I have been known to have a certain few traits that could be loosely classified by some as being compulsive. As I was thinking about this the other day (yesterday), I realised that a daily ritual of mine very clearly fell in this category. The act of marking an e-mail ‘unread’.

Now surely, many of you might consider this to be a harmless and common act. One that serves to be a rather gentle reminder of tasks that need attending. NO. If you ever have a chance to sneak a glimpse at my open Inbox, look for a mail that’s been marked unread. Do not make the rookie mistake of assuming it to be “just a mail”, for it’s a part of my soul, stripped away from my being in the harshest of ways.

There will be some who can empathize with the agony of my curse. One of my life’s few goals, along with happiness, friends & world peace, is to have an inbox with no unread mails. And this is a goal I willingly push away on a daily basis, all for the sake of those around me. I guess in a way you could perceive this as one of the highest privileges a man (and very rarely a woman) can receive from me. The gift of making the depths of my consciousness vulnerable to your words. The privilege of letting you consume a good portion of my peace.

However, there’s the darker side to it. There’s only so much a man can take; which is when the pressure and pain will make me despise you for it. So if some day you find me looking at you with nothing but wrath and disgust for no apparent reason, think back. Think back to the distant day you asked something of me in an email… and never heard back. Know that it kills me.
Every. Single. Day.

After failed attempts at reviving my drive to write, at the hands of procrastination, I had decided to shut down my blog and put away my futile attempts at appearing wise. Ironically, what kept that from happening was procrastination as well. I ran a race a couple of weeks ago, which some of my friends have been curious about. My good friend, Nitesh, suggested I write about how it is to run for upto 12 hours in one of world’s hardest ultra-marathons. Which brings me to this.

 

On June 1 2014, I ran the ‘Comrades’ Ultramarathon in South Africa. The direction of the race alternates between two destinations every year, and this year it went 89km from Pietermaritzburg to the heart of Durban. Runners over the age of 20 qualify when they are able to complete an officially recognised marathon (42.2 km) in under five hours. During the event an athlete must also reach five cut-off points in specified times to complete the race, with the final cut-off for the entire race being at the 12 hour mark.

Considering the only running events I had participated in before this were a Half Marathon (21.1km, 2012) and a Full Marathon (42.2km, 2013), I should have probably understood that my body wouldn’t take this lightly. Fortunately, my over-inflated ego kept me from realising that I hadn’t done many running events before, until my partner, Shereen, subtly mentioned it in South Africa.

Image

The first question is obviously ‘Why?’. The answer is different for every runner, and for me it was Shereen giving me a call one fine day and asking if I would like a challenge. The context for this was me complaining to her a few weeks earlier that a hike I did in Tasmania had not challenged me at all and left me disappointed. This was not a lack of modesty but perhaps my lack of understanding of the hike before I ventured on to it. Needless to say, the idea of running an ultra distance in what is termed as the ‘The Ultimate Human Race’ was too tempting to turn down. But honestly, what was more luring was the prospect of participating in an event with Shereen, which I had always longed to do. For those unaware, Shereen is a freaking rockstar and a two-time (so far) IronMan finisher. But that’s a discussion for another day…

 

Pre-Race

With the amount of training I had put in, my goal was only to finish. Easier said than done. We got to Durban around noon on 30th May, and checked into the Hilton. The choice of accommodation was due to its close proximity to the finish line. There’s only so far a man can limp to. Catching up with known and unknown faces happened over the next 2 days. We also used this time to gorge on food and explore the expo. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough room to have a look at the course, which might have given me a tad bit of confidence and mental prep. Oh well.. gotta do the best with what you’ve got. The expo was quite well organised and nicely set-up. Although I wish there were more booths set up for the local runners. The queues for the local folks were crazy long and it seems almost wrong for the international runners to have it so easy in comparison to them.

Image

The local runners’ queue at 0700Hrs, 2 hours before the expo opened on the last day

The Comrades was run for the first time in 1921, and with the exception of a break during World War II, has been run every year since. It seemed to fit well that we were running the 89km race on its 89th anniversary. Shereen was under the impression that I would be faster than her and hence, would pace her for atleast the first half. I was under the impression that we would both hold up the same and manage to keep a matching pace. Neither of us realised how horribly wrong these assumptions were.

 

Race

Nothing says Good Morning like a 90min bus ride at 3.30am on a 12 degrees morning to the start line which happens to be 5 degrees cooler. We had a quick breakfast before that, headed on to prep up for the race and I topped it all up with a training montage video from Rocky 3. Had every intention of screaming out “NO PAIN!” as well but the video was getting me enough glances from others.

Image03:30 am Bus ride to Pietermaritzburg

We got to our seeding group, a modest F, a mere 10 min before the ceremonial singing of Shosholoza, followed by the South African National Anthem, ‘The Chariots of Fire’, and finally the sound of a cock crowing and a gun shot. This marked the beginning of ‘The Ultimate Human Race’. The international runners wore a blue coloured BIB with the number of Comrades run being displayed on it. Mine obviously showed ‘0’. This, coupled with the colour of the BIB, attracted well wishes from more experienced runners which was very welcome.

 

My longest run prior to this had been a 5 hour long training run. Although I felt my body would be more than ready for the distance, what I grossly underestimated was the terrain. The entire race is one hill after another. Uphill to downhill to uphill to downhill. The Up tires you out while the Down hurts your quads. The lack of training in this environment soon became evident when I noticed that I was slowing down and struggling to keep up with my normal pace. My pacing plan had been to walk for 3 minutes after every 8 km run. The idea behind this was to give the muscles a change of movement, drop the heart rate and let the muscles relax before reaching a point where I am forced to walk. Sounds good in theory, but I knew something was wrong because I was longing for these 3 min breaks by the time I crossed the 30km mark.

 

The run goes through beautiful valleys and busy motorways. But the support of the energetic crowd seldom wavers. Kudos to the organisers for setting up the race well with regular aid stations and plenty of support crew. Around the 30km mark, I had no doubts that I was holding Shereen back a lot and suggested repeatedly that she leave me and go on. She was adamant on sticking with me despite all my attempts at making her run to her body’s strength (downhill running is her forte). We crossed the halfway point at around 5Hr27Min mark, 27 min behind the initial plan. At the 52km mark, Shereen mentioned she had to head to the restroom. I assumed she wanted me to keep going considering she would be able to catch up to me. This was the point where we lost each other and got separated for good. A blessing in disguise, since I later found out that when she couldn’t find me, she took to her own pace and finished the race in 10:50 to score the bronze medal.

Image

Post the 52km mark, my aim was to reach the end no matter what. I had every intention of earning my chilled post-race beer and I wasn’t going to let aching quads stop me from getting there. The crowd support was always helpful with locals giving me updates on how far I was to the next hill or aid station. I saw a man have a seizure on the side of a road and few others collapse around me. Tried to help some but the official medical teams were more than prompt to take over such situations. Also saw a few “bail buses” on the side that were ready to take any competitors who were either not fit enough to continue or had chosen to stop. I made sure I ran away from them as fast as my tired legs could carry me. As they say, “Pain is temporary. Regret is forever.”.

 

At this point, I knew one thing that could really put an end to my struggle would be muscle cramps. I was prepared with a nutrition plan and was persistent at not slacking on that front. My rough goal was to get around 100 calories in every 45min. After about 4 gels, I couldn’t stand the thought of another one so decided to substitute the source to other means like oranges and bananas that were being distributed through the aid stations. In addition, I consumed a salt pill every 90min with a regular intake of electrolytes based on how I was feeling at the time. This regiment sure helped out as I had no cramps throughout the day, and was able to stay well hydrated at all times.

At the 8.5 hour mark, my Garmin died and left me to my primal senses. That’s when I resorted to asking the crowd for regular updates on time. Matching these with the distance markers along the way gave me a rough idea of the pace I needed to get to the finish line. The moment when the markers went to single digit distances was when I knew I had only a final stretch to conquer. No turning back now! The 5km had a ginormous speaker playing ‘The Final Countdown’, which was drowned out by my screams to know the time. I realised I had 50min to the final cut-off. On any usual day, this would have been a laughable target. But today was a totally different affair.

 

I found runners lying down defeated 3km from the finish line. I wondered how it would be to be so close and yet unable to reach your long awaited goal. No way was I sticking around to find out! The last 1 km was a waddle-run that ended at the Durban Kingsmead stadium in the midst of a roaring crowd.

Image

 

I crossed the finish line at the 11:48 mark, 12 minutes before the cut-off. I found some familiar faces and inquired to see if Shereen was alright, only to find her later with the bronze medal around her neck. So proud of her phenomenal performance despite the slow-down for the first 52km. At 11 hours 58 minutes into the race, all 100,000 people in the stadium focused on the finish line. At 11 hours, 59 minutes, 45 seconds after the cock crowed, the chairman of the Comrades Marathon Association took up his position on the finish line with his back to the finishing runners, raised a pistol, and fired a shot into the air, at precisely 12 hours after the cock crowed that morning. Instantly the finish line was blocked and no medals were awarded post this point. We saw some folks crawl to the finish line, some collapse a few meters behind it and yet others barely make it. It sure was an intense moment.

ImageThe Grim Reaper

 

Post-Race

This race was a humbling experience and I’m grateful to Shereen for sticking around for a good part it and pushing me on. Around 11-12 thousand participants completed the race this year, and I am thankful to be one of them. The first pee after the race was a glorious one since it told me that my kidneys hadn’t given up on me. That’s always nice to know. I am also told that I am the youngest Indian, at the age of 25, to finish the Comrades. Nice as it is, I would love to see younger boys and girls from my country participate in international sporting events. We have enough talented folks over there to dominate any sport given enough effort.

I am told Comrades is more of an addiciton rather than a race. I have also been asked if I will be back next year. There’s that ‘Back to Back’ medal which lures me a fair bit… but the commitment to the training is not something to be taken lightly. Guess time will tell.

Image

I’m the less attractive one. The one pretending he isn’t in pain.

 

C&H New Yrs resolution

It’s that time of the year when every person who’s ever made shitty decisions in the last year decides to start with a “clean slate” and “do better”. I figured I might take this chance to claw my way back into the world of blogging with a list of simple yet procrastination-friendly tasks that I hope to get by in these coming 365 days of ridiculously cranked up awesomeness. So here are 11 goals from the top of my head (That’s a lie. I spent hours coming up with these.) that I’ll try to nail, and hopefully make a part of my daily life.

1) Say less of “not bad” and more of “good”
Not Bad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) No Bieber and Twilight bashing

Bieber vs Twilight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Hug one new person every month

Creep Hug Alert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Speak to co-passengers in flights

Flight Passengers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5) Cook (a real full-fledged meal) at least once a month

Cooking Disaster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6) Save “awesome” for things that truly deserve it

Awesome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7) Drink when you want to, not when you have to

Drinking

 

 

 

 

 

 

8) Save less, travel more

Travel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9) Read at least 1 book per 2 months

Reading

 

 

 

 

 

10) Complete a triathlon and live to talk about it

Triathlon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11) Publish a new blog post per 4 months

Blogging

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s my list of not-so-ambitious-yet-prone-to-failure goals for this year.
Cheers to resolving the shit out of 2013!

Just last night an incident occurred which left me lost in my thoughts, long after it was over. I figured I might not be the only one with such thoughts and feel it’s share-worthy.

While returning from a local grocery store, I noticed a man close to my dad’s age walking down the road that I was crossing. The road was quite a desolate one with a couple of lights illuminating a long stretch. What grabbed my attention was another man, shabbily dressed and dragging himself along the road, who was apparently hinting at needing some money from the former person. This might be a common sight in our country but the “beggar” here was 6 foot tall and did not look weak/needy at all. The elder person was evidently freaked out and decided to walk away briskly. The “beggar” followed with a determined pace. This made my heart skip a beat. Any sane person in this situation could extrapolate the chain of events and realize where it was heading. I stopped the bike and kept my eyes peeled at the duo till I could see them no more. The scene was that of an elderly gentleman in a formal attire (what I guess could be called an “easy catch” in this situation) brisk walking away from what looked like a determined stalker with malice on his mind. I stayed immobile in that lonely dark spot for 10 seconds before turning my bike around and heading towards the potential scene of disaster. I had no idea what I was going to do. My mind was blank. Zero thoughts. Zilch. Nil.

After taking the turn, it took a moment to spot the person but I was glad to see that he had managed to reach a well lit spot with people around. The follower was nowhere to be seen. Although the condition seemed to have been normalized, the adrenaline was still pumping in my blood and it was only now that I really felt the fear. If the situation had turned for the worst, would I have had the courage to step up and put myself in line to protect the victim? Or would I have just witnessed the tragedy as a passive observer, too terrified by the possibility of endangering myself? I honestly have no idea, but I wish I could have found out.

As one of the tracks by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones goes
I’m not a coward,
I’ve just never been tested
I’d like to think that if I was,
I would pass.

We hear of such incidents all the time. But I wonder how many of us could actually be strong enough to step up when needed. A man being mugged, woman being abused, weakling being beat up… would you be one of the few who’d move in to help or just another face in the crowd that looks at the show and walks away shaking his/her head? I don’t know if I would fail or pass the test, but I wish I could find out…

I want to talk about the little things… You know, the little things that creep into your mind every now and then, right before you shoo them away, until it pops back up a while later? The little things that make interesting small talk and also some of the most preposterous discussions. Here are a few that have crossed my mind in the last few days.

1 ) When you are talking 1-on-1 with someone, how exactly do you make eye contact? Do you stare into the left eye or the right??

Cause it’s not possible to look at both! If I have just ruined your life by making you conscious of this fact, I apologize (you may never again have a solo talk with someone without going fanatic midway). I’ve quibbled long over this and the matter is still up for debates.

2 ) If Jesus died and rose back from the death, all immortal and invulnerable, doesn’t that make him a zombie?

Dictionary.com defines a “zombie” as ‘a dead body that has been brought back to life by a supernatural force’. Sounds like Jesus to me! I’m not asking you to shoot his head off, mutilate him or send Alice after his sorry ass….. I’m only suggesting that it ain’t such a bad idea! ;)

3 ) Why do so many guys with superpowers crib about wanting to be “normal”?!?!

Bunch of ungrateful deadbeat no-gooders! If I had super strength, a 6th sense, an uncanny knack of growing 6-pack abs overnight and the liberty to proudly swing across the city in tights, bad grades would be the least of my worries.

4 ) Why can’t we ever get the time at the first glance at our watch?

Is it only me or does everyone suffer from this sort of acute attention disorder? I glance at my watch, look up, wonder what the time is…. NO IDEA!
It may have something to do with the fact that I’m just trying to show the girl across the bench that I am busy and looking forward to something important, but surely grasping the time from a digital watch cannot be that tough?!

5 ) Does looking at a kid and thinking “She’s gonna be hot when she grows up..” count as pedophilia?

Umm… I rather not elaborate on this for fear of incarceration.

6 ) If you understood Morse code, wouldn’t tap dancers drive you nuts?

I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure I’d be all “AAARRGGHHH!!!! I don’t get what you’re saying!!” Its gotta be either tap dancers or Morse code. You can’t have both in your life and stay a sane man.

7 ) Why is it possible for girls to act like boys and look cool but never vice versa?

In that context, why is it alright when girls dance together, hold hands or perform any activity that would be even unthinkable for boys, for fear of being tagged homosexual in a very no-kidding-you’re-a-fag kind of way? I long to see the day when girls would ask guys out as often as it happens the other way around, and guys could wear pink without being judged. That’s right, I’m a sucker for equality!

8 ) How come the expression “slim chance” means the same as “fat chance”?

This silly language has people going berserk! You fill in a form by filling it out and an alarm clock goes off by going on. When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible!! AAARRGGHHHH!

9 ) Of the people who watched Donnie Darko, can anyone honestly say that he/she knows what the fuck happened?!

Come on, be honest! You can seriously make sense of all that? And don’t you dare go all “artsy” on me! I understand that the movie isn’t for everybody. But it shocks me that every other action-flick-addicted-booty-loving-idiot tells me what an awesome movie it is. Surely, my artistic quotient can’t be THAT low!

10) Why is the cockpit called so?

Don’t want to get into the specifics since the question is kind of self explanatory… but interesting food for thought. Maybe it’s because that’s where all the action is! Or is it that only guys hang out in that area of the plane?

Let me know what you think.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!

(‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph)

I encounter, a little too often, people who wish to remain young forever. Those who wish to live the “best” part of their lives forever and ever. But how can something stay valuable if it’s available in such abundance? Isn’t it the very fact that the best is available in bits and pieces that makes it so precious? Surely there’s something that the lunatic inside you fancies.

I don’t have any qualms about aging. But what freaks me out is growing up.

I have been told by many, on a number of occasions, that I often act immature/crazy/childish/stupid/juvenile. Some have been in a positive light but most….well, not so positive. Others may perceive this in their own way, but I honestly consider this a compliment. Can you imagine not being able to enjoy the little things in life? The slapstick humour you throw around to keep the mood light and goofy? Or the crazy idiotic things you go through to get that satisfied grin on your face!

That's what I'm talking about!

Shaving my chest hair to form an “F” (a hairy one) and flaunt it, getting drunk and swimming in the college pool at 3 in the morning, sporting a new “radical” look, borrowing the carpenter’s power drill for a little “me-time”, screaming in a church, painting/scribbling random thoughts on your clean wall, walking 6-7 km back home as a result of lethargy to hitch a cab, playing superhero in my head while waiting for an interview, driving an hour to the airport with friends at 3 A.M to find the only open coffee place around with a good ambiance, getting caught in college with a stash of booze and bribing the authorities with the same booze, standing by your friends when your chances of saving a black eye looks really bleak, breaking a brand new guitar to know how it feels to be a rockstar & so on & so forth……..

Umm...Trendy makeover?

Hallowed be thy name, BIATCH!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friends say that we’ll look back at our endeavours many years down the line and think of the old times. But that’s not nearly good enough! I say we should look back at them and try to top them! Granted, we may not be capable of similar feats then, but I wish I could be foolish enough to try.

Is it so wrong to want to be incarcerated just for the sake of experience? Or to walk up to a stranger on the street and tell them how lovely they look? I intend no malice. I only wish to enjoy the one shot I have at life. When was the last time you pulled off some random shit just for the heck of it? A prank call, a run in the rain, a bite of something inedible, whatever… Don’t take life, or yourself, too seriously. Shit happens. Deal with it. Move on. More shit will happen.

You don't say!

My Bucket List

Posted: December 25, 2010 in Everyday stuff, Misc
Tags: , , , ,

I think it’s about time I created a bucket list. A list of activities I must accomplish before I kick the bucket, in order to know and be content that I have done all the things that I have wanted to, in my little life. Ever feel your days are passing by without any tangible output to speak of? Look at the things you did and the things you’re planning to do next – Do they mean anything to you if you are to die today?

I have been compiling this list for quite some time now, and I believe I now have enough things to have a long enough to-do list. I shall update this page as and when I need to, for varying reasons like completing a task (will strike out the task as I do so), finding a task to be impractical (will remove it from the list in such an event) or finding a new one to add. The sole reason for me to publish this list on my blog is to motivate myself (and maybe others) to get out of my comfort zone and experience something I may be able to look back at, say 10 years from then, and tell an amazing story.

So here goes (the order of the tasks is not important) :

1) Fly in a hot-air balloon across a country

2) Learn wine appreciation [Feb 2013 - Santiago, Chile]

3) Complete a solo sky dive

4) Climb a 5000m mountain

5) Run a marathon

6) Fly in a fighter jet

7) Bungee jump from the world’s highest tower

8) Be a certified paraglider [Dec 2010 - Kamshet, India]

9) Be a certified scuba diver [Sep 2012 - Gili Trawangan, Indonesia]

10) Take my parents on an extravagant vacation abroad

11) Stay awake for 72 hours straight

12) Travel into space

13) Learn how to sail

14) Speak to an audience of hundreds (or possibly thousands) of people

15) Appear on television [Jan 2008 - Kharagpur, India] (was featured on a local television as part of a feature on the campus placements of my college)

16) Dress up in a costume party [April 2011 - Kharagpur, India]

17) Travel to Antarctica

18) Get a tattoo [June 2010 - Shanghai, China]

19) Trek through a rainforest

20) Build a tree house and live a day in it

21) Learn to operate firearms

22) Learn at least two forms of dancing

23) Complete a triathlon [Apr 2013 - Perth, Australia]

24) Bury a time capsule with key memoirs in a secret location,and open it after 10 years

25) Get arrested

26) Drive a Formula One car

27) Play the guitar live, to an audience

28) Walk into a store, break something expensive intentionally and pay for it

29) Ask 10 complete strangers (girls), on the same day, out for a date

30) Drive on the German autobahn at 200kmph

31) Witness Halley’s Comet in 2061

32) Tell kids they’re adopted, and record their reaction

33) Own a Cafe

34) Do a wingsuit flight