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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Olympic glory

Terrific news for a nation that was starved for Olympic glory!

Sakshi Malik clinches bronze medal in women’s wrestling 58kg category, opens India’s account at Rio 2016 Olympics

Before and during the Olympics there were supporters and nay-sayers to the Indian athletes. Setting aside all the discussions, it is an achievement to win a medal at the Olympics. For a country or culture where education comes first and the thing that kids hear most is, “Finish your homework and studies and then play’, it is a win. There was a funny meme where there is a mob shouting for medals but when asked what they want their children to be, they say – doctors and engineers. Sad, but true.

The primary reason why the negative comments hurt are that these are people who don’t realize what it takes to qualify to the Olympics, let alone win at the highest level. Indian athletes – Deepa Karmakar in gymnastics and Sajjan Prakash in swimming to name a couple have taken huge risks to be at that stage. And these are not just financial and social risks – these are physical risks. Deepa performs what is known as the death vault which is called so because a small mistake can cripple a person or worse kill them. Sajjan competes in the 200 m butterfly which is the toughest stroke of them all and at that distance the swimmer finishes the last leg almost not mentally aware of him being alive or dead. Add to these the years and years of training and the missed trips, favorite food, movies, sports and everything else that other children indulge in. In the background is the dedication of the staff and their families. A swimmer, out of personal experience having seen my son train for five years now, on a daily basis spends 2.5 hours in a pool looking at the black line below and then another 2 hours working out in the gym. And this for 10 years to be able to qualify at the national level.

It will take time to move away from the cultural habits. For E.g. we see the Swachh Bharat campaign and it will take a couple of generations to build a habit to make that dream a reality. Fortunately, that might not be the case when it comes to adopting sports. Fitness and sports should gain importance, this doesn’t mean that studies take a back seat. But look around you, how many of you are doing exactly what you learnt in school???

It is high time sports get the due attention in the country. Until then, let us celebrate not just the Sakshis but more importantly the Deepas and the Sajjans for having performed at the highest level!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The forty minute commute...

March, Nineteen Eighty-Six

It is 8 AM in the morning and I am all ready to go to school. My parents tell me that from next year I should take public transport to school. This will teach me how to be independent and also timeliness, so they say. Six kilos of books on my back and a lunch bag in hand I start my walk to school with a slight nod of head, agreeing reluctantly to the bus commute. Adugodi on Hosur Road, Bangalore (yeah, Bangalore then and not yet Namma Bengaluru) I cross the road and start my journey. I call it a journey because it was one of things I loved about going to school.

The big police quarters ground to the left, sparrows and parrots and mynahs and other birds chirping away. An occasional cuckoo coos and I stop in my tracks. I mimic the cuckoo's coo. We exchange words, each time the cuckoo annoyed by my response and her tone becoming shriller and sterner. Out from the tree she bursts out flying and done with the mimicking. A few more steps and then I spot the touch-me-nots. In the middle of the dew covered grass they are inviting me to play with them. My index finger is my tool as I ensure that I delicately touch so that only a few leaves close. That way I can observe this phenomenon for a longer time. Done with the first growth I move on to the second one. Bored I start walking again. A few feet away I see colours radiating from a sapling. What is it? On closer inspection is it a brand new web woven by one of nature's best architect's - the spider. With dew drops at the intersection of the strings and the gentle early morning sun rays passing through the filter of the large tree reaching the web and make it sparkle brilliantly. Not worried about what will happen if I end up in a dirty uniform to school I sit down hoping that an unsuspecting insect falls into the web and I can watch the spider have breakfast. No luck today... 10 minutes gone and nothing is happening. An occasional car passes by and the sound brings me back to reality and the fact that I might be getting late to school.

Now I reach the fastest phase of my commute. In less than 30 seconds I sprint past the crematorium avoiding any chance of looking at the graves. Once I am in the clear, my pace is back to competing with the snails in a who comes last race. In the narrow gully leading to the mosque I trudge along all the while jumping from one patch of light that has managed to reach the ground, through the huge tress covering the lane, to the next one. Sometimes stopping to pick up the flowers and counting the petals on them. A mongrel lazily looks up at me as if my unconscious giggling woke him up rudely. I reach the Ganesha temple road and then I spot kids in familiar uniforms lining up for prayer in the ground. I run trying to make it in time. Yet again, I am late! So, stand aside and as punishment be the last kid that enters class. All of two kilometres at the maximum and it has taken me 45 minutes and a punishment to make it to class. Do I regret it though? No... on the way back I again repeat the routine. The spider web is empty so I decide to drop an unsuspecting ant into the web to allow my spider friend an evening snack. Instead he rolls the ant in the web and keeps it towards one end to be feasted upon later. Disappointed that I could not view the dining mannerisms of the spider I head back home. The evening clouds are gathering and looks like it will be a hailstorm in the evening. Another 40 to 45 minutes on the way back.

March, Twenty-Sixteen

It has been a good three and a half years since I started working in Koramangala. I have been thinking everyday that I should drop into my old school and surprise the Principal. But then... when? It takes me the same 40 to 45 minutes in my car for the 9 kilometres commute from home to office. Even today I pass by the same police quarters, now filled with houses. FM radio playing on my radio. I remember my old friend the cuckoo and lower the window to see if her descendants still spread happiness. I am welcomed by a black jet of smoke from a passing lorry, a gust of unbearable warm wind and the sounds of honking and engines. Quickly I close the window and move on. I reach the crematorium which is now covered and see if the spider is around. Let alone the spider there is no space for people to stand at the bus stand there now. I swear at someone who overtakes me from the wrong side and quickly check the time. Damn... I am running late for a meeting. Somehow I manage to reach on time and get along with the routine. The way back home is more treacherous. The same clouds gather, but that means that people are now competing with each other to rush back home. Chaos reigns and tempers flare.

The commute which was such fun and I used to long has changed so much. The days when those 40 minutes were a pleasure to now when I dread those 40 minutes. Life came a full circle when I started working in Koramangala... I am back to where I started my education I had thought. That was the only thing that came back a full circle I guess. I long for the day when I can spend 40 mins walking 2 kilometres without a care in the world; a world that puts such great value to every minute that I just get worked up with the thought of 'The forty minute commute...'