I am so happy! Just yesterday Didi gave me the good news that my article was published in the Kanara Saraswat magazine, the monthly magazine of the Chitrapur Saraswat community. Ours is a small community of only about 35,000 people worldwide. We are Saraswats, followers of the Goddess Saraswati, who migrated down south to Karnataka from the banks of the river Saraswati in Sindh. Though small, our community is well known globally because of our rich cultural heritage and stalwarts like Shyam Benegal (film maker), Gurudutt (film actor), Prakash Padukone (badminton champion), Pandit Dinkar Kaikini and Pandit SCR Bhat (Hindustani classical vocalists) and more recently Nandan Nilekani (of Infosys fame) and Ishaa Koppikar and Amrita Rao (film actors), to name only a few. We are blessed to have a Guruparampara that dates back 300 years. Throughout history, the community has had to face testing times, but by the grace of Lord Bhavanishankar and our Gurus, we have always emerged unscathed from all troubles. Our present Guru, the 11th in line, is H.H. Swami Sadyojat Shankarashram.
The year 2007 - 2008 is the Tercentenary Year of the Shri Chitrapur Math, Srivalli. As part of the tercentenary celebrations a variety of events have been planned this year, starting with participation in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2007 held on the 23rd of January. I wanted participate too, but could not because of, ah well, the PhD :( However, I did run! Here's the whole story, as published in the Kanara Saraswat magazine :)
|Image copyright: Maya Murdeshwar. Taken at Shri Chitrapur Math, Bengaluru|
"I first heard about the run at Shri Chitrapur Math, Bangalore
. A PowerPoint presentation enlisting the events planned for the Tercentenary celebrations was being shown there. The flag off for the year long celebrations was to be the Dream Run at Mumbai Marathon 2007. Being an Amchi Mumbai girl (pun intended!), I was excited about the run and almost registered for the event, when I chanced upon a glaring loophole in my plan – the marathon was to be run in Amchi Mumbai and I was in Namma Bengaluru. After taking a month off, I was in no position to beg my boss for even a day’s leave then. Sorely disappointed, I took to ‘encouraging’ (read ‘forcing’) my friends to participate instead. I prayed fervently for a miracle that would transport me to Mumbai on the 21st of January 2007
for the Dream Run. I wanted to run for the Math too!
As always, the Lord Almighty patiently heard my plea and ensured that I did not miss the chance to run. Personally, I feel He has one line perpetually tuned in to my cribbing frequency, and that line is always busy! The Lord granted me my wish in the form of the 4.5 km ‘Sadbhavana Daud
’ which is held annually on the 26th
of January at IISc, Bangalore
. So, on Republic Day this year, at 5 in the morning I found myself at the starting line of the first long distance race of my life (other than life itself, of course!)
I have never been much of a sports person. My sporting activities being limited to running the ‘Lemon-n-Spoon’ in school (and losing!) and cheering Sachin, Dravid, Paes and Hesh from the living room sofa. So it was with considerable excitement, a wee bit of nervousness and zero running practice that I stood at the start line, grinning at the 30 odd participants who had gathered there. Everyone seemed to be stretching themselves right-left-and-centre doing warm up exercises. I tried to emulate a few but promptly gave it up as shearing pain shot through my muscles – one does not want to tire out before the actual run itself! At long last, the chief guest Prof R P Singh arrived, not in tie-and-coat in a spotless white A/C car with red lights blinking, but in a well worn track suit, jogging all the way down from his house! Everyone cheered as he ran up to the start line and the general enthusiasm went up manifold. And then - flag off – off we went!
In the span of the first ten minutes, the other participants overtook me one-by-one and were mere disappearing dots on the horizon. The last one to pass by was an aged professor whom I had seen walking regularly in the campus. With a broad smile and “You can do it, my girl!”, he bucked me up and disappeared with the rest of the crowd. From then on, all the way up to the finish line, I jogged by myself with only the golden-red rising sun and many a twittering birds to keep me company - not that I am complaining!
I covered the first kilometer and a half in 15 minutes and reached the IISc swimming pool. An organizer was to be waiting there with a yellow ribbon – proof that a participant had passed that way without taking a short-cut. However, when I reached the spot, there was not a human soul in sight. I took a turn around the pool hoping to find the person at the other side. No one there too. I waited a full 5 minutes. Still no one. All thoughts of ‘sadbhavana’ left my mind – here I was, endangering my life running through the dense forest near CEDT in complete darkness to reach the swimming pool, with no one there to hand me the yellow ribbon I so rightly deserved! Anger mounting, I fumed ahead. The anger did me good as I completed the next kilometer in under 10 minutes! Thankfully, organizer#2 was at his designated spot with the last piece of green ribbon tied to his wrist. He was looking thoroughly bored, aiming pebbles into a nearby puddle of water. He looked up and grinned at me - “Hey! You made it till here! Never thought you would” - I snatched the ribbon from his hand, looked daggers at him, and continued ahead full steam.
Organizer#3 must have been warned of the approaching tornado, because at the 3.5 km mark, he patiently waited with a wide smile on his face to cheer me on. I collected the red ribbon from him and marched ahead. My feet were falling apart by now and the final kilometer seemed an unattainable goal. As I rounded the last bend, I saw them all - participants, organizers and chief guest - happily sitting under the trees enjoying hot samosas and cool fruit juice. The sight of food blew fresh life into me – so ravenously hungry was I! As I increased my speed, a loud round of applause issued forth from the above audience. I felt as if I were winning the Olympic gold! The ensuing hulla bulla rudely woke a sleeping mongrel from its early morning reverie. Out it came for me - Woof, woof, wooooffff! Run, run ruuunnnn! I not just managed to cross the finish line in record time, only a few seconds ahead of the angry mongrel, but also catapulted myself to safety onto the high fence of the Physics department. It was a 'photo-finish', quite literally – self balanced precariously on the narrow wall with angry dog yapping, jumping up and down to get a bite off my ankles! This scene worked wonders to increase the feeling of ‘sadbhavana’ among those gathered. Everyone was laughing their hearts out at poor me.
At the much delayed prize distribution ceremony, to loud cheering, laughing and whistling, I was awarded the 2nd prize among girls for completing the race. (Kindly ignore the fact that only two girls ran, and the one who won (Vasanta K) took all of 20 minutes to complete the 4.5 km, while I took 45!) I also received a special mention for fostering the feeling of sadbhavana in its true sense.
All in all, it was a fun day. I got to run for the Math in my own little way. Nothing can sum up my experience better than what Amma said to me, “Congratulations dear on completing the race. Remember the underlying message. The journey of life is not an easy one. It is long, and fraught with difficulties. We must persist in our efforts and continue running till the very end. In this fast paced life, the Saraswat youth need to realize the importance of running towards their goal, at the same time enjoying the beauty that lies in their path. They must make the community and the Math proud of them, by not only participating in the race but also completing it till the end. It is up to you, the Amchi youth, to spread goodwill and sadbhavana and to make the world sit up and take note of our small but immensely talented community. All the best dear, to you and to all Amchi youth. You have and will always make us proud.”
We will, Mom, we all will :)