Pardon my dear friends! I shall be using new nicknames for you based on your features.
If I were to draw your caricatures, I would attach your faces to the famous personalities of my awareness.
(I agree; I am taking respite in “idolism” here. Nevertheless.. it may seem humorous to you.)
I have never been to Gujarat. The Surat night marathon seemed like a good opportunity to travel to the state that I had heard a lot about. My friend “Sanjeev Kumar” hails from the state and often talked of the huge development. He started the idea, “Chalo. Surat Chalte hain”.
Till then, Surat seemed to be the center of trade in ancient times where my beloved king drew funds from, for his fight towards Hindavi Swarajya. I was told that there were 4 such withdrawals, more so from British ATMs under Mughal rule. I would not get into details of the right or wrong side of these and that is for the politicians and “influenced” historians to chew on. I gather that he did what was essential for his plans.
3AM 25 Feb.
The alarm woke me up. The night had not let me sleep as, pre marathon night, the high anxiety often rules and I prefer bed bug bites.
A cup of green tea allowed me to get over the early morning chores quicker. The Society guard was in deep slumber as I opened the gate to get my car out. I picked up Sanjeev Kumar and we drove to Madhavan’s place. We preferred the i20 Diesel to take us to Surat. Nana Patelkar lives close by and he was not punctual to join the movie set. As he arrived, we (the supreme jury) ruled a sentence for the delay. “Pay all the tolls.”
The next job was to pick Bhimsen. We took a wrong turn and ended up in a maze. I was sure that I knew the premises well but a lot changes in 14 years. We were lost and Sanjeev made a call.
Soon, Bhimsen rode on his mobike towards us and we picked him and his gear.
The stars of the ‘international’ event were talking and I was switched off; looking at the darkness from the car window zoom past. It reminded me of Mangesh and our trek to Bhimashankar.
Sanjeev was instructing Madhavan, “ Keep the car on the center track. Too many accidents of cars getting on the 3rd track from the wrong side of the road.” What a cheering thought.
Bhimsen was acting as a "Governer" who spoke if the speed went beyong 100kmph.
We were already at Thane and reached Ghodbunder without any delays. The traffic was scanty.
We pulled over the side into a restaurant. All of us ordered Upma. The dish looked sumptuous when it arrived. But no one was super pleased. It was sweet like Sheera with some salt added. The tea was like sweet overboiled jam.
Sanjeev Kumar was incharge of the chariot (of fire) as he was well aware of the Gujarat roads.
Madhavan is a good natured guy and he started a chat that drew my attention. Religion..
He talked about Good guys (with bad side), I could see that he was struggling with few conflicts .
Sanjeev Kumar advised, “ Make things easy. Do not complicate life.”
Murti puja (Idol worship). Madhavan insisted that an idol was essential as an individual could focus on a form.
My mind raced with the philosophy that had stuck with me. It had made things easier for myself.
Focus on form? I was in turmoil. Form meant that the statute had to carry beauty and elegance.
What about the ugly with a better frame of mind? We were being selective to the perception of beauty. Was I not doing the same when I draw portraits of females who I find beautiful?
Would I care to draw Ugly looking people more often?
Few religions did not focus of idol worship. Were they higher up the chain? Were they asking individuals to focus on personal development or were they laying strict rules to obey?
My mind would choose personal up-liftment. What would I do if I had to bring out the better part of me? What is “better”? I was definitely beyond idol worship.
On the contrary, I am influenced by Mallory’s sculpture of Dominique for the Stoddard temple (The Fountain head). Art did have ways to trigger spiritual up-liftment. Would praying an idol be doing the same? I could not answer my doubt and so I never floated this thought with the movie stars I travelled with.
I floated the idea, “We look at role models that we attempt to follow. The role model vanishes when we choose another role model. We are already at a higher stage.”
I thought, “Its just like Jonathan seagull who searches for peers who take him beyond his level? His job would be to get others who seek his talent get better. Then depart to a higher stage. We were doing the same when we ran marathons. We now have our flock which few may want to join. We may want to breed them and continue on our way to find better individuals that help us seek the higher plane.”
Madhavan mentioned, “ Its hard to find a role model who has everything good. There is always a bad side.”
I mentioned my rule, “Stay away from the negative side which you do not like. Focus on the good part.” Management talk?
“Jonathan. There is nothing such as heaven. Being perfect and an attempt to reach perfection is heaven.”
I had changed my role models so many times. It’s a matter of following different philosophy as per the challenges. But I would firstly apply what suits to my sense of life.
“Why do we have so many gods?”
“A religion is an institution that gets followers and expands to suit larger population.”
I wondered if Religion is Political. Religion would never exist if people don’t. It’s a vehicle that nurtures certain philosophical values. For an older religion there would be so many Gods that are supreme “locally” and are easier to follow. Also, the definition of “God” changes with time.
The later gods in Dashavatar, suit the humans more. Perhaps, because they guide people in their day to day lives i.e their actions are more relaistic to "absorb". The older ones are farther away as they are too supreme or is the negative aspect of the personality forgotten with time. I recalled the Magdalene theory from Da Vinci code.
The latest god “Buddha”. Buddhism preached idol less religion, yet we see a lot of statues from Buddha. It is us folks who create “Gods” that become permanent role models that suit larger population. Every “God” then “Takes care” of the damned during a particular time span. Is this not a part of local politics? The god being the ruler of the damned that need “upliftment”.
The last Sikh guru wrote his commandments in a book; perhaps he wanted the followers to stay away from Idol worship. But the humans created an idol out of the Grantha Sahib. Its us humans, who create idols.
I said, “I do not follow gods. I like the environment around the temple that is peaceful and its the environment that gets my mind at peaceful. The more ancient and secluded, the better.”
Then I brooded, “If my mind is at unrest, I would indulge in learning new things that focus the mind. Trying to be better than I was. Till I “feel” superhuman. When trying to provoke the super human in myself, I feel close to god.”
Madhavan said, “We humans cannot be strong all the time. That’s why we should remember god.”
I replied, “I do remember god, but only when I am weak and shattered. I have no plan to remain weak forever and hence would not go for his help daily.
Yes. God is a relief when I am very very tired. He would calm me so that I get strong again and find my way around the problems.
When I lose belief in myself I would go to the god. Finding strength to do things that calm the mind is my way to god.
There are people in this world who I look upon as role models. If I try to follow them till I get their level of strength, is my way to live beyond my crowd.”
My mind traveled to the last time when I had prayed to god. It was the Tinchenkhang accident where I wished my friends were still alive. I was helpless, shattered but the call of the time was a safe descent of injured sherpas.
It reminded me of Jonathan seagull. Disassociate a person from society. Would he still feel strong?
Would he need a religion? We recalled Tom Hanks from Castaway. The football becomes a god and its company is a relief. I thought, “Perhaps, I am talking so as I am strong now. Would I be so if I am in pits?”
Disassociate an artist from the critic. Is he still as good?
The pits last only for some time. You would always ride a high wave only if you have the wit to balance and stay on course. Again, a wave is matter of time. It shall always fling you to the beach. Peaks and valleys are all in the mind. Learn to neutralize but provoke it when you need.
We talked about the life of Pi. Which story do you believe in? The first of the second?
I was keen in the first story. It is closer to a fantasy. The second is practical. (The more practical guys has chosen the second story.)
As an artist do I choose fantasy over Practicality? Perhaps this explains. I am not good an artist when I am working on implementations.
Fantasy allows me to be at places that are beyond practical. My idea would be to fantasize first, then try to be practical to achieve something in between. Perhaps SMART goals are not for Over smart rebels.
A Castaway I prefer to be, over an Out caste.
Jonathan seagull? He was too good for mere seagulls and thus outcast?
Time flies fast as we talk and we take the diversion to Surat. Sanjeev Kumar parked our car and we went to his friends place and then to the Country Club after lunch.
Neena was an acquaintance I made at Hyderabad Marathon. We ran at almost same pace. I called her up before we met for bib collection. Neena deserves the name from the ABBA song, as she handles the medical profession but is an A-class veteran runner outside work. Her husband is also in same profession, also a very good runner. I had never met him and I thought I would make an acquaintance at the bib collection.
We collected the bibs and T shirts and traveled back to the hotel. I dozed away trying to recuperate before the run. Soon it was time to dress. I took a shower and dressed up.
The traffic in Surat was very dense. Perhaps, most of the Surat was driving to the start point on Ghod Dhod road. We went to the half marathon lot and viewed the traditional folk dances on a large screen. I met Neena, who recognized me from my bare feet. I introduced her to my friend circle. She invited us for breakfast, the next day.
As I looked around I saw plenty of “Veteran runners” who were in much better physical shape than myself. I had set a goal for myself, “ Complete the run within 2 hrs.” Neena had advised to go easy as it was humid and hot night. Somehow, I was not convinced.
At the start of the race, the crowd started pushing way to get to front. Bipasha Basu was the centre of attraction. Madhavan pulled me aside as he fear us being trampled. I was at big risk with my bare feet. I could see other senior veteran runners as peaceful as me! The flock of mature sea gulls?
The run had started and I walked my way to the mats. From there I started to wriggle my way to the front increasing my pace. Then I saw the crowd on both sides of the road waving and cheering. The big difference from Mumbai? The crowd never dwindled.
The sides of the road were packed, as if we were elite runners. To achieve sub two hr target this was the best crowd that “God” could give me.
I was all heating up. I felt heat in my head and I started dousing it with water. Trickles of warm water ran down my neck and back. There was absolutely no wind and the body temperature did not reduce. At 5km, I found that I was just in time and if I maintained this pace I could manage sub2.
I reached the 10km mark in 1 hr 2 minutes. I knew that I could not make it under 2 and my interest started to dwindle. If only, I could maintain my pace. I was learning through my mistakes. Over pacing at start never works for me, unless it is cold. I was fortunate to run BF as I could not have tolerated the heat. I kept sprinkling the water to reduce the effect of heat. At 15km, I saw Neena on the other side of the road a good 5 min ahead. She was going strong.
The last 5 kms seemed never ending. This was only a half marathon! Why was I so tired?
Nana overtook me. He tried to cheer me up to start a jog.
A group of “Veterans” was running along with me. I had already switched to run-walk-run, that I would usually do only after 35 kms. I jogged through the 21st km to the finish line. It was 2:20 since I started.
I grabbed an apple juice, a bottle of water and wore my finish medal.
Nana and I did some stretches to relax. Bhimsen was at the finish line taking snaps. He had finished well @ 2:18. Nana achieved his PB @ 2:19. He looked absolutely fine. I felt dehydrated.
Madhavan arrived, then Sanjeev Kumar. Sanjeev had had a tough time holding food inside him.
Neena was a gold medalist as she won the Veteran womens title for second time in a row.
She mentioned that she ran barefoot for a while with shoes in her hands.
She reminded me about the breakfast next day. I replied, “ Depends on when we will wake up.”
I was in no good shape.
We reached the hotel. The food counter had closed. There was a nearby pizza place and I had no appetite for cheesy stuff. Bhimsen opened his bag to pull out a cake that he had thoughtfully carried. After eating few mouthfuls, I realized that I was very hungry.
I went for a bath but there was no hot water. I rinsed my feet and arms. I shivered as I walked into the room. Definitely something was wrong. The water that I had doused on the head ..perhaps…..!!
Neena had mentioned, "Its normally advised that you should sprinkle water on shoulder below. hum log yane ki Doctors... :)"
We woke up late and Uppal who stayed close by, had invited us for snacks. We had planned to leave after the snacks and I called Neena (who had been planning lunch for us) and informed that we would be leaving after snacks.
Surat was a great experience, apart from the Chautauqua, during the journey.
I learned that I should maintain my pace and not overshoot. A target should be set in compliance with the climatic conditions. One baseline doesn’t work at another place, unless I practice more.
I had to believe in my Karma and not to jump to unrealistic goals. For now keep them at the back of my mind.
The Surati’s believe in true enjoyment and there is strong companionship to conduct social events with zest and fervor. Hat’s off to my friends at Surat who organize these grand events.
My fate: Alea iacta est..The painting that I completed a day before the marathon.