Sunday, October 11, 2015

NaMo NaMo

I had the honor of visiting Narendra Modi's lecture in person at the SAP center yesterday. While there's enough controversy surrounding him, something now makes me think that Modi becoming PM was one of the best things to happen to India.

There's been enough talk about two things - one being his past, and one being if he delivers on his promises. Lot of people still speak about Gujarat riots, and there is an equal amount of emphasis on whether foreign trips are going to solve India's problem.

But the whole point of hearing him yesterday - was that the fundamental attitude of India should change.  We elect a leader , he gets a salary and amazing benefits from our taxes, he gets to decide on what we should or should not do, he is responsible for ensuring our security and freedom. Personally, I have always felt that religion, caste, economic status is really not the criteria. Even the fact that Narendra Modi is Gujju should only be perceived as him having a true Gujju business mindset.

There are many opinions, but two sections of population  have really caught by eye.

The first is obviously, people who blindly believe in him and can't hear a single wrong thim about him. I don't fall in that category - I am sure he is human, and in the wake of political ambitions or otherwise, I don't agree with some of his actions

The second is the people who bring Gujarat 2002 to every debate and discussion. They might have some arguments to back it , but given that the supreme court has exonerated him, I personally believe we should give him a break.

There's a third set of people - mostly who are highly educated (techies, NRIs, MNC employees, professors) who kind of look more objectively , the kind of people who don't believe anything till it is proved. I feel I fall among them, and obviously I see some fallacies in the Modi mania (like was the Gujarat model really as successful as advertised).

But over the last year or so, I would think Modi is the best thing to happen to India given the times. Why? Here's why:

1. A Leader, finally

Having stayed in the US for many years, one thing I have liked is the importance of the President when it comes to Govt elections. It's about the man, maybe the Vice President as well, but you know whom you are voting from. For far long, India had not had that opportunity. If an opinion poll was conducted when Deve Gowda was PM, asking how many people wanted him to be PM when they voted , a heat map would have strongly proved this point. I am sure the same thing would have applied to the likes of Manmohan Singh, and IK Gujral for that matter. In Modi, we've seen a leader, someone who speaks for himself (unlike Manmohan Singh's favorite "theek hai" comment). Also he knows what concerns people have and brings it up in his speeches. For an educated audience, he brought some important points (like the PIO/OCI card issue in NY)

2. Reputation

No, I am not talking about the Gujarat model. Although there might be rights in that, there are a lot of people questioning it , and I don't have substantive proof to defend it (although I would love to believe it). But here's a CM who ran a state like Gujarat for 12+ years, in spite of opposition,controversy. This should give him extra points on a lot of people, esp Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal (who I think resigned as Delhi CM way too soon), In the US, every person who stands for elections is asked about "what have you done before?". If all candidates were asked this, I am sure Modi would have won hands down

3. Feedback

I can't believe that a huge party like Congress never had strong PR people telling Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi what and what not to do. Even in corporate America, people have speech writers, debate helpers, personality makeovers. Every keynote in Silicon Valley is conducted so that it appears as if the speaker is speaking to the public and not merely reading out of slides. Modi achieved this. He probably had a team that gathered information about the Gadar party/ Bhagat Singh/ what do desis in the silicon valley like or not. Educated or not, the truth is people like leaders who speak what they want to hear. End the speech with the announcement of a non-stop flight from SF to India was really something the people wanted to hear. Making the PIO process easier was what desis at Madison Square garden wanted to hear. It's almost basic intelligence and wisdom that a leader should have. And Modi does.

4. CEO material

I have always felt, that India needs not a politician but a CEO. Let's accept it , the 'Nayak' style Anil Kapoor is ideal but not practical. If someone suspends his entire government for being corrupt, it might look great to begin with, but will not solve the problem. We need someone to systematically clean the system, have tougher measures, take a lead but not go into every minute detail. Another factor of Modi is his fearlessness, not afraid to take a stand on certain issues.

5. Ability to Turn Around things.

To be frank, I wasn't a fan of Modi. Like a lot of people, I had thought that he was communal in some sense. The US categorically denied him a visa inspite of he being the democratically elected Chief Minister of a state of almost 60 million people. The media had not been his best friend. From such a point, to actually win an election with absolute majority, turn around the US attitude (Obama coming to the Indian republic day) and meeting Modi thrice in a year, to changing people's attitude towards him (me included), he has shown that he can achieve what very few Indian politicians have been able to achieve

I personally believe, that people who are opposed to him should give him the chance. After a long time, India has had a leader whom people truly believe in - and this is Modi's biggest strength. I haven't seen an Indian leader in my lifetime who has so much of popularity among the people. And his agenda of growth , with a combination of good administration and people participation might be our biggest strength !

Here are some pictures of the event

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Format for a fairer world cup

World Cup Reformat

Current scenario:

The ODI Cricket world traditionally consists of eight historically great teams in Aus,Eng,NZ,WI,India,Pak,SL and South Africa. There's little doubt that these teams are much better than the rest. Then there are teams like Bangladesh,Zimbabwe,Ireland,Kenya which have shown potential but still are a lap behind the top eight. And then there's a bunch of new teams trying to make their mark.

Main requirements:

1. Associates should get international exposure of playing against top teams
2. A world cup would not be great if a top seeded nation drops out in qualifying stages (unlike Tennis or Soccer) - as shown by India and Pakistan's exit in 2007
3. The World Chess championship has an interesting format where the world chess champion only competes with the winner. In short, if we implement that format, in the next WC, all teams except Australia (the current champion) will play a qualifier, and the winner will challenge Aus in a 5 match competition. Fair as it may sound in chess, it'll not work to have a champion team not play the world cup!

It is widely apparent that the group stages are not interesting, since more often than not, they don't matter much. The top 8 teams will generally qualify for the QF (as they did in 1996 and 2011 and narrowly missed by England in 2015. So for most teams, the initial group stage did not matter much. It was less seen in 2015, but in 2011 and 1996, the top team of one of the groups was defeated in the QF. So , basically a team playing really well can have one bad game and exit the tournament. Sad but true. Unfortunately, SA has had it's max share of this and there's a hint that giving top 8 teams fairly equal opportunity does not make sense. Also, there's no pressure of qualifying, making the group stages unimportant

So summarizing:
1. Current format: Top 8 teams get to play lot of matches, associates get exposure, but early leaders have zero advantage
2. Super six (99,03) : Good that top 8 teams get to play lot of matches, associates get exposure, but gained a bad reputation because of team carrying forward points. That led to teams deliberately allowing other teams to qualify, which was not perceived well. Goes against the basic spirit of cricket and sports in general. Noteworthy , however , is that in sports like F1, this is considered to be a valid thing - like Barrichelo losing to Schumacer on the last lap on Ferrari's orders.
3. Tournament like 1992: Most fair world cup, all teams play each other and top teams qualify for the semis. The disadvantage is to not include
4. The most fair format would be one that does not involve a final or a knockout game. While this would be a blessing for SA - a tournament without a final does not sound that great. The format would be to just play round robin and the winner is the one who tops the table. Very fair, but quite less exciting. Interestingly if this format was followed, following teams would have been the winner:

1975: WI or England
1979: WI or England
1983: WI or England
1987: India or Pak
1992: New Zealand
1996: Sri Lanka or South Africa
1999: Pakistan  or South Africa
2003: Australia or Sri Lanka
2007: Aus,Sri Lanka, NZ or WI
2011: Pakistan or South Africa
2015: NZ or India

Obviously, this system does not like people who come back from being behind in the lot and surprise everyone, so while it is fair, it is not exciting. More so, no final?  Does not look like a WC.

So let's say what the most important things are in deciding the format of a World Cup

(1) Fairness - Obviously, the best team should win. The two best teams should have a chance of meeting in the final
(2) Giving exposure to associates with matches against top teams
(3) Ensuring that top teams (or atleast the money bank India ) get enough matches to play and are not eliminated early. 2007 was the most obvious example of how a highly anticipated "India vs Pakistan" became "Ireland vs Bangladehs"
(4) I want to add an advantage to the teams for doing well in the group stage. This will make the group stage even more interesting and will also reward teams who do well early on
(5) While the 2011/15 world cups had all of this, they missed what I think is a very important point- which is , all matches should have some part in the final outcome. In that manner the 1992 world cup was a great example. No team should be able to take any match lightly.

Two format suggestions:

12 or 14 team world cup.

Two groups of 6/7 teams each:

1.Top 3 teams qualify for the next round. - This removes the obvious assumption and makes the first round exciting
2. The top team from each group qualifies for the final directly. The other teams play an eliminator game. So

Eliminator: A2 vs B3  and  A3 vs B2
Semi Final: A1 plays (winner of A3 vs B2) and B1 plays (winner of A2 vs B3)

So this means it could be an A1-A2,A1-B1, or B1-B2 final, which satisfies the Fairness. It also gives exposure to the associates but still maintains importance of group matches.

Also this is a huge incentive for teams to finish top of the group. It's a direct entry to the SF without playing a knockout game

10 team world cup with a qualifier to select the last 2 spots
Top 4 teams get to the semis

This is similar to 1992 format, but it will chop out associates. The qualifiers will obviously have less attendance and teams like Ireland might still miss out on exposure with the top teams if it's not their day. I would also suggest an IPL-like modification to reward the teams coming out tops.

Team 3 vs Team 4 play the eliminator
Team 1 vs Team 2 play the qualifier

The winner of qualifier goes into the final. The loser of qualifier meats the winner of the eliminator  to have a second chance to go into the final .

The plus is that such a world cup will actually have so many quality matches. A tournament in which every player plays against every other player will have some great battles lined up. And it'll mean that every match will be important. For example, in 1992, Pakistan's entry into the semis was blessed by Aus defeating WI in the last league game. Makes things exciting!

Blogs - Kal, Aaj Aur Kal..

My blog has been fairly inactive for quite some time. There are some posts, fewer people reading and even fewer comments. Initially, it could be attributed to lack of time, lack of subjects, less creativity and people having less time to read the blog . And inevitably, it looks like my blog is dead.

The   first sign of it had already come in 2010, which is pretty much a normal path for people who are average in terms of content and language , and miserable in terms of people following, but soon enough I have realized that most bloggers who used to blog around have also stopped. And I think I know why.

Kind of dates back to why blogs became popular, When I first came to the USA, there were so many new things I saw. A time when calling cards were expensive, there were no social networks (Friendster was there, but I did not know about it, and honestly , when someone described it to me, I felt "what's the big deal about it :) ? ") . While I was making new friends, I missed some of my buddies and felt I should share the interesting things that are not mentioned in news. Some things that you should know about.  So I wrote this email to a bunch of friends. People who were kind enough to tolerate the spam and appear to appreciate. Fueled my enthusiasm a little more, and more emails came by. Like this incident . Before blogs, brief replies to emails meant so much. It was actually a huge acknowledgement that maybe what you are writing isn't as boring . And before long, I wanted to archive these things, all emails, all replies, just for the satisfaction of it.

And then I saw blogger. I don't remember, but it probably came from Animesh's blog . Well, I too want to do something like that. And so the journey started. Lot of factors contributing to it . It was the time when everyone wanted to blog. I think all of us have 10 random topics on which we have an opinion and we want to voice it. So well, let it into the blogosphere. It's free, it's easy, and let the people decide if it's good content or not. The problem though is that all of us don't have more than 20 such things. And the literary / comic ability to make it sound nice. So slowly blogs decline.

However, I think this is not the reason blogs died. The reason was probably the advent of microblogging, transformation of social networking sites to be a means of microblogging, immediate response in the form of 'likes', and ease of using them as hand held devices became faster, cheaper and increasingly common.

One great example:

This post in 2005

There was a fire in SF near my workplace, and well, I blogged about it. Now , it's interesting to imagine,

Or , when I first discovered this great idea .

So in 2006, I blogged about it. In 2015, I would have shared it on facebook, and tagged it, people would like it , reshare it...

Unfortunately, though, this means the decline of something we thought was so cool a decade back :). It was like a good friend when you needed someone to share your thoughts with.

So goodbye, blogs - we'll be in touch of course :D. And of course, I'll put this on facebook so people like it and contribute more to the demise of it :P .

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Brilliant ideas in real life

1. Re-organize - A robot that would automatically sort your room. I don't like my things dirty, but there was a time when things spread across the room was kind of common. The floor was clean, so no problems of hygiene there :P . But how I wished for this!

2. Search - Actually doable with non-invasive bar codes / tracking devices. An app to which if you ask "Honey, where's my watch?". It returns by making a beep sound or pointing to the exact location rather than "Why don't you keep your things correctly at the first place?"

A better bet? Iphone/Android app for the same

I thought that this must have been actually developed though not popular and turns out it is. Found a few of them here and here . I am sure this is a thing for the future

3. Personal lie recorder
"A recorder that records all conversations you do with people - at least your own voice " - so you never go "What did I tell him about why I can't come to his stupid dance performance?"

4. Personal wearable call assistant- Siri and Google goggles are almost there, but something that'll call people at one say and on a wearable device

5. Personal wings set - what better than jet airplanes / hand gliders and skydiving parachutes- simply a set of personal wings that you can ride around like a bicycle or motorbike. This is something that is probably already in experimental mode, but I am wondering if someone finds out a way to make them for $200 and make them available to everyone. Seems too cheap? Well , that's what people said to IBM about computers!

(Image courtesy : National Georgraphic)

6. Smarter Crowdsourcing apps

There are a bunch of crowdsourcing apps in the market. But think about how divine you would feel if you had a google-esque system that whenever you need something, there might be someone offering to help you out. Like , you are waiting for a train and need to reach your office well in advance. A quick app allows you to find someone who'll take you in their car and charge you a nominal pre-fixed fee? OR , you are looking for that elusive technical spare part which is the last piece of a puzzle you are trying to solve and instead of getting it shipped from thousands of miles, you find that your neighbor has a box of it lying in his attic? While this is going to affect taxicabs and service providers, an amazingly smart thing for the future. In fact, I would be very excited to know how well it would work in India, a country which progressed slow during the initial computer revolution but suddenly took leaps and bounds during the internet and mobile revolution. On a lighter note, I am thinking one use would be to look for a 'bai' to come and clean your vessels on the day your maid took a day off :P

..more to come hopefully :)

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Ten years ago...

It's been ten years to the day that I landed in the US. Here's a fun story from where it all started! It might sound a little long/kiddish/sms language (I can't believe I wrote like this) - but it surely is memorable to me. This post and the subsequent Life n Times emails were what eventually transcribed into this blog! Hope you like it and do leave a comment if you do.

hi ppl

well now the big story

well landed up at 7 aug nite at CSI :) chhatrapati shivaji int'l family and a few close
relatives had come to drop me on ...and so had my coll frnds..

was walkin down the long terminal ..when suddenly i bumped into a huge figur in front of me...pleasantly
surprsied to find it was our very ownb dharam paji...

(Yes, I actually met Dharmendra on Bombay airport - I somehow lost the other part of this email. Basically I boarded the plane and reached Hong Kong. The flight had been late to take off, and I thought to myself that it would probably land late as well. The connection time I had as per schedule was one hour. Story continues after landing at HK airport)

as already told...landed at hk airport...

i looked at the watch b4 landing was 115 pm my nxt flight was at 140 pm ist...and this flight was late..coz of the initial delay...i realised tht i wud prob hv no time at hk airport to send an email or for tht matter even call up home...

first thing i realised..i cudnt find neone gettin down who was goin to be with me till LA...made me nervous
came down ffrm the airport-plane bridge..there was this chinese guy standin

i told him mu flight no and dest..

he put a sticker on my jacket

and said(he didnt knw much english)

'there...go downstairs..catch train...upstairs...gate
4 runnnnnnn'

gosh..first cudnt find ne downstairs...

after abt 500 m of running ..found a escalator goin down..still no company...

found a train stop...which was pretty ultramodern..

soon trrain arrived...

now for those of u who think tht we indians are worstin boarding trains..these ppl are no better...

it was like ppl rushin for a train at VT:) catchins eats and even standin supports...

first i hd to figure out where i hd to get down ..

luckily the train only had 2 where i got on..and the other where i hd to get off

got off ..anbd found an escalator on which again ppl
started rushing

went to a counter where there was this female...
i gv her my boarding pass..and she saw it, saw her watch and said

'u've ne idea wht time it is ..dont speak ..just run'

and started running
and i was running behind her on the big hk airpotr

just say she was fast and helpful

took me to the beginnin of a big security check line..had a security check done...the guy cudnt cpeak
good english and i cudnt understand so pretty problematic again

neways started running again. got nervous abt my docs as i was runnin hap hazardly..finally got near the

the staff was helpful..they checlked and stamped my docs.,,and let me into the flight bridge

and yes, here one more thing

there was this old gujjulady running the same way as i was...and when she came to the checkin counter ..her
ticket was taken frm here.../and she started worryin and fightin with them to return back the ticket

now she sudnt speak english and these ppl cud not understand nethin..

so i was called frm halfway down by the security officer to explain her..and i was actin as a translator..was reall funny ewven in this time ...

to top it all hand baggge gave in beautifully..tore off right next to the chain..with
all my imp docs in........gave me the scare of my lif.e.

neways got into the flight..

and as the plane was abt to tke off i wanst sure if nethin had dropped frm tht bag..coz i dudnt knw when
had given in........heart in my mouth

neways flight took were ok ....

still no companuy..although oi had a gentleman who wasan indian settled in the US and he was good to me...

soon was up in the air

the altitutde went higher and higher
..8600-8700-8800-8900 and soon realiised tht i was
higher thtn mt everest :D

neways it got till 11300 m after which it was const...

now i was in a boring flight for 13 hrs..with not much company...


the flight was boring..

i had no one 4 company ..u cud say..except 2 gentlemen
who were pretty old but ....phir was good

the food was too horrible..i hv to say

theer were roti's tht looked like omletttes...sabji had no taste..wasnt even like bland..just terrible there was some rabdi yes..and tht was good :) then some time durin the flight i asked for some veg
snacks and all they cud offer me was peanuts!!!!!

neways. ..i slept quite a lot on the flight..almost 8-9 hrs...aur kucch thaa bhi nahin

cathay boasts of givin every person a personal tv ad a personal audio channel with speakers..sounds hi tech
doesnt it :)

the fact is all but 2 channels in each carry chinese programs grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

and yes...the ppl on this flight..well..i wud say in my chamber...i cud find exactly 4 indians..suddenly this atmosphere seems hostile...

believe me...there's a strange sense of hostility tht u feel in such a flight...the sun was out when we started at 4 pm hk time...itwent down at abt rise back at 11 again ...i was findin it pretty amusin...

finally we reached the coast of california..and in a few min landed at LAx....

to be frank here..i didnt find this airport way too different frm our very own CSI :) airport at bbay...

its not out of the world or nethin..but yes..ppl r def more co-op at the airport thn at bbay

for eg..i needed help in a form and a spanish gurl at the counter actually offered to fill one for me...and
explain me everythin..nice ppl:)

and now for a thrillin one.


at La airport there was this long line for immigration..took me abt 2 hrs+

finally got thru it and found my baggages lying somewhere....(US..organized?????????NO!!!!!!!)

the baggages were all scattered over the place...

and went thru for the customs...

to save on luggage, i was wearin a suit andon it, a leather jacket..and tht too in a hot temp at LAx.(close to 40 degree celcius)

and prob a cop found me suspicious he asked 'u feelin too cold out here'.

and thne he started questionin me abt my univ, why hv i come, where frm...(terrorsit type ;)

then he took me to a restricted area..and srarted seein my docs and askin questions

finally he asked me to open my bag.he wore proper gloves n all.imagine this in a foreign country..a cop is questionin u and checkin u ..andnsuspectin u to be a terrorist :)

and by one all items were removed from the bag

pehle clothes..and then there was lotsa food courtesy my mom of course:)

and every food packet he saw..he asked' whts this'

and i said' food'

he was kind of amused at the food i was carryin

then more sweets
still more
then theplas

he was now showin signs of frustration

then finally came a big dabba full of gol papdi..and he was like..are these also food..and i said
yeah sweets

then he said probs at all..

and then when i asked him if he wanted to open my 2nd
bag..he was like' no no its ok'.he was prob so irritated by the 1st..tht he cudnt
think of goin for the 2nd:)

so finally got out..the person who was supp to pick me up was waitin for almost 3 hrs..but i cudnt find her..

all i cud see was chinese ppl with boards..and gettin more into my head..neways i finally found my
aunt...and got to the apt in some time

rushabh and dipesh (my roomies who had reached earlier) were there  to welcome me
:)..neways thts abt the story..will continue to send mails...

so guys
do keep in touch

i m missin u all a lot

i hope u hv the number

do call in its 7 rs a min :D


Monday, October 01, 2012

(Nahi) Ho!

Old,Old event- draft completed recently

In my entire life, I have gone to a few concerts, Rehman, Indian Ocean, Kailash Kher to name some, and I generally feel the experience falls into one of the categories, Amazing!!!, Good, kind of OK- you find some negatives, maybe it could have been better.

Till me (with N and J) saw Sukhi Paaji yesterday. I have(actually make that had) generally been a fan of Sukhvinder Singh- and was really looking forward to a nice sunday evening.

Here's how it all went - the scheduled start was 6 pm

6 pm : No, after being to so many Indian events, you learn that Indian Standard Time is at least 45 minutes past the scheduled time. We leave home in anticipation of a great evening. Though N and J had dressed to the occasion, I preferred traditional jeans and t-shirt

6:30 pm: Reach the concert, feel proud that we did not reach on time and still got a nice place to sit. In Gujju tradition, we step out to get some food.

6:50 pm: The show gives it's first signs of starting- a singer comes and sings a couple of songs - and the crowd kind of reacts, feels this is a pre-cursor for the show

7:05 pm: Random singer # 1 enters- he sings well- but people are now cheering for Sukhvinder to come in- my expectation is that he'll make a real big entry

7:30 pm: Random singer # 1 continues- the crowd gets a little impatient, with 'We want Sukhvinder' heard around

7:40 pm: The stage turns dark and someone comes onto stage. The music starts, and people think this is 'the moment' they are waiting for.

7:42 pm: The singer starts singing- the voice is suspicious - and as soon as the lights come on- it is revealed, it's not Sukhvinder , but random singer # 2, more random than # 1, and singing really bad Punjabi songs .

8:15 pm: Random singer #2 continues, there's an announcement, 'Now, we present what you all have been waiting for'. The crowd heaves it's final hurrah thinking yet again, that this is the moment

8:20 pm: The announcement continues 'We present Tanushree Dutta'. No one cares, she is hovered with insults, boos and even shouts to get lost

8:25 : Random singer #1 and #2 continue. Things are getting fairly bad with N,J and me. We update our status on facebook as things become popular in the outside world

8:45 pm: We make a call if we should go home. Think maybe we can wait for a little more

9:45 pm: 'Sukhiji ' makes it to the stage. A few apologies, and then he starts singing, the crowd enjoys it and some of us soon start enjoying the music. But, most people have lost enthusiasm in 3 hrs of wait

10:05 pm: Sukvinder leaves the stage for a 'short break of 10 mins' We realize that things are indeed as wrong as they seem to be .

10:10 pm: Going to a concert with a couple gets interesting when one wants to leave and one wants to continue to watch. I wasn't sure whom I would side with , except that I was equally pessimistic about any good music for the evening

10:20 pm : Leave home - realization of a sunday evening and a (I really don't want to go to office) Monday Morning strike you. Vow to never ever watch a Sukhvinder Singh concert
Since the show was so bad- it would be inappropriate to put Sukhi's photo. This was the only nice photo I could think of, an elderly couple sitting in front of us on a cold, boring , Sunday evening .

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A hair-raising, soul-realising experience

I had decided that once I am done with the marathon, I'll put up a post about something non-related. Something more mainstream. Movies,Cricket, Indo-American values and the usual stuff we bloggers love to express our useless opinions on .

But-here's something that happened, that I think I should write:

It was one of the track events for the marathon program. After finishing it, I went to another location and parked my car. I had to buy something and I came back to my car. I just sat inside, all doors unlocked and was looking up a restaurant menu just to check what I could eat for dinner .

Just about then, someone opened the right front door of my car (which was unintentionally unlocked) and came and sat right next to me. I was just too shocked to realise what was happening. It was an old lady with dense white hair . She was probably European and must be really old. She looked scared, and told me something in a language I did not understand. I was shit scared for a moment, but she seemed harmless and was trying to tell me something.

Just as a precaution, I opened my left side door (I seriously thought of an emergency plan to escape the vehicle). But I was still somewhere confident that she was very harmless. She looked a little like Gloria Stewart from Titanic . She was trying to communicate me to go ahead , go ahead.

The first impression was that - she got into the wrong car. I got out on the road to not find a single car. I tried to reason out with her - but to no avail. Finally, I waited for about 2-3 minutes, before I stopped a car (just waving my hand) and a Chinese lady stepped out. She was a little angry on me as to what I was up to- but I convinced her that I was in a situation that needed help.

To my big relief, the Chinese lady understood my problem- she saw and said that there was an old age home board she could spot. She volunteered to go in and find someone as I stood outside my car, still kind of shocked by the event. The Chinese lady came back and said someone would come by soon, and left. I got into the car and tried to comfort the lady, but realised I was only scaring her more.

I waited for what seemed an eternity - after which I stopped another car, and asked a gentleman to help me . Before he could do so, a nurse came out . She went and talked to the old lady . She apologized to me, but all I could say was "No don't worry about me- just take care of her".

It was a feeling that left me sad. Sad enough that I could not eat dinner that night.
What must have gone through the old woman's mind to leave the old age home? Is old age really something that you just need to live waiting for your life to end? Will the western philosophy of "It's my life" lead everyone to such a life?

The question remained unanswered. As for me,it's time to volunteer for another cause that's suddenly become close to my heart.

(Image courtesy trueclassics )

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Marathon - in pictures and words

The first thoughts after the half marathon

As I mentioned in my earlier post , I was training to run the beautiful SF half marathon. Here's how it went:

The build up to the race

I was feeling quite well after I ran 11 miles comfortably at Crissy fields (which was preceded by two 9 and 10 mile runs), and it did not seem to be a big issue to run the 13 as such. Of course, there were 2 major issues. The first being that the race started at an insane 6:02 am, which meant, reaching SF by 5:00, which meant leaving South bay at 3:45, which meant leaving home at 3:15, in short waking up at 2 )

For a nocturnal animal like me, sleeping early was going to be a pain, but luckily I slept at 10 pm. Before that, Mahesh and Arpan came home and we went over my checklist, getting everything ready, so on and so forth :)Everyone's mantra: Make sure you enjoy the race

Me and Arpan the night before the race

The morning

I had a sound sleep for close to 4 hours, and woke up at 2 am. With all preparations in place, got ready, had a little pain in the left leg (which had been a nagging issue), foam rolled a little and got ready for Arpan. Arpan came a little late as I stood outside in the cold updating my f/b status (Boy , am I addicted to that) and we soon got into the sunnyvale caltrain station .

Got into the bus, chatted with Coach Raman, tried to sleep, eat something- too many thoughts.The bus had a restroom too-prob good for runners to avoid the port-a-potty lines [Every SF marathon starts with the first instruction as -get to the race and stand in a port-a-potty line] . My interesting observation was that the toilet in the bus had no flush, no lock, no light, but yes - it had a mirror . People were even more amused by how I observed that of all things

Got down at the drop point- Figured out it was an awesome decision to take the shuttle, it drops you right at the start point. Met a few Asha runners- with similar sentiments, a little bit of fear, a nervousness, last minute things. I figured out that most people were not in the mood for too much stretching. I found Rohit, who was as enthusiastic as me to do a warmup and stretches (I had severe issues once when I ran without stretching). We decided to go for a warmup run - and I did not realise that Rohit's idea of the run was a pretty long one. Came back , did our warm ups (which in hindsight were very useful). The excitement continued till our wave was finally announced.

The start of the marathon. Just about dawn. Awesome time . (photo courtesy Rupanshu)

I lined up with Arpan , Sumedha and Parag (I am not sure how me and Rohit somehow did not end up together) . As soon as the wave went off, I started running with Arpan and Sumedha. The start is something to be careful about, you have to take care to not trip or fall else thousands of people are going to run you over in the race. Kept running, but realised they were too fast for me. I remembered the coaches advice - to run slow during the first 2 miles . I let these guys go ahead, but realised I was without company.

Slowly, I started running, enjoying the beautiful SF coastline. First target- finish 5 miles and get to the Golden Gate Bridge. I went along at about 12 minutes a mile. I was seeing some people running with me , but no Asha folks. Was feeling very bored. As I approached the Golden Gate Bridge, I found a runner from AID. We talked for a bit, she was running a little slower than I was - but we were both in for some well needed company, the race was getting pretty dull otherwise.

The Golden Gate Bridge is visible from very early on in the race- and as you slowly move towards it, the excitement increased. We kept running and soon reached the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge Stretch

This was the most amazing part of the race. As we started running, suddenly, the feeling of tiredness and pain seemed low. This was what I had dreamt off 3 months back, this is why I had signed up for the first half at an unearthly hour . The Golden Gate Bridge means a lot to every resident of the valley- and it was a true pleasure running over it.I met Coach Bharath on the way, but he asked me to run faster since he was running the full.Eventually though, I stopped for taking a photo and saw him way ahead of me .

Some more photos along the Golden Gate Bridge

To add to my happiness , I got an sms from Himani- that they were on their way. The bridge was beautiful, I got my iphone out and decided to take as many pictures as I could. It was nice and cool, till my iphone realized that handling 3 applications of Camera, Ipod and the running app was getting too much for it, and it crashed. Crashed pretty bad. It was a tedious thing to stop in the middle of the Golden Gate bridge and try like an idiot to restart your phone .

But then, something struck me. Might sound filmi, but I realised that the app, the camera, the music, was nothing compared to the beauty of this place and the experience of the race. It somehow reminded me of "Zindagi na milegi Dobara" and I decided to shut it down, squeeze it in and just enjoy the beauty. It was heavenly, awesome! I was again down to running alone since my friend had ITB issues and stopped abruptly.

The last few miles

All through the marathon,I have had this psychological thing. Once you cross the halfway mark, it all seems fine. I have had this in the 2 mile run , 3 mile run, right down till the 10 mile run. After crossing the GGB, you knew that you were done with more than 50% of the race and it was just a matter of time now.

The other interesting part is that through the Golden Gate Bridge, with runners running in 2 directions, I was finally able to see some known faces from Asha [ it felt awesome, Team Asha rocks!] . We kept on egging each other, with "almost there" and (Coach Raman special) "Looking Good" . I was running exactly as per my expected time, and maybe a little faster, so I decided to take it a little easy. Did a run-walk for about half a mile.

I saw Balu and Chakri along the way, as they shouted "Hey, it's Harshit " click click! and I posed for some nice snaps. Thanks guys! - it was awesome to see a known face after a while and someone actually shouting for you . Both of you guys rock!

I lost my running companion somewhere, she was running like a hare, stop at times, and then run fast, and I was like a tortoise, running slowly now with a lot of rolling hills. Met some more runners on the way including Vikram (my Baylands AM mentor), who was running with Nupur .

Vikram slowed down a little with Nupur for some stretches, and asked me to go ahead. Soon I hit my 11 mile marker and now I exactly knew what I had to do. It was a less crowded SF street with runners a little more tired and a little less enthusiastic, so I restarted my phone , and called Himani and the other folks that I was expected to come down the finish line soon. I decided not to ask her who all had come, the suspense and excitement were keeping me going .I decided to continue walking till I hit the 12 miler, so that I could finish the race in full strength. It is interesting that amongst all the excitement, you still want to look strong when your friends and on lookers are seeing you. Decided to walk till mile 12.

Hit the 12 miler, it was a little uphill so I continued walking for a bit. Started running , I don't know why, but I felt emotional, had moist eyes. It was maybe the culmination of the dream to run the half-marathon, the happiness of actually raising money for kids, the belief in myself that I could do this, or just the pleasure of being with yourself, or the anticipation that soon friends would see you and cheer for you.

Very soon, could soon spot Sneha and Ritika - who had both run this race last year. Before I knew, I could see Chetan, Himani, Jigi, Nimish,Kanu all coming and running with me, with Kanu instructing me to "go slow" for non-marathoners :). It was such a sweet experience. I carried on to the finish line and maybe missed the idiotic electronic bib tracker which meant my timing was screwed up.But who cares ? I know I finished the race in good time and thats all that mattered.

I went over to collect my medal- and seeing it was so awesome!

Akki came out of nowhere with his DSLR and took very cool photos. It is great when people are like "Mera bhi ek photo Harshit ke saath" -I was enjoying the momentary celebrity status . Some friends called , spoke to them, updated facebook, took more pictures.

The cheering squad (most of them). Thanks for coming by guys!

We had a lovely time together after which they left for home.I met Wako , it was awesome to see her, given that she had been one of the people who had constantly motivated me throughout the season. Soon, I found Vikas, Akash, Divya and we headed to catch a shuttle to the Asha Tent.

We reached the Asha tent to meet our fellow runners/ coaches / mentors and some great food. Imagine getting paneer , parathas, gulab jamun, Raita and Samosas . It was freaking awesome! Thanks to all the people who made it possible (Asha volunteers are awesome. I can name a few, but I am sure there were a lot more who were involved)

Chatted with Coaches,runners before we headed out to Shivam's place for a relaxing session ahead :).Thanks to all the wonderful coaches, volunteers, all friends who cheered and supported me , Mahesh Palekar for being a driving force through the marathon. It's been an awesome one.

Baylands PM group met on the Monday after the race - most of us just enjoyed the feeling while season 2 runners did their stretching and strengthening and then used their help to click so many nice photos . Can you also believe that just the people in this picture must have raised about 40,000$ to 50,000$ this year alone ? (numbers might be approximate)

Both Baylands groups on a potluck party after the race

More coming soon ! Oh btw, if you wish to donate here's the link!