Monday, November 13, 2017

Mohan Master

This post is an ode to the man I owe my independence in locomotion. The man who helped me slay yet another ghost in my head. This is a long pending post.  A swaggering 3 and a half years.  Better late than never don’t they say?

I think of this guy almost every day for the past few years, thank him in my heart,  say a bless you in my head, and start my day.  ( BTW J knows about this guy in my life :-) :-) :-) ).  Car driving is one of the most rewarding learning of my life and the freedom to move around, without depending on anyone is almost a miracle.

I got to know about Mohan Master ( that’s how he likes to be called and makes it clear) through a friend, who said he specializes in teaching women to drive.  That was bang on my need at that point in time.

Thus starts my tryst with MM sometime in February - March 2014.  As promised he arrives at 5.30 am and asks me to start the car.  I have difficulty even with that.  I wonder how I ended up getting my license in 2009. 

MM reassures me.  Maddam, ( that’s how he calls me with an emphasis on the syllable D)  if you can walk in a city road, I can teach you to drive and I am certain you will be able to.  I do not believe him, though I desperately want to.

MM starts with the basic lessons in driving.  The actual  ABC’s of driving.  Accelerator, Brake and Clutch. He tells  me to wear shoes without heels and ones that are comfortable, driving without a shoe is a strict no-no.  Then a little advanced lesson – how to hold on to the steering.  The 9 – 3 position.   Both hands on the steering and the hands never crosses over each other.  Ever.   He says it with a kind of  sternness that I would dare not disobey.

The steering should not be held tightly and your hand glides on it.  I say Ok Mohan Master, very obediently, our terms have been established.

He takes me to an empty ground and asks me to circle the empty ground in the car.  I am able to do it.  He asks me to get down and look at the wheel tracks and see if it was a perfect circle.  The circle that I thought I actually drove, is an poor oblong longing to be a circle. He gets down from the car and asks me to do that again.  I  remember being worried about driving without him next to me.  He smiles and says, someday you got to drive alone. Second time it was simpler.  Same routine – get down and check the tracks.  Third time I feel a bit proud of myself.

He tells me to get back in the car.  I get back in more confidently.  Now he says track the number 8 while driving.  My eyes pop out.  MM gives a knowing smile and I know I have no option.

The ensuing classes get tougher from circle in the reverse and a number 8 in the reverse, and  I have serious doubts if I was actually a retard. 

The coffee table topic and the lunch table topics at office is always about my driving classes, those days.  My friends pre-empt what MM will make me do in the next class.  A circle with the help of just 2 front wheels, maybe?  The next would be just the usage of 2 side wheels.  Amidst all the laughter I realise I am no good at driving.

But this man does not give up on me.  By now we have moved from the empty ground to the real road.  The timings are the same. Early morning.  Rain or shine, MM will be there at 5.30 am.   He speaks dime a dozen, about various topics.  His travels around the world, his Vietnam trip, and how he loved China. I wonder silently if this man would stop it, so that I can focus.  Made a mental note to myself to stuff my ears with some cotton the next day.  He must have seen it cross my mind, he said, Maddam my conversation may irritate you today, but tomorrow when you drive with your friends you will thank me for the invaluable skill that I have taught you.  I smile sheepishly at being caught.

MM has another peculiar habit which kind of annoyed me.  Imagine me, trying to still figure out how to hold the steering and mind you always in 9 -3 position, manage the co-ordination between my left and right leg in-between figuring out which the A, B and the C are, and to also change gears ( most often I forgot the gear component of driving).  And then I got to focus on MM’s gibberish. 

It must have been the third or 4th driving class.  MM asks me while I was trying to roll the vehicle on a highway, how may brakes does your car have?  What the heck, I thought.  One brake is what comes to mind.  Then I realise there is something called a handbrake, and I feel smarter already.  I blurt out two a little too loudly.  That’s when he shows me my place.  Maddam, you have 5 brakes in the car and I am thinking is this fellow out of his mind?

MM explains : The moment you take your leg off the accelerator, you are slowing the vehicle and that’s a kind of brake,  The car horn slows people down on the road, that’s the second one.  Applying the clutch is another form of braking.  Then the original brake and finally the handbrake.  Smart guy isn’t he?.  Now for the annoying stuff.  Maddam can you repeat whatever I said in the same order please?

And I was like WHAT?  

MM continues very calmly, repeat Maddam please.    By now I have forgotten the sequence and even the question,  remember I am driving.

He won’t relent at anything.  Makes sure you say it, the way he wants to hear it, even if it means I got to say it 5 times.  Every lesson he teaches including the steering position, gets repeated by me word for word the way he likes it.   The lessons advanced from moving up the gears while driving, take U turns on a busy road ( by now the timing changes to 7 to 8 am), reversing the vehicle, where to look while reversing, starting a vehicle using handbrake while you stop on a slope and also Parking the vehicle. 

The lessons overwhelm me, but when  I realise MM is around, I kind of feel confident to drive.

I especially like his sense of humour.  During one of the drives, MM says, Maddam your car has four wheels.   I am wondering which lesson he is going to teach me now.  Two in the front and two in the back. I quickly think there is one wheel in the boot.   MM continues  you forget the left wheel in the front of your car.  You got to pay attention.   Ohhhhhh… that’s the lesson.

By now, if I make a mistake, MM makes me pull over to the side of the road.  I felt like a school kid then.  I got to tell him what mistake I did and what should have been done instead.  And he will not help me with the mistake I did.  There were days when I had to pull over at least 3 – 4 times, and MM would be quite unsympathetic while I am actually figuring what went wrong.

So the lessons moved to a national highway where he made me unlearn some things that he initially taught. If need be, you gotta drive with your hand on the gear, so  on the highway, he wanted  me to hold the gear and the steering with one hand each and my hand should not move out of the gear.   The speed should be at 100 km per hour.  He would also appropriately motivate saying, Maddam you do so much of stuff that I cannot do, why do you even have these doubts.  Trust yourself and go on.

Some of what MM said may sound pretty fleeting, but I realised had very profound sense in them.  Once he told me, Maddam why are you looking so tensed when you are driving?  If you get tensed your mind will go blank.  Keep smiling.  You have a nice smile.   And that will also help you to think clearly.  I realised this guy is talking about what Amy Cuddy, a behavioural scientist speaks about in her TED X talk on how our body language defines the way we think, after decades of research.  I consciously smile after hearing that.

Finally I start driving on my own, and the lessons that he made me repeat after him, comes to mind whenever I make a mistake.  Maddam  do not change the gear while you are overtaking, I hear Mohan master say it in my head, when I do that on road, even today.   I smile in gratitude for those lessons.

A couple of weeks back, I parked my car in a an unobtrusive spot and when I come back from shopping, see a pick up truck just behind my car completely blocking my way out.  I waited for a while, to see if the driver is around.  I saw a guy hovering around the vehicle and checked if he was the driver.  He says the driver has gone into the building and will take 30 minutes to come.  I tell him that I need to take my vehicle out, and check if he can move the vehicle a little forward.  I cant drive, but the truck’s key is in the vehicle we can get someone to move it forward, he says.  Couple of men passed us and none one of them knew to drive.

Thats when it dawned on me, what the heck, you can drive Vincy.  I got into that fully loaded Yellow TATA 407 pick up truck and with some difficulty started the engine, figured out the first gear and moved it to the place I wanted. 

Hurray, Vincy !!! Mohan Master will be proud of you!!!


I wish I remembered to take a selfie :-(

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Just between You and Me

We all have these little somethings that only just two of us know right?  and we tell ourselves just between you, me and the lamppost!

The other day while driving I recalled a memory of a random act that I was accostomed to.  These days most of my brainwaves happen during my driving.  ever noticed?

And unlike what you thought, this was not between me and another person, it was between me and God.  Yes.  So I do certain little somethings and look up in the sky and say to God, just between you and me. The best of my friends wouldn't know about it. remember it was just between the two of us.  A kind act of patience especially when I feel a stranger or another human being does not deserve it, or extending some help, or simply a smile when i dont feel like it mostly to people who I do not know, or in no way could give it back to me,  were those little stuff that I used to offer to God.

Those tiny moments brought in oneness with my creator and used to give such peace & serenity to the mind and I had vowed to myself that I would pile on more such moments.  only to be forgotten and it hit me like a lighning bolt out of the blue and sat wondering when my last " between just you and me moment" with God was.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

In a strange loop

I am back again.

Somewhere around the second week of March is when madness set in.  Always proud of my skills in organising my shelves to life et all, I unceremoniously stooped to a level where I had to order pizza for a friend who came home for lunch, just because I had nothing at home.  I  had just come back from Bangalore after my niece’s birthday celebrations.

Paradoxical literally and I cannot comprehend how I got there. Mental note to myself, remember this and stop bragging about yourself.

Personal travel, Official travel, Work at office peaked to an unbelievable frenzy, three weeks of continuous training and evaluations, amidst all these Maundy Thursday and Easter -  time was slipping through my fingers and I continued to be in a daze. Who was I giving all the mind space to and what  was I thinking ?

Friends and family have started complaining about how I haven’t been in touch with them.  Their whimper didn’t distress me – Yes I was lost in my own strange loop.

Until I got this email delivered into my official mailbox

Subject :  Disciplinary hearing

This mail is to inform you that you must attend a disciplinary hearing at XXX Technologies Ambatur-4, ODC12, First Floor on 4th May 2017 at 11.30 AM.  The hearing is to consider and discuss disciplinary allegation and misconduct list (you are already aware of).

You are entitled to bring your gang who will be able to comment on witness statements and raise any questions, for further investigation or consideration, as appropriate.

If found guilty to the allegation that we may impose a disciplinary sanction up to and including an amount we decide appropriate.

The hearing will be conducted in accordance with the Our Disciplinary Procedure and the hearing will be chaired by Her Highness Mala Ramaswamy and Her Highness Deepa Vasudevan will also be present.

Please acknowledge receipt and confirm you will attend hearing as scheduled.  You are reminded that failure to co-operate in this process including failure to attend hearing may itself be disciplinary offence resulting in further disciplinary action.

Yours sincerely,
Disciplinary committee

I had to check the mail id of the sender of this email twice.  Venkat who sent me this email, Mala and Deepa are all bosom buddies at work and imagine they want to take disciplinary action against me for misconduct ( not keeping in touch with them). ROFL.

You know why I am telling you all these, right? 

The biggest crime I am guilty of is that I missed being on the virtual Travel with Ramesh.  I remember I went with him in his last trip virtually to the seven sister states and how much I enjoyed it.   Thankfully I can go back to it, now that I have woken up from my slumber.

Post Script:

You should give it to me for the creative ways of getting back to my blog after a break.  Don’t you agree?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Letting go, yet again

 In the earlier post I mentioned about letting go off the land beneath my foot and armed with that confidence, and overwhelmed with what I had just accomplished, we were herded to the next stop into yet another motor boat by our guide Lilly.
 
It took another 30 minutes to reach the next boat close to a small patch of reef that fringes Coral Island called the Koh-Lam in Thai. We all had signed up for the underwater sea walk, purely intrigued by the idea and Lilly handed us over to our new guide, an Indian who was multilingual. A well-built Indian who could speak in broken English, Hindi and Thai language (for the benefit of few south Asians who were with us).
 
He assumed all of us can understand Hindi, and though not very versatile with the language (shame on me), I managed to figure out the instructions he gave. Jay, having been brought in the north chipped in and helped. With all seriousness he gave us the instructions and with all our might we listened to him. I listened out of sheer fear. I was not comfortable with water and the awesome looking blue blue aquamarinish water didn’t look all that great, the moment he was saying you will all go under water and remember you cannot speak under water, so you need to know how to communicate.

We were given black gloves and he explained the whole process of communicating with our hands. He also assured that we need not necessarily know swimming for this activity. Quite a breather that one was. He further assured, all the better if you didn’t know swimming. You only have to sink in the water. Made a note to myself, Learn Swimming.
 
Communication.. Sounds pretty simple for someone who does that for a living. (Me) But under water communication?? the few butterflies that I had when I went for parasailing, multiplied manifold suddenly that they didn’t have space in my tummy to fly. I was desperately trying to hide my fear. The breeze that was blowing was making us feel cold and I found myself trembling. Difficult to say if it was the chillness or if it was the fear. But company the of four helped. We laughed and joked and took pictures (yeah we never missed that one).
 
Here we had to climb down from a platform on the boat, to metal stairs that went into seawater, like the ones that you see in swimming pools. When water is at your chest level, they instruct you to walk on one strip of metal to the guy who holds a heavy white coloured astronaut like bubble helmet. The bubble helmet is connected to a tube that in turn is connected to the oxygen tank, so that we get a constant supply of oxygen and also stops the seawater ingressing into the helmet.
 
I was second in the line, and as per instructions given, after the first person goes down, the divers on board would place the bubble on my head. And that moment I have to let go of my hands from the steel bars that I was holding onto. My biggest doubt was, if I will let go. I told myself, its too late now to back off, all others are doing it, none of them know swimming and there are scuba divers down there to help.
 
Then it happened. The bubble was placed on my head and I just let go. Yeah I did. First time ever I went underwater, followed the instruction of the Indian guide who told us to swallow saliva to maintain the air pressure and I was kind of fine. I kept going down until my feet touched the fine coral of the sea bed. I could see the first guy who was the only guy with our four member team, down there and I frantically held on to his hand. Tightly. I was floating and my feet would not stay firm on the sea bed. 

Have I made a wrong choice of opting into this adventure sport?
Did I pay for my own funeral in Thai bhats?
Will I die under water? Will I make it back home?
What if the water gets above the chin, after all, the distance between the chin and the nose is just a couple of inches.
If I am struggling for breath and what if none of scuba divers see?

Questions to myself and my initial thoughts under water.

By then a scuba diver held my legs and steadied it on the sea bed. The water pressure makes it unable to stand still and gives a feeling of floating. Like air pressure, realised the prowess of water pressure too. I repeatedly try and steady myself. In a few minutes all seems well.
 
I saw Jay coming down and holding my left hand. Relief writ large on my eyes, we could see eye to eye. A diver came in front of me and checked if all was okay. I communicated correctly, remembered my sign language and showed him the correct sign.
 
I could see Jay had some trouble with the air pressure and the body guard helping her. She is being steadied too. I didn’t let go of the grip of my right hand. Jay was holding my left hand. Things were falling in place. I could see a reef in the sea bed, fishes swimming a little far away. I could see the sea bed, and the divers clearly and a lot of organisms which I could not identify. We have seen these so many times in Discovery channel and didn’t give two hoots about what grit it involves.

Then the show begins. One of the divers comes close to me and pulls my hand and saves the first guy from my vice-like grip. He must have felt so relieved. He handed all of us a piece of bread and almost magically, a huge school of fish comes to feed from our hands. The fishes are just inches away from the helmets. Some are small, some big and all are colourful.
 
The fishes are cautious, hesitant but like us they are driven by the strength of a group. They are also smart and sometimes peck my fingers and it all feels so good. Some fishes are touching my legs too. I dare not look down as we were instructed not to bend down or look up. We can only look sideways through the bubble helmet. For the time being I enjoy the tingling feeling when the fishes brush past you. We are allowed to touch pieces of live coral and the whole thing is a fine display.
 
I cannot believe myself. I am amazed at what I am doing underwater walking on the south Asian sea bed. Fear takes a back seat (not completely vanished though) and I take in all that I can see through my helmet. The divers are hovering around.
 
We should have been there for 20 minutes. And we hear a long tap on metal from up above. The divers come for us and help us go up to the stairway that seems to hang in water. As I come out, the bubble is removed from my head and not a drop of water above my chin.
 
Four of us laugh, dance, chatter and rejoice – this was the best experience of our trip. The waters looked Cobalt blue now, fear replaced with ecstasy and the magic returns.

Letting go helped.

Post Script:
We had paid up for under water photographs, but particular day, there was some technical snag with the camera and they couldn’t give us our photographs under water.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Letting go

Ramesh, this one goes out to you again.  Thank you for that gentle nudge to write more.
 
For all the other readers ( I am being flamboyant here again, in assuming that I have too many of you, but the ones who read, trust me, you are precious to me) the earlier two posts are about our all girls trip to Thailand.
 
Letting go on Day 2 -  Part 1
 
Our plan for the second day was simple, unlike the earlier day. First half of the day at Coral Island and then back to Bangkok.  But what did not anticipate was all the adventure that was awaiting us at Coral Island.

First things First, we met our guide for the day, this time a petite woman who had the name tag on her which read LINRY, but this is how she introduced herself to us ( please read with a sing song tune)  Iiiiiiiii Lilllyyyy.. your guideee… A friendly woman who repeatedly assured us No Wollies… ( for the uninitiated, what she meant was no Worries). Figured out most of the Thai population cannot pronounce “r” and the “r” is invariably replaced with a “l” so tomorrow is always tomollow. Safari world is Safali wolld… you get the drift right?. That however is not the point in discussion, isn’t it?
 
We are not the only ones who are to be guided by Linry, she has a group of Indians. Ok we were a little surprised to see a whole bunch of Indians along with us. Most of them as families, grim faced and quiet. And while the men tried to look cool, the women looked jealous. How can these women ( us ) have so much fun?
 
But that realisation was only momentary and we were ushered into the thin silver sands on the beach, by the time we could take a few pictures, we had to wade into the crystal clear sea water which was a never ending aqua marine colour in front of us. That blue blue colour is something that I have seen only in movie song sequences. We clamoured up the speed boat in which there were people taking our pictures, we did pose for them too… Later we realised at the end of the ride, we will have to pay and take the prints or else they will just tear it up and throw it away.
Sudha & Me posing before we clamoured up the speed boat

 


We were instructed to wear life jackets in the speed boat and were eager and animated as the boat leapt above the water only to come down on the water with a stomach-churning thud. Laughter and chatter of four women filled the speed boat. I guess the laughter was more about hiding our fear for water. None of us knew swimming.


 
Our Speed boat leaving the bay
 The speed boats’ first stop was for parasailing. We moved from the speed boat to the large floating platform that provides a clear view of the bay and the city’s skyline. But who had the time to watch all that. Linry handed us over, to the care of some young men and she assured “no Wollies” once again, when we looked at our bags promising to look after our belongings. Sudha had already done the parasailing earlier in Andaman and hence she chose to be our photographer. Her DSLR was put to good use. our special thanks to Sudha, if not for her, our memories would not have been captured so beautifully.
 
We were watching people floating a hundred feet over the water held by a parachute and driven by a speed boat. Since I could see the harness being tightened on each person and is safely secured on to the parachute, logic was in place and except for a couple of butterflies in my stomach, I wasn’t worried.
 
My turn came and two of the gentlemen fastened the life jacket with the harness that can clasp the parachute. And then I was given the instruction to run on the floating platform as they strap the Parachute’s metal clasps onto me. In my mind, I was instructing myself to be ready to let go of the solid surface beneath me.
Waiting in the queue for our turn to be parachuted :-) & finding safety in a group :-)

Instructing myself to let go  just before giving my control to the parachute & speed boat
My heart was beating fast when they were strapping my parachute and before I could finish a couple of huge steps I realised I was airborne. It is an amazing feeling to let go of the land beneath your legs and float in the sky. While the speed boat seems to be moving pretty fast, I was floating in the air with almost no movement at all. The air up above was noisy, not very happy about my intrusion into its space and was hitting me hard. My heart started fluttering.

Airborne


Letting go


waving to Sudha while landing
A minute of being airborne, I found myself at peace, looked around and loved the skyline of Pattaya, the sea front looked far away and the unending aquamarine looked fabulous. I could also see few small islands’ and wondered if anyone lives there. And then overcome by some strange emotion, I let out a loud noise, my voice only to be drowned by the sound of air and the speeding motorboat in front of me. I let my hands off the parachute straps, freely flying in the air enjoying every bit of the experience.

By now, I was landing back onto the platform and I could see Sudha focussing her DSLR on me and I waved to her. I didn’t want to land, but I could see the speedboat manoeuvring itself to the spot for me to land. Two gentlemen helped me land smoothly. 
 
Harness removed, parachute off, the speed boat gone, I realised in my head I was still flying.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

4 Friends, 3 nights, 2 destinations and one goal : Day one

This is a sequel to the earlier blog post. And thanks to Ramesh’s insistence on a live travel blog, I felt obliged to jot this down as a live travel blog may take sometime. I had the pleasure of following his live travel blog the year before last and I do feel I owe him one. So this one and the ones that are to follow this, is for you Ramesh. Gilsu I am about to induce more stomach fire in you.
 
The first day of our trip was hectic to say the least. We reached Pattaya early morning and went for a good walk on the main beach road, when Pattaya was slowing waking up from its slumber. Since Pattaya is a night town, I guess they wake up only by mid-morning or later. We opted for an English breakfast that morning, not just because the two others with me were pure vegetarians, but because the smells of the native food weren’t very appealing to us.
 
We had 3 activities to cover the first day – The first in the list was Art in Paradise, an enchanting place fully blown with 3D illusion art work which gave so much photo opportunity to us girls, we were behaving like a bunch of kids in a candy store. Did we care? Of course NO.

This museum allowed visitors to interact with the artwork. To make the photos look real and to become part of the art work itself, we had to find a cool angle so that the 3D paintings come alive.

Blending into 3D artwork


Doesn't this look real?

on a flying carpet at Art in Paradise

Didn’t realise that two and half hours can just fly past us in a jiffy. We literally ran through the last parts of the artwork as our pick up vehicle was already waiting for us. Quick lunch. No prizes for guessing – It was decent Indian food. The guide dropped us back at hotel. Quick change of dress. Purely for photographs and off to Nong Nooch village.

We had to travel around 40 minutes and the next 3 hours’ time flew again. They say time flies when you are having fun. Fun we did have. We all were sporting nose pins.. Yeah just for fun. At Nang Nooch village we went for the Thai Cultural show, Elephant show, butterfly garden, Dinosaur valley, did we see orchid garden? There is so much to see, we probably can spend an entire day there.. but by then the tiny girl, our guide in our Honda Civic was ushering us back. I am sure in Thailand time is shorter than in India.
with our nosepins :-)

one of the gardens at Nong nooch village

Thai culture show
Back to hotel, yep change of dress and off to Alcazar show.

An amazing cabaret show by the transvestite community of Thailand. We had read up so much about it, watched videos, but still could not believe these awesome people were actually transvestites. They would give the beauty queens of the world, a good run for their money. This was one show where we girls sat stunned in silence, a lot of emotions running through us – totally jaw dropping experience. The show was almost an hour in a state-of the–art theatre and was a feast to the eyes. We went up close to the performers, after the show was over and we still could not believe our eyes. They look attractive with the right curves and the right body language and most of the performers were ravishing.

And if you thought after all this we were done for the day… you are mistaken, we had heard about walking street in Pattaya and we wanted to have a look at that place. We walked up to that street – a street that busies itself in the night and filled with all types of bars and nightclubs where you can spot a whole lot of Lady-boys. We could not bear to walk 100 feet into that street, the pole dancers and all that exposure, we walked back quietly and quickly to the beach road. Realised this was not our kind of place.

And you thought we went straight to sleep, nooooooo….Inspite of getting  into a flight at  10.30 pm the previous night,  sleeping quite intermittently in the flight and in the cab to Pattaya,we were as energetic as we can be even after visiting so many places.

Our chatting and planning for the next day and we must have dozed off much beyond, 2 am, only to make sure we got up early to start a fresh new day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Babes to Bangkok

Pre-script:

This is a delayed post. delayed by a month. this has been in draft version as I was organizing something else and this was totally forgotten. now you can continue to read the post... at your own peril :-)
------------------------------------------------------------------------


“Travel and tell no one, live a true love story and tell no one, live happily and tell no one, people ruin beautiful things.” Says Khalil Gibran.

While I love this quote much, its difficult to follow this one. Have you ever tried it?


And hence I will continue to bore you guys with the banter of the little things and ofcourse the big things that is going on in my life. well, anyways you guys do not ruin beautiful things.
 
Coming to the title, I realise it is an exaggeration to call myself a babe – but what the heck, if not now, then When? With a pricking conscience I will continue with this title. Also, this was the name of our group in Whatsapp right from the time we started discussing about this trip and so I am kind of attached to this name. ( pardon me and my friends for the abundance of vanity and appreciate us for the sense of humour).

It all started off with a casual conversation that my friend Sudha and I were having, over a cup of our regular cafeteria coffee, which tastes differently every single day depending on the mood of the lady who puts in the mix for coffee in the vending machine. We religiously drink this concoction every single day to a point that we are almost addicted to it, which is another story altogether. I digress here.

So an all girls women trip idea was born and you know, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” And that’s how it all began. Way back in October 2016.

I initially thought this is one of those stuff which may fizzle out after some discussion, which did not happen fortunately. We were determined to go even if it was just two of us, but we got 2 others who were as crazy as us. Jay is our friend from the current organisation and my friend Rosy who is settled in Australia showed a lot of interest to join us. The plan was that she will join us at Bangkok from Australia and return with us to India. Why did we choose Bangkok – we really do not know.

If we were clear about one point about this trip, it was the fact that this was going to be all girls and no family, though all three others had little children who may want to join. Cruel women we must be right, but you know what, we thought we mothers will make ourselves a priority once in a while – It is not being selfish, a break is always necessary.

Like our Marathon running, we read up, worked with our tour operator, that poor fellow must have gone crazy with the repeated calls and requests to change the itinerary every time a good friend suggests a new place. Shilpa my friend from Bangalore had just been to Bangkok on a holiday end of January and she ran through our itinerary one last time and she helped finalise the plan. Her inputs were so precise, detailed but specific that we felt we could have done away with our tour operator.

Sudha is such a meticulous planner that she had created an excel sheet which had the every day trip broken up into an hour-wise agenda, which included distance between our hotel and the spot we were visiting, address, point of contact and hold your breath guys, she also had the number of dresses, kind of dress needed for every day, including the kind of footwear. Other than this the excel also had check list under various categories like documents to carry, cosmetics, beachwear, and what not. A big salute to Sudha for her eye for detail.

I was the oldest among the group, and surprisingly the families of the other three, were sending them just because I was there. Funny. Thankfully the families didn’t get see the other side of the goody goody Moi.

The trip was an amazing one and it was an experience of a life time – fun, laughter, thrill, joy and what not. For a bunch of working mothers, it was reliving our college days. After our college days, this was the first time, we were all travelling with our friends and that made it even more awesome. Support from families helped quite a bit.

For a place of tourist attraction, Bangkok surprised us with its cleanliness, wide variety of food, quality of stuff available and the fun activities we could do. The first two days were at Pattaya and next two in Bangkok city. We had safe fun with reckless abandon, and did so many things that I never ever imagined I would do. We all went in for the Underwater sea Walk, fed the fishes there, did Para-sailing, went on a water scooter – unbelievable considering the fact that I am scared of water, watching those massive Buddha statues, listening to the funny English slang of the people. The best part of this trip was we were never tired of posing for pictures or taking pictures. 3 mobiles and 1 DSLR together has more than 2000+ pictures. We were creating memories and a few of them were life changing.

The best fun was when we were shopping. Each of us have a different approach to shopping and all hell broke loose those couple of hours when we went in for it and enjoyed it to bits. Slept late every single day but we were all up in the morning all set for the next day. The only problem we had was with Thai food and somehow, none of us could get accustomed to the smell or the food.

We came back all rejuvenated to truck loads of work, but are convinced we will do it again. Some other place. Soon. ( Rekha are you listening???)

Sharing a few memories with you folks.
The blue blue beaches of  Pattaya - Coral Island
Any guesses on how this shot was taken?
and the word down there is babes
At Safari world, Bangkok
The mandatory one
Nong Nooch cultural village, Pattaya.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Good, Bad and the Ugly

I thought I was done with the Marathon post, but I decided to put together some learning and some stuff that I need to change before I attempt another marathon.

The Good
  • Coach Kumar was a blessing.  A positive person and an expert in Marathons, he was following up on us like crazy and he was so accessible.  On days that I couldn't practice, especially during the Christmas time, I was a little apprehensive to face him.  
    The coach with the girls during one of our practice runs
  •  Practicing  and running with friends who had a common goal helped.  We were very clear on the race day that we will run our own race.  We did not let each other pressurize ourselves, or bog one another down.
  • I ran the entire 10km.  No mean feat this.  happy for myself.
  • We did a lot of reading and kept ourselves informed about the techniques for running, postures, mudra for aiding meditation and concentration, the diet, strength training exercises, warm up and warm down activities. We practiced some of them during our trial runs like the postures and the Gyan mudra.  Sent each other what we read and since all of us were doing it was four fold and before running we would have scored full marks in theory.
  • We all reached an hour in advance, had time for work-outs and loved the frenzy  of the other runners.  I had laid out my running clothes, attached the bib, practiced in the new shoe that I was to run, hydrated myself enough the previous two days, carb-loaded myself and was all set mentally and physically.
  • The magic of cheering and appreciation unfolded in front of my eyes – there were people cheering the runners all though the way.  I waved to them and loudly thanked them for standing there and cheering us.  I met an old couple well past 85 cheering for the runners, a Pomeranian owner was holding his dogs palm and waving to us.  I asked for the name, intending to hear the dog’s name, and he said, my name is Chakravarthy, you can call me Uncle.  ( all this while I was running ).
  •  While on the note of cheering, there were a group of special children who were playing music just near Madhya Kailash.  I crossed the running crowd towards them to thank them and they could not even acknowledge or smile at me.  That made me tear up. 
  • The event was organised well with the route maps and milestones completed for all the marathoners – the ones running 10k, HM and FM.  So whenever I saw the hoarding for completion of every kilometer, I cheered myself.  At the 7th km, I had missed the hoarding, but I heard a runner say that we had just crossed 7th km.  I started clapping as I was running, and the runners around me looked very surprised.  I told them I am cheering myself and the set of people around me clapped and said, we would also cheer you.  That instant camaraderie of marathoners – priceless
  • A septuagenarian was running in front of me, with this tag “ Marathoners last longer”
  • It was always difficult for me to find myself in a crowd.  This run was different.  I could complete a Divine mercy Rosary between the 2nd and 3rd km and was mighty thrilled to find inner peace, while being in a huge crowd and yet focus on my prayer.
  • A friend who kept following up on my practice runs, once wasn't happy that I missed it and messaged me saying “ You will be assigned a water station on the marathon day”.  Every time I crossed a water station, I was reminded of the comment and I did laugh out loud ( not that I needed a water station to get reminded of this friend, but yet) 
 The Bad
  • I was so damn anxious, that in spite of going to bed by 10pm, I must have fallen asleep only after 12 in the night.  I can get overly excited about little things and Marathon was no exception.  I should learn to sleep well the previous night of the marathon.
  • The marathon was on the second day of my periods and that slowed me down quite a bit.  It definitely was a mental block, but I am glad I overcame it.  There was nothing I could have done about it. Every muscle, every joint in my body ached, but it could not bring down my post run kick J.  That reminds me, I felt giddy after the run. 
  • I didn't want to eat anything heavy before the run, so I drank water and ate a couple of bananas.  Since we started pretty early 5.30 am in the morning, by the time I finished the run, I was famished, could have also been the reason for my giddiness. 
  • The timing 1 hour 45 mins and 2 secs needs to improve. Need to practice more.
The Ugly
  •  I will not definitely repeat this mistake.  Mea culpa, Mea culpa, Mea Maxima culpa.     Call it a girls’ Woman's fetish.  The normal walking shoes that I am comfortable in is something that I am using for more than a year.  I have another pair shoes which fits me snugly, A 7 and a half size from US and I have used it during my long flights.   Most importantly it was black and matches my walking pants that I planned to wear on the Marathon day.  The costume had to sync up right – Woman’s fetish?  I practiced my walk in it before the marathon, not the entire 10km though and I did not run in it.  So when I started the run on the D-day, all was well till the 4th and the 5th km.  But after that the shoes started pinching my toes and it started getting painful.  Every step that i took my 3 little toes on both the legs started hurting incrementally.  But remember what I told myself?  Unless you faint….  I kept at the run.  The result?  Shoes pinched me so hard, that 2 of my toenails have fallen off and it still hurts.  Ahem.  I can be awfully stupid too.    Never again will I ditch my walking shoes for cosmetic reasons.  By the way, the pain couldn't wipe my smile off at any point in time during the run. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

My first 10km Marathon

 Woohooo….  Yes I completed my first 10 K Marathon.   I cannot believe I have done it.  Yet, it is true. From a person panting for breath if I ran 10 feet together, running all the 10 kms for a marathon, I have come a long way!

It all started with the early morning regular walks that I have been consistent at  ( at least one claim to fame ).   Now that I have been at it for the last 3 years, and I do not miss out an opportunity to talk about it, the moment someone starts about exercise or fitness routine.  Talking about my walking routine, may sound like self-praise, but in essence the more I make it public, the difficult it is for me to back out – great technique.  Try it with your inconsistencies and see what miracles it can bring about. 

I should thank my friend Sudha who tells me often, that I am doing the most difficult of stuff like walking every day.  I started believing her when she followed my footsteps and started the walking habit. I felt that I had to continue this habit, to ensure she stays inspired.

It was during this time, I got to know that Kumar who works in my organisation, in the same premise and  in the same floor as mine, is a marathon runner.  He had done 4 full marathons and more than 10 half Marathons.  During our corridor / water cooler conversations I got to know more about his marathons and when this Wipro Chennai Marathon was announced sometime in September, Sudha and I decided to enrol.  Kumar was encouraging and was generous with his tips on how to practice for a marathon and how different it is from walking. 

During one such tips session,  we rechristened Kumar as Coach Kumar.  I have to tell you all this about Kumar – when I first met Kumar, he had a nice little pigtail and I loved it.  None of my friends till then had sported a pigtail and I thought he looked quite modern and savvy.  Not many men can carry it well enough and Kumar kind of managed it well.  And these days, Coach Kumar sports a man bun and he continues to be the only man in my organisation who I can ogle at :-) :-) didn’t I digress there and divulge a big secret?  I hope Kumar does not read this he he he…

We also kind of forced him to come to the walking trail that I go to, to train us for the marathon.  Coach kumar didn’t have much choice – we kind of bulldozed him to be our coach and also garnered more women power  by adding 3 more women to our marathon group.  Coach Kumar was a sweetheart and he came with us every Saturday for the practice run.  4 women and coaching us could have been a nightmare for him.  He started with the 1 minute run and 1 minute walk routine.  This was moved to higher sprints of running and lesser walking.  The first few weeks were only 6k running and walking and the last few weeks we started doing the 10 k walking  and running. 

Coach kept us motivated, shared his own running experiences and his friends’ experiences.  He continued being part of his own group of runners “Pillar Pacers”, practising on Sundays for his full marathon, but yet found time to coach us on Saturdays for the last 3 months. 

The Marathon originally was scheduled on December 11th 2016, but cyclone Vardah made sure that it was postponed to 8th of January 2017.  Coach could not join us as his Full Marathon was flagged off at 4.30 am and ours started at 7.30 am.

The running itself, the frenzied running crowds, the people who were cheering the runners, the pacers, the sun, the roads of my city – it was nothing less than a fantastic experience.  Months of training, pain, perseverance, rising against your own will all culminated into one thought for me on 8th of January.   RUN VINCY RUN.   I told myself, unless you faint, you will not stop running.  I enjoyed the sights, thanked the volunteers, people cheering the runners, musicians playing loud music along the way, the adrelanine rush when the tagline of Wipro Chennai Marathon “Gummthalakadi Gummava, Chennainna Summava!!” was played (sorry to those who do not understand Tamil, this is not a phrase but an emotion & cannot be translated ) – I took it all in savoured every moment of it and ran the entire 10 km.  Most importantly with a broad smile.

I completed my first 10 K in 1 hour 45 mins and 2 secs.   Not a great timing, but to me it is incredible that i even attempted it.

Like I mentioned in FB after posting the Marathon pictures, “Strength does not come from doing what you can, but from overcoming stuff that you thought you cannot do”


The warm-up stretches before the run

The four of us who trained together at the starting point Napier's Bridge as soon as we arrived
picture clicked while running on Adyar bridge - notice the sea of Runners in front of me.

With Karthik TM, my friend, of EVAM theater fame.  He was the pacer for us.  Can you believe he ran in a Panchagajam?

The Medal



every muscle aching - but the smile says it all

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Going back in Time


During a chat with a long time friend and a soul mate, a very uncomfortable topic cropped up and my friend accused me of coming to conclusion without sufficient  accurate data.  I was certain about the topic in discussion and I also remembered a post I had scribbled on the topic years back.

In the pursuit of hunting down that post, I starting going back to my old blog posts. And I did find the post which had additional data points that supported my case with the friend I was having the chat with and I also clarified later, but it definitely ruffled some peace of my mind over stuff that I had pushed away to an irretrievable nook of my memory.

Anyways..

The best part of going through the posts was to remember and relive the past experiences. While reading certain blog posts it was amazing to see the emotions they evoked -  some sweet memories, some bitter and sometimes a  mix of  both. Couple of posts on my grandmom choked me a bit and some brought tears ( Like many women, I seem to have a never ending stream of it stashed away somewhere). A little time travel back upto 2006 and boom I came up on this post here.

For those who do want to take the trouble of going to the link, here is a synopsis.  My first trip to Australia back in 2006, was searching for a catholic church to go for my Sunday mass.  Google maps and GPS were alien to me those days and people around weren't familiar with a catholic church.  I counted on divine mercy and the lord showed up gloriously through a bright green rosary along with an Lebanese lady called Lorraine and she ended up gifting the rosary to me saying, the Lord wants me to give it to you.

This story is a simple memory of the past grace that I received from my maker.  The story of my maker answering me when I called out to him in despair.

And I here is the picture of Lorraine ( with her rosary) and me near Paramatta river, in Sydney.
Notice Lorainne's Rosary how visible it is? 
And here is the same rosary gifted to me, by Lorainne, that I use even today after almost 11 years in memory of that grace. 

The Rosary that Lorainne gifted me, 11 years old now.

And I love the fact that this space helps me to travel back in time.