Saturday, October 8, 2016

Ain't It The Life..?

Note: This post was written a few weeks back and today feels like a good day to talk about it..

The weather is beautiful these days. It is my favorite time of the year. The onset of winters. The beginning of festivities. That familiar craving for warm and comfort meals. Pumpkins are now available in all shapes, sizes and colors. Those warm and fuzzy clothes. The evenings are beautiful these days. The sun sets at around 7 and is perfect for evening runs. The technicolor trees are a visual treat. The slight nip in the air makes all the difference. I went for a run last night and felt superb. I was on to my final mile when this song popped up:

I have heard this song a dozen times already and somehow never felt so strongly about it. When it started playing last night while running it meant a lot. Does it happen to you? This song made all the sense in this whole wide world. I could relate to every line and every word in it.

In other news, my friend Shreeja pinged me this morning to tell me about our school friend who committed suicide. Her death is all over the papers. She has a two year old and was a Doctor working at AIIMS. We were a little hit with this news. She was an intelligent girl who was always in top-3 and eventually cracked her medical entrance and became a Doc.
I am not sure what she was battling but losing purpose in life must be such a heart breaking thing.
Reaching a point in life where you think you've had enough must be quite miserable. Don't you think so? I just know how to fight. Living life on your terms is not always possible and I am accepting this reality a little each day but hey you can't give up. Can you?
I read all articles on the internet around her death. I even checked her Facebook profile and browsed through her photos. We became friends on Facebook when I created my account last year. I thought of pinging her every now and then. I didn't have anything in particular to say to her but I just wanted to reach out and say hii. She always wanted to be doctor and she achieved it. She worked her way towards her dream and joined the best college. I never pinged her. I never congratulated her and I guess I will have to live with this thought for life.

I needed to run today to take everything out of my system. The realization of life being short was hovering over my head and I needed to run away from it.

I decided to lace up, surrender to my thoughts and losing myself to my own oblivion. I needed a shot of endorphins and what better way than running? The same song played again and this time I could relate to it in a much deeper way.

Feeling my way through the darkness
Guided by a beating heart
I can't tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start
They tell me I'm too young to understand
They say I'm caught up in a dream
Well life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes
Well that's fine by me

I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
I hope I get the chance to travel the world
And I don't have any plans
I wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
Life's a game made for everyone
And love is a prize

Sometimes words make so much sense. I wish I could express my thoughts like this.


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