Jan 21, 2013

In which I philosophize about running...

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, 
But I have promises to keep, 
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.
 - Robert Frost

About a year back, I wrote this. And promised myself 2 things.

I regret to look back and see I haven't reached 300 posts. The count's only 275. Damn!

But I did finish the Half Marathon in under 3 hours. 2:43:13 to be precise. Yay and all that!

And all along, I thought the other milestone of 300 posts would be the easier one to achieve. Especially since, just a few weeks back, climbing a few steps had left me muttering to myself that "I am too old for this shit."

Life has this unique ability of surprising you. And making you realize that you are not as prolific a writer as you thought you were, or as bad a couch potato as you imagined either.

If you talk to the people who run on a regular basis, they tell you it gives them a 'high'. They tell you it makes you fitter, slimmer, even smarter. They talk about 'being in the zone'. They talk about some strange thing called 'second wind'. They invariably have this anecdote about that one time when they experienced cramps, which left them hobbling, but somehow they 'pushed past the pain barrier' and managed to complete the race. They talk about 'mind over matter', and other positive thinking stuff. They are mostly nice people, but they can get incredibly annoying. Almost like Amway salespeople or Art of Living evangelists, only their agenda is to make you run.

If I ever start sounding like some of them, do me a favour. Walk up to me and punch me in the face. Or if you are too far away, call me up and abuse me like crazy. Do whatever you can, but ensure I don't become one of those "hey, this is so much fun, you should do this too" kind of guy.

There are other people who say running teaches discipline. And planning. Just like you don't get up one fine day and decide to run half way across town (well, some of you do, but I am talking about normal people here). You start with a small run. Wheeze through it and give up. Then, the next week, you find out that you can last a minute longer. And then, the week after, 2 minutes more. And slowly, you build up stamina over time to last the distance. And they claim, you can use this 'template' of planning and executing in other areas of life. Like your personal life or career or timing your bowel movement.

At first, I thought that sounded plausible. Because, I like to think I am a 'plan and execute' kind of guy. Till I realized that unlike the financial model that I build which has a steady state 3% increase in cost of X every year, the reality is starkly different. The people who lecture you on 'planning and execution' are usually the people who end up in investment banking and management consultancy, and who think life can be explained in a 2 x 2 matrix. These are also the people who end up buying a 1000-rupee 'belt' which holds 2 water bottles, because you know, holding the bottle in your hand when you run reduces your 'efficiency'.

And so, while you listen to them and start sweating it out and counting calories to improve your heart's health and to reduce your BMI to acceptable levels, something other metric (which the pharma industry is yet to come up with to sell you expensive pills) is off the radar and is killing you. And the 'suits' will come up with a post-facto explanation as to how they saw this coming.

Running is pointless. In fact, it is one of the most pointless activities I have been a part of. It'll be the second most pointless thing you would happen to indulge in, right after reading this blog. Poor kids in Africa run because they don't have other means of transport. Animals run because they can't drive a car. Reasonably well-off people only run because they can come up to you and lecture you about 'adrenaline rush' and 'runner's high'. Or because all that pounding on their knees somehow killed off a few grey cells in the process.

Stay with me for a while. Even though you are bored to hell by now with this post. Stay for one sentence longer. And one more. And while you have come this far, why not endure it a bit more? Just that one bit extra. I know there is a nice cat video that is streaming on your other tab, but just hold on. Are you still there?

Now read the above paragraph once more. And again. And again.

Running is as pointless as that. Putting one step in front of another. Once. Twice. Ten times. Hundred times. Thousand times. Left, Right, inhale, Left, Right, exhale. Repeat. Over and over and over again.

"Now wait a minute. If running is so pointless, why did you do it again this year?" I hear you ask.

Because, sometimes, you should do something pointless. Not for your health. Not for what other people say or think. Not even for how you feel about it. No, sometimes, you should do pointless things just for the heck of it. Because you can.

Because you know, life itself is pointless. There is no 'grand purpose' to it. It just is. And that doesn't stop you from living, day after boring day, over and over again, does it?

PS: And that's precisely why I will end up running next year too. Just for the heck of it.

Jan 9, 2013

In which I suggest a way for leaders to not appear dumb...

What a crazy few weeks this has been
Can't remember the last time we've seen
every 'leader' with a big foot in his mouth,
Be it from the East, West, North or South,
I had better maturity even at age nineteen!

First, it was the this effing idiot who loudly vented
about women on the streets being 'dented and painted'
He said "I can't believe the protester is a student"
Nor can we, sir, that you're the son of the President
but what can we say, except you are truly demented!

Then, we had this old supremo in a khaki short
who, when asked on this issue, made a sharp retort
that rapes happen in the India which apes the West
& not in our mahaan Bharat, 'coz our culture's the best
am not a lawyer, but say, can we sue him for tort?

And now we have this bearded man of God,
who wants the victim to chant mantras, dear Lord!
He pontificates, "with one hand, you cannot clap"
But sir, one hand suffices for a really tight slap,
and one hand also suffices to hold a large iron rod.

We also have a guy who blames the stars
He says "It was her fate, to suffer such scars"
Another wise guy blames fashion, films and freedom
"Veil the women, ban pre-marital sex and the condom,
And while we are at it, let's also close all pubs and bars."

Some one says women should not cross the line,
"Stay behind the Laxman Rekha and you'll be fine"
The Khaki-clad supremo adds, "Ladies, stay indoors,
And remember, your duty is to do household chores;
Marriage is an age-old contract, to keep you bovine"

To all these wise men, I have but one thing to say,
To their powerful egos, I am willing to humbly pray,
Please finish this "let me raise my pet cause" game,
And eventually get around to pinning the blame,
on the real culprits, if not today, at least some day...

And if I may add a small helpful hint, just a nudge,
It is that when you deem yourself to act as a judge,
"The woman's not to blame" - it's a simple rule of thumb
to ensure you never, ever again sound so dumb,
and in future, a woman's character you don't smudge.

And since I am feeling generous, let me add another rule,
Because, I don't think you were smart enough, you fool,
"If your solution involves something a woman shouldn't do -
it's a stupid solution", see now, that's a really easy clue
when in doubt, please refer to this simple thinking tool.