Saturday, May 05, 2007

I Ran Too!

I am so glad! Just yesterday Didi called me up and gave me the good news that my article got published in Kanara Saraswat, the monthly magazine of the Chitrapur Saraswat community. Ours is a small community, 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 such a small community in terms of size, the world knows us because of our rich cultural heritage and also 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), and there are so many more! We are very fortunate to have a Guruparampara that dates back 300 years! Throughout our history, we've had to face a lot of difficulties, but by the grace of Lord Bhavanishankar and our Gurus, we have always come out unscatched from all our troubles.Our present Guru, the 11th in the line, is H.H. Swami Sadyojat Shankarashram. 

Photo clicked by me at Shri Chitrapur Math, Bengaluru

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 in this year, starting with the StanChart Mumbai Marathon 2007 held on the 23rd of January. I wanted to be a part of it too, but could not. But I did run... here's the whole story, as published in Kanara Saraswat... :)

"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 was about to register my name for it when I realized that my plan had a glaring loop hole – the marathon was to be held 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 so I could participate. Sorely disappointed, I took to ‘encouraging’ (read ‘forcing’) my friends to participate instead. I prayed fervently for a miracle to happen so I could be in Mumbai on the 21st of January 2007 and run the Dream Run. I wanted to run for the Math too!

As always, the Almighty Lord patiently heard my plea and made sure that I did not miss the chance to run. Personally, I feel He has one line perpetually tuned into my cribbing frequency, and believe me, that line is always busy! So it happened that God decided to grant me my wish in the form of the 4.5 km ‘Sadbhavana Daud’ held annually on the 26th of January at IISc, Bangalore. And 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.

I have never really been much of a sports person. All my sports related activities have been 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-and-left and doing warm up exercises. I tried to emulate some of them and promptly gave up as a shearing pain shot through my muscles – I surely did not want to tire myself with warm-ups before the run! At long last, the chief guest arrived, not in a spotless white A/C car, red lights blinking, but replete in a track suit, jogging all the way from his house! Everyone cheered as he came up to the starting line and the general level of enthusiasm went up tremendously. And then, the flag off – off we went!

In the span of the first five minutes all the other participants ran by me and were mere disappearing dots on the horizon. The last one to go by was an aged retired professor whom I had often seen walking in the IISc campus. He gave a broad smile, bucked me up by saying “You can do it, my girl!” and disappeared with the rest of the crowd. Since then, all the way up to the finish line at 4.5 km, I jogged all by myself, with only the rising sun and the twitter of the 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 supposed to be waiting there with a yellow ribbon – proof that a participant had passed that way and not taken a short-cut. However, when I reached the place, there was no one in sight. I took a turn around the pool thinking the person might be on the other side. No one there too. I waited for 5 whole minutes. Still no one. All thoughts of ‘Sadbhavana’ drained from my mind – I endanger my life running through the dense jungle near the CEDT department in complete darkness and reach the swimming pool, and there is no one there to give me the yellow ribbon I rightfully deserve! With mounting anger I ran ahead, and the anger did me good because I completed the next kilometer in under 10 minutes! Thankfully, organizer 2 was at his designated spot with the last piece of green ribbon in hand. He was aiming pebbles in a small puddle of water. As he saw me approach, he gave me a sheepish grin and said “I never thought you would make it till here!” Hmmmfp! I snatched the ribbon from his hand, gave him a pep talk on what organizers should and should not do and continued ahead full steam.

Organizer 2 must have warned organizer 3 of the approaching tornado, because when I reached the 3.5 km mark, organizer 3 had collected two other persons with him and all three of them were cheering me with big wide smiles on their faces. I took the red ribbon from them and marched ahead. My feet were falling apart by now and the last kilometer seemed an unattainable goal. As I rounded the last bend, I saw the participants, organizers and the chief guest sitting under trees and enjoying a light snack of hot samosas and fruit juice. That brought back new life into me – I was ravenously hungry! I increased my speed to a loud round of applause and cheering from the above audience. I felt as if I was winning the Olympic gold! But all this hulla bulla woke up a sleeping mongrel from its early morning reverie and out it came for me. Woof! Woof! Woof! I managed to cross the finish line in record time, just a few seconds ahead of the angry mongrel; and also pole-vaulted myself to safety of the high fence of the Physics department. It was a 'photo-finish', literally – self balancing precariously on the narrow fence wall with dog yapping, jumping up and down trying to reach my ankles! This scene did wonders to increase the feeling of ‘Sadbhavana’ among all those who were watching, everyone was laughing and grinning at each other and poor me.

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 stood first took 20 minutes to run the 4.5 km while I took 45!) I also received a special mention for being the person responsible for spreading ‘Sadbhavana’. All in all I had a whole lot of fun that day. Besides, I got to run for the Math too, in my own little way. But nothing can sum up my experience better than what Amma told me, “Congratulations dear on winning the race. Remember, it has a meaning to it – all this running in the Marathon. It tells us that the journey of life is not an easy one. It is long and fraught with difficulties. But we must persist in our efforts and continue running till the 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 have to make the community and the Math proud of them, by not only participating in the race but also completing it right till the end. Its upto you, the Amchi youth to spread goodwill and Sadbhavana and make the world sit up take notice 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 :)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Aam Chor

MMMMMMMMMMMMMM.................the Mango season's back! :)))))))))))))

Reminds me of the cool and refreshing raw mango 'Panha' and Mango Milkshakes to relieve the hot summer thirst and of course hogging on lots and lots of ripe mangoes :) It's also the time when Grannys set to work making mouth- and eye-watering mango pickles that last for years and years.

As a kid, I remember climbing up and down many a mango tree, swinging from the branches and helping Mom pluck raw mangoes. I had even made myself a small tree house up my favourite mango tree and used to spend the entire day with my dolls there... oh, how I wish I could do all that again!

The longing was so great that when Sam suggested a Mango Heist, I was game for it in no time at all! Here's pictorial proof of the robbery that was carried out on the 1st of May 2007 at the Bharani Hostel terrace and the adjoining mango tree...

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The Temptation that made us plan the Great Mango Heist

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"Nahi! Mein upar nahi chadungi! Mujhe unchai se darr lagta hai!" ... Sam is scared of heights, but the prize at the end was too Yummy to resist... she finally did manage to climb up the hostel terrace

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Give me an opportunity to climb anything and I will! 'Maya Monkey', that's what Dad used to call me :) I climbed up the water tank right at the edge of the terrace and tried to grab at the tempting delicacies hanging from the tree. How Sam and I wished we had a long stick to do our bidding!

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Success! I was literally hanging from the two mangoes I had managed to grab in my hand! Sam was screaming all the while :P

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Show Off time ;) Sam climbed up the water tank and held up our loot high above for the whole world to see

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And the world did see! Chetna was the 'chasmadeed gawah', the eye-witness to the whole robbery. Damn! We'd have to share the loot now :( But as long as it meant sharing it with the sweet n smiling Chetna, we really didn't mind :)

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And the loot was decorated into a plate alongwith the black salt, chaat masala and salt Sam stole from her lab :)

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V for Victory! Sam is all smiles as we prepare to partake of our 'Choori kaa Maal'

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yummmmmmmmmm..... Khatta hai, par achha hai :)

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Partners in Crime! The two thieves and the eye witness share the yummy loot :)

Truly, what a memorable day!