Saturday, July 11, 2015

Did Buddha follow the middle path ?



Gautama Buddha advocated the middle path.  The middle path is at odds with the extreme path. In this post, I will claim that Buddha did not practice what he preached. He talked about the middle path, but did the exact opposite. I will also use colloquial "chill-talk" to make the story appealing to read. Fogies, sorry. 

This is my understanding of Buddha. His fundamental axiom is that all life is suffering. Ok. Maybe, it's not 100% true with 1st world awesomeness, but let's go with the dude for a moment. He headed out of his awesome palace, saw a bunch of people suffering and decided to go out into the woods and find himself. Purportedly, he starved and went through severe austerity ( wonders of youth! ). Does this sound like the middle path?

Anyway, he figured out the "hedonic treadmill". Neurons stop firing once the same pleasure stimulus is always present. He claimed that desire, attachment and a whole bunch of other "comfort, convenience and security" based responses are not good for long term pleasure. Short term it's all cool, but in the long-term womp womp womp. Pretty cool. Kudos to Buddha for figuring this out without the interwebzz..  

Then what did he do ? He figured out the middle path. What about the austere path? "Not" pleasure can mean a bunch a things. (1) Some pleasure (2) Some pleasure some pain (3) All pain. How did he reject (1) and (3) and settle on (2) ? Someone with better knowledge of Buddha please enlighten me. 

Then, he set out to spread the message of the middle path throughout the Asia. Making him feel special no doubt. He must have gone through rain, thirst, deceit, danger, cold, famine,.... also not getting bored. DOES THIS SOUND "MIDDLE" ? 


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Rich beyond $$$ - Part I



Everyone tries very hard to be rich ; or at least fantasizes about riches. I too wish to be rich and roll in the green carpet of $$$. Won't it be just fine to have a palatial Victorian era house ?  A couple of golden retrievers prancing around in the well manicured gardens ? How about stepping out from a Bentley in casual yet trendy golf attire. However, I am much too aware of my own fallibility in the face of "Hedonic Adaptation".  Put simply - "I get bored of eating the same cake". 

So what, you might counter ? You can always find the next thing that entertains you. Isn't that what rich people do ? Sure, and such is the end game of richness for most middle class citizens.  However, I am interested in being truly rich. Rich beyond my wildest imaginations. Not a shallow sort of richness that comes from owning one thing after another. Flitting in cold sweat trying to fill the existential vaccum of modern consumerist society. Such fake richness is mere slavery ; bonded to the chains of material possessions. 

Aha! You have a solution you say. Invest in life you say. Live a little you say. After all we only live once - YOLO!  How about taking that trip to Rome ? How about that whale watching cruise near Seattle ? How about that Broadway musical ? The cirque de soleil show ? How about that pub crawl in downtown SF? This fancy ale ? That wine and cheesing tasting ? Thai ?  Mongolian? Ethiopian ?... Excellent. I think you nailed it.

Still something nags me. Something doesn't seem quite right. Something that creeps up my spine while driving along Highway 101 ; after  an evening spent doing yuppie things. Something that gently scratches away in a little corner of my mind while the rest of it is engaged trying to plan the next weekend fun experience. I still feel quite trapped. Did I just substitute owning "things" with owning "experiences" ? 

..... More about true richness to follow in Part II ..... (Yes, it involves running but other things mostl )

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Leaders vs Managers














Nobody wants to be a manager ; everyone wants to be a leader. So let's compare the two. A leader is a visionary with grand goals in mind ; the manager meets deadlines. The leader has scores of people worshiping him  ; everyone despises their overbearing manager. The leader inspires ; the manager dictates. The leader takes bold risks ; the manager maintains status quo. And so on..

TED talks and innumerous self help books will convince you to be a leader rather than a manager. Even MBA schools don't really manufacture managers ; they attempt to mold the "future leaders of the world".

So why is the manager an ass ? Is it because that managers are inherently evil people and are attracted to that job profile ? I would argue that it's simply a case of "long-term" vs "short-term" thinking. What's good for your company in the short term isn't necessarily beneficial in the long term. On the other hand, if the world was full of long term idealists, nothing would ever get done. In nerd speak - Attempt the local optimization problem in order to solve the global one.

That's why I loved the movie Lincoln. It shows tension between leaderliness and managerliness. I shall leave you with a quote from the movie -
"A compass, I learned when I was surveying, it'll... it'll point you True North from where you're standing, but it's got no advice about the swamps and deserts and chasms that you'll encounter along the way. If in pursuit of your destination, you plunge ahead, heedless of obstacles, and achieve nothing more than to sink in a swamp... What's the use of knowing True North? " - Abraham Lincoln


Sunday, September 8, 2013

HIMYM and the "Urban Tribe"


I regret to say this, but HIMYM (How I met your mother), a popular television series,  encourages the "urban tribe"  The urban trive is a bunch of guys in their twenties who graduated from college and have no clue what to do with their lives. They populate coffee shops, art museums, outdoor rec and yes, Grad schools. Guys go get a life!!

Ted Mosby?? No. If you want the girl of your dreams, go ask her. If she tells you to go for a hike, so what ? Enjoy the hike ! Please, don't let the comfort and security of the urban tribe comfort you into a life of non-doing. Our time on this planet is limited. Do you want make something of it or not????


Friday, August 30, 2013

Blood lust love - Bats

What does a  chugging a full gallon of milk have to do with bats ? Not the slightest clue ; but apparently that's what my dream plays in my head while I have the blood sucked out of me by my vampire friend. 

She came unannounced in the dead of night. Through a secret crack only she knows where. She thought me a tad lonely and offered her savage company. She flew to the rooftop, hovered in silence and observed in bloodthirsty anticipation.  I slept a pleasant sleep, callously comfortable and blissfully unaware.

She was hanging out in my bedroom
She liked what she saw, she licked her lips. She told herself it was now time to feed. She swooped down below, quiet as the night and perched softly by my naked feet. She drooled her anaesthetic, she spared me the pain. She drew her fangs, as sharp as they come. There was blood, but not a drop wasted. This continued on, for god knows how long. I lay peacefully;  in my blissful ignorance.

This is where she made love to me

I thought I heard something move.  I looked at the watch -  2:30 AM. Thoughts can be groggy, at such times of the night. Something seemed odd, I couldn't quite tell. I turned on the lights. Still nothing.  Still no idea of the carnage that had transpired. I got up nevertheless, and took a small walk. She hid in the corners, too ashamed to admit her lust. The guilt eventually got the better of her and she made her appearance. A bewildered me ran for cover, while she flew her sorties, banking and turning, all around my little room. She was not welcome, I made it clear. But she would not leave, she demanded her rights ; You and I are in this together now, she exclaimed.  She was inconsolable, she wanted a relationship. A one night stand is all I could offer. So she left and it broke her heart.

A day has passed, a day spent in the hospital. Getting injection after injection, inoculation after inoculation. I am petrified to fall sleep. Lest she find me again, vulnerable as ever, the love of her life.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sweat on my Face



Nothing feels so relieving,
  than summiting a long hill run.
Nothing feels more empowering,
  than a sprint to the finish.
Nothing feels so deserving,
  than the beer after.
All this does not rival,
  not even by the farthest measure.
The joy of feeling,
  sweat on my face.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Are you a man or a mouse ?



That moment.
When you are huffing and puffing.
Chugging to the hilltop.
The salty sweat on your brow
creeping into your eyes.
It burns and scathes
but you scarcely notice.
 
That moment.
When your vision narrows.
Fixing its gaze to the top.
When breathing seems like
a delightful luxury.
When all you want is
STOP! STOP! MERCY!

That moment.
..................
You are reminded.
Of great men and their
4 minute miles.
Revealing the greatness within you.
to be a man, not a mouse.






Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chennai WTFeries



Home is in the port city of chennai which can be both humid and hot. After a long flight from JFK strapped in a tiny airline seat I was itching to go for a run. Jet lag helped me wake up early in the morning, I strapped on my shoes, grabbed my hand held water bottles and off I went for a run. I  was glad to be running in the beautiful IIT campus and I was grateful to my parents for choosing a location so close to great running.

Hardly had I gone a mile and I felt sapped. I was sweating bullets and my core was overheating rapidly. I soon realized that running in Chennai is way harder than the milder weather in Pittsburgh. I looked like I had jumped into a swimming pool. I was engaged in conversation with self and I told myself that this was training and it would make me stronger.

My soliloquy was interrupted by a random stranger on the sidewalk. He was a big, pot bellied, mustache wielding,  untucked-white-shirt-with-speckles-of-sweat-kollywood-villain kind of guy. He called out to me and said "Saaaar, Waaater". It took me sometime to process his request. He actually wanted me to give him a drink of water. Does he not see that I look like a science hydration project, drenched in sweat from head to toe ? Did it not cross his mind that between the two of us that he might not need the water as badly as I did ? I was amazed at the WTFery of the situation. It was so funny. Ofcourse, I had to give him my bottle.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

I could use a smoke...


I completely get why America runs on dunkin donuts, coffee and a nice long cigarette break. I am not a smoker and only have a romantic idea of the concept of smoking. I could use a smoke even though I have very little idea of what that means. I felt this way after grading an undergrad exam taken by more than 130 students. The grading lasted for more than 10 hours straight followed by the extremely enjoyable experience of having to enter those grades subpart by subpart into an excel spreadsheet. It was 1:30 AM when I finished, my brain was scrambled and my only thought was "I could use a smoke." 




Monday, December 31, 2012

Gabira sits by the window


A fiction piece that really has no meaning or purpose. Don't read too much into it. Gabira is sitting by her window and writing this piece.

Hi. My name is Gabira. The day is Monday and the time is 4:32 pm. Well, it really is 4:20 pm but my watch is always a little ahead. It's a habit that I seem to have developed off late. The watch on my wrist is 12 mins ahead. My mobile phone is 6 mins ahead. My bedside clock is 1 hour 34 minutes ahead. A combination of daylight savings, weak battery and basic apathy were the cause for this large time skew. There is nothing wrong with the watch and the mobile phone. They are sped up on purpose. I think it helps me be on time. Though I am not entirely sure. A scientific experiment logging the duration and times I was late would help decide. But that's too much work and not of much consequence. I think I won't be late if I don't want to. Issue is, it's too much effort to want to.

My ex-boyfriend gifted me a scented candle. I think I mentioned to him once that I seemed to like nice smelling things. He was a nice guy and quite rad too. I think eventually the spark died between us. I have his candle nevertheless. I light it now and then. I lit it today. It no longer smells like it once did . The years have beaten the smells into submission. The candle sits by my window. Seems like a good place for a candle. I was thinking of placing it near my bedside but then it might become a potential fire hazard with all the books lying around. I need to get the fire alarm fixed in my apartment. I once took the effort to inform the super. He replaced it but it still doesn't work. How do I know ? Well I nearly set the tortilla on fire the other day. There was black smoke bellowing yet no alarm. Can you believe that ? I think I should call the super again. I probably won't end up though. Firstly, it's too much effort. Secondly, I am kind of hesitant to tell him that fire alarm he fixed last time doesn't work. That's the annoying thing with these alarms. The only way you can test them is by causing the actual emergency. It's too much effort to explain to him that I nearly recreated the emergency situation sometime back. Here. I go belaboring again and overthinking something so simple as calling the super.

The world outside is going dark now. Damn this time of the year. No, I take it back. I kind of like this time of the year. The evening gloom is sexy in a sort of way. Gloom and Melonchalia are emotions too. I don't cherish it but it makes me feel something. Feeling emotions is important. It reminds me that I am alive. Normally this time in the evening would be quite depressing. But It's snowing now. With intermittent gusts of wind too. I think it adds more character to the snowfall. Like its angry and has some emotion. The size of the snow flakes seem to be growing in size too. I've noticed this happening with every snowfall. It starts with tiny flakes until it grows into these big giant ones. The tiny ones don't cause the roads to get whitened out. I think we are in for some whitening out tonight. Yes, the dark is getting deeper. The streetlights are more prominent now. The candle too. Notice, I referred to it as 'the candle' and not 'my candle'. I still can't bring myself to say my candle. I know he gifted it to me and it belongs to me. Still it seems kind of alien. I can burn it though and watch the flames flicker and dance their enchanting dance to a background of a bleak, grim and cold new year's eve.

-- Gabira (Gabby)




Thursday, November 22, 2012

Moderation



Two weeks ago, I turned 25. It's one of those numbers that are supposed to mark some sort of milestones such as 18, 21, 30, 40, etc. I think I was supposed to party wildly and get wasted. That's what 25 years olds are supposed to do. Your 25th birthday party is kind of like a bachelor's party. Only difference you is that you get married to adulthood and she doesn't accept divorce papers. I have also also been told that it's a time for reflection. Where you look at how your life has panned out so far and make some new plans for course correction. I did no such thing. I had other weightier things on my mind.

I was not able to run. In a previous post, I had mentioned that I had dropped out while running an ultramarathon complaining from hip pain. Days and weeks passed but the pain just would not go away. I was unable to run, bike, swim and even climb up stairs. I googled for the symptoms, obsessed over it and came to the conclusion that it was a hip stress fracture. In the worst case, the socket could destabilize and lead to necrosis followed by rapid arthritis. I panicked and made an appointment with UPMC sports medicine right away.

An X-ray did not show anything. These stress fractures can be sneaky. They rarely come up on X-ray film unless it's a clean break. Microscopic fractures accumulated within the the femoral neck need more powerful imaging techniques such as an MRI(Magnetic resonance imaging). I never thought the day would come when I would be stuck inside a giant rotating magnet. Nail biting days followed while I waited on the MRI results.

I was seated in a sanitized medical examination room while I waited for the doctor to come in. It was a near courtroom scene. I was the defendant charged with pushing my body till it broke. The Jury was out while they discussed my fate. Finally the doctor arrived along with a few interns and they poured over my results. Eventually I was told that it was all fine. There was no hip stress fracture or its like. My psoas/hip flexor muscles were visibly injured though. I was sent back with a prescription for complete rest for 4-6 weeks. No funny business.

The hip is not the only thing wrong with me. My left shoulder is really messed up. My knee creaks and I keep getting corns on my feet. Well at 25, my body is either falling apart or complaining vociferously for me to calm the hell down. Running is the only thing I have that keeps me sane in this mad mad world and I can't afford to carelessly throw it away.

So my 25 year old lesson is "Moderation". It's not that I am going to temper my goals in life. Instead, give it the respect it deserves. Not mediocrity but moderation. Moderation in expectation. Moderation in planning and moderation in execution. You have to build up to your goals. One step at a time. One mile at a time. If it doesn't happen, so be it. The process is worth much more than the result.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Failure tastes like

Yesterday, I failed to complete the Oil Creek 100 ultramarathon. It was an emotionally devastating experience for me. I had gotten used to a feeling of invincibility since I completed an Ironman triathlon this August. The woods and hills of oil creek state park grabbed a handful of my ego, flung it left and right, stomped on it and shattered it to a million little pieces. I was humbled. The rest of this post has details of this disaster. So if schadenfreude turns you on, it might be worth 5 minutes of your time.

An ultramarathon or ultra is any distance over a marathon distance (26.2 miles/42 km). Any ultra worth its salt is typically more than 100 km/62miles and is almost always run on trails. It usually features woods, hills and night time running. Ultras had always fascinated me and I wanted to run one of them eventually. The Oil creek ultra offers distances of 50K,100K and 100 miles. I signed up for the 100K, thinking that it would be a stepping stone to a 100 mile race someday.  Unfortunately, I was completely naive to the challenges of running an ultra.

The oil creek course has a loop format with each loop being 50K/31miles long. It means that you leave the start point, run in the cold and rain for 50K, make it back to the start point. Then do it again. Leaving the aid station to get back on the loop can be a huge mental battle. The night before the race was spent packing and arranging my gear. Races as long as these don't just involve t-shirt and shoes. A great deal of planning with respect to hydration, warmth and night time running needs to be taken into account.

A map of the Oil creek state park course

The race started promptly at 6AM and would last for 32 hours. It was completely dark and the temperature was below freezing(28F). The first aid station was 7 miles away. I tried to keep up with a runner in a blue jacket. I named him the Zen runner. He didn't speak a word, didn't look back and just kept running at a steady pace. I slipped and fell a few times, but he managed to nimbly avoid the roots and the slick sections. Years of experience, no doubt. I got into the zone after a while. Nothing but me, and my headlamp, hot on the heels of Zen runner.

The first aid station arrived and so did sunrise. Sunrise is so beautiful as it makes it way up the hills and sneaks through the trees. I was feeling great at this point. I stopped for a drink but Zen runner just took off. It felt like a train leaving and my heart sunk. Determined not to fall behind, I sprinted to catch up with Zen runner. He still didn't say a word, but I enjoyed the silent companionship of a great runner. It was on a downhill, that Zen runner did something strange. He pointed down on the trail and said "Pipe". Yes, there was a pipe crossing the trail and I would have tripped on it had he not mentioned it. So he did speak and he did know that someone was behind him. We crossed the Oil derricks around mile 12. Pennsylvania used to have a number of oil fields back in the day. Now, it gets it from Saudi Arabia.
Oil derricks at the Oil creek state park

My muscles were beginning to feel tight when we reached Aid station #2 at mile 14. I decided to stop and fill up my hydration pack. Zen runner was already gone and this time I didn't follow him. The grass around the aid station was white and covered with frost. There was steam coming off my body which must have been quite a sight. I was already cold by the time I left the aid station. It was a lonely stretch with more uphills and technical slippery running.

My hydration system with water bladder

I had hardly gone a few miles when it hit. My hamstrings cramped and so did my spirit. It was really upsetting. I had barely completed a quarter of the distance and I was already reduced to a walk. I took another electrolyte pill and reached for my hydration tube for a sip of water. I sucked hard on the tube but nothing came out. The water in the tube was frozen. By now, I was nearly gagging on the pill lodged in the middle of my throat. I desperately opened the main lid of the hydration system and gulped down a bunch, spilling water all over my hand. My nerves were rattled and my hand was freezing.

The cramping eventually got better, but I completely lost my initial running form. It was now a painful slow shuffle back to race HQ for 15 miles. Every uphill seemed like Mt Everest and I was getting passed by other runners left, right and center. My spirit was sinking faster than the Titanic and I really wanted to get back to the start point. All those salt pills were making me nauseated and I even dry heaved once. I was ready to throw in the towel and quit, if only I could make it back out of the woods. Everything hurt from neck down. Somehow, I trudged along, taking liberal walking breaks.

I was sure I was almost back, when this additional 1 mile section appeared from nowhere.  What's one more mile after completing 30 miles ? I can tell you, it completely devastated me. I was on my knees, face in my hands ready to break down into tears. I couldn't do it anymore. The ultra owned me and I was its bitch. There was constant loud metallic clanging in the background coming from an old oil pump. That horrid sound..! Clang ! Clang ! It was mocking my pathetic state. I looked into myself and all I saw was utter complete defeat. All I could think of was my lack of proper training. Waves of pain coursed all over my body. That mile was truly nightmarish. Eventually, I willed myself to make it back to the start line.

At race HQ, there were other runners. Some stopped briefly and took off for the next loop. Some had finished their 50K and were now jubilant and resting. Some had quit and then there were some like me. Dazed and emotionally wrecked but had still not quit. One of the race volunteers, a really nice gentleman, did all he could to get me back on my feet. He got me steaming ramen noodles, tomato soup and pretty much anything I wanted. He motivated me to take it one mile at a time and focus only on getting to the next aid station. Time wise, I had plenty. I had 24 hours to complete another 50K. Even if I walked, took tea breaks and went fishing I could complete it. Problem is, I didn't want to. The comfort and warmth of the aid station was too much to get back on the unforgiving and gnarly trail.

I rested a bit, stretched, and even rolled my muscles. I needed more motivation to get out there. I called my parents and told them of my plight. I expected a motivational speech from my dad and all I got was "Don't go. We are proud of you anyway. You should be focusing on your college work." That didn't help one bit. In fact, I found it quite funny. Here I was battling my personal demons, and my own parents were actually telling me to take the easy way out. That lifted my mood. I strapped on my shoes and out I went on the second loop.

Everything hurt and my muscles were super tight. But I was determined to get going. In fact, I even started running at a 9 min mile pace. It felt good, and I was running at a steady clip for around 4 miles. Unfortunately, the pain started getting worse and my hip joint felt terribly sore. I took a walking break and then my mind started drifting. I started thinking. Thinking is the runners worst enemy. It will take a determined individual and ruin them with craftily constructed logic and temptation. I started running the numbers with my pace, hours of sunshine, weather forecasts etc. I even realized I had not seen a single runner on the trail for the last 4 miles. By now, I was deep inside the woods.  We were warned of bears on the trail. I began hearing things. Every noise got magnified. An eerie sense of loneliness and fear came over me.

I knew the next aid station was 3 miles away. I tried running, but got a sharp searing pain in my hip as a response. I had injured something for sure. Clouds had moved over and it accentuated the gloom. I couldn't imagine being out alone in the woods at night with the cold and rain looming. I was ready to quit. A conversation with self ensued.

Me: "It's hurting a lot. Stop. You'll do permanent damage"
I : "Pain is just a feeling. It is temporary."
Me : " You should have trained more. This is the result of inadequate preparation."
I : "True. But whatever it maybe, I am not a quitter."
Me : "What are you trying to prove ? That you can complete anything despite proper preparation? That you are superman ?"
I : "No. But umm. Quitting is bad. I think"
Me : "Applying will power without preparation is bull headedness. Will power with preparation is admirable."
I : "Yeah. That kind of makes sense.But..umm.."

The result was pre concluded. I reached the next aid station limping and quit. Back at race HQ, I was quite disappointed. I tried not to think about it and put myself to use. I ended up crewing for my friends Jason, Sam and Brian. Jason managed to finish the full 100 miles despite having severe back pain. It made me a feel a lot better, that I had a small role to play in his success.
Jason's well deserved belt buckle

Ultramarathons aren't about you or me. The race is much bigger than any of us. Our notions of self-importance, fade into insignificance when faced with an enormous challenge such as an ultra. It is much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I can tell you, when you are back at race HQ, every fibre of your body hurts and it's cold and dark outside, it takes a mountain of will to head back out. It can break even the toughest individuals.

In all fairness to myself, I didn't do so bad. 60km/37 miles is the longest I've ever run. It's a new personal record. Also, there's a large drop out rate for ultras.  These races demands a huge deal of both mental and physical training. I was flying high after my previous achievements but Oil Creek humbled me into submission. Will I do it again ? Right now, I don't want to think about it. Failure tastes really bitter. It's the medicine I need right now.




Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The melody of Edith Piaf


Dear Reader, I will label the last week, the "Edith Piaf" week. Last weekend, I was re-arranging my music playlist when I couldn't resist playing "La vie en rose" one more time. I closed my eyes as the melody swept over me. In fact, I am listening to her as I write this post. One thing lead to another and I spent the whole weekend listening to her. Googling about her life, I found that there was a movie about her. Are you kidding me?? What a find..! So I spent most of Monday watching the movie and listening to her music again. Her story is one of the rags to riches type, meteoric rise, drugs, sex, alcohol, heartbreak followed by deep depression. Yes, you can hear it in her songs too. So, I've been pretty much been soaking in the emotion of her songs in the last few days. Guess what, I went down to the coffee place at work today and there she was, playing in the foyer. Apparently, the server at Tazza loves her music too and she played the full 'Best of Edith Piaf' album. Bliss...!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ismael, the hawker


Let me tell you the story of Ismael, the hawker. Ismael was born in a village near the Van region of Turkey. Van is in the eastern edge of Turkey and home to the gorgeous lake Van. Despite its beauty Van's claim to fame is due to another reason, albeit a tragic one. Van is notorious for earthquakes that levels its towns and cities. The region cannot boast of the wealth of the Istanbul and its people often have to make do with very little. It was in these trying conditions that Ismael was born into. Like most young men with big dreams, Ismael headed out west to Istanbul. The years passed but Ismael's dreams did not materialize. To be rich you must either be a crook or a king and sometimes both. His initial frustration gradually settled into tacit acceptance.

Today, Ismael roams the ferry stations of Istanbul hawking fare cards. Several thousands of people use the ferries everyday to cross the Strait of Bosphorus, traveling between Asia and Europe to get to work everyday. The busier ones amongst these worker bees are Ismael's customers. They don't have time to stand in line at the ticketing queues. Perhaps, I looked like one. Ismael approached me, shouting at the top of his lungs, "Istanbulkarte..! Istanbulkarte..!". I politely declined. He noticed the bag of mandarin oranges in my hands. He then coolly reached into my bag of oranges, took out an orange, looked at me, nodded his head and walked away shouting "Istanbulkarte..! Istanbulkarte..!". I was more amused than flustered. Individuality and "minding-my-own-business" had so far been a critical part of my western education. Unfortunately, Ismael didn't think too much of it.

He hadn't gone very far. He was trying to sell his wares to a woman who looked quite overburdened. An infant in one hand and a bag of groceries in another. She could do with some help but couldn't afford Ismael's prices. Again, Ismael took matters into his own hands. He took her money, walked to the head of the ticketing queue and pleaded with the officer at the counter. He motioned animatedly in her direction and explained her plight. Eventually, he returned with a fare card for her. On he went shouting "Istanbulkarte..! Istanbulkarte..!". Ismael had carved out for himself a sense of justice and fairness. In his world, pilfering oranges and helping women in distress were both the right thing to do. I can just imagine, Ismael as a proud knight in the medevial ages, swinging his sword in glorious battle.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mind-Body separation for dummies



In this tutorial we will cover -
1. Why mind-body separation ?
2. How mind-body separation ?
3. How to enjoy mind-body separation state ?

Why mind-body separation ?
Your mind is a wondrous thing. It is the seat of consciousness. It is so abstract and so completely integrated with our concept of self that we take it for granted. Wouldn't it be a wonderful experience to step back and perceive your mind as a separate entity ? One that is disjoint from your body ? If life is about seeking interesting experiences then this is one of the gems.

How mind-body separation ?
There are a variety of methods. Meditation, psychotropic drugs and alcohol are popular choices. There are a variety of meditation styles and techniques. None of which I am qualified to talk about, hence I will safely skip meditation as a mind-body separating instrument. Mind altering drugs are certainly effective but are limited by accessibility and may have undesirable side-effects. Alcohol is probably the best bet in achieving some form of mind-body separation. It is also the method that most audiences can relate to. That heady feeling, the numbness in your limbs all go into pointing you in the right direction. But it also makes some people rather boisterous and annoying. Which takes the focus away from the goal of enjoying the state of mind-body separation.

Instead, I will elaborate upon the method that I do have some experience with - Running. I have replicated some of the same results with swimming and biking as well. I believe that they translate across most categories of endurance sports.

In your first few attempts it might be better to try this indoors on a treadmill as there tend to be lesser distractions. Work up a sweat with a comfortable running pace. Hold this pace for a while till your body begins to feel fatigued. Your legs will begin to feel heavy and your breathing will become labored. Something around 20-30 mins ballpark. If you have a heart-rate monitor it should be around 150 bpm. Now pick up the pace such that you are huffing and puffing. Your heart rate monitor should now show something around 165 bpm. This is tough, hang in there. Bust out another 10 mins. Overcome the urge to stop or slow down. Now, summon your strong. Pick up the pace another notch and hang in there for the next 15 mins. Your heart rate will climb further probably crossing the 170 mark. Your body will now beg to stop. It will scream and shout at you for mercy. But your mind will not allow it. In fact your mind and your body are now at odds with each other. Your body will do what your mind tells it. You have now achieved mind-body separation.

How to enjoy and explore this feeling ?
It's an amazing feeling. Focus on how tenuous the thread connecting your mind and body is. All that you had taken for granted as your notion of self, is actually not. Ponder the following questions - Are you your body ? Are you your mind ? Who are you ?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

People you meet


It's amazing the kind of interesting people you meet randomly. This morning I was on the bus to Seattle. I usually keep to myself but my ears perked when I heard someone ask "how many different combinations can you get from a byte?". It was a dad posing this to what looked like a 10 year old kid. The kid then cocked his head to the sky and responded in a tone like his whole life pride depended on solving this puzzle." Ummm there are 8 bits in a byte. And each bit can take 2 values. So that's two times two times two ...eight times" . I was so impressed. I had to examine closely. The dad had in his hand a book called "the algorithm design manual by Skiena". This happened to be one of my favorite books. I could hold myself no longer. I had to make small talk. "Is that a skiena?" , I interjected, perhaps a little too abruptly. "What's that ?" came the reply. I then proceeded to explain how the book he was holding in his hand was one of the best. He nodded in agreement. I also ventured to ask if his son was interested in computers. His dad then said "We're on our way to the University of Washington for my son's math lessons. He is taking classes on Topology for 5th graders". My jaw half dropped. All that came out of my mouth was "That's very impressive!".

Their stop came and they got off. I was still in awe of that child who was sure to become one of the greatest minds of our age. Meanwhile, I hadn't noticed the scraggy looking man sitting on the seat beside me. He then turned to me and said, "So you said you work on search engines?". This man looked like he had just returned from an arctic expedition. He had matted hair, a weathered face and his jeans were torn at places. My mind was already unconsciously trying to guess what he did for a living and how much of computers he actually knew. Was he a crazy hacker ? a hippie with an interest in computers? a madman ? Anyway, I replied in the affirmative. He then said very proudly - "You know, I wrote a search engine in HTML". Wait, what ? HTML ? That doesn't sound right. I then proceeded to voice these concerns to him. "Well, you know it's not perfect, it uses name refs and the program has around Ten thousand lines of code". That did not at all sound like a search engine. I settled on the madman theory as his chosen profession. He wouldn't stop talking about how his program could look up information about herbs and plants. I thought it was time to ask him if he had heard of PHP and MySQL. He listened, nodded and replied, almost apologetically " I thought I would learn about HTML by making this search engine. I also learned about C++ and linux. I started learning programming about a year ago". I thought I didnt't hear him right. Did he say a year ago ? "And what did you do before that ?". "I was a construction worker. Still am". He then turned to his side and took out his hard hat and ear muffs to show me as proof. Again my jaw half dropped, and all I could bring myself to say was "That's very impressive!".

Monday, October 10, 2011

Coyote Ugly



This morning was a typical morning in this part of the world. Cold, dark and rainy. The moisture and I have come to terms with each other. In fact, there is a special kind of attachment I have to some rainy and gloomy cities. For e.g. I love Paris in the rain, I love Pittsburgh in the rain and I do love Seattle in the rain. Ofcourse, I would prefer it to be sunny and the air to be crisp. But there is a special beauty in rain. The weekend was mostly spent sedentarily and I was itching to get out and about. So, I did what I can do. I strapped on my shoes and ran right past the bus stop. Today I was going to run to work.

I have been wanting to explore some new routes for a while. There is one "Bridle trail" that lies on the route to work. The trails in Washington are a little different from the ones in Pennsylvania in my opinion. The western Washington region gets significant rain and so there are lot more tall looming trees. Trees such as Pines, Firs, Cedars, Junipers, Birches and Cottonwoods spread throughout the region. This usually ends up providing a much denser forest cover. The Bridle trail goes right through one of these forest covers. It's a wide trail, wide enough for a horses and perhaps even a jeep to come through. I was happily ploughing down the trail, enjoying the crunch crunch noise my feet were making against the ground. Up ahead in the trail, I caught a glimpse of something moving.

It was just a dog. But something didn't seem very cute doggylike about it. There was no human in sight nor did it have a collar. It had a huge fluffy tail and looked more like a fox or a wolf. But it didn't seem large enough for a wolf. In all probability it was a Coyote. Meanwhile, I was still running towards that creature, whatever it was. It saw me coming and snuck into the bushes. At this point I could do an about turn and run right back. But I just kept going straight ahead. I honestly did not know how to respond to this situation. I had never ever imagined a scenario wherein I would run into a Coyote while on a trail run. So, I kept running ahead. I rationalized in my head, with what I knew about Coyotes. They were pack hunting K9s, that usually attacked other smaller dogs, chicken and sometimes human babies. I was too big a prey for it. Also, I knew that animals are excellent in sensing fear and hesitation. If I stopped, I would be basically be waving fear with a big red flag. So, I kept running towards it. Mostly out of indecision. Part of me wanting to get the hell out of there and the other part being courageous.

I came to where it was and I could see it now. Lurking in the bushes. I looked into its eyes, and it looked back. There was nothing cute about this doggy. It was a wild hunting animal with a cold gleam in its eyes. I ran past it as my heart skipped several beats. I kept looking over my shoulder, imagining that it would come chasing right after me. But he was in no mood for that. He sauntered across the trail, probably trying to get shelter from the rain. And I ran right ahead going Beep Beep..! This road runner had just given the Coyote a slip.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nature, Mountains and Near Death (Part 1)

This blogpost is the first in a four part series about one of my adventures in the mountains in Washington State. You can read the next article in the series here -

Dear Reader, It has been a while since I have written a blogpost. Quite a few incidents have happened in my life since. Many of them make interesting stories. However there is one particular story that is a delight to both tell and listen to. What makes this story exciting for me personally is that I was in the thick of it. Some may find this story exciting and adventurous. While others may think it disturbing and immature. Whatever it is that you feel, I kindly request you to reserve judgement till the end. There are four parts to this series and each deals with a different frame of mind. You will find that I have been liberal in throwing in my personal thoughts and opinions from time to time. I request you to be patient with the prose and read through till the end. I have tried to be as factually accurate as possible while doing justice to the writer's pen. I make no tall claims when I say that this story has changed my life. I hope that you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed telling it.

I presently live in the beautiful city of Seattle which is in Washington state. During the weekdays I intern in a big corporation while in the weekends I head out to explore the wonders of this beautiful region. Being situated on the pacific coast and receiving ample rain makes it green all year round. Tall Cedars and Douglas Firs greet you as you step into the woods. Outdoor activities are very popular in this region, demonstrated by the existence of three REI outlets in Seattle alone. Keeping up with this fervor, I head out to the mountains every weekend for small day hikes. I am part of various mailing lists that send callouts for meeting up to make these trips. One Tuesday, I was delightfully pleased when I saw a new hike announced for the coming weekend. It was sent by a certain Viktor, who I presumed was the hike leader. I pounced on this hike callout as I skimmed its contents. You see, In my mind I usually categorize hikes to be easy or too difficult. The easy ones are the ones I end up going since the difficult ones are out of reach. The difficult ones usually involve multiple days of hiking and traversing snow covered peaks. This level of hiking needs special equipment which I do not possess given my limited student budget. Anyway, the particular hike that Viktor announced did not match either category. This got me excited as it provided me with a chance to level up my hiking abilities.

This is the email that Viktor sent :

*DESCRIPTION
*: This hike is for people who genuinely think that doing Enchantments traverse in more than one day means wasting way too much time. Do you fit that description? Are you fit enough to do up to 30 miles and 7000 feet elevation gain in a day? Than this extreme one day hike to see the most of the prettiest lakes of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness is for you. We will start at West Foss River trail, traverse through Tank Lakes and return back via Necklace Valley. To make things interesting about 8 miles of this route has no established trail and will require some bushwhacking and even more scrambling.

*DISTANCE:* 22-30 miles

*ELEVATION GAIN:* 6000-7000 feet

*TIME NEEDED:* Full day Saturday

*RATING:* EXTREME

*MEETING TIME AND LOCATION:* 4:15 am sharp in Kirkland (exact location will only be revealed to people who sign up).

*LATEST RETURN TIME:* Late on Saturday or more likely early Sunday.

*MAXIMUM # HIKERS: 4 (counted as the number of legs divided by 2)

*BRING:*

- Food and water

- Waterproof clothes

- Headlamp

- FSR radio if you have one

- Trekking poles and gaiters

- Route finding skills and all your luck

*STRICT SIGN-UP DEADLINE:* Friday 5 pm.

On the face of it, it looked pretty challenging. However this the was sort of challenge that I was aching for. Previously in the summer I had completed a trail run in Pittsburgh for 35 miles with 15000 feet of elevation change. In comparison the distance here was lesser (30 miles) with much less elevation change (7000 ft). Also, I was pretty sure that 7000 ft of elevation change in 30 miles would mean that it would be pretty flat throughout. We would surely not hit snow. This was stuff I had done before, I had it in the bag. Nevertheless, what made this endeavor challenging was that part of it would be at night and there would be uncharted territory involved. I reasoned to myself that with a big group it would be a lot of fun. Like going for boy scouts. So, I rationalized to myself, that it couldn't be that bad and then hastily signed up for it. In hindsight, I was way off the mark. Both Viktor and I could never have anticipated the trials and tribulations that would await us.

During the week I had some email exchanges with Viktor. I was trying to see if I could avoid the trekking poles. The few times I had tried poles I had found them to be more of a hindrance. I got the rest of the gear ready, purchased headlamps and gaiters. Headlamps were certainly a necessity since we were going to be night hiking. Gaiters are things that keep dirt and snow out of your shoe. I was sure that I wouldn't need it since we were not going to see snow. But I got one anyway, for future hikes. Meanwhile, Viktor had news for me as well. There would be no large party joining us for the hike. Just Viktor, his friend and I. Somehow I had missed the part in the email which said that max 4 people for the hike. Friday night came and incidentally it was Oktoberfest in Seattle. There was no way, I was not going to pass up the chance. So a friend and I headed over to check it out. It was everything that you can expect from Oktoberfest. Smell of Bratwurst in the air and drunken dudes getting loud and happy. The atmosphere was great though. The feeling of good times was palpable. Were it not for the fact that I was the designated driver, I would have indulged in a lot of good beer. Nevertheless, I returned home around midnight. I had almost forgotten about the hike, until I found my empty rucksack staring at me. I stared back at it for a while as well, regretting that I had signed up for the hike the next day. Eventually, I willed myself to pack it.


My hiking bag and shoes


I found myself standing outside Viktor's house at 4:00 AM. Somehow, I had managed to drag myself there. It was dark and the air was chilly. I caught myself shivering. I was wondering if I was at the right place. I tried Viktor's number a few times but to no avail. Finally, Viktor made an appearance. He was leaner than I had expected. He had a thick accent, which I suspected was of slavic origin. He eventually turned out to be Ukrainian. He wasted no time in explaining to me the plan for the day. We would take 2 cars. The beginning and the end of the hike were in different locations. We would park one car in each location. Soon, his friend joined us. Her name was Tatiana. She was short in stature and did not seem very chatty. Without much ado, we were on the road with me following their tail lights. Driving on freeways can be rather monotonous and I found my thoughts wandering. I was excited about what the day had in store for us. I also had this anxious feeling of oncoming adventure. Much like I have before any long voyage or a major exam. The drive was almost an hour and a half long. It was still dark when we reached the trailhead.

As I stepped out of the car, I was jolted by the cold air. The air was much chillier in the mountains. I was just in t-shirt and shorts, my traditional hiking attire. One of the unfortunate habits that I carried over from trail running. It wasn't long before we were ready to get going. The sky had started to turn grey, indicating that the sun was making its way up to the horizon. At around 6 AM, we embarked on our legendary quest to hike 30 miles of trails and mountains in one day. At this point I thought it opportune to ask Viktor, how many times he had done this route before ? The reply was terse. "No", he said. I took this admission in stride. Ooh..! We're going on a little adventure. The trail was well maintained and we didn't have much difficulty following it. It was mostly uphill but the grade was easily manageable. It started getting brighter and we were able to see our first views of the formidable mountains. As the first rays of the sun fell on the mountains, I couldn't help but admire their beauty. Rich with life and greenery in the lower rungs, yet rugged and austere as you go higher up.

We were now treading at a brisk pace. This was helping in warming me up. I think a drop of sweat might even have formed on my furrow. The trail was reasonably well defined. As I settled down into a steady rhythm, I felt the tenseness of the morning beginning to dissipate. I started getting comfortable. In fact too comfortable. I even got cocky enough to think that hiking was getting boring. I needed a real challenge. As if reading my mind, Viktor started talking about bears. That these forests were bear country had not crossed my mind. He mentioned an incident of how he had encountered a big black bear and some cubs while hiking some mountains in this region. Fortunately, my senses soon got the better of me. I reminded myself that the day would be really long and that there would be some night hiking involved. We might even run into the occasional bear.

Thinking these thoughts, I caught glimpse of our first lake through a crack in the woods. Tatiana who had been reasonably quiet all this while, decided that she wanted to go off-trail. Her plan was to walk on a stream that lead to the lake and then meet us at the lake. I was amazed at her guts. This was my first indication that she was a very experienced and a courageous hiker. I would be very hesitant before trying to blaze my own trail. In my mind, I was analogous to a train and the trail was my track. Straying off the trail was akin to my train getting derailed. We came out into a clearing and I got a truly breathtaking view of the lake.


A view of the lake


This lake was just one amongst the many lakes that we would come across during the course of the day. Yet this one was the first and the most memorable. I still remember how sun shone golden on the cliffs, while the lake emanated an azure blue. Back on trail, Viktor proved to be very knowledgeable about local flora and fauna. He was practically a walking wilderness survival manual. He talked with great panache about the delicacy of mountain berries. He even got me to overcome my fear of eating berries growing on random bushes. We sampled black berries, blue-berries and salmon berries. I even learned some berry trivia. Salmon berries are called so because of their color which looks like the skin of salmon fishes. Salmon berries like mulberries and black berries happen to belong to class of berries called compound berries. These berries are composed of a number of smaller berries. All compound berries have the wonderful property of being non-poisonous. After talking about berries, Viktor moved onto mushrooms. He even picked a badass looking mushroom growing off a tree to make mushroom soup when he went home. I asked him how does one if a mushroom is poisonous. His reply was again terse and proved to me that he was crazy beyond doubt. He said "You eat and wait". He even pointed out the most poisonous plant in North America. The infamous "Hellebore", which at that sounded like "Hell Boar". A very apt name, I must say.



A salmon berry



Viktor was full of interesting anecdotes and trivia and the time passed quickly. The sun had climbed higher in the sky by now. Everything around us looked gorgeous. We came across a rocky ledge that overlooked a gigantic lake. Tatiana was in a joyous mood and insisted that we park on that ledge for lunch. While the view was splendid, it still was a precarious rock perched on a cliff. I was unsure of my footing and was initially very cautious. As picking lunch spots with a view go, we totally nailed it. Hungry from all the hiking so far, I devoured my sandwiches. The thought of conserving food for the rest of the day did not even once cross my mind.


Unsure of my footing at our lunch spot


By now we were fairly high up in the mountains. The snow covered peaks which had so far loomed in the distance were now much closer. Trekking on further we reached an alpine lake. I call it alpine because it had snow on its sides. Viktor decreed that we would stop here to refill our bottles. He drew his portable water filter and got pumping. I had two 1L water bottles on me. I had been sparing in my water consumption as it had been a pleasant hike so far. I had used up only one bottle. Viktor insisted that I fill it up and thank goodness I did. I sat there by the side of the lake with a supreme sense of calm while the sun warmed my shoulders. I think I might have even removed my shoes to waddle my feet in the icy water. I can't believe that I was so oblivious. Oblivious to the fact that this would be our last moment of peace on this hike.





We continued up the mountain, and we encountered more forest and lakes. Tatiana asked if she could go swimming in one of the lakes. I could make out that Viktor was a little concerned about our progress. He diplomatically answered that we could go swimming in jade lake if we made it in time. Both Tatiana and I were more than satisfied with this answer and I think we even picked up our pace. Little did we know jade lake was eons away. Soon, the trail abruptly ended. We had entered the bushwhacking phase of our journey. Bushwhacking basically means there exists no road or path. On your map you may think that tour destination is around the corner, but in reality there might be a cliff there. It needed a lot of creativity and improvization to find your way. All now depended on Viktor and his GPS device. There were little stacks of rocks left here and there. A sign that a humans had been there before.

We trampled through bushes and hedges, across boulder fields and even skirted a few lakes. It all seemed fun. My sense of adventure was back. Higher and higher we climbed. The trees thinned out and it all soon became rocks. We got spectacular views of the lakes we had seen before. I was nimble on the rocks. All my previous running had helped build up strong legs and solid aerobic breathing. I clambered from rock to rock. Thinking that if this was bushwhacking, I was really killing it. Until we came to this tall vertical rock wall. It had a lot of boulders in its base, but it looked steep at the top. Viktor motioned in the direction of the wall. I raised an eyebrow, hinting "Are you serious ?". Everything was being communicated in sign language now. Flushed with the confidence from my boulder hopping, I attacked this vertical wall. I climbed higher and higher. Focused on my goal of getting to the top in record time. Higher and higher. Until I reached a spot, where I had no handhold. I scouted around for another spot to climb up and made my first mistake. I made the mistake of looking down. Far below me was the solid ground I had been confidently striding on. Now, perched high upon the ledge, I felt nothing but fear. I cringed close to the rock. My sturdy legs were feeling weak. I couldn't even climb down, I was paralyzed on my spot. Then Viktor came along, asked me what's up. I told him that it's impossible to go further. He gave me a look that made me feel like a small insect. On he went grabbing grass roots and what not. He was over the final part and onto the top. I mustered up the courage and hauled myself up the final stretch. My confidence shattered and a lot more humbled.


Viktor bouldering up the slopes


Forward we went. Viktor in the lead and Tatiana and I in tow. Soon we came across this gigantic glacier field. To the reader a glacier field, might seem chilling cold. The truth is that I was in my t-shirt and shorts. The heavy hiking and the warm sun made the temperature rather pleasant. On seeing ice, I got really excited. I paid no heed to Viktor's warnings about glaciers collapsing into crevasses and hopped onto a rock in the middle of the glacier. I even got Viktor to take my picture(see below) standing in the middle of the snow field. I can't describe the beauty of the snow field. Barren in its beauty. I can fully understand how some men like the Lawrence of Arabia fall in love with the barren beauty of the desert. I stood there inhaling the crisp mountain air, appreciating the barrenness, ruggedness and magnitude of it all. We humans are so small in comparison. Civilizations and governments come and go, but the mountains remain. The proud and tall creations of nature's might.



Me examining the glacier


We carefully crossed this snowfield. I was somewhat careful while stepping on the ice. My vibram soled patagonia shoes had solid grip on dry rock but they were extremely slippery on ice. I gingerly crossed this snow field, nearly slipping once. More rock and another snow field greeted us. I swallowed hard when I saw it. It was steep at nearly a 45 degree angle. It plunged deep down into a cliff. I looked into the direction of Viktor to plead with him. But he paid no heed. He was already ahead of me, breaking out his trekking poles crossing the snow. I stood there transfixed on the spot. Soon Tatiana overtook me as well. I had no choice but to move on. This glacier was a little different from the previous one, it had a lot more dry snow. That crumbled under the foot. I had no choice. I took my first steps very carefully, digging my feet into the snow as deep as I could. Carefully step by step I crossed, the snow. I was nearly at the other side. I felt the wind whoosh past my ears, as I hurtled down the mountain.

The snow had given way under my feet and I was now speeding down the mountain. What did I think of ? I thought "What's happening?", "This can't be happening", "Just a bad dream. Come on snap off it now", "Is this how it is all supposed to end?". Yes, this was a near death scenario and it was happening to me. I don't know how much time transpired, but it felt like an eternity. I hit a rock and my fall stopped. Today, I was alive.

Part II is continued in the following blogpost Cliffs, Marmots and Urgency

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A reply to "27 and unmarried"

I recently came across this article "27 and Unmarried?" on somebody's facebook post. This article describes the thoughts of a yet unmarried Indian lady with regards to her dream mate. I would recommend reading this article. It's well written and rather enjoyable. I was thinking of a suitable/witty comment, but I could hardly come up with one. You see, an fb comment needs to be just short enough to elicit reader interest. However, I had lots to say. In order to do justice I decided to dedicate an entire blogpost to the reply. The reader would have to read her article first in order to make sense of this blogpost.

I do not know the author of the article. Nor have I read her blog before. However, I am an Indian-Bengali-USA-residing-Coder-Single-Guy and this just got personal. Ofcourse no malice was directed at any particular group. Still I could not help feeling a touch helpless after reading this article. Helplessness at my own fate. There were several aspects to her article that I had an opinion on.

On self-made men and romance : I think I can understand what Italian and Greek men have. The zest for life and the strength of character that makes men men. The behavior of men is ruled by desire, emotion and knowledge. A person who can harness the power of all of these at will and with with moderation is justifiably a genuine man. And I am not making this shit up. Plato is responsible for spewing this wisdom. It's not that Indian guys are incapable of being adventurous romantic men. But you must consider the circumstances. Every loving responsible Indian mom and dad, wants their son to be successful in life. That usually ends up making zombie coders who emigrate to the US. If the circumstances were different. If there was economic safety, freedom of spirit, art and adventure in youth then things would be different. You would certainly get a lot more Italian types in Indian men. It's nurture not nature here that is messing things up. How I wish the environment could be changed.

On Dominance Relationships: The author talks about her MB man taking the initiative always. In ballroom dancing it's always the guy who is supposed to lead. However, the dominatrix in the woman is also pretty strong. That's why "girls with oodles of self esteem" are not to be taken lightly. Sparks fly. An aggressive courting ensues until one softens up. \cite{Brothers Karamazov - Dosteovsky}. It's a good game. I like such games.

Genetics and predestination: What do you do when your genes are stacked against you? When brawn doesn't come to you naturally ? You can feel helpless for yourself. You can feel spite for the world that values such embellishments as puffy muscles and broad chests. Or you can put your best foot forward and with the humility that only real pride can afford, offer something else. Offer passion, love, care and good conversation.

On Stereotypes and generalizing : Not every Indian-Bengali-USA-residing-Coder-Single-Guy wants to take out a mortgage on a house in Seattle. There are those with a spark of adventure, a spirit of daring, anger in life and those who will be the first to take the initiative, pin down and kiss.

And, that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Run



Some readers might know me well enough to be aware that I like running. I've run two city marathons and completed one ultra trail challenge so far. Given that I blog about rather small things, it might seem somewhat strange that I have stayed away from blogging about my running. There's a lot to write about, no doubt. However, I felt hesitant whenever I tried to pen down something. I attribute this reluctance to the fact that running is a deeply personal experience for me. What happens in my head tends to stay in my head. Nevertheless, I'll try to shine a light on some.

What do I think of when I run ? I'll answer that by mentioning what I don't think of. I don't think about research, I don't think about buying an ipad, I don't think about bad relationships and I don't think about schedules or deadlines. in fact I don't think about a god damn thing. Thoughts that do enter my mind are something like, "thirsty - need water", "uphill - fuck", "car - careful", "come on one more mile". Though, it's mostly blankness punctuated by the sound of my feet and the rhythm of my breathing. There's a 10 feet wide bubble around me and that is my world. Time melts away, priorities disintegrate and facades collapse. And trail runs are even better. There's something primal, to be running past the trees and by the stream, crossing bridges and skirting gorges. If ever I have had doubts about existence, they dissipate. I feel more in touch with my true self whilst sucking on the sweet nectar of life.