Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Traffic survival lessons- Making impressions through License plate numbers

1 ) PLATE 1111 or 1234 = Owner forgets numbers OR has too many vehicles..(Hackers should try this sequence to crack bank account or password)

2) PLATE in Marathi (or other "local" language)= स्वाभिमान ..(self esteem / Son of the land)
I hope you never get into an argument with this person esp if you are not a native. He prefers to twist a rule to his taste. Rules specify that the name plate should be in English. The owner feels his mother tongue should be respected over English
If you meet one be a roman and appreciate 'rule of the land".

3) NAME PLATE NUMBER in Units (i.e. 1 in place of 0001)
Do not bother numero uno. You are dirt to him. He paid for a unique number.
He shall pay for any rule that he breaks. Please also check his jewelry.
Do not mess ..Make way for them.
Check the name plate of the car driving in opposite lane against traffic (or at railway crossings). High chance it is one of above.

4) Bit hard to make out: Numbers Influenced by Numerologists
I see these  Lack confidence. Usually seen during driving.

# 2 has bent the rule but he could be better choice to talk with in case of dispute.
I have learned that any of above + SKODA / SUVs/ Pulsars/ 500 cc bikes is a deadly combination to mere humans.

Did you feel several puffs of exhaust on your face or is it just me?
(Well.. It was intended when the bike was purchased.)
You do not want to mess with chariots of fire. (And their charioteers) . Would  you?

My family Physician calls them ' Maut ke saudagar'. (Merchants of Death)
With that said, I should wear a helmet for protection.

I forget what my number is. DUH?

To owners of 1, 2,3 I hope it was funny
Goes with..'Does not depict characters in real life 'etc etc.

Next day morning:

Just got overtaken by a Lady Charioteer in a Mitsubishi..I veered to the left after I looked at the number in my rear view mirror.. It was 4680..
Considering all 'Odds' (mine is 7151 if I remember correctly ) I could read through Lady Charioteer's mind sequence (Increasing numbers= Acceleration).
She was fully empowered (only till the next traffic signal) where even "mere" cyclists can avenge (in silent fervor).

I always Wonder..What is the gain in such a Power showoff.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A date quite 'accidental'

I am not a god fearing person. I do not remember the last time I prayed, but I think it was, when I lost my friends in a climbing accident.
I prayed to him to “undo” the situation and “restore” so that the climb never happened and that we were defeated by the mountain and just returned.  A few days later when, I was sympathetic to myself and the bereaved, telling them facts. I repeated the incident to everyone (and myself), trying to make a concrete fact in my mind that my friend was not going to come back. I was emotionless when this narration went on and I tried to be as specific as possible. Still I am a human and there were discrepancies that needed more info than I had.
 At instances, I prayed that all that I witnessed or told to everyone was completely wrong  and my friend walked back alive and met me with the same jovial face.
This prayer went on for many days and finally I faced the reality. There is no God to help me. The only thought that stuck in my mind was that 19 Oct is a sad day for me. It so happened that the news of my demise too started on the same date and reached peak the day later.

 It is coincidental that a few months earlier than this tragedy, I had taken taken a “quiz” on some web page that claimed to find my age at my death and reasons for my death.
It said Freeze, fall, Electricity. I ignored this warning and went on my “last” expedition.
The page still exists and it tells me , as of today that I have overlived 3 years 11 months.
If I were to truly believe in this page, I have overlived by 6 year. The reasons for my demise 6 years ago had two of the “clauses” which are very close to predictiion. Freeze and Fall. My friends did have a fall at a high altitude. If I was with them  on the summit attempt ,probably I would have taken the fall too.
On 19 Oct 2014, I discarded all above as pure crap. We set on a family drive Pune Nagpur which is around 720 km. Early start at 4AM. The night of 18th was pathetic as I did not get a sound sleep. Still I started my Honda Amaze on the dot. I have driven Pune Nagpur at least 3 times. I follow a routine where I do not stop. I eat inside the car. I do not overeat as it causes sleep. I stop once for a chai.
We reached Akola. I had a tea break. Then I took the Amaravati bypass. If you have never driven on this highway, I recommend you to try it once. It is an endless road with no traffic. Few times you get a Deja-vu and feel that you are moving in circles. Empty.. Dry after Malegaon.  It is not an interesting drive but it is more like a ultra marathon where counting miles will get you nowhere.
I remember telling my better half while driving up a gentle ghat to “talegaon” that these are the best possible roads in India. It is a two lane road with a 1.5 ft divider on right.
I did not hear from my kids or my wife and its just a 70 km drive to Nagpur and I have done 600+.
The drone of few vehicles and the hum of my engine…. A blink of eye and As I open the eyelids I am rushing thru Foliage, Flowers on my windscreen. I immediately realize my mistake and steer hard to the left.  Steam from the bonnet Tyres on right punctured my Honda limps to the left bank. I stop the car and get everyone out as I fear a fire is about to start.
My heart beats wildly as I realize the narrow escape. The steam has stopped. There is a mark on the road that show me my path. I apologize to my better half. But deep inside..I have lost confidence in long driving that will take a hell of a time to cure. I prayed thanking god for the intuition.
In 15 years of car driving, I have never met a single accident. With this one, my ego as a super driver has shattered. I feel old …My lovely car just 8 mths old. How could I do this to my family? Responsibility of a driver is shaken. That one Wink on a curving road. I cannot even imagine that I slept during my drive.
The Bumper has taken a bang on the right but the superb design has actually lifted the car and the wheel rim got over the 1.5 ft kerb pulling the rear wheel in same alignment. The rims took all the impact. Both tyres burst. The condenser must have leaked. And the radiator hoses.
When tragedy hits, humans switch automatically to what must be done immediately. There is a press reporter to my rescue. He gets tea for family. He also asks if tow truck is available at Karanja Toll which is 12 km ahead. I dial the Honda Roadside assist. They are very cooperative and arrange for a flat bed truck. My wife and kids are picked up by a friend who is in the vicinity and he drives them to Nagpur.
I always keep my head torch and Swiss knife with me on a travel. I have carried these on my last expedition too. It’s still 2 hours to kill. I know to roll the car over the flat bed I may need to change the rear wheel. The spare wheel has never been opened since it was assembled in the factory. I do not have a set of pliers to turn the Wing nut.  I focus all my mind and energy to give it a tight squeeze. But nothing moves. Then I align a rod to the wing and hit with a rock.. There is slight rotation. I hit again ..and again.. Yes the nut is now loose. The flat wheel is replaced with the new one and I wait for the truck.
Its dark and insects keep hitting my face. The sweat gets colder. I switch off the flashlight. This highway is not like Mumbai-Pune. A vehicle rarely passes me every 5 minutes.
It is as dark as it was six years ago. I did not eat anything then. I am as hungry now.  That accident happened around 3 PM or maybe an hour later.
This one was around 4:30PM. The climbing accident had 4 people. 2 died/ 2 injured. We were 4. All strapped to the seats. All survived thanks to the vehicle and reflex action.
When you are alone, your mind makes crazy connections. The truck is here now and I have company. My Car is towed aboard. I choose to sit inside the car and not the truck cabin.
It’s still 70 kms to Nagpur and an entire week to spend. Till the car gets mended to as good as new, I should work on a way to get back to Pune. Art should again be a good “diversion”.

The reason why I managed to churn so many paintings during Diwali!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Too long a talk for bare minimal

One of the things I have dreaded since my childhood, was the fear of being poor and not able to make ends meet. As a 6th grade kid, I walked through the streets of Hindu Colony, Dadar observing the people live under the Tilak bridge Families, Kids..Their assets inside Steel trunks. They were occupied in their activities..Cooking food or dividing acquired stale food. Kids playing along the roadside footpath rolling and beating cycle rims. The poverty did not shock me. What concerned me was their indifferent attitude and acceptance to a daily life of nothingness. It made me wonder that if these were given work, would they work at all for a pay? Would there be people who were beggars willing to work, but the current fate is only due to no jobs.

I concluded that the reason for my fear was not Poverty. It was the fear of getting stuck in such a situation in which I have no ambition to do work or I am  ostracized by society as not good enough and fated to earn on the roadside. Would the mind collapse, in a nutshell. Fear of Insanity or feeble mind.

The vacation in Mumbai was the beginning. It exposed me to circumstances that I had never seen before in my life. As I entered the building to go to the Yoga Class, I saw this small room again.
The man had used the vacant portion under the stairs to make a small room for himself. He could barely sleep inside (with folded legs). He seemed to be a watchman of the building.

I remembered a late night when my parents were late from a party and I had no key to our house. I had slept under the main stairs of the apartment in a cold night. When I was solitary, I had no airs about myself. It was simple. I rested, when I needed. A bed / A blanket was a comfort.
A personal experience under the stairs made me aware of the world and mindset of this man who was ok to live there for his entire life.

I thought, “I need to earn enough to be barely comfortable. My thought included the following assets.
1 room for family of 4 to live (We had lived in just 2 rooms at Delhi , so 1 was bare minimum)
Fuel for food
Dal – Chawal/Roti little oil/ Mustard/Basic spices/ Garlic/
1Vegetable once a day
Chatai/ Chadar
Again..These are my views as a 6th grade student to survive. The biases were set by my surroundings.

The situation has not changed even today. We have larger slums. People still live in Empty Pipes.
I was fortunate to have moved up the ladder and can afford a 3BHK. A luxury beyond what I dreamed as bare minimal at 6th grade. My fear is still at the back of my mind but my wish list that causes this fear has increased, to what I would have felt “Luxurious” in my 6th grade. There are peers who would go on a Foreign country tour in Summer vacation. I would probably do this at the right time.
The right time or such an “exotic” location worth the expense is yet to come.
I lived in different circumstances have adapted / “Acclimatized” to society around me.
‘I ‘ am not “accommodative” to basic needs of life. I do not have a handle on my expenses. So I fear and I strive to earn more.The fear always rules. 

Every salary band has set of incompetent people when there are more industrious people to do the job at fraction of the cost.

My colleagues in a 3rd world country Fear that they have sufficient gap with lower economic class that they may face the same as their USA buddies in few years.

This is still a lesser fear as their skillset gets redundant with time, and there is demand of “Real” work in a trade that demands more physical labor and craftsmanship to serve a “Foreign” investment.

The above is probably what sets me on thinking as a minimalist. It is said that people start minimalist thinking because things are not too rosy in future. I thinks its the right idea for every prospering person as well.

It was important for me to connect with circumstances to understand, the thought process of people living in “filth”. To unlearn, that “filth”, as it appears to me, is because I never got my hands dirty or that;  I was blessed with good upbringing and decent tools to live. I may want to live in a pipe and experience what my mind goes through that day.

No matter what you earn, you will always feel the need for more and more. Crib for more.
Earn what is bare minimum required for the job. Stay lean and work hard. (Lean also means less resources).  This “sustains” longer.

You must “know” what it feels to live as a pauper.  (Hope for best/ Prepare for the worst.)  Unless you are less resourced, you will not be in a situation to think beyond limits.
Eg. Israel has less land/ less water, but they are good at yielding maximum crops.

For Jobs that Demand physical labor, try to do it yourself.
Can I do it? No. It’s painful. I wrecked the gadget more. Engage a craftsman. (Now did you realize the value? Do you feel this person should be paid better. Hand him a gracious tip.)

If you can do it yourself, that’s the best policy. 

You mastered another art! Saved money and you are independent. The best part. Due to your involvement you will have some respect for the trade.

I will end by few sayings from The Buddha few are relevant to above thought:

Since future lives last for a very long time, gather up riches to provide for the future.

You will have to depart leaving everything behind, so do not be attached to anything.

Generate compassion for lowly beings, and especially avoid despising or humiliating them.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Body My pain. Beyond compare..Barefoot to Shod

After the 2014 Jan SCMM PB something did not go right. Perhaps I overdid the pace or it might be heel landing on Bare feet. Towards march I started having heel pain. More pronounced in the right foot a bit of niggle on the left. My Buddy Umesh was going through something similar and he attended physiotherapy sessions.
The Heel pain played on my mind. Perhaps it was Wrong after all to run bare foot. Jeetu / Nitin mentioned that my posture needs correction. I tried to ensure front foot (toe landing) and the pain worsened. After which I started running in Decathlon walking shoes that have thin sole.
The pain did not subside. Early morning it was at worst.  I discontinued from running. It’s MY pain and no advice is going to make things right. 

The stubborn mind of a mule speaketh. The runner became a painter and I started sketching in frenzy. As soon as the artist takes over, I tend to become unorganized at exercise. This time the artist took over all my senses. The sketches became better than before. My wife Ila was deeply concerned. She asked me to keep a check on myself, medical examinations but the artist was violent now. Any distraction and Mr Hyde took over. I wanted to be submerged in art. I ignored my meals as I was deep into my sketches. I ate because I must and Ila was checking on me.

Sketching had become a passion and my goal was to complete one sketch at night and one before work. My wife has supported my crazy pursuits to excel in any field and she must have been through lot of pain.
We still went to the racecourse to do our weekend runs. I would try to find excuses to remain at home and paint. I did not utilize the monsoons to improve my running. The sketching was important to me to maintain work life balance. It has been a key player to reduce work fatigue and be better at work. Afterall we need to work hard and better as it brings home the bucks.
Nitin Mentioned about the Pune running event in October. To keep a goal I enlisted for the event. Do I need to pay for running a simple 21kkm has always been a question for me. But we pay to “celebrate” and the last years run “felt good”.  Then I also set another goal i.e. to do a full marathon in Chennai in Dec. Then another one to run SCMM in Jan.
I was now going against all the rules for ultimate “free running” that I set for myself. I realized that I got to pay to keep the horse on track. (And a wild one indeed.) Enough of painting horses and my key marathon rolemodels.
My weekend runs at the racecourse (now with shoes) restarted. My pace had gone for a toss. And a 10km run would leave me with knots in the calf and these were causing me the heel pain. Painful roller massages helped to relieve the knots and pain in heel got lesser.
I invested in Sketchers mid foot landing shoes. The arch support was needed for the wounded. The shoe becomes a “plaster” that is needed after injury. The freedom of BF was lost but if I needed to run I needed this padding. Running in thinner sole shoes brought back the heel pain.
Master Jeetu had mentioned that for barefoot running, the posture needs to be right. It would bring pain otherwise. I have no choice other than running with shoes as the posture needs correction first. If the ankle is weak it will always impact my heel and the end result is Plantar Fasciitis. (Hopefully I am in my first phase of this ailment.)
It’s perhaps because I do not pay attention to warm-ups or post run stretches. So runners who are ignorant might take this as an advice. It’s not BF or shod issue. Injury can hit when least expected.
 It’s just that you did not pay enough attention when required; Or when you try to overdo your natural pace without much of exercise.
I was a bit better prepared when I landed in the BMCC ground on 12 Oct. But I had not stretched beyond 9km weekend run. At the best I was barely able to maintain my old pace.
21km was so easy last year with a PB and it’s a too long race this year. Would it bring back the heel pain? Even a 10 km run needs to be supplemented with a warm-cold foot bath that reduces pain.
I met my old buddies, Muthu, Rafiq etc. After warmup we went to the start line.
6AM the race is flagged off. I wear no watch and I do not carry a mobile this time. There is nothing that gives me alerts on my pace. I plan to give it best at all junctures in this race. Its important to keep a check on the body and adapt to what keeps it supple.
Umesh is running with me. My crazy friend has cycled 160kms just the day before. Now he is going strong. His recovery has been stronger than mine and he is again proving himself as a strong endurance athlete. ‘I ought to focus on myself. Not at what Umesh can do.’ Comparisons are false if the baseline is wrong. I need to do the best for my body as we need to run strong in Chennai.
‘Parag! Look up’.. I shift my gaze to the sky and a remote controlled helicopter is whirring above us taking pictures. Technology put to a good use.
I see an energetic girl push through the crowds. It’s Ankita from Free runners. Great improvement and I can barely keep up with her even at my best.
I keep changing my pace uphill and downhill to get the best efficiency. Running with shoes is good for me esp at down slope where my ankles take an impact otherwise. Uphill is much better without shoes. My thoughts are occasionally disturbed by my friends who are either volunteering or running. A lot of people overtake me but I stick to my pace.
At every booth I stop and gulp water / electrolyte. A young chap snatches a glass from behind me as I wait in a queue. What manners.  I know that his glass will not end in the dustbin and I win my bet.
I cannot throw my trash on the road. I run with empty bottles to discard it at the next waterbooth. Why cannot others do this simple thing? Why put additional strain on volunteers? We speak about Swacch Bharat!
The 10km turnaround. I pat my Chennai Marathon Buddy, Mayuresh.
Leg Muscles are getting taut there is someone with a spray but I decide against it. I choose the electrolyte instead. Ankita is pacing another friend from Free runners. (I realize later that She has reduced pace to make sure that she assists her friend for her firs 21km. What comradeship. You see this only in Marathons)
The last uphill slope is a pain but I choose not to walk or look towards the top of the slope. Posture is imp. I swing the arms. ‘This is just a 21km. If I don’t feel good at end of it, 42 km at Chennai will be tough.’
I remember last year’s event where my leg muscles got balled up running downhill. I am cautious this time. End line appears and I jog to the finis.
Slow jog to pick my medal and I meet another Veteran. Dr Sandip Doshi is a fit gentleman. He cross trains doing long cycle rides and runs.  We have met only on FB. Both peer at each other , a flicker of recognition and we shake hands. It’s his 3rd 21 km in 3 weeks. And he is lot older than me. Such people keep me inspired to do better.
I take my medal and walk back to meet Umesh. A banana and then an apple peps me up.
Umesh must have done it in close to 2 hrs. What a strong lad. I take his leave as I want to ease my limbs.

At home the hot immersion relaxes the ankle pain. I doze away, wake up at 12 and we have a nice family meal at Wadeshwar.
The pain is bearable but it is not a painless run as in past. The stiff muscles did not allow me the racecourse run at the evening and the wild horse got back to his watercolor pad.

What shall happen in Chennai will be seen in Chennai. Why worry?

Monday, September 29, 2014

To celebrate 30 years of Craziness

As most of the adventures started at Tata Motors hostel..It was apt to do something bit crazy to reach Khanapur for the 30 years celebration Party with my Batch mates.

I checked the distance 28 km..(Then mused abt a 21km + marathon but discarded it and chose my Cycle.)
I was getting bored of my Honda. I had stretched to the limit owing to heel injury.. But Then What the heck

Agey ja kar dekha jayeegaa! Time will tell, why worry.

I messaged My friend Shirkant abt my plans..28 km 3PM..He replied that we should see each other at 6PM.
I mentioned casually that I might take a detour. (The plan was to do something a bit crazy than the 28 km cycling.)

Early morning I oiled my Mountain bike cleaned the 6 mths+ dust. It was soon as good as new.
Then I cleaned and greased the bikes of Neel and Mihika. My Gears were still slipping so I went to a cycle shop.
The mechanic was too good and set the gears in just 3 mins. I knew the problem now. It wasn't the cable but the shifter orientation around the tube that was misaligned.

At 3:07 I started pedaling to Katraj. The detour idea was to climb Katraj then pedal via Khed-shivapur then climb Sinhagad ghat col and descend to Donje then to Khanapur.

The sun burned my neck and I had to stop twice in Katraj Ghat for water (Tang). The descent started soon after the tunnel and I took another stop near a shop where I bought two bottles of Nimbuz. One went straight down my throat and brought back life in me.

I kept the other bottle for the Sinhagad ghat.
Just after the Shivapur turn I realized that my legs had started to lock. I got down and squatted to reduce the toggle.
I had forgotten the basic cycling pain. I realized that my thigh muscles were weak and the tautness was causing the issues.

I remembered the old days. I have not cycled for more than 6 months. And even before that I just biked 13 km to work which is routine city cycling. I had chosen a tough target. It was good that I had no option to retreat.
(I had not even calculated the kms to destination as I had a gut feel that it would be 5km +/-. with bit of gradients.)
I had done this route 5 yrs ago and I felt my "age". Or I would rather say..Out of practice.
The very first time I did this route , I had biked continuously with zero rest. Even the steepest parts were not out of range.

Over many years, I had not strained myself enough.
This time I had to get down thrice to push the cycle up the slopes. Pedaling and walking are different feats as the knee angle changes.
The over taut thighs crib and rebel and the knees lock.

I got to the Sinhagad col. The I started the descent. I had to speed up to recover lost time. I chased few bikers and My hands gripped the brakes hard..Even disc brakes were tough to engage. Again..A matter of lost practice.
I biked to Donje and then Khanapur and entered the resort to celebrate the 30 years service party with TATA motors batchmates.
I had clocked 43 kms!!

The proprietor warned me that the water from the cooler was very chilled.
Well! That was what I would have ordered. two glasses went down the throat. The rest went over the shoulders and sizzled.

It was 7PM and the party went on till 2AM on the side of a swimming pool.
Sleep was immediate after effects of downing several pegs of Liquor and the ordeal.

I was back to the Hostel days but no teetotaler.

Next day after plenty of carb loading..Bhokwada/ Idly/ Pohe and a nice swim in the pool before doing so.
I started back at 10 AM.
It was a race against sun but the earlier day had prepared me for it.
It was a 28km easy drive (with City traffic at peak on Sinhagad road).

It was good to be alone. I could stop when I wanted to rest.
Back home I ate an apple and tried to catch up with sleep.
A 5:30 PM I went to the racecourse with Ila to do the regular run. ~5km

Ran a loop and walk-ran the other.

I was learning to cross train. I hope this effort did activate some of the grey matter which was otherwise in a dormant and rebellious mode.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Talk but No Walk

I believe I have learned my bit of history through the (aging) and maturing process.
Of actions and reactions.
Politics of subdivision ...imbalance/ religion
Reasons for extremities and intolerance.

I remember I used to be an emotional guy in School.

I am still pretty reactive (artistic temperament) , but I may have learned to walk my talk. I am hence as majority observes; a silent guy when I do not talk or do not walk.
I recollect my old times when I used to train on Parvati -Ambegaon (Taljai route).
When I was back at Parvati after my cross terrain run, a group of Old guys used to talk about Strained US-Russia relations ..International topics or any hot National ones and the talk was always opinionated.
I used to keep an ear to such talk, as it provided amusement after my run. These guys had zero influence to straighten International relations or National ones, yet the discussions were animate.

I see such talks even now but I prefer to not be party to them. It is just old man talk to me.

I wonder why so much steam is spent on something, that does not yield fruit.

I listened to Mr. Modi's lecture on the Teachers day. I was surprised. I like his approach. No leader had ever touch this imp aspect- Jana Jagran.

We prefer to talk about Politics AND never bother about the wrong stuff we do.

We ourselves create Idols and then find flaws in it and talk endlessly about how misguided we were.
(The problem started when the the idol was created in the first place. There was no attempt better ourselves.)
I studied in Central schools and there were no groups or pockets of friends. It was close bond within most of the class. I got a real shock when I changed to a state school in Pune. All I saw was smaller circles of friends. I lived my life differently and found this groupism as constrained.

In Kendriya Vidyalaya, every child shared friends for 3 years till his dad/mom got transferred. I believe few of your kids go through the same?

I remember, every day the bond between the kids was very strong always knowing that the friendship would last for just 3 years. The parting of a friend was tough affair and few even cried. I have lived my bit of sorrow when such ties got disconnected. (This is life in its true form.)
This is the bond that a child shares with people in different states. It is vital to build a nation. Working in Silos builds cities or states and NEVER a nation. Flexibility is restricted.
Our PM was talking to children from Kendriya Vidyalaya and old memories flooded my mind.I missed my days at KV.

Our PM talked about Japanese kids cleaning toilets. We did it for 3 years at Tata Motors hostel.

I have seen social discipline in Japan. Garbage needs to be sorted to 3 types and I abided during my stay. Come back to India and everything falls apart.
Is it because you alone cannot change when there is much of indiscipline around? You never want to start the change . Do you?

IMO we ought to really work on personal discipline and getting our kids up-to speed with "international" examples and improve daily habits. Spreading positive friend circle across borders.

I would not like our kids to end up on Parvati doing loose talk; about things they can do nothing about. Its absolutely no use fuming or relishing on past .

Political Awareness is good to have, but we should work on, OR talk about, what WE can INDEED change.

Do you walk your talk? If you cannot; why waste words.

I remembered a pic of Japanese kids cleaning toilets and later the same was mentioned by our PM. If you clean up you own mess ..start helping others to clean theirs.

I hope the message was clear enough and not just addressed to school kids.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

My first Pinnacle- Dhak Bahiri

It must be some time in 1986, that I wanted to lead my first climb. The options were Telbaila Right wall right route or the Pinnacle of Dhak Bahiri. Both offered around 100 ft of climbing. Equipment was scarce and I owned 150 ft of Garware rope, 1 Ice hammer and 5 carabiners (Steel) and 3 flimsy harnesses.
I had first climbed it with ‘Pune cubs’ couple of months ago, the group that included Prasad, Sanjay /Sushama Katti. It was easy scramble in the first pitch to reach the first anchor. Then a traverse with slight overhang at start to a ledge with around ~600+ ft of exposure. The ledge gets narrow at the escape point and its easy scramble to the top (I guess 50 ft).
Milind and Girish were keen. Girish and I had done our basic course in Mountaineering at NIM Uttarkashi. On one scheduled weekend (We had Thursday off) Girish could not make it and we had to postpone it to next week.
We travelled Pune-Kamshet and from Kamshet we took a bus to a village where we would stay for the night. The shelter was a temple at the village. At 11PM  in the night the villagers who had assembled at the temple and sang Bhajans and we got absolutely no sleep till 5AM. We packed our foldable straw mattresses and Sholapur chadar into our sacks and started the trek towards Dhak.
We climbed to a plateau and turned right to climb a hillock. Karvanda bushes bloomed and we had our bit of feast. The path then descended to the left and we could now see the pinnacle and Dhak fort.
We climbed up the col and took off our sacks. Clipped on the harness. (Three carabiners gone. Two left)
We had devised a self anchor using a sling with loop at end which we could slip into Carabiners at Belay points. I moved up to the first anchor. Milind followed to meet me at the wide flat ledge after removing the carabiner. Girish climbed up as well. Now I had to negotiate the traverse.
I pushed up and started climbing towards the right exposed face of the pinnacle. At the second anchor point I clipped my Carabiner on to the Piton. Milind followed me. I asked him to clip himself to the anchor.
NOTE: There was a rope running between me and Milind. We were perched on a ledge. And I was belaying Girish.
I yelled back to Girish to start climbing and he took off. Just after the overhang he moved on to a loose rock. The whole piece of rock dislodged and Girish yelled “Belay Tight”.
Girish took a 10 feet fall and hung below our ledge. The Rock ricocheted into the valley below and there were shouts from the villagers in the valley. We pulled Girish up the overhang. I pulled out my Zenit Camera and took a shot. It was an expression of fear and narrow escape. None of us had ever fallen off a rock. Milind wondered his fate if he had not anchored himself to the rock he could have been pulled off too and I would have been a lone person managing the weight of 2 “fallen”.
The next stretch was easy with very good hand holds. The only “problem” was that we were now on the 600+ feet of exposure. I moved to the end of the ledged and heaved myself. It was easy to get to the top. I clipped on the carabiner to an Iron stump and my friends followed.
On the way down I tied a piece of sling in a loop and our Rappel rope went into the loop the double rope was no 75 ft long. I remember that I did a side rappel (But with my carabiner looped into the rope)
It was an easy win. And we had learned to arrest a fall.

We took back the evening bus to Kamshet and then a Local train to Pune.

Friday, June 6, 2014

FREE THE MIND: Key to mastery

“Free the mind” is key in any activity. We discussed about free running.
After I joined sketch and lines India, I noticed that the better artists were Free.
They went beyond rules and I am still not “free” enough. The “freedom” in my art may come from laziness. The lines curves hatches should be more freeform.

I have been testing software for a long time. The best bugs are found when we do not stick to a specified behavior. The User does not read specs. He wants to get work done. And s/he may choose to do it in anyway. The experimentation mode in a software tester needs “free” mind. Remove clutter and biases of a Spec.

Remove clutter and biases? Guidelines? Time? Is it not essential to focus on Goal?

The Goal is to release a high potential software. There is a Guided way. (To do things in stipulated time). It does not ensure that all is well. It only ensures that Scheduled tasks are executed in given time and related issues are fixed. The unguided way i.e. software bashes, result in Unpredictable defects in lesser time. It is always a heart-burn for those who like the guided way.

People working with rules hate/ridicule people working free of rules. Maybe they covet them for their findings or sense of freedom. (In QA lingo, They Term the ‘findings’ as Negative defects, ‘Freedom’ as Indiscipline).

On the other hand people working free of rules disregard those who follow rules, as the final aim is set in the mind. There is no hatred, but just a small pain and wish, “I wish they knew, what it is to be FREE”.

Lot of us “go by the book”. Studious types. You go by the book and you cannot go wrong. Stick to the rules and you can always cling to them and point at them when things go bad.
Doing so they embrace a set cult. Do they fear freedom as it means bear the consequences? What if the cult is built through propaganda?

Just like my Shod friend, I think and say to myself, “Let go the poor feet. Only then you will know what you are missing.”

I am setting this as a “life event” as I realized it this week. Running, Art or work..
To be better in any game, the first step is to be free and confident of your action. Make amendments with self-learning. Be Entrepreneurs.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Learning Art

I do not intend to suggest that I am a good artist, only that I have come a long way.
Anyone can do it with bit of patience.

I was ridiculed at school for incomplete drawings and my art was at pits. Later I was envied by my batchmates as I got a "white collar" trade as "Mechanical Draftsman".
There were better "artists" who felt that the trade required basic good sketching and enviable handwriting, and I was not good at either.
The Instructor was not friendly either. I was the black sheep of all the darftsmen he had trained.

To me, a draftsman needs better understanding of Design, develop and design good ideas (in those days good at Trigonometry.)
My Instructor felt otherwise. Good Writing was must. The Engineering drawing sheet should look like a Printout from the press, equal line thickness, dark as ink.
My colleagues completed 250 drawing sheets. Many of mine were turned down during submissions, I drew 500 + drawing sheets.

When you live in a hostel, and are coveted, you get used lashed at by people who feel they are better in various ways, but less opportunate than you. 
You take it every now and then and TILL 
Till the point; YOU REBEL.

You got to show people their worth. Shut their mouths for once and all!
This is the first stage of development. Development by Pure 'Khunnus'. If you can do it so can I. (This kicks at Teenage.)

The FIRST Stage reaction was driven by Anger and then Determination.Not by Ambition or passion.

I took a dame from some advertisement. Sketched her in HB pencil. I had to use grid to make the copy perfect. This dame got me some acclaim.
Few more pencil sketches and then at one weekend, I borrowed some old oilcolors and painted my first oil. It was the face of Kim Novak. This time I increased the size of the grid, to make it challenging.
(It looked good but nowhere like Kim. But who knew Kim at hostel.)
It was the last year at the hostel and I churned out few more Grid copies of simple photographs turned to Oil paintings of A3 size.
Any task when repeated creates a finer craftsman and at the end the 'black sheep' ranked top in Pune. Anyone who gets treated like shit should know that the worse he gets treated, the better he shall become.
True almost everywhere in life. You learn (only) through failures. 

Oh..I intended to talk about art and I drifted to self glorification.I am not THAT good and I truly appreciate and covet better designs and art. 

The SECOND stage: Can you be equally good?
No one taught me art. I did not have art materials. Every thing cost and I had limited resources.
I invested in 36" wide Canvas and Oil colours. There was no choice. The painting had to be perfect.
True that no one from hostel would see it but It had to be good enough to please me. The subject was Velazqueze's nude Venus.
I was 24 years old and still a bit shy to approach the subject. I mentioned it to my dad who can draw quite well.
He told me about the challenges in drawing Humans but asked me to give it a try.

This time I divided the large canvas in very large grid. 4 Squares horizontal 3 squares vertical.
I sketched with an HB pencil. Then gave toned washes. I used to work on it after coming back from work.
The Painting was ready at end of the month. 
I exhibited the nude at Balgandharwa Gallery. When I visited the gallery, my Painting had won me Third Place.
The prize distribution ceremony was held at the Hostel. (I remembered the days I was ridiculed for my art.)
None of my colleagues were there to cheer me. I could not show off my prize and I did not care.
A famous critic from Mumbai was presenting the awards. At the age of 24, I walked to the stage and got my first award as an Artist.
The paintings were displayed on one side of the wall. I was watching the spectators.
As soon as they moved in front of the nude, they would shy away their eyes and jump to the next one.
It was only then that I realised how BOLD my subject was. Most of the people did not talk to me. A young girl approached. 
She was probably learning art and she mentioned, "Congrats. Your painting is terrific."
I thanked her but I was so engulfed in triumph that I forgot to ask her about her Entree.
I kept copying and copying. I copied Monalisa,Lady Macbeth and Turners and Ruisdaels. I finally felt sick as all of the paintings used the old colour shades that the Realists stuck to. (Never did I realise that they had tough time Creating Paints from Dyes.)
Later I was influenced by Renoir's impressionism. Monet never appealed me apart from the Flag day Painting. Towards the end of this stage I had moved away from Grid based copying.

The THIRD stage: Leap of Faith
In 8 years of painting, I had scrapped almost all my watercolors. I painted them too dark. They were patchy. Not Bold enough. They lacked Character.

I moved from Oil painting to Watercolors mostly influenced by Milind Mulik's book.
BUT, I felt the watercolors were too bright and dark for my appeal. I loved the faint British watercolors and I could never come close to any of them.
For the first time in my life I went to Empress garden to do On the spot sketches. I was alone and People would occasionally walk over to glance at my progress.
The result was great. It was much easier to paint by self and it was so difficult to copy other paintings. The spot paintings gave me a new confidence.

I quoted to someone what I felt after the changeover. 
"Oil Painting is for Politicians, Watercolors are for adventurers (Entrepreneurs)." (Copyright is solely mine.) 

Nothing can ever go wrong with Oils or Acrylics as they can be patched with another opaque layer of paint.
In watercolors almost anything can go wrong at any point. We need courage to take corrective steps, use the accident to avoid a mishap.

The FOURTH step: Courage 
Courage to accept criticism what matters to you. Give a damn about rest (But it could be a buyers viewpoint that has monetary value?) 
As an artist, I should feel good about your approach. Only "I" matter.

Tread and experiment as never before. Use seemingly ridiculous medium.
The art may sell or may not. Its your art. Selling is a different aspect. Think as an artist and not as a businessman, to be a better "artist".
Feel good about your creation that is unique.

Use Photographs/ paintings only to get a good color value or posture. (You will not get Models) Drape the figures and change the faces and the mood, Light and shadow, perspectives, avoid copyright. Acknowledge if you copied something by naming the artist.

The FIFTH step:- Appreciate and learn other art forms. Develop them and you shall develop as a complete artist.

I am a struggling 5th grade student of Art in Adult education program. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

SCMM 2014 and 'Run free'

Run Free?
I have been observing Vishy for quite some time. To me he is the epitome of run “free” motto. The modern Gandhian uses Khadi clothing (which is spun by him). He runs bare no shoes and survives on a vegan diet and completely natural ingredients. He stays simple.

How far can I take this Run free needs a series of adaptations and experiments, before I convert! 
I survived on lemon-Salt-Water during Chennai Marathon. But I kept looking at my watch during the last 4 kms. It was a marathon where I realized my true potential for effortless running. 
Unfortunately, I was in shambles when I looked at the watch 4 kms from finish line. I tried to establish what it would take to finish for sub 5 target. Even with 1km (near) sprint at end I reached at 5:04. 

The watch had brought me pain and I changed my thinking to overdo my natural pace..The target caused pain and the end of the run was not as satisfying as it should have been.

Time to recover went for a toss as I was running with two infections. The medication was strong and I felt feeble during 5 km run. I have a pathetic training record in Dec 2013 -Jan 2014.

My wife was very concerned about my illness and the depression that followed. She was monitoring me constantly and talked to get me on my tracks. My son had joined her and was equally concerned when I took a long training gap. (He was doing good training for 9km in 45mins. He had a valid concern for his father.)
I ignored exercise and went on a moody painting spree. I was not quite satisfied with my artwork too.

A week before SCMM, I was able to run 13km at my old pace and returned to BF running doing loops at the race course.The racecourse loops are easy gradient but the track stingeth like serpent and biteth like an Adder.

I had lost touch with NIBM running group. I had not run with a group for more than a month now. I was missing the company. In my notion of free running I had built walls about myself. I can be very cruel and ruthless to myself.
Can I run free?
Was I guided by my friends who do better pace than me and I force myself to run at theirs?
What is my true worth?
Too much thought and I planned to find for myself.

Repeated loops at the racecourse are very boring. Train in boring circumstances get paid on the real run.

Good points:
  • I can cache my running fluids at one point and nourish myself.
  • My wife joins me and she takes a walk.
  • No company. I monitor myself and am driven by myself. Not be "competition".
  • Worse track than normal road. Keeps my feet ready for better road conditions.
  • No tree shelter. Evening run. Bear the sun at 4:30PM and get paid with evening breeze later.

Bad points:

  • No gradient.
  • Not cheerful atmosphere. Repeated loops.
  • My Unfriendly behavior. No contact with my running group.

To carry out an experiment I was willing to do above..So pardon me my dear friends.

What is my  free running interpretation (As of now)?

(Many friends will completely disagree with this but I am learning in the process. Will keep making changes.)
  • ·        The aim is to run a long distance and not a race. (Race is comparison. Against self or with others. Comparison has a baggage.)
  • ·        I should strip off all gadgets that tell me my speed. I should observe the body and not the watch.
·        Without a watch you watch the body, with a watch you watch the watch.
  • ·        Thou shalt use natural ingredients ONLY. (Live to the basics. Understand what the body needs not what others tell you or give you free.)
  • ·        Never get injured. It is never late to pull out.

·        What I did not follow for free running, which I am still in a double mind:
  • ·        Buying SCMM Bib and cover travel expenses. (SCMM is unique time to meet my friends from other states and my Running group. Travel brings experience.)
  • ·        Live off the road. (In this concept developed by Nitin/ Jeetu) you use available water on the road.I drank mineral water. (Not exactly the right thing to do when palatable water is available. Build resistance to drink any stuff).
·    A whim: I plan to do an ultra where I should live off the road. It’s the same as a trek. No support team. It may seem like a stupid thought but this is what comes to my mind the way I lived my life.

Vegan: Naahh..I skip that. I eat meat once a week. I am too immature to try this.
Khadi?..Perhaps later when reduce flab. I shall use T shirts from past events.

The SCMM telecast:

Finally we are fully immersed in a much cherished event. The pilgrimage to the runners Mecca. SCMM 2014. Quick security scan at the World trade center and we get inside. I scan some of Eyecandy stuff around stiff upper lips though. Bodies trained in Gym. Nah. I prefer Chennai crowd, which I find more open and easy to mix. “Keep it Zimple.”

We collect bibs and bump into Vishy and Muthu which results in a long chat.I am with a family that I like.
Vishy comments, “ Iske haath me Saraswati hai.” I muse, “ Aur pair me ..?” These guys are many levels ahead of me and they can motivate me for long time. I hope I do not create idols of my friends.
I meet Aditya and he mentions that the hotel where we booked is overfull. We have lunch at Kamat. The bakwaas from the train carries on, at new levels of ultra stupidity. We holler with laughter. The semi bachelors are using the event to get back to the days of youth at the hostel.

We take a bus to CST and go to Hotel Manama.
Miss Shetty is replaced by some one else. Lot of crap right from Rajasthan sports team under camera surveillance to ‘Over booking by Travel sites’ that seem as lame excuses when we observe Foreigners being allocated rooms right under our nose. MANAMA. Guys Why do you do this to us Indians? @#%$^*&

Nitin: “Damn. We paid money one month in advance. Cut the crap.”
Nitin, Ritesh and I are escorted to a shady looking hotel. We are shown one ghastly room. We booked luxury class. This one looks as shady as a Brothel.

And finally..“11 people. No we have only one room..”

The replacement of “ Ms Shetty” finally provides us booking at a hotel at Cuff Parade. No. This one is not shady. Not Luxurious either. But we have a little better choice.
The hotel manager is willing to pay for the taxi to CST early morning. So we settle down. The surroundings are expensive. A banana costs Rs 5. Bare Minimal Ehh?

A light night dinner at Kamat and we retire to sleep. (Yeah ..We have finally manage to get food supplies at less cost.)
Not much of a sleep and I wake up.. (The watch says 12.00) Ahh..Another 3 hrs to get sleep.
3AM the alarm goes on. Nitin hits the bathroom and I try to get some more sleep. Umesh is still conked off. I prepare tea for myself.

We are all ready by 4:45AM. The taxi takes us to CST. To P or not 2P.
I wait in the queue to reduce the water content trying not to breathe inside the booth. 
Soon we jog to the holding area.

The race has started and it’s a long crawl to the start line.
I do not wear a watch. I feel free. My pouch has my Phone and few dryfruits. A headphone (if reqd). 
My feet hit the road. It is nice and smooth.
I spot Bhupinder (Ultra runner) Both of us weave our way to the front crowd.

Marine drive, The turn at Oberoi hotel and back to Queen’s necklace is effortless. Wonderful cold and humid wind. Time flies and I have passed the Peddar road. I keep wetting my legs with water. Its so refreshing!

The half marathoners appear on the other side of the road. The early birds come flying. The crowd on the other side gets larger and dense. I cannot spot any known faces. Soon, I hit the Sea link. I fish out the phone and start clicking. I had decided to go easy on the sea link. It is ok to spend more time on the a beauty spot that gives a different perspective of Mumbai.

Vivek Bhargawa joins me and we carry on for some time. I run for some time with Umesh then I am back in my lonely world. Around 20km I meet another runner from Surat. He talks about the Surat Night Marathon. “We will catch up on FB. Bye.”

From 20km line, I observe that my pace might be actually better than before. 
Forget the pace. Focus on the body. 
There is a guy with Oranges and salt. I shove a few bits doused in salt and snatch a bottle of water.

“Hello”,says someone from behind. I look over the shoulder. Its Sunil Gwalani. “ I follow you on Daily mile. Congrats on your ultra.”
Sunil smiles back. He has mistaken me for Ram Ve. Sunil is in walk-run-walk mood. I have decided to walk few steps only when I eat of drink. He has always caught up with me well..till point 27km. 

I increase my pace as I want to run alone. (Sorry Sunil. It is a must for my experiment.)
As I hit the sea side I see Sujit running on the other side. It means that I am slower or he is a bit faster. Few minutes ahead I see Nitin and Rupesh going strong. I holler in encouragement. I see the 4:30 bus on the other side.
I meet Hari and Sanjay (my Pune running mates). I carry on at my pace.
I am in a trance. I observe many people walk. Only a few of us are running. Though I am focused on myself, the surrounding IS disturbing. 
I don’t want to be slow. I don’t want to be fast. I want to feel good. 
What you see is a myth. You should be what you want. 

I keep running. Even on the Pedder road slope.
“Cheer” girls are singing “Jai Ho”. The song inspires and I give my best to run along. Some one is serving Tea to the marathoners. 
No..I must  keep focussed. These are the sirens that call me to the shore. My odessy must go on.

I hit the Marine drive. Humid blast..The sun works on my mind. 
There is an ‘Ice station zebra booth’ I pick few cubes. My Upper back is complaining. My foot joints claims that they are being misused. The Ice station zebra commandant rubs Ice over the muscles. I am good to go again.

I am at the border of Pain and suffering. I choose to be a MAN to separate myself from the child. (Salute Emile Zatopek)

Its KM 38..I hear, “Parag”. I look behind and am surprised to find Sujit. 
Sujit should be way ahead. He is 4hrs material.
“I had a cramp.I blacked out and had to take medication. I am not pushing it too hard as I do not feel good enough. The Doc gave me a clean chit after Stethoscoping me and checking my eyes , tongue, Pulse. Probably I started too fast. ”
I have a lot of respect for Sujit. He will never push to an injury. It has got to be serious but he might have been quite right to go easy. I feel sad for him. He mentions, “Go Ahead. I will be fine.”

The pain is too much. I have been heel landing for a long time. Midfoot landing is painful. The 5 hr bus is close behind. No. I will not give up this time.

I increase my speed to a consistent jog. I end up with a 100mt sprint (If you call “that one” a sprint i.e). 
I look at the digital figures of the clock. This is the first time I saw a clock in  5 hours. 
BLAH..It’s not a sub 5 AGAIN.

The bad part..I am not as fresh after the marathon as Chennai. I over did.

I did not enjoy the last part (as in Chennai). And the verdict is 5:06 + BLAH.

I walk painfully and find Neeraj. He has flown in at Sub 4. I feel happy for him.
I say, “ 5:06. I do not know for sure as I do not have a watch.”
I catchup with Sujit and his bro and we callup Nitin. Vijay has finished his first run in Sub 5. Nitin and Rupesh in 4:30.
We rush back to the hotel and pack. Just in time to board Chennai Express.

On the train my friends mention that the results are published. Hrishi checks for my Bib number.

 He reads out.. Its 4:59:07. My friends congratulate me on the sub 5.

I am happy for myself. But the number 5.. What’s so special? 
My legs are in pain. I am not taking a combiflam this time. Can I take the pain?

I am happy for Nitin and Rupesh the most. I have got back into a mind game of comparisons that should be avoided?? 
I can NOT reach in 4:30 with such a pain. I will get an injury if I attempt this in current circumstances.
Nitin knows me well. He mentions, “You run with baggage. Leave the baggage and run free.”

I know he wants me to go through the training despite work life challenges. At this point, I am not prepared to do so. I think “It’s my poor feet that I abuse. I cannot permit myself to abuse them beyond my limit.”

But thinking beyond myself, my well wisher is right to tell me point blank. Take rest. Train better and you will be better. Then Run Free.

If I do not spend money on Gym I should not pay for running. No matter what the world wraps around the package, as charity events.

Will I participate in paid events is a question? Will I run 42km is not a question. I certainly shall.
The “Cost” and “benefits” factor shall decide how and where.

-The Selfish myself