following their instincts. A lesson learnt the hard way.

Pssst  – I haven’t yet told this to my parents and don’t intend to. Kind request to all those who read this -“please don’t reveal it to my parents”. They are not tech savvy and they will not read this. Thanks in advance.

My first rock show

My mother would always listen to old hindi songs, ‘Vividh Bharthi’ being her favourite radio channel. It was in Nigeria, where I first heard non-Indian music – ‘Michael Jackson’, ‘Boney-M’, ‘Osibisa’ – are a few I can remember. I came back to Bangalore in 1987 and studied in Baldwin Boys High School. It is a beautiful school, with a long history of more than 100 years. It was in Baldwins hostel that I was first exposed to Rock music.  ‘Born in USA’ by ‘Bruce Springsteen’ was perhaps the first Rock number I ever heard. Every kid in the dormitory would sing that song. I was in 7th grade and I could not follow much of the lyrics apart from “Born in USA” and that’s all I would sing – “Boooooorrrrnnnn in U S Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”.

Born in the U.S.A. (song) - Wikipedia  Iconic

The school is close to Brigade Road, MG Road, Residency Road, Commercial Street etc. which used to be home to more than half of Bangalore’s bars and pubs. There used to be cabarets too, but they closed down a few years back. As school kids, we used to sneak into these bars/pubs, (sometimes in school uniform) just to feel its atmosphere. I never ever drank or smoked or tasted non-veg, I promise.

I attended a Rock show in Bangalore in 1990. One of the then leading bands of the city and country – “Shiva’s” led the show. They did sing a lot of popular English numbers – ‘Buffalo soldier’ is the only song I can recollect. What stunned me most was the Rock show’s atmosphere. I had been to bars and pubs a number of times and expected similar atmosphere but I was dumbstruck. This was a first for me. Live band, weird clothes, weird hair styles, a lot of ‘ganja’ (marijuana) users, liquor bottles thrown everywhere, girls and boys were closest to each other here than anywhere else.

Bob Marley - Buffalo Soldier ft The Wailers Mp3 Download » TrendyBeatz Legendary

“Yo man” someone yelled and waved at me with two of his fingers tucked in. That was supposed to be ‘Rock Salute’. I didn’t know that even I had to respond similarly – “yo man”. What on earth is ‘yo man’? I had no clue. I resorted to saying ‘Hi’ as all this seemed alien to me and they would indeed look at me as if I were an alien. I avoided eye-to-eye contact for some time. After a bit of practice, I learnt to arrange my fingers for the rock salute and say “yo man” with the typical accent. People still looked at me as if I were an alien!!!

Fifampizarana vazo ROCK(pop,metal,sns) gasy na vazaha | Facebook  The famed ‘Rock Salute’

I was perhaps the only one wearing neatly pressed formal shirt & trousers and polished black shoes (School shoes). Shoes had collected a bit of dust and that was the only silver lining. My caring mother had given me a pullover, just in case it gets cold. A t-shirt would have camouflaged the trousers, I felt. I checked if the pullover looked anything like a t-shirt. It did to an extent. Better sense prevailed over me and I did not take the risk of wearing the sweater. I tried to find someone of my ilk, but was unsuccessful. I sheepishly made an early exit.

A few months later, I learnt through my cousin’s friend about the differences between pop music, soft rock, rock, hard rock, metal, heavy metal, death metal and how to judge the fans of each of these types of music. It varied from simple jeans and t-shirt for pop fans to jeans and black t-shirt for rock followers, to torn jeans and black weirdo t-shirts for metal fans, to piercing and tattoos for heavy and death metal clans. “Come what may, I am going to be a follower of pop music for life”, I said to myself.

“Skull Crushers” was my common reply when someone asked me about my favourite rock band. I drew pleasure from their looks. A lot of them would pretend to know the band or they would say “not my taste” to end the conversation. A band by that name never existed at that time!!!

Club 704

It was during the summer of 2004, when Ramesh and a few of his colleagues were deputed to Mumbai as a part of an expansion drive. The company accommodated them in a group of furnished flats, well designed for bachelors like him. Ramesh was given flat no. 704 which he shared it with a couple of others on the 7th floor, the top most floor in the building. The summer heat, heats up the terrace and the warms up the top most flats in any apartment and this was the Ramesh’s only complaint.

Ramesh knew almost all of his colleagues by face but he was surprised to see that he had never interacted with a lot of them. It didn’t take much time to cut ice. “Vikram, Pushpa, Sampad, Jameel, Shubho, Joseph, Gaurav and Bhaskar”, Ramesh whispered these names to himself. He was finally able to link each of their faces with their names. Ramesh’s flat soon came to be known as ‘Club 704’ – most of the decent lot(more or less) flocked to his flat during their leisure.

The flat was a melting pot of culture. His friends came from different parts of India and Ramesh could see the cultural differences but he simply could not understand as to how anyone could watch ‘ETC’ channel for 24 hours and still enjoy every minute of it [ETC channel played a few new bollywood songs for as little as 30 seconds to 2 minutes and it would be repeated the whole day for an entire month!!!] and how could anyone have Potatoes and Panneer[Cottage cheese] 3 times a day for the whole month. ‘Laughter Challenge’ – Season 1, was the only TV program which was religiously followed and enjoyed by all the members of ‘Club 704’.

Ramesh felt at home and happy with his life in Mumbai. It reminded him of his life in Hostel as a young school boy. He remembered the days when a few of his friends would throng themselves on someone’s cot and talk endlessly for hours exaggerating everything under the sun – right from ‘I am lucky to be alive’ to ‘how much my parents struggled’ and what not. The scenario was not much different here. One fine evening, when Ramesh reached his apartment, he could see an animated discussion going on. Half the members were smoking but the ashtray was empty, so Ramesh was happy to realize that the discussion had just begun and he did not miss anything. The topic of the evening was “How I missed being a Billionaire!!!

Ramesh wondered as to how this topic came about. It was amazing for him to see that almost everyone had a supposedly true story to explain in-depth on this subject. Pushpa only had to marry her second cousin to become a billionairess, but something stopped her from taking that step! Incidentally true love was more important for her than money. “I have no regrets” she says, signing off her talk. “My mother didn’t take a single penny when she married my father” started Sampad. The rest of his talk was all about ‘how rich his uncles are’ and ‘how many billions would he have had, if his mother had taken her share’. Joseph and Jameel talked about his uncles’s cheating their fathers at the time of sharing the ancestral property. “We are so rich inspite of being cheated, just imagine our wealth if we were give a fair share” sighed Jameel. Joseph was more diplomatic – “My father was not smart enough to extract his share and he deserved what he got” he said, adjusting his glasses. Shubho’s father lost a lot of money and property in a long court battle. “Whatever we have now is just a fraction of what he had a few years ago. I will make sure that we are back to where we were” said Shubho thumping fist on the table. Vikram was itching to say something. When he got his chance, he did not know where to start. He took a magazine, flipped a few pages and showed a picture and said “I initially thought this picture was captured from his maternal uncle’s farm in US. It looks so similar.” Ramesh realized that Vikram is not going to finish any time soon; nevertheless, he was enjoying every bit of it. Vikram gave a running commentary about his uncle’s vast property, palatial house, fleet of cars, the number of credit cards he has and the names of celebrities who had visited or stayed in his uncle’s house. But how did he miss being a billionaire. Ah! Here comes the point. Vikram’s father apparently refused to take any share in his wife’s property which was then offered by his father-in-law. “My father only wanted my mother’s hand in marriage” he said. No prizes for guessing what he said next. “We don’t have any regrets” he continued and ended.

There was a long silence. It was not because they were shocked at these events, but because they were waiting for the next speaker. Each one was looking at one another. Ramesh and Bhaskar looked at each other while trying to hide their smile. They were the two remaining speakers, but neither of them spoke anything. “Apart from watching and enjoying ‘Laughter Challenge’, another thing common to most of the members of Club – 704 is the fact that they all missed becoming billionaires by a whisker” whispered Ramesh to Bhaskar.

In course of time Ramesh and Bhaskar became official money lenders to the other members of Club-704. They were the only ones who had not missed being billionaires! The rest of the gang was ofcourse not billionaires, but Ramesh and Bhaskar realized that they were not even millionaires or thousandaires or hundredaires!!! They did not have any regrets!!!

Kota Premier League

Indian Premier League (IPL) has sure caught the imagination of the nation and world. It has made cricket into a sport which need not be confined to a handful of countries. In a decade from now, a lot of countries could have their own T20 leagues in line with IPL. But that’s not the only success of IPL. It has given opportunities to a lot of cricketers – Cricketers who not only play at the First Class level but also for those who play and excel on the streets of India’s small towns and villages – quite literally.

Let us first thank Mr. Subhash Chandra, for starting ICL (Indian Cricket League). If not for him and the differences he had with the BCCI, IPL would not have been formed. The success of IPL led to a plethora of cricket leagues – Karnataka Premier League (KPL) and then came Mangalore Premier League (MPL) and now Kota Premier League (KPL).

Kota is a small village in Udupi District (not the Kota of Rajasthan). KPL was formed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of a local cricket club – ‘Eleven Up’. It is the brain child of Anil Hande who used to be the captain of that club. It was formed in lines with IPL – 8 teams were auctioned to prominent bidders. Players were auctioned in the next stage. 56 players were chosen from the village and were auctioned. Each team could have only 4 to 5 players from out of the Village. There was a cap on how much a team can spend on players.

The 8 teams auctioned were:

1. Abharan Challengers
2. Barikere Bushrangers
3. OPAL Savinaya
4. Parampalli Gladiators
5. Prestige Warriors
6. Saligrama Spitfires
7. Sea Hunters – Khushi Amar
8. Varamballi Eagles

It was an 8 over a side affair unlike 20 overs in IPL. It lasted for 2 days – 16th & 17th Jan 2010 which coincided with one of the most important festivals on that region – ‘Saligrama Habba’. The event was managed exceedingly well. Each of the teams had their own logo and colours. There were day and day/night matches, neutral umpires(from Mysore), 3rd umpires, live commentary and live telecast on the local cable network, DJs,  each of the teams had their own stands, VIP stand, advertisement hoardings – In short it had everything that a tournament requires and at the same time have a carnival like atmosphere.

The icing on the cake was that the nail biting final was decided on the last ball of the match between traditional arch-rivals Parampalli Gladiators and Barikere Bushrangers. Parampalli Gladiators defeated Barikere Bushrangers by 4 runs. The winners received the trophy and a cheque worth Rs. 150000/-. The runners up collected a cheque for Rs.100000/-. There were attractive awards for the best bowler, batsman and man of the series. At the end of the day, the most important thing was the fact that the tournament was a grand success. The entire village needs to be commended for its success as the sponsors, volunteers and the local crowd supported the event.

There isn’t a Bangalore Premier League but a small village of Kota has its own league. I don’t think there is any village which has a cricket league of its own. KPL may have created history of sorts. Kota could be the village which will set the tone of things to come. In a few years time, almost every city, town and self sufficient villages may have their own cricket leagues and our village of ‘Kota’ would be the shining example which started this revolution.