Saturday, December 26, 2009


The only thing wrong with Avatar was the Pandora horse. What are the chances that in a distant planet, evolution would have thrown up another equine beast of burden that looked exactly like our own horses but had two bonus appendages? There was some shoddy lack of creativity there.

I start my review of Avatar with that nitpicking because I want to deliberately temper my absolute infatuation for this movie. With most good movies I walk out of the hall and get rudely jolted back to real life when I walk out of the exits (which for some reason, are universally grimy and non-slick) . With Avatar, however, a full three days have elapsed and I've still not been jolted out. I wanted to gush over how brilliant an allegory it is for harmonious living and for current state of international politics, the wars in particular, but most of what I wanted to say are covered by three other commentators/reviewers that I happened to read; Ebert, Berardinelli and Kunstler. I won't repeat them. What does merit repetition is my strongest recommendation to go watch it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fuzzy Logic

Fuzzy is the god of spontaneity. Here are just a few things he did in one calendar day. He invited random people on the street to N's sister's wedding because, well, he thought they looked like good neighbours. At the wedding hall, he got up and danced when the nadaswaram band started playing. He stood right in the middle of traffic on dispensary road and performed an elaborate arm-waving ritual just to gather my attention.

In the past he's done crazier things. He's crossed Cubbon road in an exaggerated slow-motion action just to make a point to a driver who honked unnecessarily. He stood in the middle of the Westside store in Forum mall and shouted out, at the top of his voice, the names of his friends because he didn't like them dispersed so much. I could go on, but right now I'm thinking about why he does these things. It can't be attention deficit syndrome because he grew up as the youngest kid in an enormously affectionate family. It can't be because of his confused lineage; he's got afghani, pakistani, Indian and english blood flowing in him. It can't be that he's trying to make us aware of intangible social rules by deliberately breaking them, because he's never been guilty of such intellectual pretensions.

Frankly I don't know what makes him tick. I do know that when he's around the texture of all our lives are a little different. It's a shame that he lives in a distant island called Maldives and is probably not likely to return until the sea has completely claimed that country. Come to think of that, Global Warming doesn't seem so bad after all!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Koramangala Smartvotes

If you live in Koramangala and/or want to be part of a remarkable political experiment, read on. Inspired by the example of Adolf D'Souza's election as an independent citizen councilor, Smartvote is attempting to bubble up a citizen candidate for the upcoming BBMP election in Koramangala. I've explained the process in my post on praja. This movement requires a lot of help in co-ordination and campaigning. Please do reach out to the folks mentioned in the poster if you want to help out.

I happened to go on the door-to-door campaigning once and it was eye opening. Firstly it was very uplifting to watch how active resident associations are in Koramangala. While each of these groups have done very good work in their own isolated turfs, this campaign is networking them, and making them huge pressure groups that politicians can't afford to ignore. In places like the 3rd block, everybody seems to know everybody else, something that you hardly see in Bengaluru these days. Surprisingly, everybody is informed about and geared up for the local elections too. I'm convinced that there are models in play here that can solve the upper middle class apathy and resignation that plague most other constituencies. While every educated person is talking about how useless it is to vote, it's a pleasure to meet all those passionate people putting in that much effort and time to solve a problem that, by most people's estimation, is unsolva

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Stick no bills!

A few weeks ago, BBMP came up with an idea to prevent public walls from being used as a place to stick all sorts of publicity material. They hired a bunch of painters, gave them enough of their wares and let them loose on the city. Suddenly wherever you look, you see garish paintings. Some are not-so-bad but most of them are grotesque. Aesthetic judgement aside, are the paintings having the desired effect? Apparently, yes!

This particular wall is very close to the Kempegowda Bus stand and is usually littered with Kannada movie posters. The lower portion of the wall is almost always covered by paan stains. However, now I've been watching this wall for more than two weeks and nobody seems to have touched it. I can't really tell why it works, but I'm glad it does. I'm even getting used to the tastelessness. I'd rather see kitsch on my wall than have a sweaty angry Emran Hashmi or Duniya Vijay stare out of it. Besides, there's some innocent charm about the whole scheme. I had a friend who used to be fascinated by examples of such color overload. She used to say "This is so INDIAN" with an affectionate familiarity. I kinda relate to that now

Mural relativism

Rank these in descending order of inappropriateness
a. Sculpture of a topless dancer
b. Painting of a sculpture of a topless dancer
c. Photograph of a painting of a sculpture of a topless dancer
d. Talking about a photograph of a painting of a sculpture of a topless dancer.

My answer would be d, c, a, b. But I really can't explain why that is so. And watch how if you replace "12th century sculpture of a 12th century dancer" with "21st century sculpture of a 21st century dancer" the order would undergo some more reshuffling.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Emerging Leaders - Thought Leadership

I've always encouraged, in my head, the rather simplistic negative stereotype of a b-school as a place where people are taught to be jargon-spewing, self-selling go-getters. Coming in contact with profs Ashwin Mahesh, Trilochan Sastry and Rajeev Gowda over the last few months contributed significantly to alter that perception. Whatever prejudice was left were washed away in the last two weekends of the Emerging Leaders program by Prof. DVR Sheshadri.

Over the last month we have been in the middle of a module titled Thought Leadership in which we have spent time analyzing cases - both obscure and well-documented- from the business world. While the choice of cases has been smart for the most part, it sure has been a pleasure watching Prof S bring his humility, effortless wit, and rich collection of personal anecdotes to these sessions. What really had me nodding, though, was the healthy proportion of time that we spent on thought leadership in the social sector. The fact that I sat up straighter when dealing with cases pertaining to the social sector as opposed to those dealing with business, has to mean something. It's lurking in my head but I'm too afraid at this moment to give it words. I'll come back to that.

The most noteworthy session in all those classes happened last Saturday when we had a whole afternoon dedicated to the madness of Dr. Ashok Rao. I've been unabashedly leftist in my beliefs and harbor deep suspicions about a growth-obsessed inflationary model of economics. I usually gratify my confirmation biases by closely following some fringe commentators of, what I thought, was an inconsequential sub-culture. To hear those views expressed in the classrooms of one of our prestigious business schools was indeed a surprise, one that I'm welcoming with open arms. Dr. Rao initially came across as a technophobe who was polemic just for kicks (which is hard to reconcile with when you realize that he has a PhD in Digital Signal Processing). How do you deal with someone who uses Infosys as a metaphor for everything wrong with our society? However, as he ranted along, provoking everybody and leaving heads a-reeling, his method started to reveal itself. I couldn't help feel that he left everybody infected with a little disenchantment over how society has distributed wealth among its denizens and what a beating Quality of Life has taken in the process. Despite his distinctly unsophisticated style you can tell that he is no phony. This morning he would have returned to his lonely home in an unmarked village near Gubbi. I vowed to pay him a visit around Christmas time.

While that session pumped up the tumult, the prize-winning epiphany came this morning. As a fun thought-exercise we did a little poll among the 20 of us for the question "What percentage of the collective talent of the employees are we effectively harnessing in our company?". As a group we arrived at "20%". Wow!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Do** of the month - Sri Janardhana Reddy

A few days ago a newspaper carried a report that bloggers could be arrested if they are found to defame respectable citizens. Since I'm not very confident about my countrymen's understanding of democratic rights, I'm taking the necessary precautions by masking two crucial letters in the word Do**. You know what it stands for, but if I get arrested I'll insist I meant "Dood" or something!

Presenting this week's Do**- Sri Janardhana Reddy, the minister who was protecting his iron mines with all his energy while half his constituency was four feet underwater. This week he claimed that there's no illegal mining happening in our state. He conclusively proved it by telling us this, and I quote here, "We are dignified and honest people. This can be known through our donation of Rs one crore to Sri Krishna temple.". Case closed! Thank god for that. If you can recall he has demonstrated how much he loves the people of this state by another awesome gesture; he offered a crown worth Rs. 45 Crore to the god at Tirupati. Experts agree that without that offering his constituency would have been 8-feet underwater.

I dare you, oh reader, find me a better do**!

It's been fifteen years!!

Pictures (really bad ones!) and thoughts from my School Reunion.

Events like this are reminders of how unforgivably and inexorably the clock has ticked on. Most of my favorite teachers have retired. Some have even died. My classmates have all nurtured paunches but lost their hair. The cricket ground has been replaced by an ugly building that has no regard for the harmoniousness of the place.

Yet, thankfully, some things have not changed at all. The ground is still as glorious as ever although the backdrop has changed drastically. The tree growing at an angle, also called the Kamat Tree, named after V. Kamat, the kid who sat under its shade after mock-fainting in every single assembly, still endures. Ms. Pothan still has the zen in her smile. And Ms. Harriet D'Sa, a full decade after retirement, still looks like royalty.

And finally, Bhootroom, also known as the Scout Den, has lost none of its spookiness. Its occupant, however, reportedly won a lottery and took an early retirement.

Monday, November 23, 2009


MobiliCity took place last Saturday. The first session of the day, for me, had enough positives to make the entire effort worthwhile. Here were policy makers, policy enforcers, thinkers and citizens all discussing a Transport Policy for the state, a document that is a first of its kind in the entire country. Here were people from the world's crustiest bureaucracy willing to let faceless members of an online forum critique its decisions and proposals. On the stage was Prof Ashwin Mahesh, who has been allowed to influence transport decisions of the city without really belonging to the establishment . If you don't know about it, the Big 10 service is his brainchild. Sharing the platform with him was a young articulate legislator, Krishna Byregowda, who was ballsy and straight enough to point the finger back at his constituency and say "If you are going to drown me with your petty issues, how will I get the time to get to what I really should be doing, i.e drafting legislation?". I couldn't help exclaiming, in Dean Moriarty's words, "HE gets IT!". I also found it refreshing that he had no qualms about the taunts that were thrown at him. Then there was Vishwanath, a rainwater harvesting expert, who brought his experience and understanding of sustainability to the discussion.

Later in the day, there was one particular session by CSTEP that was extremely intriguing. A few random folks from the audience were given wooden blocks and were asked to build a city out of them. The participants took turns to erect structures such as schools, metro stations, biking paths, hospitals etc.. The resulting miniature city was strikingly similar to what Bangalore has turned out to be. No clear demarcation of residential and business areas. The metro came as an afterthought. Almost all utilities were unplanned. The city had no tolerance for cyclists. I could go on. These participants were admittedly conscientious folks, as proven by their willingness to spend an entire Saturday at an unconference of this nature. And they were dealing with wooden blocks! Yet they botched it up. There was a simple but forceful lesson there. Organic growth, without coordination between the stakeholders, leads to hell holes. However, the more subtle learning was that a citizenry that doesn't demand well thought out plans from its city builders will end up living in cities like the Bangalore of today.

I've heard a lot of people getting cynical about the outcomes of an event like this. I will be the first to agree that nothing direct resulted that would make you see a tangible influence on the city's transport in the near future. But to embrace that pessimism would be to miss the point. Here were a bunch of folks asking the right questions to the right people. Here was a crowd that was telling the leaders that decide on its behalf that they are being watched, that they are accountable. I think that's a start.

Friday, November 13, 2009

After the lull...

It's not like I had nothing happening in life. I could have written about the big launch at work and the relief at the end of it. I could have written about the awesome meetings with all the Solid Waste Management pioneers of Bangalore. I could have written about my best bird pic yet. I could have publicized Mobilicity which is coming up next weekend. I could have written about the drinking-cum-cheapshot-taking session at Stones presided over by the big guy himself (I can hear him laugh at the hidden pun in this sentence. It's in bad taste but I didn't invent it. This time, pun unintended). I could have written about the Northie-weds-Southie ceremony in Delhi. Or I could have resorted to one of my recurring features. I thought of chronicling the Dork of the Month but I couldn't find one dumber than me. I wanted to do the Deppe Recommends on the awesome "Rashomon" but I was too smug about how well I now know the Rashomon Effect. I just decided to give myself a break. I need it.

Monday, October 26, 2009


We had a special Critical Mass last Saturday to commemorate the International Day of Climate Action. S-man beat me to it when it came to posting about it. I'll do the smart thing here and just link to his account. Personally, I was a little disappointed with the turnout. However, what we lacked in numbers we made up for in charisma, thanks to the awesomeness of these two siblings. Watching them furiously pedal at their small diameter wheels, ride along undaunted in the sea of towering cyclists around them was a joy. Anybody who saw these kids and didn't feel a momentary urge to pick up a bicycle is probably clinically dead.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Annotated guide to an awesome debate (updated)

The recently released book Superfreakonomics has a chapter on Global Warming that has sparked off one of the most engaging debates that I've witnessed. The premise of that chapter, to paraphrase it (very)loosely, is that geo-engineering (read spraying sulphur or something into the atmosphere to cut off sunlight!) is better than improving efficiency of our current systems and conservation in general.

First the authors of the book got an ass-whipping by Paul Krugman. A lot of other experts got in on the fun as well. The authors, Levitt and Dubner, then did some defensive back-tracking. Krugman was relentless. Then Dubner did some underdog posturing in trying to explain himself. Then Myhrvold(the smartest guy in the world according to Bill Gates), who is an advocate of geo-engineering wrote a beautiful piece on how environmentalism has become political, almost a religion even. I admit that I agree with him a lot. This piece was a lot more persuasive than the one that the other fake-scientist, Michael Crichton, spat out. Anyway, I'm waiting for someone to point out to Myhrvold how he conveniently changed his stance from "Geo-engineering is a better solution" to "Geo-engineering is the last resort" in such a short time and still tries to claim sympathy by posing as a victim of a witch-hunt. This debate is not over I'm sure and I can't wait for more.

One more Krugman swipe.
The Levitt defence/defiance.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day

Apparently the Arctic will be an open ice-less sea in 10 years. I'm putting this down so that I can come back and check in 2019.

October 15th was the Blog Action day to raise awareness about Global Warming. It took me a long time to be convinced that global warming is a man-made phenomenon, and even now when I read material that tries to prove otherwise, I must admit that I'm forced to rethink my stand. Moreover, I think Global Warming as an issue hogs a disproportionately large portion of our attention. There are so many other issues that are so freakin' easy to prove and so bloody ominous- such as habitat destruction, plundering of our resources, species extinction, and the way we are crowding our planet like rodents.

I believe everything we do - live, eat, travel, trade, earn- needs an overhaul. It becomes daunting if you keep the whole laundry list in front of you all the time. Sometimes focus is good. In that respect, I must admit Global Warming has been a very useful flagship issue to point out everything wrong with our civilization's relationship with its home. So here's my voice in the chorus.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Deppe reccommends "Inglourious Basterds"

I remember reading Ebert's critique of Pulp Fiction in which he says that after the first viewing of the movie he couldn't decide whether it was the best movie of that year or the worst. You only come away knowing that you witnessed something indescribable that defied most expectations you had from movies in general. That feeling was missing for me after Kill Bill. The magic is back in Inglourious Basterds. The outrageous liberties that Tarantino takes with history provide one of the most gratifying endings ever. Watch it. Twice at least.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Do** of the month - Sri Ramachandra Gowda

It's heartrending to watch the aerial shots of the flood-hit areas in north karnataka played over and over again on the 24-hr news channels. You've heard all sorts of explanations on why something like this could happen; from bad karma to ill-managed large dams to climate change. But what do the plebians understand! Our ministers, on the other hand, are on top of it. Our dear minister Sri. Ramachandra Gowda proved it when he succinctly expressed who has to be blamed for this calamity. I'm not making this up, but he really insists that our astrologers got us into this mess by not predicting it!

I tried to dig up dirt from this dude's past. He seems to have started flubbing rather early in life. When he was leading a Goan liberation movement, they asked him to coin a snappy little chantable slogan and he came up with one that romped into the wordsmith hall of fame: "Nehruji Ab kya kare – Police lekar Goa chalo". He was later rewarded for his wonderful scientific temper when he was handed over the Ministry of Science and Technology! Which, I'm guessing, he promptly handed over to his court astrologer. Sleep well folks, this country is in safe hands.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Delhi trip

Last weekend, I witnessed a bonafide world-wonder; a taxi driver who didn't honk once over a 30km ride! I'm not sure if the holidays had something to do with it, but the whole traffic situation was heartening. I must say I came away with a very good impression of the Metro too. Can't wait to have that in Bangalore.

Of course, I finally saw the Taj too. I thought it couldn't surprise me, after having seen it in so many times in print and film, it still got me nodding in absolute admiration. I was imagining what it must have looked like 350 yrs ago, with none of the tourists and the clamour around and with an unpolluted Yamuna flowing by its side, and the marble still sparkling clean. Must have been some sight!

What's with Agra though? Do they deliberately keep the city in the 18th century so that the firangs can come here and say things like "India attacks all your senses!"?

The highlight of the trip was my visit to the Bharatpur bird sanctuary which was nothing short of birdwatching nirvana. Even more heartening than the enormous diversity of birdlife is the knowledge of the rickshaw drivers here!

Pratap Singh, the rickshaw driver we hired could identify every goddamn bird that we saw. He won himself a tip of Rs. 10 for every new entry into my bird blog.

Besides that, the weekend was a heady mix of soaking in awesome northie humour and effortless hospitality, conjuring liquor parties out of thin air, a lot of driving and a little wallowing in existential angst.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What we refuse to destroy

There's a quote by John Sawhill that I happen to strongly agree with "In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy." By that standard, I think we deserved a pat on the back today. The High Court of Karnataka has directed the BBMP not to fell trees in GKVK. To give a background on the story, the BBMP had proposed to run a 100ft road through the GKVK campus to provide a shorter link for commuters traveling from Yeshwantpur to the new airport.

I had always heard about the GKVK "forest" from the folks in the birdwatching circles. Today I decided to pay a small visit. In the single hour that I was there I saw at least 20 species of birds without having to strain myself. I managed to capture a few with my camera too. I can also testify that it's no exaggeration to call the campus a forest! It would have been inexcusable to lose it. The road would not only have destroyed a lot of trees, fragmented pristine habitats, but probably would have sparked off a wave of commercialization in an area that's surprisingly untouched.

The forest is safe for now, probably because the Judges' colony is right adjacent to it. However, admittedly, the traffic situation that the BBMP is trying to address is terrible too. In a few years time, when we'll have a hundred thousand more cars on the streets of Bangalore, our collective patience will run out. Eventually our hunger for better infrastructure and development will prevail. Before that happens, I hope I have the time to photograph all the bird species there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Age of Stupid

Allow me to be naive about this; the idea of watching a crowdfunded independent movie -with a doomsday theme to boot- in a fringe movie hall that doesn't serve 100-Rupee popcorn pushes so many of my buttons that my enjoyment of the movie was almost fait accompli.

"Age of Stupid" is a collection of montages all on the theme of how we are being irresponsible with the planet's resources. There is one intriguing story that runs throughout the movie and that's an account of the launch of Go Air, a low-cost airline that sought to make air travel affordable to the average indian. It's a fascinating example because it shows how many of our values and rational choices are at loggerheads with what is responsible at this moment in history. With your normal spectacles it's impossible to find fault with someone launching a low-cost air service. There's no culture that would find it ethical to dictate limits to the entrepreneurial spirit let alone completely discourage it. There are very few individuals, and I'm definitely not one of them, who would voluntarily eschew an opportunity to travel the world conveniently. Yet it takes us one step closer to getting fucked and that much harder to wind it back. It got me thinking of the enormity of the solution. Nothing less than dismantling our value system and recalibrating it would do.

The owner of GoAir, Jeh Wadia, honestly believes that his efforts are guided by his deeper purpose of eradicating poverty. You have to already believe "peak-oil", "imminent ecological collapse" and "overcrowding" to catch the irony in that example. Therein lies the movie's biggest fault. It rams its lessons hard into the converted. Most people will probably dismiss the whole gig as fear-mongering by the leftist nuts. I still say everybody should watch it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kumara Parvatha

The first time that I went to Kumaraparvatha was a long time ago; cameras needed film rolls back then. Seven monsoons ago, five of us had been crazy enough to spend a night on the peak. We had been rudely jolted out of our sleep when the fly sheet of our tent had flown off at around midnight. P and I had ventured out to fetch it and fix it back on. In the two minutes that we had spent outside, every inch of our clothes had become wet. We had seen each other's scared faces when a couple of lightning strikes landed a few hundred metres from where we stood. We had spent the rest of the night holding on to our tent that was being threatened by the loudest and most furious wind I've ever experienced. Four of us were hanging on to the side beams and P, being the tall one, was clutching the top rod. By morning, we were wet, cold and angry. I swore never to venture into the Western Ghats during the monsoons.

You know how we look back on even the worst episodes and say "It happened for the best!". Psychologists call that sub-conscious rationalization 'Synthetic Happiness'. That is what makes us sugar-coat our memories and call them "experience" and genuinely feel good about having had them. That is also what made me forget my resolution. So I was there last weekend with a bunch of people again at Kumaraparvatha.

This time we climbed from the Pushpagiri side. The skies had stayed clear till late afternoon. The leeches, in my evaluation, were less enterprising too. I boasted about how I had spent three days (counting my Anejhari trip too) in the Ghats and not a single leech had feasted on me, while most others around me had been victimized. I was joking about how the leeches seemed to be on a low-cholesterol diet, when the clouds said "tada!". Old jungle saying "Forest not likes being taken for granted". It started to pour at 4 and we stood helpless under the shelter of styrofoam floor mats waiting for the fury to subside. The strong winds had ensured that all of us were drenched and nothing in our bags was dry either.

After a few hours, we gave up hope, pitched our three tents in the dark, and ate our soggy chapathis before sneaking into our sleeping bags. None of the other folks slept in the wet tents, but I told myself that I was in a bathtub, and convinced myself to sleep. Like I've mentioned before, when I sleep I don't just sleep, I hibernate. N woke me up hours later to tell me that my feet were covered with leeches. That's when I decided to check myself thoroughly. There were leeches all over the place including some too close to "the family jewels" to borrow from N's rich euphemism library. I de-leeched and did something that guaranteed my status as a legend: I slept again! I reportedly talked in my sleep too, something about an upcoming Yahoo! release. I bleed purple! Ask them leeches.

In the morning, the Ghats were benign and benevolent. We were amidst the clouds and everything was dream-like. If we overlooked the little detail that the protagonists all looked like they were returning from battle, everything else was straight out of postcards. We lingered on for too long. In the evening we were left with 3kms to traverse when darkness crept up on us. My group of four had become separated from the rest and we had one torch between us. We each fell several times and made such slow progress that I was already steeling myself to spending another night in the forest, this time with no tent. When we eventually saw the light of a vehicle on the road we were too spent to even celebrate. It's likely that someday I'll narrate this experience as if it was a good one. If you catch me doing that, slap me.

Monday, September 14, 2009


We had started our journey from Bangalore at nearly 3 AM and had driven for nearly 10 hours. That and the trekking we had done in the rain had given me that sweet kind of pain all over my body. We had had a beer each after dinner. I was now sleeping under a night sky that seemed impossible to render without the use of Photoshop. For instance, the far rim of the milky way was clearly visible. The forest guards had all left the premises and we were the masters of everything we surveyed. Cicadas and tree frogs were announcing themselves to the world. And then there was the sound of the river flowing. That's about as much intoxication as I can take on a Saturday night. I had nearly slipped into coma when I was awoken by my friends. They insisted that I come and see something truly strange. The I've-seen-a-ghost look on their faces told me that this wasn't some poorly planned practical joke. Curiosity prevailed over stupor and so I gathered my torch and ambled along. After walking some distance they asked me to switch off the light and look at a particular tree. I saw why it had been so important to wake me up.
Here's how the tree looked under the torchlight.

...and here's how it looked in almost complete darkness.

It was one of the most bizarre things I've witnessed. J told us that he had heard about varieties of bioluminescent fungi. I later learnt that this phenomenon is called foxfire. We found patches of the forest floor that were carpets of luminescent lighting. Apart from the foxfire, there were glowworms and fireflies too. Truly bizarre! Kudos to M for spotting this without her specs.

Some other highlights from the trip
The Guesthouse: The foliage is so dense that it is almost perpetually dark here. Just outside the door of the guest house is the Souparnika river doing a right angle turn.

The leeches
: One of the highlights of the trip was my northie friends' initiation to leeches of the ghats. I have pictures of blood-covered feet but decide against putting them here, but S-man sure is proud of them.

The drive: Shimoga to Anejhari is one awesome drive.

Wildlife: This really bold Malabar squirrel and some exquisite bird-sightings.

Shivappanayakana Kote (Fort): This fort is in a town called Nagara on the way to Kollur. Not only is the fort pretty but offers from its top a great view of the surrounding landscapes.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


It's as easy to wake me up as it was to put Rasputin to sleep. They first poked me with a broom, collapsed the mosquito net on my face, flashed a bright light at my closed eye and then hit me with a bicycle speedometer. I eventually woke up when a copy of E.O.Wilson's The Future Of Life fell on my head. When I eventually stumbled back to half consciousness I saw five frustrated faces staring at me from outside my window. Five of my favorite faces in the world! I always insist that it is pretty silly to make a big deal out of your birthday but I confess I enjoyed the attention. I was handed over the other gifts that hadn't been used as missiles; The Blind Watchmaker, Reading Lolita in Tehran and a bottle of Merlot, which we finished in the half hour that followed. There was also a cake that had a lot of hidden cultural references.

The 31st birthday wasn't as confronting as the last one. No big milestone in the decimal system. No crossing over the hill. No underachiever angst. No deeply penetrating cheapshots about my age. Just raising a toast and moving on.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Emerging Leaders

When you pledge 12 weekends to a program that can and was only vaguely explained, you tend to be a little nervously inquisitive before it begins. That's how I felt on friday at the first session of the Emerging Leaders program that I'm participating at my workplace. I'll post my thoughts on the program as we go along, but my impressions from the first two days has been positive. There was one particular exercise in which we had to make a recommendation to our CEO about how we think the strategy of the company should be shaped in the coming days and years. While the brainstorming and the presentation was a lot of fun, it severely exposed how limited our thinking can be in areas like this.

There was also a lot to watch and learn by means of just being in contact with folks who can boast of fairly remarkable past demonstrations of leaderships. I must say it indeed was enlightening to watch the varied perspectives that got thrown around. Without dropping names I was intrigued by two separate sessions presented by two execs from our company. The first of them has, I'm certain, a lot of good things going for him in terms of his aptitude and executional efficiency. Oratory, unfortunately, is not one of his gifts. I wonder how much of an impediment that is. I wonder if the art of rhetoric is just an overrated stereotypical expectation from a leader or an absolute necessity.

The other talk was by an executive who is currently on a sabbatical. His speech was a simple collection of anecdotes, and he proved how many perspectives you can actually impart without ever having to resort to hackneyed jargon. At the end of the talk you just felt like getting up and fixing everything!

My favorite part of this weekend's session was a panel discussion that involved Ms. Shukla Bose, founder of Parikrma Humanity Foundation. Her clarity of thought was as refreshing as her vision is goosebump-inducing.

Monday, August 31, 2009

VaderahaLLi trip

We finally went on the biking trip that we had been planning for a long time. The destination was an obscure, but really beautiful lake called VaderahaLLikere off Kanakapura road, roughly 25 km from Jayanagar. We had 11 people going on this trip which is a very encouraging sign. The trip was great fun and I really hope the first-timers are hooked.

One grouse that I carried was about the riding etiquette, specifically, tandem riding! Since I know at least a few of the folks are going to read it, I'm going to list down all the things I dislike about tandem riding
* It increases our footprint on the road and makes us more susceptible to be mowed down by a truck.
* Tandem riding never lets you settle into a rhythm because you are adjusting to your partner. That makes you slow and inefficient.
* I've experienced this as a car driver, tandem riders are a pain because they slow you down and make you take sharp angles to go past them. We really don't want people to think cyclists are a pain.
* There's only so much social bonding that you can do while you are on a bike! If there's someone you really want to talk to take him/her out for a beer.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The response to all those comments

Normally I save the serious shit for my other blogs and allow this one to be a canvas for some flippancy. My last post too was one such half-assed rant that I hoped disguised how passionately I really feel about several issues. It did, however, draw from my long-time sparring partners, comments that were longer than the post itself.

@Mohan: "All we need is the common sense to use the public transport." With all due respect, I believe that disseminating common sense to 6 million denizens is far tougher than raising a few taxes. But I do agree that without the Metro in operation, punishing car owners is a bit draconian.

@Shreeni: I'm sure you notice my change in stance from the times we used to discuss this issue in the 5th floor pantry. I'm suddenly all for Singapore-style despotic enforcement. The libertarian in me is still active when it comes to Censorship and Art, but he is well and truly dead when it concerns wealth distribution and traffic management.

@Sats: Just like you apologized for the NRI-snobbishness, I'm going to ask you to make allowance for my holier-than-thou preaching. I think every citizenry gets the government it deserves. We definitely deserve ours. I don't consider the government to be a separate creed of people that have nothing in common with us elites. We could stand on the sidelines and pretend that we have nothing to do with the uneducated, the disenfranchized, the corrupt, the indifferent, but let's get real. They ARE us. I know thousands of people who keep complaining about everything wrong in this country and pathetic few who can honestly say that they have used their 15-yr education or their relative enlightenment to influence anything. I am done waiting for the gory beast of a government to attain nirvana on its own to turn into a gentle genie who will repair all infrastructure. The "system" will transform if enough people ask for it. I have embraced the fact that the administration will not reach ideal state any time soon.

Here's what I was really addressing. Consider a man X driving a Toyota Innova and a man Y who travels in the city bus. I won't grudge the former his "success". Good for him and I hope he sees more of it. But consider that

* X uses a lot more of a public asset, the road, than Y.
* X pollutes a lot more of another oft-ignored public asset, the AIR! Tragedy of the commons?
* If there are 50 Xs and 50 Ys on the street (picture that , 50 Innovas and ONE bus!), it is fair to say that the Xs are responsible for the Ys spending a lot more time in traffic.

From Y's perspective, X is eating into his time, space and air. For me it seems like straightforward justice to make X pay for it. On the other hand in our system, X is more righteous and he feels he is not being served enough. By virtue of his "success" he also happens to be more influential. Which explains why the city administration is pandering to him by chopping all the trees and making the roads wider.

I could go on, but I think I'll save some material for my book.

We are screwed!

I heard some shocking official numbers. Bangalore's vehicular population is growing at 10%. I'll tell you what that means. Look at all the traffic around you. In 2016 you'll have double that. Take a good look at all the rain trees. They'll make way for broader roads. Worse, they will be replaced by the token Bougainvillea shrubs that the BBMP plants to maintain the statistics.

The trouble is I still don't see any measures to disincentivize private cars. Road taxes should be raised. Cribbers should be taxed again. There should be a special punishment for all ex-NRIs who drive alone in their Toyota Innovas that are substituting for the Honda Odysseys that they left behind in New Jersey. There should be ridiculous charges for parking anywhere in the city; even at office. Do something. Do ANYTHING. Save my city.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Urban Stampede (updated)

Photo: Gopal V

This weekend I ran at Urban Stampede race,a corporate 4x5km relay. The strongest memory from this event will be of a guy who registered himself as a team, ran all the four laps himself and still finished third. He made us look like fools, but he didn't stop us from having a lot of fun. I can't wait for the next edition. I'll update this post with our position and times as soon as I get to know it myself.

Team timing (20k): 1:42:51
My timing (5k): 26:17
Position (out of 95 teams): 13th

This also happens to be my 200th post. After 5 years of chronicling all my adventures, stories, upheavals, ramblings , blogging is neither a novelty nor a chore, it has become a way of life. I'm terribly embarrassed about things I wrote in the past and I know I'm going to be terribly embarrassed in future of the things I'm writing today. However, at least for now, I don't intend to stop.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pet peeves of the week

* Songs in which short syllables get stretched to fit the melody. For eg "get your prescription filled" becomes "feeelled". Other examples include, well, EVERY song written by Alanis Morissette.

* People who don't dry their hands while getting out of the toilet, and leave behind a dripping wet door-knob.

* Moral bulldozing that dictates that you don't get to say anything good about Jinnah or anything bad about Gandhi
(and the other way around, I suspect, on that side of our border)

* Rajdeep Sardesai's high-pitched wailing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Random updates

I have to report a personal milestone for me; I got garlanded for the first time in my life. This was at a function that the villagers arranged as part of a tree-plantation drive that we had organized in Rayappanahalli. I got served two sumptuous meals for digging exactly three pits. That fact made the garlands all the more embarrassing. That apart, I must say it's great fun to visit the village. The hospitality is really humbling. It was a pleasure to see last year's saplings take root and thrive although the prospects of this year's plantation looks rather bleak considering the sparse rains.

Here's another pet project that I've started (plagiarised shamelessly, I admit, from Phoebe Snetsinger); photographing 500 unique species of birds in the next 10 years.

I've wallowed on the peripheries of Praja for long now. Time to step it up a little. We have begun planning an event with the theme of Sustainable Transport. More details to follow, because we haven't done much more than talk at this moment. The planning nightouts have been super fun though (whenever it has not been eclipsed by beer) . We've scheduled this on Oct 24th to coincide with a mass movement planned by

I've been preparing for a 5 km corporate relay that is scheduled to take place next sunday, 22-Aug. I'm averaging 24:30 for 5 kms, and the rest of the team has been in that vicinity too. That should put us in the top 25 teams. It would be great to do better than that. Results coming up in a bit...

And finally, Happy independence day to all and happy 5th anniversary to my blog!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I hate goodbyes

The two cutest creatures on this side of the Atlantic are now on that side. And they leave behind half-empty cupboards, at least one swollen chest, a redundant portrait lens, orphaned cosmetics, three sheets of perforated paper that carry an indescribable innocence, a demotivated chef and a lot of momentousness. All the best folks! Let this be the start of something big.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Reading Lolita

I'm not going to write about Lolita, the novel. I'm going to write about the experience of reading Lolita.

Every page is a celebration. Yet, every paragraph is a hellish ethical ride. The prose is sublime, yet to acknowledge it feels like connivance in the narrator's outrages. In the first part of the book, when the narrator Humbert's thoughts are just that, it was easy to humour him. After all, you can't be too intolerant towards mere thoughtcrime. I can remember all the times in my life when I've had to conquer the thoughts that I couldn't help have. As the dude said, "If my thoughtdreams could be seen, they'd probably put my head in a guillotine". As long as the narrator only describes his thoughts I was an unqualified admirer of the grand prose that does so much justice to the madness of love, all the while making a grudging allowance for the depravity. In the middle of the book it got terribly confrontational. I couldn't laugh freely at the delightful humor. I couldn't laud the expression. I couldn't be unabashed about anything I liked about the narrative. Every bit of appreciation made me wonder if I was a partner in crime.

The place where I do most of my reading is in my office shuttle. Normally, I look forward to people peeping into my book and starting a conversation about it. While I was reading Lolita, however, I often curled the pages so that my neighbour had no chance of reading any full sentence. What if they thought I approved? What if they've not heard that Lolita is a classic? There was even a time when I folded the book in a hurry and put it in my bag because I suspected that the guy sitting next to me was reading it. There never is a boring moment while reading the book. The irony and the candor spawned off so much introspection around morals, censorship, love and the whole experience of being human. It was one of the most stimulating books I've read... And now I'm nervous that the reader will misconstrue the meaning of that last sentence. Ah well! That sums up the ethical tiptoeing that Lolita forces you to do!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nandi hills revisited

At around this time last year I had visited Nandi hills with a few friends of mine. Appalled by the litter we found, we had vowed to influence the system to keep the place clean and green. In the process, I came in touch with a lot of people who shared this interest and what started was a citizen project to keep the hill tidy. After a burst of activity most of us had returned to dormancy. But last week, a bunch of us renewed our efforts. I'm chronicling those adventures in a separate blog that I maintain. It's most definitely been fun!

Friday, July 17, 2009


This is my last post on the Lamayuru trek. This one is dedicated to the beautiful Ladakhi faces, with their cauterized crowfeet, that wished us "Juley!" like they knew us all their lives. I'd photograph them all if it wasn't disrespectful.

Ladakh- Birdlife

Despite the barrenness of the land and the lack of diversity in the flora around here, the bird life is remarkably varied. It was a little frustrating on two counts; firstly I could hardly identify any of the birds and secondly I never got the opportunity to stay in one place long enough to watch or photograph the really reclusive ones. Here are the bolder ones that I caught.

Chukar: Ever notice how bollywood heroes continue to run in a straight line on the main road while being chased in a vehicle? The chukar, a kind of snowcock, exhibits exactly that kind of stupidity. This one kept running on the path and allowed me to chase it for over 200 mts. As stupid as they are endearing!

Black Redstart: This one's a real beauty and seemed more than pleased to be photographed.

The Yellowbeaked Choughs seem extremely comfortable in the company of humans. They are amazing in flight. Hate it when people call them crows.

There were too many warblers and wagtails even to keep count of. Inskipp was inconclusive about this one. It's beak is too unsparrow-like.

Inskipp tells me this is a Citrine Wagtail, but I'm not willing to bet my life on it.

This is a Blue Whistling Thrush or a Bluheaded Rock Thrush, depending on who you ask.

..and finally, at every camp, we found at least one boisterous Magpie couple.

Someday I wouldn't mind returning here just to spend a couple of days doing nothing but bird-watching.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The people in the caravan

At Lamayuru, we also met the folks who were going to go with us on this trip; our guides, porters, horsemen and the cook. In this post I introduce the men who consistently bowled us over with their awesomeness.

Thandlay Dorjay, the closest I've seen anyone come to being a superhero. Watching him sprint down the gravel-covered mountains was the stuff of legends. This photo that you see is a remarkable feat because it was almost impossible for him to stay still. Even when we took a break to catch our breath, he would run up the smaller peaks and rearrange the buddhist flags that mountaineers leave in these parts. He kept running from the back of the queue to the front over and over again all the while singing some catchy bollywood number. As if the thin air wasn't a challenge enough, he smoked four packs. And he smiled non-stop all day.

(Junior) Dorjay: Here's another man who's incapable of looking clumsy. He would walk along with us during the difficult parts of the trek. During one particular treacherous climb, he carried three rucksacks. After the challenging part was done, he would start running so that he could set up the camp before we reached there.

Tundlup Bhai was almost invisible, but his contributions didn't go unnoticed. And his smile was particularly infectious.

Kumar Bhai: I admit that you can't really be objective while judging a cook on a trek because your appetite is perpetually stoked up. Still, by all standards, Kumar Bhai was a true magician. Whether he was making Thukpa or Upma, Parantha or Chowmein he was just stellar. On the last night, he even baked us a cake. Let me see you make me forget that!

Then there were the horsemen, Dorjay (another one!), Sandeep and Deepesh, who toiled in the background. We never really interacted with them too much, but can't take anything away from how much they added to our trip.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Our base camp was a pretty little village called Lamayuru, known for its monastery. Here we got our first glimpse of the sights that would repeat over the rest of the journey. In the course of the next five days we were going to be bombarded with visuals that are otherworldly. For instance, the sand mountains that surround Lamayuru village resemble Hollywood's impression of a far away planet. A further distance away endless folds of mountains hold you captive with all the stories that they seem to be dying to tell; about the rivers that patiently but cruelly carved the gorges, the winds that eroded the soil, the ice that left the scars and above all the tectonic tortures that gave them their identities. The most striking aspect of the upper regions of the mountains is their lifelessness. The valleys, however, invariably cradle streams of different sizes mostly fed by distant glaciers. The water supports bright green vegetation that stands out in stark relief among the bald and brown mounds. I looked all around stowing away montages for later recollection.

The man-made structures are beautiful too. The buildings are nestled randomly but harmoniously on the contours of the hill. The settlements have grown unhurriedly in a quiet organic way. Their intention seems to be to coexist with the mountains not to conquer them. And they look as old as the mountains.

Our camp was very close to the monastery and we paid a visit. When we got out of there after a spell of intensely moving silence the sun was setting. The softening light made the terrain look a little more dramatic. Until dinner time I sat by myself on a hill just drinking it all in. Once I stepped out of the dining tent, the stars had come out in unabashed glory. Like so many other times in the day, it was difficult to stop staring.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Manali To Leh

When we started on the 500-km journey from Manali to Leh we had no idea that we were going to have more adventure on the journey than on the trek itself. Folks here have an extremely liberal definition for what constitutes a road. Can't really blame them because the elements are so cruel here. The first part of the journey was on one such poorly disguised road up the mountains to Rohtang pass which we navigated before sunrise. I've paid several dollars on fancy roller coasters and had much less fun on them than on the curves here. Tashi and Pooran, our nepali drivers, seemed at first to be insane to be driving so dangerously. At every turn I clenched my teeth, tightened my thighs, clasped my seat and curled my feet inside my shoes as if to prepare for an imminent slide downwards. After a few hours, though, I had numbed down and had in fact begun to appreciate the skill of the drivers. Yet, I distinctly remember thinking "what if.." several times. The awesome sunrise that lit up the peaks, however, made it all worth it.

After a refreshing breakfast at Keylong, we started again. The landscapes are stunning on this stretch. Most of us had our cameras sticking out of the window clicking in every direction. I vowed to come back here on this route on a motorbike some time in my life, because looking at these vistas through a window is not doing justice to them. At some point on the journey our collective exhaustion got the better of our wide-eyed wonder and most of us had dozed off. When we woke up, we realized that the Qualis wasn't behind us anymore.. On this stretch, at intervals of roughly 50-70 kms, there are tiny camps consisting of half a dozen parachute tents inhabited by tibetans who sell food and shelter to travelers. Sarchu is one such camp exactly midway between Manali and Leh. We were getting refreshed there when a Sardar came enquiring if we had companions traveling in a Qualis. He coolly informed us that it had toppled 20 kms away. It was hard to discern the meaning of his nonchalance; was he trying to reassure us, or was he hardened by the cruelties of this land? Chida and I immediately headed back in our Sumo. We reached there and realized that the Sardar's version was fairly accurate. Tashi had taken a sharp turn and had almost crashed into a rock that had fallen on the road in landslide. He had swerved sharply to avoid it, found himself driving towards the deep gorge that lined the road, had veered back towards the hillface and the vehicle had turned turtle in the process. When I saw the location of the accident I had a shiver run through my innards. I can't complain about our share of luck though; not one person was injured! The car didn't start, but between all the misfortunes that we could have possibly faced we gladly embraced this one. We left the car on a wide part of the road, came back to Sarchu and enjoyed hospitality that only tibetans can provide.

The next morning, Tashi had managed to coax the vehicle to life and we were on our way. What followed was my favorite part of the journey. Between Sarchu and Pang there lies a seemingly never-ending dust plateau that's lined by awesome mountains on all sides. The strangeness and the desolation of that 50km stretch can hardly be described. We stopped again for tea at Pang, and drove on continuously almost till Leh. Hot water baths and soft beds brought us tears of joy.

The return journey (after our trek that is) on this stretch was fascinating too. It was almost as long, except that this time our bodies were sore even before we boarded the cabs. Unexpected snowfall at Baralachla regaled us briefly but it was quickly back to the grind. To give you an example of how cruel these roads are, the Qualis we had hired lost its wheel alignment so bad that the vehicle kept curving to the right on its own. To add to the thrill, Sharmaji, our driver regularly opened the door to spit out his gutkha (which he explained he needed to eat because he hadn't brushed for 3 days). By the time we had reached Rohtang pass the tempers inside the vehicle were not amusing at all. If something can go wrong it will, right? The vehicle promptly got stuck in a slushy ditch and needed all of us and 4 drunk Sardars to lift it out. We reached Manali, once again, just before sunrise. We had been on the road almost continuously for 28 hours. This time just ARRIVING brought us tears.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Manali is a typical hill station. There are choodas wherever you look. There are also the fresh fruits. The lychees, for instance, are irresistible. As soon as we landed there C & I picked up a few kilos originally intended for the entire dozen of us. In the short ride to the hotel, between us, we had completely finished eating the pack.

From our guest house, we could see a nice little water fall cascading down a hill. We did a short two hour trek to the bottom of the falls. Some of us took bath there. In the evening we even made a little torch-light hike up a small hill and then stuffed ourselves with awesome paranthas. When I hit the sack I felt like I was at the end of a long distance flight; my tummy was uncomfortably full, my crapping cycles were awry and I felt like I had to catch up on a lot of sleep. The journey, however, had just begun. We had to make the really long journey from Manali to Leh in two vehicles- a Qualis and a Sumo- that were not designed for comfort at all.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ladakh Trek

I flew to Delhi on the 20th, on my way to Ladakh for a trek that I have been planning for years now.

I've been mocked at and ridiculed for my paranoia about missing a flight, train or bus. I usually end up at the place at least an hour before most sane people would. Chida, who prides himself on not being like me in any respect, is on the other end of the spectrum and usually gets a kick out of sneaking in while the doors are being shut. He sniggers at my cautiousness. This time, though, he missed the flight and it cost him Rs.10,000 and his perceived upperhand against me. I've resolved to not make him forget this goof-up in a hurry.

Of all the rewards of a vacation, one of my favorites is forgetting the day of the week. I have just returned from such a time-warp, and I'm incapable of talking about my Ladakh trip as a chronologically ordered travelogue. So the next set of posts would be about all random things worth mentioning from the trek.

Friday, June 19, 2009


There's something transcendental about talking to SR. Yesterday she was telling me how she got a big-shot executive to dish out enough money to pay for uniforms for students in half a dozen rural schools. I asked her how she does it and she says "Men easily agree when they are asked by a beautiful single girl". Not an earth-shattering discovery for me but I marvel at the way she says it. There are no traces of hubris. She's not being coy, resigned, smug or smart-alecky. I had signed up to help her on a project that she's working tirelessly on. Apart from throwing my thoughts around I've done precious little. She summed it up "You get your kicks out of intellectual masturbation. You've got to start doing something". Once again, nothing that I didn't know before but she manages to say it without judgement. She's not being dismissive and she's not trying to provoke me. She seems to have embraced every little reality around her and that lends her an innocence that's rather amusing. And very refreshing.

I'm an atheist, and she has dedicated her life to the service of her Guru. At first sight, our personal philosophies have no common meeting ground. But whenever I meet her, I'm always left with a slightly altered world-view. This world can't be a bad place, because a person of her authenticity thrives here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Too late to be pessimistic

A.T. gave me this incredibly simple piece of logic. Divide all the earth's resources- everything from energy, food, water, etc- and divide it by the human population. Of course, due to the enormity of the calculation, and the complexity of the parameters this is going to be conjecture. So fix your own baseline, even if it means eating 45 kilos of red meat every year and driving a hummer. Now, next year the denominator would have increased by quite a bit but the numerator wouldn't have. Stated another way, since the population has increased, your ration has reduced this year. What that means is that if you do not have a reduced footprint this year compared to the last one, you are not living it right! And yet, every definition of success in contemporary culture revolves around increasing your claims on this planet. Buy the SUV, get the dream home, fill your passport with visas, get a bigger paycheck. Once you've done all that, upgrade everything.

Pessimism is a safe place. Too often I've hid behind the excuse of the hopelessness of it all. After all, this requires not incremental changes but total upheavals of our core values. This week, I came across these two links (Paul Hawken's speech and Yann Arthus-Bertrand's TED talk), both from vastly different sources but both with the message "It's too late to be pessimistic". Let me start by acknowledging the people around me that have made the plunge into figuring out what else can replace the traditional success metrics. Pat on the back to the few others who are on the threshold. May your tribe increase. May your fire never die out.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The 6-AM-Wedding

Weddings were a lot of fun when we were kids. We have a huge extended family and these ceremonies were the best excuses for all the cousins and second cousins to meet each other. As we grew up, as an unfortunate offshoot of adulthood, each of us collected prejudices, snobbishness, judgements and biases and the set of people that we looked forward to meeting kept shrinking. Besides, as we inherited the responsibility for running a part of the show, these occasions became less about people and more about the rituals. You would have people running around in auto-pilot mode fixing details without a clue why they are doing it. One person panicking that there is not enough camphor, another distraught that the betel leaves are not folded the right way and a third giving the heavy metal band cues to play the right riffs. The rituals became so much larger than life that I've seen people in my family ostracize others due to disagreements over what ceremonies to follow.

Early today, I realized that I don't have a problem with rituals if people don't attach too much of a significance to them. Macha got married this morning. At 6:30 AM! That's when people are probably at their most benign. The rituals happened, but nobody seemed to have their tails on fire. Then there was Macha bringing his classy unperturbability to everything he does. It was a very pleasant wedding. Everybody should follow this template. Happy married life Macha!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunfeast 10k run - second edition

The weather was gorgeous this year. I knew the contours of the route really well. Knowing which parts slope up and which sections slope down, I had imagined, would help me pace myself better. I thought I even had practised better this time. Which is why I was a little disappointed that I ran only slightly better than last year - 53 minutes. I kept good pace till the 8th km, but the energy I had hoped would be there for the last burst didn't show up. The sense of accomplishment that I felt after the race last year was missing.

This morning, however, when I woke up, all the muscles in my lower body registered their protest in unison. You might see me grimace when I climb down the stairs today, but trust me I'm not complaining. I've never felt more alive.