Friday, September 9, 2016

Serendipity & Jazz...

The place I come from talking about past life/ incarnations is pretty common. They believe in the concept genuinely. I never gave it any thought. I was always indifferent to the idea. Sometimes you change and the other times life forces you to change the way you think. Meeting SS was one such experience.

I met SS last weekend. Eby had booked her place through AirBnB and we reached her place pretty late. The drive was an adventure in itself. It took us a while to get there. We got lost a couple of times. There were no lights, narrow roads, dirty cars parked on the road side and no cell phone connectivity. The only other car that we saw on the road was ahead of us and we decided to follow it blindly. A kilometer later we saw a black cat with emerald eyes in the rear seat. The eyes were sparkly, shiny and looked like a scene straight from a Stephen King novel. 

We reached her place and I had this feeling that I had been there before. It was a lovely, cozy, comforting wood cabin in the mountains. Not surprising huh? Her house was covered in paintings and figurines.

The next day morning while we sat in her kitchen and looked outside the feeling of being there earlier felt pretty real. I asked SS about her collection of Hindu gods and she casually mentioned how she was born in India in her past lifetimes.  It was a little odd at first because it is not the conversation starter for many of us. She is a professional Tarot card reader and I asked her for a reading. 
This was my first time getting a Tarot reading done. The tarot is a snapshot in time. It all depends upon the reader. Sometimes it can feel spot on or in other words "accurate".  A lot depends upon how you match what your reader tells you to the events that have happened. The kind of things that she told me were very very accurate. I felt a strange sensation with her in her camper and all of a sudden the whole setting felt unreal. Well to most of you it might feel that I am dramatizing the whole thing but there is no way of putting that experience in words. I felt a connection. Maybe I am overthinking it but I would rather live believing that there was/is something rather than shrugging it off.

She told me her story the next day. Her husband came back from Vietnam war and was suffering from PTSD. Every night he pointed his rifle on their heads and became abusive and thats when she decided to leave. 
She packed her 3 kids in a car with $500 in her pocket. She was able to secure some land up in the mountains and used her alimony check ($35) every 2 weeks to pay it off. She became a self taught carpenter and worked on construction sites. She built her entire house on her own. She shared a lot of her life stories and each one of them inspired me. Those small moments left a lasting impression on me. I am just not able to decide what to write about? Spending time by the water in a secluded spot? Bon fire and toasting marshmallows? The countless stars in the sky? Eating fudge to the point nauseousness? Drinking countless cups of coffee? Hiking all the way to the top of the mountain to see and just be. 

Meeting people and hearing their stories is my favorite part of travel. It just feels good to connect with people from different walks of life and share moments with them. I love how traveling to a place makes me feel and even if that means eating at the same cafe day after day. I was really cranky for some reason for a while and it was more to do with this

One of the days during our trip we were really exhausted and decided to buy a bottle of rum. That same night we had a few pegs of spiced rum and talked about our good old days. People, places, memories, sadness, longing, love etc etc and that moment for me was pure bliss. It was like playing my favorite old records and singing along. Life felt good in that moment. It felt like home. 


Friday, September 2, 2016

Running Stories

It has been a while since I started running again. My running sabbatical was brutal and it impacted me more psychologically than physically. It also helped in doing things which I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I joined Les Mills programs - Body Pump and GRIT. It not only helped me in staying fit but I also ended up making some really cool friends with lots of potential for long term associations. 

Getting back to running was really difficult. It was more difficult than I could have ever imagined. I accepted it as a challenge but in retrospect I should have been more prudent with my goals. Very foolishly I was just trying to pick leftover pieces of my training instead of resetting my goals and training. 

I am doing very well in my Body Pump and Les Mills classes but there is something off with my running. The strength and endurance that I used to wear as medals are nowhere to be found. I feel like a newbie runner who already knows a bit about running. I feel very embarrassed during my long runs when I am struggling to get over with them. 

Before you bombard me with science I want you to know that I am aware of it. 

Myrunning  sabbatical lasted for 50 days and getting back wasn’t a problem until I started with long runs. I have been running regularly for the past two months.  A few days back I realized that something had changed. I am trying really hard these days to find my form, technique and spirit. It has been a struggle so far. I feel pretty depressed about it.  I am still running fairly regularly but my runs are different now. They are not solid anymore. I finish my long runs with a lot of discomfort and struggle

My friend has recently started reading What I talk about When I talk about running and has been sharing snippets on Instagram. The bits of book that resonate well with her and it kind of got me thinking that probably I need to stop stressing out about my form, strength and endurance. There are no shortcuts and eventually I will find them again. One day at a time. Baby steps. 
This is not the time to quit and get depressed about these things. Maybe I will not get my PR this year, so really what? That’s not the only reason for me to run 13.1 miles. Right?  I used to love running unconditionally. I guess it's the expectations that are ruining it for me.  May be it is a process and will evolve me in to a better runner. I just need to hold on to that thought for now. 

Life happens all the time and I can’t be a baby about these things. 
On that note, I am off to the mountains this weekend. Really excited about it and when I get back I am going to start all over again. Just like every other time.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Musings and Ramblings

Disclaimer: Being an armchair critic and criticizing other armchair critics.. Does it make sense?

I met a nice Indian gentleman today during my regular commute. He was twice my age and just very friendly.  He moved to the US back in the 80's. We started talking and invariably the topic of Olympics came up.

He asked my views and I just showed my nonchalance. He was very upset with our "Indian" team for not being able to bag any medals. Frankly, I have accepted the fact that India is a nation of cricket lovers. People aspire to be cricketers and not athletes and this bit does not hurt me. I may not like the game but that's really my problem to deal with. There is a lot that needs to change. Athletics has never been mainstream in India and year round people seem to be okay with that fact. When the olympics buzz start once in four years suddenly everybody is eager to see our athletes win. There are Facebook posts expressing disappointments. Anger and outrage expressed in less than 140 characters. All for what really? Four years of practice/ training/ dedication/ effort to be the best for a day.  Isn't that a bit too much?

Anyway, moving on, the gentleman surely looked pissed and more so with my nonchalance. He was one step away from singing - "Maa, Tujhe Salam". Ironical, isn't it? Sitting far away and judging India's performance? Frankly, I am done debating with these armchair patriots. I don't care anymore. I realized at the end of the day a reaction is all that they need. I had to be somewhere and I was running out of patience.

We talked more and he suddenly remarked how India needed more agricultural/ rural colleges/ sports colleges than Art schools.  I rolled my eyes and gave him my piece of mind. A lot of people think that they are an unnecessary expense. A country which is struggling to provide basic education to everyone shouldn't spend on art schools. I don't agree with this school of thought. Firstly, art is a part of education in my opinion. It should be taught and celebrated just the way we teach and celebrate mathematics, medicine etc. We need dreamers, believers, rebels and that craziness. We need people who understand art. We need people to look at things differently and show others to see things differently.

Before you argue with your point that becoming an artist doesn't require a degree just talent I would like to remind you that this post is not about why should you attend an art school. I just think that closing down art schools won't solve our problem.

I am not an artist and well I can barely get anything right but I have an utmost respect for the artists.
Putting yourself out there is not easy.

I started writing this post two days back and today my twitter timeline was flooded with PV Sindhu tweets. All of a sudden my fellow Indians are proud of her. Everybody has been posting messages with hashtag #Respect. What do they know about respect?
Where are #Respect posts for Lalita Babar, Manish Rawat and Dutee Chand who performed exceptionally?
Two weeks back they were dissing every one. You ask any of these guys to donate money for any sports event linked to a charity and they avoid you like a plague. I bet most of them didn't know anything about the game apart from Saina Nehwal before this. The only point that I am trying to make here is stop being so obsessed with medals. Nobody bothers to check their performances. Performance is not equal to medals. We as a nation don't bag too many medals at the olympics and its on all of us and not just on our government/ officials/ politicians. We need to encourage our young ones to take up athletics. We need to stop being armchair critics. We need to do more.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

..Life Uncommon..

I am currently reading Unbroken. It is Louis Zamperini's biography and his progression from a troublesome child, to a youth learning to run, to an Olympian, and to finally a soldier. He was an Army Air Corps lieutenant (B-24 Bombardier) and was an Olympian (5000 mts Track, Year - 1936). He was one of only three members of an 11-man crew to survive a crash during the attack on Pearl Harbor. For 47 days, He and Russell Allen Phillips, the pilot of his B-24, lived by staying aboard a tiny raft. Due to lack of provisions they had to kill birds to survive. They were later sighted by a Japanese aircraft and were taken as POW. It is Louis's story and how he cheated death on multiple occasions. It is about survival, grit and resilience. It is a powerful and riveting book and is my constant companion these days. It is an extraordinary story about bravery, endurance and forgiveness. There's one part where he says - "Show them, not tell them" and that bit has hit home at so many levels.  I have read a lot of books recently and most of them were really good but this one has me in its clutches. To think of that time, to imagine what it would have been like and to read the detailed account of what happened has left me in a daze.  I haven't finished it as yet and I already know that I am going to do another post on this book.

I get drawn towards war stories. I like to read about them, visit places and talk about them. There is no cheap thrill but just a simple fact that we are shaped by various wars. The countries we live in have boundaries which more often than not are a product of various wars of the past and their aftermaths. 

Coming back to my world, there's a group of four men well in to their late sixties who sit in the piazza, outside a coffee shop and chit chat. I have always seen them sitting outside at the same spot regardless of the weather. It is always the Starbucks opposite to the train station. They are not acquainted with the term "bad weather". It is their ritual.

There's something about them that makes one stop and observe them. Perhaps that's the reason why so many people stop by on their way to say hi to them. It's a small town and everybody-knows-everyone. Sometimes I wave a quick Hii while waiting for my train. I have overheard their conversations and between Trump and NBA they discuss it all.

Every Monday after an intense 2 hr session I run to Starbucks for a cold brew to get through the day. This AM I got my coffee and sat outside next to them with my book. I was busy setting up my table when one of them said Hii to me. He asked me about the book and I promptly showed it to him. "Did you know that he served with my old man" - Phil said very rhetorically. I was wide eyed and then they told me that they were all veterans. Tall and proud of having served their nation. They all grew up together in the neighborhood. Joined the Army and two of them were shipped off to Vietnam War immediately, one was in Afghanistan in the nineties. Yes, call them seasoned!

I asked about Louis Zamparini's connection and Phil's face lit up. Phil's father was stationed with him at the same post before Louis was asked to go to Hawaii shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
They asked me more about the book and I shared my thoughts. We were discussing wars when Frank (The chatty one) said "We've all dodged bullets at one point or other. We toughened up with time and survived." That toughness clearly shows on their faces. The faces tell a lot of stories.

It was such a nice morning. The company was fantastic. We shared our experiences. Ten minutes before my train's arrival I quietly excused myself. I promised to join them again sometime for coffee and chit chat.

As I was about to reach the station I turned around and glanced in their direction. I saw four men with weathered faces, enjoying their morning kaffe and daily meetings of the minds in the arcade  and wondered what world problem were they solving today.

PS: The title is a song by Jewel. Lovely lyrics about living with bravery

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Music and Reps..

I attend Body pump classes twice/ thrice a week at my local gym. The only reason I signed up was because I really wanted to do something different. The day I could resume my intense workouts was the day when I decided to sign up for a few classes - Body Pump, GRIT, CX Works etc. It was the best decision ever. Now that I am getting back to running (slowly and steadily) my fitness has improved.
The classes are usually early in the morning and is a very good way to kick start the day.
For the uninitiated, Body pump is a choreographed routine done using a barbell with moderate to heavy weights.

Some of the the regular exercises included in Body Pump routine are:

Chest Press
Dead rows
Clean and Press
Press Pullover Combo
Reverse Curl

There are lots of repetitions and pulses (approximately 800/ class of these exercises) and there are multiple releases every 2-3 months (The entire routine changes). 

I look forward to these classes and wake up happy on those days. There is nothing like working out together with a room full of people from different walks of life and yet working towards a common goal. The competition is with your own self. The idea is to be better than yesterday.  Every class is a chance to take your body to a higher level. To give your best. It also connects you with like minded folks and helps you to be a part of community. 

The music is just kickass. There is this one particular triceps track which I really enjoy. Today  I made it a point to set a reminder on my phone to check it out later. 
I was feeling a little blue and played this particular song because music really has all answers. Isn't it?

I was watching the video and was really shocked. I expected fit dancers with awesome moves. 
It follows an old man chasing the vision of a woman that he loves a long way across a country. Using a picture and her memories at his bedside before he got very sick and almost died, the man wakes up and goes on this epic journey in an electronically powered wheelchair across rolling countryside, mountainous terrain and long stretches of road. He turns down bar dancers for lap dances and clicks a few selfies along the way and finds his woman. 

For some reason it really lifted my spirits high and I promptly added it to my running playlist too. 

What would we do without music? A good half an hour playlist feels so rewarding. The emotions that music invokes and the amount of dopamine that it releases is amazing. Life would be just so dull without it. There would be no songs to share. There would be no memories on rainy days. There would be no associations. The past would look so dull and boring without it. I associate a lot with songs and I might be a very bad singer but I can spot good lyrics. I am quite tuned that way. 

I hope you enjoy this song as much as I did.  It is stuck in my head and is it weird that every time I hear this song I feel my sore triceps?

Before you dismiss these classes as some fad - I am down to 21% body fat and I think that counts for something?

P.S: I am looking for a particular Shiva song (Indie rock band - Have already Checked Rudra). Very fast paced with some awesome drumming.  I used to have it on my iPod and lost it. I need to add it to my running playlist and if you know of this song please drop an email/ comment with the youTube link. 

P.S1: Hastily written post.  I will come back and correct the mistakes later..