Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sports and Sportspersons in India

After a break in running schedule for about 3-4 weeks, i restarted running on 4th dec, monday. Met with an eager running enthusiast at 6 am at Marina. A big thanks to his patience [he waited for 15 mins for me to arrive] and his drive to run [ we missed the runs together after planning 2-3 times in the last week], i finally got to run. Somehow, i just don't feel the same about running in the past 6-7 weeks and been skipping daily runs and weekend practise with my running group.

We started slowly and i quickly realised how much i've been missing by skipping the runs. It was exhilarating to run close to the sea, the wind hitting the face and peaceful thoughts running through the mind. We ran for an hour and ended the run near Gandhi statue. While we were coolling down the body and stretching ourselves, we met this man who must be in his 40's.

He looked strong, muscular, athletic and extremely fit. He was going through his regular stretching routine. He was doing a number of different routines and it looked very impressive. All of us in the vicinity had our eyes on him and his tricks. I was extremely impressed with his array of activities and my eyes lit up when i saw front of his singlet - it read "India". Surely he has represented India in some sport.

My friend and I continued our cooling down routine. In a short while, to our surprise, the impressive sportsman walked up to us. He introduced himself and we confirmed our thoughts - he did represent India. He has participated in international athletics and weightlifting!!!

His belongings were minimal. He brought with him a torn bag in which he had the skipping rope and water bottle. When i looked at the bag, it brought a tinge of sadness within me. It reinforced my thoughts that Indian sportsperson are the most lonely lot except of couse, the cricketers and the tennis stars. The guy could've carried on his stretching routine in a quiet corner on the marina, but he chose to do it right in front of Gandhi statue and with his India singlet on. He must have been neglected by his sports federation. He must be going through a lean patch, trying to make his ends meet.... and my thoughts went on....

When we told the man that we were practising for long distance runs, he was impressed with us. In his own words " please keep practising and am very proud of you". These are the words from a man who knows the meaning of commitment to sports in India. I was thinking to myself - if i had even some part of the commitment he shows, i would really make him proud.

We then said our "byes", promising him that we will meet again in a couple of days and started our walk back to our lives. A few steps later, i mused about the state of sports in India. My friend had the answer to my question - Its in our culture. Indians as such are very poor spectators. We hardly have anyone follwing the domestic leagues, except for the football leagues in Kerala and Bengal. Our domestic games are watched only by the eager parents and relatives of the players performing at the games. Unless, we follow the sports, the money wont flow in and the sports and sportspersons in India will remain the way they are right now....

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Marathon – Come and Experience the 42.195 km Dream

“If you want to win something, run the 100 meter race. If you want to experience something, run the Marathon” – Emil Zatopek.

Having had the luck to run both, with my marathon finish being the latest at the recently held Bangalore marathon 2006, am able to appreciate the truth in Mr.Zatopek’ words better.

The preparation for the first marathon finish started more than a year ago, with dream of the marathon finish being implanted during the Pilani days. The 20 minute jogs at the gym grounds in Pilani was where the idea of a marathon finish flashed across my mind. It was one of the “desert dreams” and remained a day dream till I read the inspiring blog of a guy who ran the Chennai marathon 2004. (Inspiring, because he had pictures of marathon day with lots of cheer girls in them!!! Kidding… Check here for the inspiration http://run-for-a-cause.blogspot.com/2005/12/desert-dream.html )

Vigneshwaran Chandran (Batch of 2004), a first time runner and someone who completed the half marathon at Bangalore says “A Marathon is a personality builder. All the qualities required to complete a marathon like practice, perseverance and endurance are infact required to achieve real goals in our life too. It was this fact that made me run the Bangalore half marathon.”

The 20 minute jog was slowly turning into a structured run, with the idea of a marathon completion getting stronger by the day. However, the runs were lonely and monotonous. My idea of sport was a team event such as cricket and that was sorely missing in running. It was then that I came across some running enthusiasts in the company that I work in. We formed an informal running club at the office and we used to feed off each other at the training runs. The “tea-break” at office was filled with talks about improving endurance, training schedules, running shoes and many others.

An accidental meeting with a runner on the road during one of the training runs led to fun weekend runs group called “Chennairunners”. The group which started in the beginning of 2006 with 6 of us running a long distance run every weekend, has more than 50 runners now. Training with the group was so much fun – each of us pushing the other to complete the target distance. Running 20-30 km on a Sunday morning with a 5 am start was our kind of fun - Running on a high way and away from the crowded streets in the city and far away that the return journey takes an hour’s journey by bus. It gave us a “high” - the “runners high” with a group is as high as a high only can be. The “high’s” of the Saturday night was being slowly replaced by the healthy “high’s” of the Sunday morning!

Having experienced the joy of running and the fun in training together, Sudip, and I along a few others initiated the “Run for a cause” program at BITS.aid (http://www.bitsaa.org/BITSaid/runforacause.php). Through this program, we at BITS.aid provide the motivation and all the necessary support for a person dreaming about the 42.195 km finish. We also encourage the runners to raise money through the runs and contribute for the various projects that BITS.aid supports. The Bangalore marathon held on September 17th 2006 was the first marathon that the group got associated with.

About 25 people ran for BITS.aid at the Bangalore Marathon – Some running the full marathon (42.195 km) , some doing the half (21.1 km) and some others running the 7 km celebration run. The aim was the same – to push ourselves to run the distance we haven’t run before and raise money for the 2 projects – ‘Yuva Foundations’ and ‘Parikrama’.
The preparations for the Bangalore marathon started 3 months before the actual race. With about 35 people in the group mailing list, we exchanged information/tips on training and also about our weekly practice runs. The group helped keep the motivation up and pushed the runners to stick to the training plan.

On the fund raising front, the “Run for a cause” program has so far raised about Rs.62,000 since its inception. The money has been donated to 3 organizations – Future Focus Foundation, Yuva Foundations and Parikrama.

Anuradha Muralidharan (Batch of 2004), who completed the half marathon (21.1km) at the Bangalore marathon running for BITS.aid says “‘Run for a cause’ was a great motivational source for me. All the training I had done before the marathon helped me cross the finish line comfortably.”

Personally, it was an unforgettable experience running at Bangalore. On the morning of the race, I met a few BITSians and some other runner friends and all of us were charged up to cross the finish line. With the full marathon starting at 6 am and the other runs scheduled later in the day, we couldn’t get all the BITSian runners in the photograph below.

Once the race started, I tried to get into a smooth pace. The fact that I had a few runner friends from Bangalore helped – these guys acted as “tour guides” as we set out discovering the city on the legs! The initial part of the marathon was organized pretty well, with the traffic kept away from the runners. We settled into a good rhythm and were averaging 6-7 mins per km. The weather was perfect for marathon running. But the running course must be rated as one of the difficult ones to run a marathon.

The first 21 km turned out to be pretty smooth for me. I paced it pretty well and managed to complete the distance in 2 hours and 15 minutes. I was planning to complete the race within 5 hours and so far I was pretty much in sight of the goal. But the undulating course was taking its toll on my knees. After the 25th km, I was having difficulties lifting my left leg. The left knee was in real pain and I decided to walk. One of my friends, on seeing me limp decided to walk along with me. Now, each km consumed more than 13 minutes and it would’ve been a monumental task, if I were to complete the rest of the distance alone. In the true marathon spirit, Shyam, a BITS-outsider who was running for BITS.aid, decided to walk along with me and gave up on his goal of finishing within 5 hours. Thanks to him, I managed to keep my thoughts straight.

After the 30th km, I pushed Shyam into running again. I convinced him that I will definitely finish the race. Off he went and I was running, walking, crawling the race alone. I caught up with a few runners who were walking as well. Though we didn’t speak a word (too tired to even talk now), we tried to stay together. At the 5 hour mark, I had 7 more km to go. At the pace I was going at now, it occurred to me that I will be able to complete the run only after 6 hours. That thought was really killing and I decided to run despite the pain. I somehow wanted to complete the race within 6 hours. I urged the 3 runners around me to improve their speed and as I said this, I started running. I tried to slowly drift my thoughts away from the pain and the ipod helped me do that. With a mix of running and brisk walking, I was picking up speed.

With 30 mins to 6 hours, I had 3 more km to complete. Exhaustion and the knee pain stopped me from running anymore. I was walking as fast as I could. Status -20 mins to go and 2 more km to complete. I caught with another runner and we decided, tacitly, to give it all to finish before 6 hours. Another km down and we had the stadium within our sight. 6 more minutes to go and we entered into the stadium. Once in, we were asked to go around the 400 mts track to complete the 42.195 km. 4 more minutes to go. I tried to run but stuttered to a halt. Walking fast, paced the last 400 mts rightly to finally complete the dream in 5 hours 59 mins and 55 seconds. I had done it!!!!. Shyam and all the other runners group pals were at the finish line. An immense feeling of happiness overcame me. One of the top 100 things to do before I kicked the bucket was completed.

It was a memorable experience running the marathon. Right from the start, we had so many people cheering us - The usually uncooperative traffic police was going the extra mile to make the running experience better, Most of the runners urging and pushing the others to go for the finish line, Shyam throwing his goal away and walking with me, the boys at the water point staying on the course for a long time to provide water and some friends waiting at the finish line with sandwiches and fruit juice.

If I contrast this experience with the one I had running the 100 mts, I don’t have much to talk about the 100 metres experience. Though I was lucky to participate at the state level athletics during the school days, it was more of an “individual” experience. The practice for the 100 mts wasn’t as much fun as the group training runs for the marathon. During the 100 mts days, I won a lot of medals but made a million friends during the marathon days. Marathon is all about a group experience – helping and pushing the others to cross the limits and having lots of fun.

Now….Do you want to run the 100 meters or the marathon?

(FYI, the Mumbai marathon is on January 21st 2007. Put on your shoes and as the ad goes “the road comes free” for a marathon runner…..
Shoot an e-mail to me (karthikeyan.vijayakumar@gmail.com) if you wish to run with BITS.aid.)

Saturday, July 29, 2006


People reading this ( http://mridulasworldisround.blogspot.com/2006/06/spreading-word-around.html ), help the boy out in any way possibe - Spread word around, Contribute money or any other way.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Word by Mail

Mails from Dictionary.com and Wordsmith.org land at my inbox everyday. These 2 mails help immensely to improve the word power. In addition to improving the language skill, they also can be used as interesting "pickup" lines.... Though it hasn't worked for me yet, am not going to give up !

Word power! Go get it!!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bangalore Marathon!

Bangalore marathon 2006 is tentatively scheduled to be held on September 17th. This event is keenly awaited by the runner community in India. First scheduled to be held in may (hottest period in Bangalore), later postponed to the cooler period of the year, this race is keenly awaited by the running community in India mainly because this run is the only big run between Mumbai and the Delhi runs.

Some of us are planning to participate in the 42.2 km race. Though the practise has not been steady so far, i got 2 more months to prepare for this race. Planning to work on completing this run in 5 hours.

If you live in Chennai and want some motivation to run, join chennai runners.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Diesel SELLS!

An Indian [first time abroad] takes the flight from Chennai to London, land at the Heathrow, hire a car [asks for a diesel car] and heads to the gas station to top up the fuel levels. Fuel is loaded and he in for a surprise when it is time to pay for the fuel. Diesel costs the same as petrol!

Yes, India is the only country where there is more than 30% price differential between petrol and diesel, with diesel being lighter on the wallet. This scenario is expected to continue as long as the political gaming exists [ till armegedon?] in India. Diesel prices are perenially kept low in India due to the governmen't policy to support manufacturing, fishing, farming and the transportation business. The diesel price hike would impact all of the above business. Since these business' are important to a political party's vote bank, they are "shielded" from the global price increase and hence the price "differential" between petrol and diesel.

Now, this being the scenario, the smart ones will try to utilise the price differential to their advantage. Automobile industry clearly has the been the major gainer. A slew of disel motor based cars are likely to be introduced in 2007 - from a wallet friendly Santro to the luxury BMW and Audi will offer the diesel option.

Though the diesel cars have been in existence since the Ambassador days [Isuzu or Matador engines], their penetration in the Indian market was limited by the fact that the fuel cost savings are overshadowed by the high maintenance cost of the diesel cars. The diesel cars were also held back by their lower perfomance and rattling. But the public perception began to change with the Fiat UNO introduction. Mitsubishi Lancer clearly proved that Diesel can be as quiet as the petrol motor. Hyundai Acccent CRDi brought the diesel perfomance to the Indian car owner. With Skoda Octavia 1.9 TDI, diesel has gained a new meaning - ripping performance on the road, a sprinting 0 - 100 kmph and wallet saving 20+ km/lit on the highways. Diesel is here to stay and longer at that.

All cars from Hyundai stable including the existing petrol only Santro, Getz and Sonata will offer the diesel option from 2007. Tata Indica, Indigo and Marina will offer more refined diesels - Marina with Dicor and Indica with the Fiat Multijet. Multijet will also power GM Chevy Aveo and the Fiat Panda. Swift will also offer Diesel option from 2007.

So if you are planning a car buy and if you do more than 10 to 15k km per year, wait for the diesel options to be offered [ofcouse, only if you are not looking at the Skoda Octavia!].

Friday, July 07, 2006

A ride into the sea

Looking for a "different" experience in Chennai? Tired of the "same" weekend plans? Try this out..

Two weeks ago, some pals and i decided to go "action" a plan that was suggested months [years?] ago. We went on a catamaran into the bay of bengal - Easily one of the best weekends we all had in a while

We jumped into the "kattumaram" [Catamaran's origin] and were on a rocking ride for about 2 km into the sea. All of us then dived into the sea, drifted, tried to swim, got our eyes "burnt" by the salty waters, screamed, relaxed, ducked the others around us into the sea water, splashed the waters around.... it was FUN.

After an exhilarating 40 mins in the sea, we jumped into the catamaran for the ride back to the land and as we neared the shores, i just had one thought - turn the catamaran back into the sea.

If you want a weekend to remember, go for this one. P.S. Yes, apologise for the photos. They did turn out pretty well ... but privacy reasons.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My sense and "websense"

The company I work with now, has recently installed this software called “websense”. This software is basically a “web filtering” software.

On a Saturday evening (post 5 PM), I was looking around for the lyrics of the song “High Hopes” by Pink Floyd. Here is how it went….

I googled for the lyrics and found a number of sites where I can download.

Clicked on the first one, and the next and the next…. This is what I got.

Since I didn’t want to “lose” to websense, I thought about a "work around" and found an alternate way! I searched here

I clicked on the first available link, and here are the lyrics

Blogger power!! Salute!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Population "lessons" in Grade 8.

Typically, class 7,8,9 and 10 are the grades where the biology class is more "interesting" than any other lessons, for the "boys". But this lesson on "economics, biology and phsychology" is something that my classmates and i will never forget, long after the exams. And this learning came from...er... a history [his-story?] subject teacher.

Class 6 , during my school days, was the time my fellow mates [strictly, BOYS] and I were on a "discovery" path, finishing off every article on the 3 letter word that closely sounds like "vex".... but on our own. In class 7, this taboo'd topic came out in the "open" during a chemistry class. The "acid test" brought the boys together - Blue Litmus paper turns Red when dipped in Acid[BRA]!!When the chemistry teacher came up with this short form to keep us from forgetting, some guys tried to "act" as if they've never heard of the "short form". One of them [Class topper, but no trace of real "knowledge"!] even had a full fledged discussion with the teacher using the short form a number of times, in the process. Some last benchers [like my pals and i] had the grin on our faces. We thought that even the teacher was embarassed. The teacher promptly changed the topic of discussion.

That class contributed the most to the "social education" of the boys in my class - After the class, as soon as the teacher stepped out, the boys had a mindblowing "group discussion" guided by the last benchers! Then on we were on the discovery path as a "group", with the learnings of each other being shared!

But this "history" class is the high point on our "social journey". The class gave us "new insights" to think about. On a hot [no pun intended] afternoon in school, this history teacher decided to get the students' attention. But with a question like "what is the reason behind India's overpopulation?" he put us back to sleep [try to remember an exciting history/civics class in school? keep trying!].

With no answer coming his way, he decides to give it a shot himself. His explanation goes - On the 1st of every month, the head of the family has a "heavy wallet". So on the first saturday of the month, he takes his wife [and kids] to a movie and an expensive restaurant. They have a great time , sumptuous food and head home and quickly fall asleep. On the next saturday, with a less heavy wallet, he takes his family to another movie but this time they go to a less expensive restaurant. With a heavy tummy, they head home to hit the sacks soon. [Remember, this story was set in the Coimbatore of the last decade of the 1900's]. All of us were warmed up by now.

The 3rd saturday, with 2 more weeks to pull through before the next pay day, he decides to take his family to the "park". They gaze at the crowd while having some "kadalai" [groundnut!] and "popcorn". The family then heads back home, make their dinner, eat and sleep off. Now all the class guys were truely awake.

The final saturday of the month, the guy is left with little money. He and his wife decide to stay at home. The dinner is made by 7 pm. Both of them are watching the saturday evening movie. The dinner is taken in by 8:30 PM. And then, ...... they have some fun, out of boredom! [exactly his words!]. This, he said is the reason for India's overpopulation crisis!!!!

By now all of us [atleast all boys] were grinning! "All of us" had successfully passed the "social education" test.

Easily, the best "history" class we had so far.....

P.S The guys who read "Freakanomics" will find this particular reasoning very familiar!