An album of angst..and love

Vishal Bharadwaj may possibly be the most low profile creative genius Bollywood may have, overshadowed only by the technical brilliance that A. R. Rahman displays. The quirkiness of Amit Trivedi. And maybe silenced by the nasal din of Himesh Reshammiya.  While AR’s music has nuances in instrumentation and arrangement that makes you go wide-eyed in jaw dropping cerebral amazement, the former’s music tugs you at your innards. With a simplicity of melody that transports you into an unexplainable world of joy, anger, sadness or love – all combined, deep inside your heart. And you do not quite know which emotion to put your finger on, and go “yay, that is what I feel”. It is like a puzzle you are trying to decode by listening to the song over and over, finding little nooks and corners that seem to hold your hand and walk you through in a gentle sway. All the while telling you, ” it is alright, you can feel whatever you want to”. And this is exactly what makes me feel when I listen to Haider’s songs – possibly his best so far; skilfully adapting Kashmiri strains into the music of a very modern version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet that captures the brooding, dark, passionate and intensely complex backdrop there is. Haider Having watched the movie after listening to the music gets you to place the emotions in a context. Although you do not see the “movie version” of the aggressive and angry Aao Na (sung by Vishal Dadlani), the heavy guitar riffs of the song during key moments in the movie are thrilling enough. While taming a beast of a play that is Hamlet, is itself a daunting and ambitious project, depicting the complexity of the main characters is something that requires a very strong heart and a sharp mind. As an audience, you feel the confusion, angst and love all rolled into one from the eyes of Haider, and that is ably supported by the background score that just haunts you long after you leave the movie hall – coupled with the brooding hues of the paradise, that isn’t – Kashmir. There is a horrifying insanity that prevails in the characters you see, in a place where you have always imagined the colours of spring and the waltzing blues of the lakes. In the midst of all that, you have a Khul Kabhi (Sung by Arijit Singh, and my personal favourite) that transports you into a lilting world of love, warm passion, and mystifyingly poignant. And then it harks back to Haider’s reality when he breaks into tears. And talks about his existential conundrums given his father’s disappearance and his own confusions of which truth to believe in – or the lie to disbelieve in – Hum Hain, Ke Hum Nahin Hain – Haider’s version of “To Be, or not to be”. And that confusion runs throughout the movie so much so, that every other character remains open to interpretation. Some of the other songs such as Bismil (sung by Sukhwinder Singh) weave right into the screenplay and strike a much harsher chord in the movie than when you just listen to it. Shahid Kapur’s acting and dramatic skills are on ample display in this song. The movie does seem a little disjointed in parts. It is slightly choppy, but one cannot fault Vishal Bharadwaj for taking on this intensely complicated plot and transform it into Haider that is powerful, brooding, thrilling and ambitious. At the heart of it all is the love between a passionate, complex woman who seeks just a sliver of heaven in her life, and her son whose love for her (displayed in quite daring sexual undertones) is consumed only by his hatred for her for betraying his father. And yet in the end, it is this woman who loves, longs and ultimately loses everything; leaving Haider to fight his own demons – exact revenge or liberate himself from consuming this poison. Go into the hall expecting a problematic movie to understand and analyse. But watch it for the same reason. And then switch on the music in your car on the way home.

Put your heart into your run…

…and you could surprise yourself with what you can do.

We had a lot in common. I liked her and she liked me. Period.

And that was exactly 1 year ago.

Life is what happens when you are too busy planning for it.

It was an existence. Living in the white pages of a book that I was trying to write for myself. Or so I thought. It was not bad, mind you. But on hindsight, it was the kind of numb comfort that I was in where the scars were blunted and happiness was muted. It was existence at it’s purest form.

It was just not life. As I had seen it, wanted it, and was planning for it.  What I knew, but did not count in was that life, rarely, happens by your will and control. It is simple really. Everything happens for you. Not to you. It happens at the right moment – not too soon, not too late.

We just do not see it that way. Rather, we do not want to see it that way.

Around 4 years ago, something happened for me. At that point, it seemed like the worst thing ever. I felt like I was the phoenix, who had to rise from the ashes and reclaim what I was. Yeah, pretty dramatic stuff.

And exactly a year ago, something happened for me again. A year later, I now connect the dots.

Everything happens for a reason. And the reason happened on 15th February, 2013. I still do not know how and why I came across her and felt I could talk to her. Out of possibly scores of others. And she was there on the page, at the bottom scrolling to the left as an afterthought, when my eyes fell upon her visage. A smile that seemed natural and bright even under the glare of artificial lights. Eyes twinkling with a hope and expectation for a chirpy, enthused life, that is so becoming of her.

Was it chance, coincidence, or purely the hand of fate? I am yet to figure it out.

I am not the usual melodramatic sentimental chap; at least, I’d like to think so. But I still remember the 1-1.5 hours I spent listening to her, talking to her. She seemed unsure, nervous. But little did she know that I was more nervous than her. It felt like I had been a castaway surviving in the seas away from civilization for ages. And now, here I was suddenly thrown among mankind (or womankind, in this case) and I had to learn to talk. Like it was normal for me. For most of us, confidence is not a state of being. It is a state of mind that you constantly work at; very often it seems like a facade, but one that you love having on you as a cloak. That you are always trying to drape on.

She: I still remember that day, when you seemed so shy. and vulnerable. 

Me: Was I? No, I was a little nervous. But I think I was quite confident too.

She: Ok, baby. You were confident :).

Little did she know then, that it was the cloak working. Overtime. And in spite of that, she knows and I know till date, that I was the one who was shy and vulnerable. Even 12 months later. And this is what defines this marriage for me. Where she seems to see through me, and accepts me for who I am. And loves me for who I am.

We got married in May of last year; but I still cherish the first day we met. On 15th February – our Valentine’s Day. And started the marathon that is, of our marriage.

It was not too tough for me to think of how I wanted to celebrate it. Teddy bears, chocolates, gifts – these were mundane. I did for her today what I like doing the most. Run. For her.

12 Kms to celebrate the 12 months that I have known her, loved her, fought with her, made up with her and that which made me realize that this is what I was waiting for. All my life.

As with all things in life, this too did not go as planned. But you do not stop, do you? You carry on through all the sweat and smiles.

Planned Run

This was my planned run – I charted out a route that spelled I LOVE U in 12 Kms. It was tough, mind you. With all the permutations, combinations, etc. I even took a print out and carried it during my run. It was a new route, in a location I was not familiar with, and I had planned to do this early in the morning when it was dark, and I could be running blind in alleys without street lights.

Pretty stupid. But hey, love is blind. And makes one stupid, right?

Actual run

And this was my actual run. I got lost in the dark, got chased by a dog, ran on roads back and forth thinking I was on track, got exhausted, ran, walked and ran again. This 1 year has been a roller-coaster ride for me. But I always knew I could get back to the warm comfort of my wife’s indulging smile. And in many ways this run eventually symbolized that for me.

I had never planned for this. But if you put your heart into your run, you would be surprised with the results. I could still chart out I LOVE U, in 12 Kms.

Yeah, I am not melodramatic.

Here’s to you wifey. For a lifetime of togetherness. And for a marathon marriage that goes on and on. Happy Valentine’s Day.

What the bug??

Long long time ago, there was a bug. It was called Bugsy. Others used to call it Bugger. That is because it used to bug. Like writers are those who write, bloggers are those who blog, carpenters are those who, err, carpent?, Buggers are those who bug.

Anyways, Bugsy, or Bugger as it was lovingly called had two stooges. Bugsee and Bugyou. Whenever Bugsee would come, Bugsy would play the bugle and shout “Bugz aila, Bugz aila!”. We never understood why. Bugger that it was. Bugyou was well, as the name suggests bugged everyone. Maybe we should call it Bugger too!

So, Bugsy wanted to have a team of bugs, who apart from doing other meaningless things like scrounge around, scavenge for food, run here and there without getting caught, would also bug. Bugsee and Bugyou were asked to lug the bugs around in their quest for bugginess. Most of the bugs knew what kind of bugginess they need to bring to the team. They were well-trained bugs. All the bugs wanted different kind of bugs on the team – some flies, some insects, some winged ones and some crawlers. This was, so that different kinds of food could be attacked. But Bugsy and its two stooges wanted same kind of food from the same place. Bugsy knew nothing of how to scavenge for food and what all kinds of food were available.

Very soon the food dried up. Bugs started overturning and falling on their backs. Soon, Flit and Baygon spray started choking them. It was suffocating. It was painful. It was basically, bugging.

But the bug stopped with Bugsy. Even Bugsee and Bugyou would pass the bug to Bugsy. Bugsy never understood anything of what the team of bugs should be doing. But yet it had the ABS. The Anti-Bug Stopper.

And so all the bugs remained as bugs. Bloody bugging bell!

That day the bugs realized one very important thing about the world of bugginess and the 2 kinds of bugs that exist.

One  bug that understands what it does not manage.

And the other bug that does not understand what it manages.

And there is a third bug too. The inexplicable bug. The one that runs through idle brains and produces posts such as this one.

…and there is no Baygon spray for this.

Sorry bugger..

P.S. : Some of you buggers might feel that this post is a premeditated, carefully thought out direct result of the previous one where Google apparently did not have any answer to my question of “What do I do now”.

Yes. You are right.

What I think about…

..when I am running.

I have actually always wondered about this. Am sure you have too. Especially if you have been into running, jogging, long-distance endurance runs, ultra-marathons, the works.

But I do not think about this when I run. Because then I would know what I think about when I run. And then I would not need to write a blog post about it. You know what I am talking about? No? Think about it.

Since time immemorial – err, last year i.e, when I started running, post a long one, I always tried to recollect all that I would be thinking during the run – was it about work? Or the girl I saw in the office? Or the dog that would look at me amusingly early in the morning whenever I came out for a run wearing my balaclava?

That never happened though, because post the run, I would be either:

  • Grimacing at sore thigh muscles, OR
  • Trying to look all cool about it especially because I would have the Hyderabad Runners T-shirt all drenched in sweat OR
  • Looking frantically for a glass of water OR
  • Looking around to see if there is a nice chick checking me out, so I can check-mate her (notice the play again? ha!). Look of gloating pride on face.

But there has always been one aspect of my runs that has overshadowed everything else. Even my runs. And that is the concept of Recovery. Having tried my hands (legs, actually) at training plans and all that, I literally arm-twisted my legs into doing something that, well, they should not have been doing at this point in time. But once they realized what they were being subjected to, it led to a host of issues – stress fracture, shin pains, ear and tooth infections, flu and fever, laziness. Phew!

Actually you can ignore the last few issues. They do not have anything to do with running. But lets face it – am sure you have realized that I do exaggerate a little on my blog posts. 

So, back to Recovery. During my runs, I would always think about recoveries. How to include recovery runs post tempo or intervals. Or after some long-ish runs, when and how I should run for recovery. How long I should take for recovery. What I need for recovery. Why I need recovery. Recovery, Recovery, Recovery!

That is all what I was thinking about. I was getting mad. It was like Chinese torture. They wanted something out of me and I would have told them everything. Only, I did not know what!!

And then it happened. Whenever I would hear the word Recovery in my head, I would also hear the word Kolaveri. Strange no? Well, stranger things have happened in this world. Like Himesh Reshammiya. And nasal singing. And sex on the beach. Oh, I mean naming a drink so. What? Noooo! Not literally?! 

Ok. Back. Now that is when I realized something profound. Especially when I was running and it hit me smack in the middle of my eyes, like a silver bullet screaming out of the thinness of the air, melting the morning silence into a smoldering, smoking line!

“When something gets stuck in the head, it gets stuck in the head”.

Upon checking later, I realized it was an insect that had got stuck inside the balaclava I was wearing. But lets ignore that for now, pliss. The philosophical underpinnings of what had stuck is what is more important you see.

I saw everything clearly. That the sun had started rising was just incidental. The dog stopped looking at me as I smiled at it, with a condescending look. And the beads of sweat that were rhyming with every forefoot strike I was taking, started playing the tune in my head….“Oh this Recovery Recovery Recovery di”.

And that was it! All the pain and angst of having this stuck to my head suddenly disappeared. I knew what I had to do. I realized what the Chinese wanted from me. Finally, I was relieved of the curse of Recovery as I started humming the song.

Presenting to you, for the very first time! From the unimaginative stables of the Whatitees Guides!

The “Oh This Recovery Di” song, sung to the tune of “Why this Kolaveri Di”! That was obvious, no?

Run, Sing and Enzoi!

Yo runners
I am sing song
Run song…
Tempo song …
Oh this recovery recovery recovery di..
Oh this recovery recovery recovery di..
Rhythm correct
Oh this recovery recovery recovery di..
Maintain please
Oh this recovery.. aa di.
Aa.. distance la finishu lineu
line-u colour-u white
White-u background night night-u
Night-u coloru black-u
Haan.. Oh this recovery recovery recovery di
Oh this recovery recovery recovery di

Running shoes-u pad-u pad-u
pad-u type-u gel-u
gel-u ees on only heel-u
My shin-u hurt-u
Haan..Oh this recovery recovery recovery di
Oh this recovery recovery recovery di

Maama, water edhuthuko,
Appdiye kaiyla banana edhuthuko,
Pa pa pa ppaan, pa pa pa ppaan, pa pa pa ppaan pa pa ppan
Sariya vaasi (@%#…….)
Hunhhahaha..
Super runner ready..
Ready.. one..e.. two.o.. three.. four.

Adhe…
Hun… um
Ha…
Hun…
Whah, wat a change over mama
Ok mama, now pace change-u
Uunu..aa..
Kaila garmin
-Only english-a
Hand-u la watch-u
watch la pace-u
Eyes-u full-aa tear-u
Empty life-u
slow-u run-u
Life-u reverse gear-u
Aa..tempo tempo
Oh my tempo
You showed me speed-u
Run-u run-u, holy run-u,
I want u here now-u
Godu I m sleeping now-u
Shin is happy how-u
This-u song for runner peoples-u
We dont have choice-u..e…
Oh this recovery recovery recovery di (Aahaan.. aa…)
Oh this recovery recovery recovery di (hun tan ha meyyah)
Han Oh this recovery recovery recovery di
Oh this recovery recovery recovery di.

When in doubt…

Disclaimer: Post is as long as the time I took to finish my run. You might need electrolytes or an energy bar to finish reading. Or better. Just run. Put the energy bar to better use.

…RUN!

And that was pretty much the thought I had when I started on it. Not that I doubted my abilities in running. But I thought it’d be a nice twist to Al Pacino’s famous line from “Scent of A Woman”. I also kept hearing “Run, Rishi Madhav Madgula! Run!” in my head while I was writing this. But somehow, it did not sound cool.

Hmm. Maybe, “Run, Madgula! Run” would have been cooler.

Anyways, I still remember my first run being chased by a street dog and me shouting “aami kichhu korini, aami kichhu korini”, when I was still an innocent, 8-year old growing up in the beautiful and safe confines of CMERI Colony, Durgapur in West Bengal. That is where I was born. Which is why most people fail to identify me as a Gult on first looks. And then fail even more when they hear me speak Telugu. And they have this really inquisitive look on their faces with the eyebrows crinkled (much like how my 1 year old nephew looks at me when I make weird sounding noises just to get his attention. He just seems to say, “dude, do you have a speech impediment? What the hell are you making those sounds for?”)

Well, I just hope people listening to me speak Telugu do not think the same. I do love NTR’s dance moves, you know.

Btw, “aami kicchu korini” means “I did not do anything”. I still do not know why I was trying to talk my way through with the dog while I was running my a** off. I always knew I was bad at negotiating.

Well, not to detract you from the route I am trying to chalk out, many people including my mother and my 3 year old niece have asked me why at all have I started this madness. By that they mean this entire cycle-or-run-your-guts-out-and-come-back-with-a-sore-ass-and-knees routine. In short, why have I become so fitness conscious. In fact, my niece looks at me every time I wear the weird looking helmet and take out my cycle to go to office, and tells me to be careful. So sweet of her.

And then she starts laughing.

Anyways, to them I just smile and say – just like that. To the others, I say that an unexplainable bug has bitten my backside – I am still trying to figure out what that is, but I hope it is here to stay. Another bug next to it tells me it is going to stay, especially after what I did on 9th October.

More on that later. But even my 3-year old niece would have known better than to jump into this without any serious preparation, zilch training and zero knowledge of the technicalities of running. But as all self-help books recommend that it is better to see the glass half full, than half empty, I decided to focus on what I thought I did have and what it was I could do to complete the run.

But let’s go into flashback.

Prior experience in running? Minimal. Mostly treadmill. And sometimes on the roads early in the morning. 30 to 40 mins jog/sprint early in the morning before stopping to pant like my neighbor’s dog with the tongue out. And then walk back slowly feeling nice, announce at home what a fit guy I am and making grand plans to do the same everyday of the week.

Repeat the above a week or two later.

And then, a lightning bolt hit me. Why don’t I buy a cycle and well, start cycling? I mean what else can you do after you buy a cycle? So, I did that. Amidst all the spending for my new flat which I had bought practically making myself a pauper with a fancy MBA degree, I went ahead and made myself a little more pauper. Or pauperer, if you will. And bought a shiny new Schwinn Sporterra! I even started a blog on that. Do check it out whenever you are bored of sleeping over your office desk or formatting that presentation for your boss.

So then, I started cycling. To work, to the nearby community shop, on long rides on weekends, in my dreams. And then posted all that on Facebook and Twitter. How can anything you do not go up on Facebook? I even had half an atrocius thought of going up the mountain trails in the Nilgiris. But then left it at that.

I did not have the money to spare, actually.Which means I am open to receiving charity. Only in cash and some in kind too. Please get back to me on that.

So, I did the next best thing. I looked up on the net to see if there were people running about in Hyderabad. And I came across the Hyderabad Runners. A motley bunch of old, young and the middle-aged who all love to just do that. Run. That’s about it. And then run a little more. A lot of them are more of the serious types – with Garmins, 3/4 Full marathons under the belt, who run for 10 Kms and can still talk like they just woke up from sleep. And if you thought this was crazy, you should meet my good friend Manoj, who said that he ended up running 40 kms with a partner who was training for the Comrades. Just like that.

That is not to mean for members of CPM, but for the Comrades Marathon. Touted to be the “ultimate human race”. Crazies all around, I tell ya!

So. I found out on Friday that there was a 14/16/18 Km loop run on Sunday, sometime in mid of september. Signed up for it and landed at KBR park at 5 am in the morning. Ipod in the ears, bottle in the hands, and josh in the hearts. Met up with some really nice, cool people, one of whom ran with me for most of the time, giving me some really good tips and asking all about me. I answered for most part in between the breathless strides I was taking. All I could ask him was what did he do, and how many years was he into running. He said, “oh just a couple. And I am a software guy”.

He smiled at me, and then vanished while still 5 kms away from the finish. Later I found out he was the CEO of an IT company and an accomplished marathon runner who also trained newbies! I have been able to talk him into training me as well! Yippee!

Anyways, so I ran.  14 Km all the way with the 18 km folks ending the loop before me. And a few of them continuing on to what one of them said, ” to increase their mileage”.

I was just glad I could run. And I could finish.

Of course, once the crazy had gotten on to the bus, there was no way I could stop myself. And I just kept on pushing, running random 2 kms and 3 Kms, and then a 13 Km and then a few more 2 to 3 Kms. While doing all this, I picked up knee pains, did a lot of research on shoes which suited the arch of my feet, added new words such as pronation and supination to my vocabulary and then decided on a pair which fitted my budget. I also shifted into my new flat as well, made friends with new running folks and finally mustered enough and more doubts to register for the Hyderabad Heritage Marathon – Half Marathon, 21.1 Kms. My first ever!

And that really was the highlight of the last one month since the running bug had caught my you-kn0w-where. A couple of calls to my good friend Manoj on how I need to prepare, and some encouraging calls later, I started getting subsumed by the run. I thought about it. I ran the distance in my mind. I imagined myself in all kinds of mental and physical states – ecstatic with a podium finish, running like a true marathoner, hobbling all the way, quitting after the first few kms and so on. I read blogs about running, followed the Hyderabad Runner’s group emails like I was getting paid for it, I bought a book about it.

In short. I was going crazy. Or maybe I am over-reacting.

Everything I did centered around 9th October, so much so that I ensured the luggage shifting to my new flat happened in a “phased approach” with proper planning and logistics in place. MBA really helped me here, you see. Of course, when I told mom why I wanted to do this, she just looked at me, nodded my head in exasperation, and said, “Please get an LIC policy first!”.

I nodded my head too. And finished the shifting.

The run-up to race day was probably a coach’s worst training nightmare. Hal Higdon recommends at least 12 weeks of consistent small runs with adequate cross-training and rests in between while gradually increasing your pace/mileage. And that is what all the seasoned runners in the Hyderabad Runners group also said. Well, the sad part with good advice is it gets defeated in the face of impracticality. I like to put it as “pure enthusiasm”. Of course, that is just me.

Anyways, so here I was with 2 weeks more to go. I did a 14 Km 2 sundays prior to the marathon, ended the run with knee pains. While it should have been enough for any trainer to give a whacking on my backside while getting a check-in by the doctor, I carelessly decided to take a break for a day, give it rest and resume running small distances.

I paired up with another newbie and his wife, and did small runs of 2 to 3 kms each day for a week. Knee pains notwithstanding.

And then, as the experts would say, I tapered for the remaining week. Any seasoned runner would probably gawk at how I tapered. Usually, for people who train, how I ran the previous week is how they taper off. As if it were a nice romantic stroll around the park with their wives or girlfriends.

I just stopped running.That was my tapering off. Another whack!

I kept nursing my knee with ice packs while still imagining myself at the marathon. Of course, now the “podium finish” seemed like a distant dream. I only saw myself finish the run with a flourish, arms spread out, sweat glistening on my forehead, my hair completely wet, and Queen’s “We are the champions” playing in the background. All in slow-mo, as usual.

I still had not taken my LIC policy and my mother was getting antsy. She appreciated my efforts once in a while, but not without adding the LIC policy rider in between. I kept my counsel and patiently waited for my day. I had my doubts too. But I decided to sleep over them.

And then D-day. Or, the M-day. Well, to be precise HM-day. But we will leave it to D-day.

9th October. 2:30 AM. I had slept only for 3 hours – not sure if it was the khichdi I ate the previous night or race-day excitement. But I was up and rolling about on the bed since 2:30 AM when I needed to be ready only by 4. I had got to know this person who stayed in the same locality and was one of the star runners of the group. She was kind enough to offer me a lift to the start point when she realized we were practically neighbors. And to top it, they were Bengalis.

By 4 AM, I was ready. Shoes, a bottle of electrolytes, my cell phone. What else did you need to run? And I was off to the start point in the car with butterflies in the stomach. Or I guess it was the khichdi. Ok, let’s not get into it.

9th October. 5:00 AM. Chowmahalla Palace. Electrifying atmosphere – lights, sound, Milind Soman, hundreds running around, stretching, talking about sub-4s and sub-3s, palpable excitement in the air coupled with the Hyderabad 5 AM chill. Laughter, some tense faces around, and some sleepy ones too – it was the perfect setting for me to relax.

A slow jog inside the palace with my friends, some jokes about the timings and I was all set.

My first half marathon.21.1 Kms.

…and then it happened…

****** To Be Continued******