Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The day I became...

Life they say is a great teacher, the lessons taught by life and the tests that its throws up are fascinating because we usually tend to forget the successes and wallow in the failures. In forgetting these successes we miss so much.

I stared at the pretty sleep lined face, partly covered by the sheet, the crop of silky hair peeking out and the impish smile on the face that was a result of a pleasant dream and I realized that my forefinger was tightly enclosed by the hand that just emerged from under the sheet. As my wind wandered back in time I remembered that day when I passed another test of life.

Waiting in a hospital is never a pleasant thing especially there is always the fear of the unknown and hospitals are not the cheeriest of places to wait. So as I waited with mixed feelings I was called by name and then the doctor said in cinematic style “Congratulations! it’s a girl.” In that brief moment I saw a baby and even before the thought could sink in the doctor had gone behind closed doors again.

Swept up by the posse of relatives and others who wanted to know every little detail possible the confusions persisted. What had just happened? Am I ready for this? Yes the months of preparation did give an idea of what lay ahead but theory and practice are two different things are they not?

The congratulations kept coming in like a flood and the demands for the pictures kept pouring from all those who knew which ensured that doubts had to be kept aside at least for that moment. Movement of the mother ensured that any thoughts were completely out of mind and much was said in the moments of silence when we waited together.

I was given the baby in my arms and having carried babies before of my cousins and others I carried her easily and yet something felt different this time. I gazed at her as she slept and out of curiosity I gently prodded her hand with my forefinger and like a miracle her tiny fingers closed over it. At that moment I knew without doubt I was a father and I will be the best father to my sleeping princess I can.

Over the years I still keep watching the beauty of those now not so tiny fingers closing over mine and with that reassurance sleeping securely knowing that she is holding her father’s hand. This reminds me how far I have come and how far I must go. There will be a day when these hands may be shy to hold mine and may even scoff that she needs a hand to hold. There will be a day when her hand may hold another hand at the start of another journey of life but till then the hands need to be treasured, treasured with love. From that first time she held my hand and made me become a better person that I was it has been a roller coaster ride but one that must be celebrated especially since her 10th birthday was coming up.

I am not a big fan of shopping and somehow a jewellery shop intimidated me since I am not a big fan of jewellery. I was not too sure of online shopping but when I heard of through the media and when I heard about the parentage of the service from the NAC Jewellers Pvt Ltd, a household name in the jewellery field I decided to give it a try. Their user friendly and attractive site along with one day shipping increased my curiosity. Their discounts were quite attractive and as I browsed through the site my eyes fell on something that I knew would look just wonderful on my princess’ hands. It is on this page As I was about to finalize the purchase in time for my daughter’s birthday ahead, some doubts crept in but when I went back in time to that first time I decided that there are no doubts any more. Now I look forward to seeing the happiness on her face when her gift will reach her. 

This story is part of the Stylori blogging contest, Stylori where style, love and stories come together in beautiful jewellery.

This contest was organized by Chennai Bloggers Club (CBC) of which I am a proud member.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Give thanks!!

As you wake up to the heavy rains and hear that schools & maybe colleges are closed you end up having mixed feelings. You are torn between sleeping in and bunking work or reluctantly dragging yourself out of bed not succumbing to the Monday rainy blues and skip work. In the middle of this dilemma spare a thought for those nameless people who ensure your day has begun well. I saw the newspaper boy completely drenched but carrying the newspapers worth 4 Rs each safely wrapped in plastic delivering it to homes. The milk has already been delivered before you opened your eyes and craved for your coffee. The conservancy staff who worked through the night managing the water and the weather to ensure that the roads are cleaner than the way you left it last night.

Somebody has been up a little earlier and started working to ensure that the day has begun well for you, nearer home it could be mum or the better half who got up that little bit earlier to make that cuppa, the absence of which will throw your day off for good measure. So many more work when you sleep rain or shine and these people often unknown, nameless go about their lives working often without holidays and there is not much we can do about them.

Pause a moment to acknowledge the existence of these people, say a silent prayer for them, say thanks if you see them, feel grateful that they make every day worth waking up. Finally thank your maker for all the abundance that you wake up to each day, every day. 

Image courtesy via Google Images

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Chennai Duothlon 2015 - My story

I had signed up for the Chennai Duathlon 2015 when it opened as I thought that I will train well and do my first Duathlon since I missed it last year. As with all best laid plans my training went for a toss due to several work related trips that coupled with lethargy and exhaustion ensured that I was quickly running out of practice time and the event was fast approaching.

From the Classic option I downgraded to the Half Marathon which theoretically appeared achievable even with little or no practice but reality bites and it did bite when I finally reached the venue. Yesterday I was still debating if I should go for the event and that is when some running buddies stepped into to motivate me. A big thanks is due to Sindhu, Piyush and all the others who pushed me at the last moment.

The morning started early with lightning and rain and for a brief moment my resolve was shaken but I remembered the words of Piyush who said that we will have fun and I decided to go out and have fun. My non running friends must be wondering how a 2.30 AM start and a drive to a venue 30 odd kilometres away even before dawn and taking part in an event that involves running and cycling in slush as fun, but my running mates know that this IS fun.

This was the maiden running event for my brother who had made a name for himself with his cycling rides in his group off late but running was a challenge and I planned to tag with him during the running phase.  The two categories were separated by about 15 minutes and I was quite happy with the pre run stretches that ensured that my creaky joints were race ready (almost!) The venue was quite good; situated inside the DLF Garden City complex off the Old Mahabalipuram Road the running event was between one gated community to another one while the cycle loop was on the OMR.

The Half event had three sections a 5 Km run followed by a 20 km cycle ride and a final 2.5 km run.  By the time the event started the rain had weakened to a drizzle which though a little annoying helped to make the morning pleasant.  Since I decided to have fun, I switched off the tracker on my mobile and decided to settle for my chip timing only. After the socialization with some running mates it was time to start. The first running leg was comparatively easy however the lack of practice showed up as I had to take more breaks than usual.

At the changeover I found that my running shoes getting heavier as I had to walk into a puddle to retrieve my cycle but the cycle loop was fun. I passed by a “cycle marathon” organized by a local corporate for its employees and family members and it was good to see many cycling along with us. At the U turn point the volunteers along with another running buddy Vivek Bhai ensured that I did not miss the timing mat.

The next changeover was quicker with the volunteers helping to put away the cycle and then the final running leg started. For some time my legs refused to obey my brain and I found the going quite tough. After a long period of using one set of muscles changing over to another set was a real challenge. Cycling after running is quite easy in comparison. With a combination of more walk and less run I managed to come in sight of the finish when I made a quick run for the last time that day. The helpful volunteers ensured that the post run stretches were done by all and once I did them I realized how much they were required, aches and pains started everywhere.

Once the stretches were done the most important activity of collecting that little metal piece, that piece suspended on a ribbon that makes men and women do crazy things at crazy times for a little bragging right but more for the happiness that he or she has pushed himself / herself that much more again.

The sugarcane juice and the good breakfast capped of a great day. A special mention is due to the organizing team “The Mongrels” who did an amazing job. In my personal opinion this was one of the better events that I had the chance to participate. As I had a busy Sunday I could not stay back to join the celebrations of the other winners and finishers.

It feels good to be back and I am excited at what lies ahead for I know that whenever I may feel that I need a push there are many just waiting to do just that.
Do more folks!!! Get up and get moving…

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The question

She sat across him with mixed feelings in the coffee shop; the mouth watering desserts between them did not distract her, that was a first! She waited for him to make the first move, after all she had asked him out for coffee and after a brief hesitation he had agreed. He had been watching her for a few days before she was even aware of him & then it was her turn for furtive glances every time they ended up on the same floor in the IT Park. Her heart beat a little faster waiting for him to speak, in the last few days she had stalked him on the various social sites and now she knew a lot about him & she was sure that he would know her too. She was puzzled that he was so hesitant to speak & also that he was not making eye contact. Finally he made up his mind & said, "akka, your choco lava cake is tempting me, can I have one  spoon pls?"....

(Image courtesy Google Images)

Monday, September 28, 2015

The seeker

These days the news is full of religious issues and where there is trouble in the world today there seems to be religion in the centre of it all. The refugee crises, the hostage taking of school girls, the burning of homes, large scale murders, rapes and everything else even mundane things like running a film school is affected by religion.

It is very disheartening when something personal to an individual is important to another who is often unrelated and inconsequential to the individual. Why fight about religion? It is like small boys saying, “mine is bigger”. Big or small it is usually most useful only to the owner, is it not?

When someone from a particular religion feels insecure with another religion and feels that the other religion must be eradicated so that his religion remains it must be a time to introspect. Why do different religions exist? I would believe that they exist to satisfy different needs and a person will choose to move from one to another if his needs are not met in his present religion no matter how controversial it may sound. There are others who move away completely from religion because their needs could not be satisfied and call themselves agnostics or atheists.

By wearing outward signs of one’s religion one may identify himself or herself with the religion but till one’s religion identifies itself with the individual it is a wasted exercise. If a religion proclaims peace or tolerance (most do) wearing the religious symbols and doing the opposite will drive people away rather than to it. As a seeker one would like to see the truth in the life of a believer but if the believer lives otherwise then the seeker will move on.

The seeker looks for God and hopes to see his invisible  God in his visible fellow man, if he sees the devil then why blame the seeker if he flees?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Family plan!!!

Dear Airtel, I really think that my daughter just has to ask me if she wants a better mobile plan instead of pulling these cheap scams. From your ad I doubt I will get her your plan, thank you for trying.

There are crappy ads and there are crappy ads. The airtel ad would be somewhere in between the potty and the drain, so horrible it is. I am not sure if family values have sunk to such levels and the fact that this ad is part of a series tells you the kind of value systems that drives the leading mobile operator of the country. I would not be surprised if they are scamming their clients away merrily with such stunts of keeping them happy while inflating bills or usage. How much do we check anyway?

Parenting is an art, it is a science, it is everything at once and nothing at the same time. Some of the parenting techniques can be learnt, though most of it comes from within. It is a secret handed down from one generation to another and so “defective products must be blamed on the manufacturers and not the product”. Belittling a parent child- relationship like this was annoying, even more so when the product being hawked is a mobile plan.

That one moment when I held my daughter for the first time, I automatically was given along with her the skills I needed to take care of her. In these few years I know what my daughter needs and the difference between her playacting and scamming. I know when I should indulge her into being fooled and when I should put my foot down. There are so many more things that I know about daughters and families in general, but the folks behind the ad seem to be oblivious of all these, as much as they are oblivious that their clients are not stupid.

The punchline “Be nice to your dad, it’s the only way to get him to share his postpaid plan with you. “ must have been written by a seriously mentally and socially challenged individual.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dear new runner...

Dear New Runner,

Let me congratulate you for making the decision to run. You may have taken this decision for various reasons but the usual and most popular one of losing weight is a good reason and it will surely make this extra effort of yours fruitful. However please remember that there are no quick fix solutions and you will lose weight gradually over a period of time with sustained effort.

You have decided to run and you may have joined one of the many mushrooming running groups across the city and one day you have actually joined them for a run.Hey congratulations on getting so far!!! Make no mistake that the most important activity of a running group is simply that, "running" everything else if not related to running are avoidable diversions. Here you must keep in mind that cross training and core strengthening activities are crucial to running. By now you must be wondering at the new terms that have come up and chances are if you are in a running group you will hear many new terms with acronyms like PB, HM, FM, cadence, heel strike, ultra and so much more leaving you puzzled. You can ignore them for now, jargons are simply used by some to save time, by some others to impress and few others to really convey something.

You may have thought that running is an inexpensive sport after all what could you need apart from a pair of shoes. Then reality bites; you will come to know that “good” shoes will cost more than, well let’s say cost much more than you thought they will. Then the funny bright clothes which made you shake your head in amusement earlier; you will realize that they actually serve a purpose and so they should also join your shopping cart. Women will require a good sports bra and if you have not been told that, please look it up and do get yourself a good one. By now you may wonder if you have got them all and then you will see fellow runners having gadgets and so many other things fixed on them almost like a battle ready commando. You can actually do away with all of them including the music systems which are hazardous in traffic. You will need a bottle of water which will be called hydration (jargon again!) and since you will not normally step out without your smart phone you will have an app to track your runs which is not bad because you can track your progress.

As you join the group you may find that the group is following various plans and having joined them you would be expected to join the plan (s). It can be very intimidating for someone off the couch being informed that the others are running X, 2X, 3X kilometres and you can run as per your convenience. You may start off very enthusiastically and find that you have been left far behind and your body is simply not cooperating with you. You may have mixed feelings from embarrassment at your inadequacy or annoyance at your speed or maybe disappointment that nobody cared but it will be good for you to hold on. Many have left running for a better alternative (in their minds) simply because they were left to themselves during their first runs.

I would suggest you to first decide that running is a great choice for your end objective and I can assure you that it really is but it may not be the only one so you should check for available and feasible alternatives. Once you have decided you must decide to ignore the noise around you because it can be disorienting; by noise I mean the excessive inputs, suggestions, advice that is usually handed out to new comers by the others in the group, no matter how well intended they may be, you must realize that you are unique and you cannot simply fit into their shoes always.

You must be aware of yourself and though it sounds very far fetched, apart from your family physician, only you will know about your body the best. Once you are aware of yourself you must listen to your body carefully and discern what signals your body is giving you. Initially it may be tough but hang in there you will get there. You will have to discern the difference between lethargy and weariness, difference between pain from an injury and pain from excess activity and many more subtle signals. Once you understand these signals it will be best if you listen to them. Like I mentioned earlier you know your body the best and if your body is telling you to really stop then you should STOP despite what others around may say.

A lot of things in running are relative and you will slowly understand that age, body types, sex and the usual differences that lend themselves to stereotypes will get thrown out of the window when you lace up your shoes and hit the road. There will always be a faster, stronger person before you and a slower, weaker person behind you irrespective of their age, sex, fitness levels etc. Never forget that all these are relative, in reality your biggest competitor is yourself.  You must realize that the ideals of “Altius, Fortius, Citius” will be best served when you compete with the person in the mirror every day.

I will go back to the running plans mentioned earlier, choose a plan wisely that will work for you. I have a strong suspicion that the body types of Indians and to an extent the South Asians being different from the Caucasians require localized and more focussed plans; this can be a cause for concern since many plans available online and many leading books are by Caucasians. If you are choosing an existing plan you can take the help of an experienced runner to tailor it to your requirements.

Runners are extremely civil people and you will see unknown runners acknowledging you, even appreciating your run as you conquer the roads. They are usually willing to help out a fellow runner with support or advice and the same is expected of you too. As you run with your fellow runners you will find that there will be at least one runner who is running at the same level as you, you can tag with this running buddy and train with the buddy. Running buddies are invaluable and a good buddy relationship will help the buddies to push each other in the right way. Among other things, a run buddy will give a wakeup call to ensure that you do not miss your run. Conversations during runs are quite enjoyable and they actually can help you run further. On days when you are supposed to run at an easy pace you will know you that are running too fast when you are find that you are unable to chat with your buddy beside you. 

As the days progress you will notice that you are running further, faster and stronger than earlier, you will know that you are on the right path towards your objective. I would like to offer you a suggestion that though it is common and fashionable to discuss how much you ran in terms of mileage, it will be better to focus on the amount of time that was spent running. Leaving aside the very important warm ups and cool downs the time on the road can be 40 minutes (with the distance being incidental to achieve optimum results) for regular runs, for the LSD (long slow distance run in case you are wondering) this can be around 90 minutes. As the days progress you will notice how much you are doing in the same time and how much you have improved over the days.

Remember to warm up and cool down every time, make time for strength training exercises and cross training which can be any other physical activity that you will like to do. Please run against the traffic; this is safe especially in the dawn hours, safe from vehicles and miscreants, run with company and have a whistle on hand if possible for any emergencies to attract attention. Keep your ICE (In case of Emergency) number on you along with other crucial relevant data. Be aware of the things around you and this is why music while running can be a distraction but it is a personal preference. If you feel discomfort at any point it will be good to pull over and assess yourself, drink water, rest and if all is well continue; if you feel that all is not well take an auto to your home or your doctor. It is good therefore to keep some spare cash on you for such emergencies.

The most important trick is ensure that everything is done in moderation so that you do not fall into the trap of boredom or monotony. Above all never let a day pass when you felt that running was not enjoyable. It is the joy of running that still makes so many to wake up at unearthly hours usually forgoing social outings the previous night, lace up their shoes and hit the roads every day. Running will give you a high; it is not the thrill of finishing a race with a new personal best, this is a temporary high that will quickly fade away but the high when you feel at the moment during the run when your self-awareness increases, your mind becomes uncluttered, you become one with nature and the milestones pass by in a blur. That feeling cannot be explained only experienced.

Once you have understood that the objective is now incidental and the secret lies in the journey towards the end, you will be a true runner. Then you will know that the weight loss and other benefits are like the cherries on the cake that you are relishing. By now you may wonder why I am writing this and what qualifies me to hand out some more unsolicited advice I warned you earlier, I am unqualified but having started out in the journey of running a few months earlier I am a little more experienced to share what I have done. Some runners shared their experiences to me and I am just continuing the chain and I know you will too.

Best wishes and happy running.                                                              
                                                                                                            P.S. From my other runner friends :
- never compromise on your rest, the body needs rest and a break from running may actually be good provided you get back soon.
- do not overdo your running, take breaks, 3 runs a week should suffice in most cases
- be selective in the races you sign up

Monday, June 29, 2015

Happy Feet

Yesterday I became another year older and hopefully a little wiser than the same time last year. Yesterday was also the second day of my restarted running journey after a long break. Running has given me a lot in the last 12 months and the break managed to undo some of the good; therefore it was good to get back.

I run because it is therapeutic almost meditative, a run can start off with self- doubts, negative thoughts, some aches and pains but slowly the body starts cooperating with the will and after some time the mind takes over and the body starts to move in auto pilot mode. I run early in the morning when the clean air and the cool breeze helps to get into this state faster though sometimes the sapping humidity can delay it. This state when I feel I am in “the zone” helps me to think clearly after I manage to empty my mind of its clutter. I meditate at times, plan my day or just soak in the moment while burning calories and holding a conversation with the fellow runners.

The fellow runners watch out for you and help to go a little bit more than when you run alone. It is fun to run with a group but it must be remembered that even with a group you still run alone. The rapid growth of running groups is a testimony to the benefits of group running. Having said that there are pitfalls of running in a group so new runners should proceed with some care. One size will not fit all, in some groups the standard template is extended to all which can be as comfortable as an ill-fitting shoe.

People feel that the high they get after finishing a race keeps them going and maybe it is true for many but for me it is the process the journey that helps in getting to the finish. The timing, the record, the standing are all incidental if you ignore the process that went behind it. The secret is to enjoy the journey because the destination is only the cherry on the cake.

The abundance of information on running and the various schools of running can be a little intimidating for a new comer but I have learnt over the last few months that everyone is unique and it is best to listen to one’s body before one decides on a plan. I also suspect that many of the plans many not be designed for Indians as they seem to be more for the Caucasians with differing body conditions, so it is good to proceed with care gradually. To eat an elephant you can only go one mouthful at a time.

I am now in the middle of a 7x7 challenge, which means I will run 7 kilometres for 7 consecutive days. These challenges have their own set of backers and naysayers but they have worked for me and so I choose to do it. The objectives for this challenge are simple:

·         To make early rising a habit again
·         To get used to running for an hour without a break
·         To rediscover the joy of running again

It is therefore clear that every run be it an easy run, an interval run or any of the other options needs an objective that is measurable so that you can know if the objective was achieved at the end of it. The lack of an objective can kill the intended benefit.

I am happy that the journey has restarted and I aim to have fun along the way. It feels great to know that there are some runners who are also having a good time running with me.

Happy Feet, happier runners!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Uthama Villain - a report

I agreed to go for the Uttama Villain show with some trepidation. I am not a big fan of the serious, cerebral movies of Kamal Hassan no matter how good they may be. I would rather settle down and enjoy a mind numbing comedy by him any day, so the name of the movie and the promotional shots made me a little uncomfortable for Kamal in my opinion tends to crowd the screen with him and there will be a lot of self-indulgence on screen. By the interval I had relaxed and the reasons for the same will follow in the lines below.

Uthama Villain (UV) is the story of a dying star making an attempt to achieve immortality by doing something what he does best, that is being a star. I will avoid sharing the plot of the movie for it will not do justice to some sparkling writing by Kamal. His intelligence and wit shines right through and sometimes if you do not pay attention you will miss it. The wordplay and the choice of names for the various characters are enjoyable. The characters (there are so many of them!) are adequate and sometimes you wish you could see more or less of them as they bordered from good to annoying.

The protagonist called Manoranjan (note the name) appears to be partly / wholly autobiographical of Kamal himself and makes you wonder if UV is Kamal’s attempt at leaving behind a masterpiece. Kamal plays Manoranjan a movie star who is married, has a young adult son, a patronizing father in law and has an affair with his doctor. On knowing that he is terminally ill he decides to make a movie with his mentor played by K Balachander which will be called Uthama Villain, with Manoranjan playing the role of Uthaman. If this is confusing you should watch the movie.

While Kamal scores as the writer, the choreographer in few dance sequences, songs, lyrics and invariably in the acting sequences, he fails when he succumbs to the abyss of self-indulgence. Manoranjan stays with you long after you leave the cinema rather than Uthaman because of Kamal’s subtle scenes like the one with his son when he reveals his illness. Uthaman fails in his attempts to stay in the mind despite some genuinely funny lines including an unexpected bit of toilet humour.

As you leave the theatre it slowly hits you; despite the explanation of the title given by Manoranjan in the movie you have a sneaky feeling that the title of the movie is again autobiographical. It is about a person who is perceived as a villain in real life because of his mistakes but is actually an Uthaman because it was circumstances that made him into a villain.

What did I like:
-         Story and concept
-         Kamal the actor as Manoranjan
-         The support cast
-         The humour
-         The sub text that keeps you interested and attentive
-         The behind the scenes look into the life of a superstar

What did I dislike:
-         The Uthaman movie was long, at times annoying, sometimes feeling unwanted
-         Pooja Kumar has nice legs and hands as they are prominently showcased but her expressions are annoying and the lip sync is terrible
-         The graphics, especially those that were used for the animals were amateurish, for instance the fearless princess is clearly seen stroking air instead of the tiger
-         The music for all the orchestration is largely unremarkable and only the first song registers, probably because of the airplay on radio
-         The opening song is terrible and Kamal the choreographer fails because you see an overweight actor trying to do something that looks like he is trying too hard to prove himself with a heroine who is looking like his daughter

What did I miss:
-         Except for self-indulgence there is no rationale for using the folk art of Theyyam in the movie, I really missed the connect there
-         I was intrigued by the introduction of the legend Subbu Arumugam and the premise of a fusion of villupaatu and theyyam held a lot of promise but except for the first few opening bars the villupaatu disappeared
-         The ensemble cast including some great actors had little to do
-         The editing could have been better, I believe that the trimming was done based on feedback after release and parts of the UV were snipped but it left gaps that could have been done better
-         Kamal the underplayed actor, surely more of Manoranjan and less of Uthaman would have made this a better movie

Bottom line: Go watch it, it is a good movie by a talented superstar but it falls short of being great because the star succumbs to the charms of being a super star.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

OK Kanmani? OK,OK!

Dear Suhasini madam, I watched OK Kanmani and I do not have a qualification to review it since I am not from IIN, nevertheless I think I will still go ahead and give my views on the movie.

You know it is a Mani Rathnam movie when you see the train and the station, the opening game sequence may have thrown a viewer off and make him / her sit forward in his / her seat in expectation of something radically new happening but then you see a railway station and a diesel engine chugging in to stop. The hero pops his head out from a compartment that usually in these kind of trains would be the unreserved one and packed to suffocation limits with passengers barely holding on; but since this a Mani Ratnam movie and since it is a hero entry, he (Dalquer) jumps off and pulls his luggage easily since nobody else gets off there. By now the viewer would have realized normal service has resumed and will sit back in his seat munching popcorn for some movie magic.

The heroine entry is a little muddled and is a repeat of Alaipayuthe but you permit this referencing because the lead pair is quite good looking and you came in to the theatre to watch a Mani Ratnam movie and a train is probably his lucky charm. The hero and heroine introducing themselves in the promos on TV seemed cute when it went up to their names but then they pull out their mobile phones and go on to discuss a lot of nonsense shows how little people understand what goes on in a church. Again the marital vows seemed to be mixed up and I was not sure what exactly happened in that scene but the only saving grace was that AR Rahman played Here Comes the Bride at the bridal entry instead so at least they got that bit right.

The introduction scene of boy & girl no matter how silly and how implausible it was just to highlight that the lead pair was not into marriage and so in a departure from Alaipayuthe, the wedding was not to be expected if at all only at the end. Then the song sequence, the brilliant song sequence of Dalquer & Nitya on the bullet that reminded you of Siddarth and Trisha in Ayutha Ezhuthu, actually both couples are the same; no commitment, no baggage, just have a good time. I mentioned that it was a brilliant sequence, this is because of some amazing photography by PC Sriram. Mumbai never looked so beautiful and inviting as it does when the two zip around on the bike with ARR Rahman singing Mental Manadhil.

In between all this when you think that the movie is about the love story between Dalquer and Nitya or Adi and Tara as they are called you get to meet the owner of the house where Adi stays as a paying guest, Ganapthi and his wife Bhavani who suffers from Alzheimer’s and thereby has a memory loss problem. Ganapathi cares for his wife and then it strikes the viewers that hold on this is the love story, because the lead pair are too busy having a good time without any baggage.

You will see many traces of Mani Rathnam brilliance at various places and referencing to other movies that will bring a smile to your face and the songs that seem unobtrusive though at times not needed keeps the good spirits going. The lead pair is very good looking and seem to be extremely comfortable with each other that it can be annoying that they do not fall in love. Since the premise of this movie is against the institution of marriage we see the couple end up in bed in a hostel. I am not too sure that hostels allow a visitor to a room, maybe they do but rooms and space seem to jar in this movie. We have Adi living in a large room in a large flat in Mumbai where a 0.5 BHK (yes you have that in Mumbai) would probably cost a fortune for a lay man especially a middle class man as he as Ganapathi are shown to be. Then we have the room in a lodge in Ahmedabad where Adi and Tara end up as they miss a train and after a lot of fooling around in a house sized room they end up in separate beds. And then there is the hostel room where they end up in the same bed. The talk afterwards Adi and Tara confirm that this arrangement works fine and marriage is a lot of trash.

Adi getting the permission of Ganapathi for a live-in arrangement is genuinely funny and Tara clinches the deal by sweetly singing her way to Bhavani’s heart. The movie meanders its way through small twists and turns and you see two relationships, one that is about love and one that is not love well almost INR 1.50 I think (watch the scene to understand). By now the inevitable happens and you can see that the lead pair are slowly falling for each other and Tara’s expressions in these sequences are a treat to watch. The visit to the gynaecologist is another funny sequence but the best smiles were reserved for Bhavani, you feel a little when you laugh at the infirmity of someone but  it’s a movie and this infirmity also has a role to play in the movie.

By now you may be restless even annoyed when Adi and Tara take turns to deny that they have feelings, you know the feelings of love for each other and you are mentally egging them to take the next step. You think that it is about to happen in a sequence in a boat when Tara asks Adi to speak from his heart and he says that he would like to eat a bread omelette at that moment. You smile but also wonder what happens next in a moment of confusion and then the infirmity which I mentioned earlier surfaces again to take the movie to a climax.
In a long drawn chaotic rain sequence Adi lets out that he wants to get married to Tara. The closing sequence is a beautiful marriage sequence which mercifully is a civil wedding and so had its own quirks but is nevertheless beautiful to see.

The positives:
-         Simple story
-         Cute lead pair and a great older pair
-         Mani Ratnam, AR Rahman & PC Sriram
The negatives:
-    Small gaps & inconsistencies in the story
-    Plausibility
-    Meandering latter half

So should you watch it?
If you are a Mani Rathnam, AR Rahman and PC Sriram fan, it is a no brainer. If you like a light hearted rom com, you should go for it. If you like to watch breezy time pass movies do not miss it.

After Kadal, which I hear has a lot of subtext and hidden meaning which I did not get and which I decided not to watch ever after when I saw the treatment of the song Nenjukulle this is a welcome return from Mani Ratnam. Nowhere close to his classics, but some magic still remains.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Sailing Story ....

There is something therapeutic and even meditative in the relationship between a person and his / her ride. This is not the mundane, every day, commuter ride but a leisure ride of discovery that one takes from time to time. Be it a man powered ride like a cycle or an oil burning one like a RE Bullet this is something only someone who rides will understand. This mysticism gets compounded when the ride is powered by the elements of nature, specifically the wind. A sail boat is an antithesis, on land it is heavy and difficult to move but one the water and the sail up it can go up to 60 kms per hour I was informed today under the skillful guidance of an experienced sailor.

On Sunday I had the pleasure of sailing in a J/80 sailboat which is Europe’s and North America’s largest selling sailboat under the guidance of three crew members. Along with some friends I signed up for a sailing programme for beginners by the over 100 year old Royal Madras Yacht club. The oldest sailing club in South India, it is tucked away in a corner of the sprawling Madras Port.  There were a few reasons why I signed up for this including it being a novel experience, a new form of cross training, an little known leisure sport but for me personally it was an attempt to dispel my fears of the water. I have always feared the water and the fact that I cannot swim compounded it so this activity in the water which did not need the sailor to snow swimming seemed a good option.

So we reached Gate 7 of the Port that is the one near the RBI subway and had the childhood pleasure of counting the railway wagons on the goods train that crossed us in the siding inside (62 wagons).  Inside the tiny club (near the boat basin in the map) we had a briefing about sailing and the various facets of the club. What fascinated us was a board that said (read very carefully)
“The only reasons to not sail:
            - You get married
            - You die”

After a light lunch provided in the club, we got to see the various boats that were available in the club and the boats that we were going to use. We learnt that children start sailing at the age of 7 and the presence of some children who deftly handled their small boats single handed me us feel a little funny. I noticed a small boy around 8 or so dismantling his sails and carrying it inside to the storage then he went about washing his upturned boat before he left the club.

So finally the time for the big event came when the group of 30 odd including some kids were separated into 5 groups of 5/6 each based on the size of the boats. The Vice President of the club who flies planes  for a living and sails boats for fun gave us the option of opting for boats that will have a possibility of capsizing and allowing the sailors the experience of the Chennai seas or go for the larger boats that do not capsize. Only a brave kid from the group opted for the former and so we had the boats that promised a dry spin. Each boat had a crew of 2/3 depending on the size, my group of 6 including 2 women had a crew of 3. The person manning the tiller had an experience of 24 years on the boat and so even I was reassured getting on the boat.

To make the activity more fun, it was proposed that the teams have a race and since we used two types of boats the slower boats had a few minutes handicap or early start. We had the larger J80 as mentioned earlier.  The sailing trip by itself was relatively incident free and the waters were calm, we got to see one part of Chennai for the first time, the quays of the port with the cranes and other machinery, the buoys in the water that guide the ships into the port and the exciting sunken ship whose mast or rather the top part of it is visible above the waters. Our trip was to two of the floating buoys and the sunken ship which we did however the zig zag route that we took based on the wind pattern took some time to get used to. After some time we did not bother about the race but settled down to enjoy the sensations of being carried by the wind and rocked by the waves. The women in the group were given the task of handling the jib by means of two ropes that had to be adjusted as instructed by the expert manning the tiller. The ladies did a great job especially locking the jib in place. The other crew members were two engineering college students who sailed on the weekends who kept giving us tips on sailing and explaining the mechanics of the boat.

Having overcome my initial apprehensions and fears I got the confidence to get up and walk about the boat and even posed for a few pictures. Like I said once you get into the zone with your ride it can be therapeutic and I realized why this sport draws people. It is fun to sail in a large boat and it becomes a commuter ride or a picnic but it is exceptional when you control the boat. Watching some children sailing solo in their small boats nonchalantly riding the waves and manning the tiller, the ropes while having a conversation with their friends in the other boats I felt wistful that maybe I should have discovered this earlier.

The feeling of sailing a tiny boat in the wide ocean with the wind behind you and the horizon ahead, incredible.

Pics Courtesy Internet
Collage pics courtesy Sid & Smith, made with Picage

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The running year gone by - a reflection

It's going to be a year since I took a first step towards fitness. It was in the beginning of March 2014 that I started walking & slowly moved on to running inside my neighbourhood park. Thanks to the internet I landed on the Chennai Runners page on Facebook & so on April 2nd 2014 I joined a group of runners and started running regularly.

From a barely 3km initial run, I started doing longer runs and decided that by December 2014 I will do a 10km in TWCM & lose some weight. I ticked both those boxes earlier than I thought. By December I had completed 2 half marathons & lost 14kgs weight.

A lot of people helped me in this effort but Venu Sir who guided me initially & George who trained me on the basics of better running stand out. I will always be grateful to them. Another person who helped me run was Lakshmi who trained with me under George & slowly we ran together & still do. A running buddy can be a great support for new comers & the high of doing my first 8km run with Lakshmi's coaxing is an unforgettable memory.

Somewhere down the line the limitations of the group I run with became glaringly obvious and to be fair to the group selflessness is a scarce commodity among people today & to expect it from others is an utopian thought. Other limitations included the lack of support for beginners, which is my biggest disappointment, the narrow minded approach that there can be only one school of thought when it comes to running and personality rather than policy driven leadership. I was part of the founding team and somehow ended up in the group that coordinates the group. With power comes great responsibility and my inability to do justice to my responsibility made me very uncomfortable. As I chose to move out from the active leadership role of the group, I went back to the start where as a newbie I was taking baby steps into the world of running & fitness. I am running and still learning, sometimes with a group sometimes alone.

I look forward to the year ahead with optimism and believe that running can be a team sport, it can be selfless, it can rise above indices of performance like the number of races finished or the ever changing personal bests both of which are incidental. Personally the joy on the face of a newbie completing a 5km for the first time is a high for me when I run with him / her. I am always ready to run with a new comer as long as they bear with my slow pace.

The targets for this year are simple:
- have fun
- stay injury free
- spread the running virus to at least one person a month

Fitness, medals and other things like I said will be incidental.

Happy running folks!