Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Kanush's first year (Dec 2005 - Dec 2006)

My daughter was born on the 6th of December 2005. As if to prove she had my genes in her, she hurried out and my tickets home weren't till a month later. But her mother called me and told me all about it .. or as much as she could manage between sobs and chuckles (oh!! Yeah .. I was firing away with my poor jokes even at that moment). I hugged the receiver, blew a kiss to my daughter thousands of kilometers away and soaked up the feeling of becoming a father. For the sake of those who haven't become one yet, I'm not going to spoil it by describing any further.

I flew down the next month and finally saw her. That's right .. saw her .. it would be a full week before I held her. She was born premature and she looked really frail. On top of it there was this thought in the back of my head about some portion in the back of her neck that needed to be supported. Altogether it was a task that required finesse and skill .. and the last time checked I dint have either. So I held back on my temptation to give her a bear hug and a high five and waited patiently for her to 'muscle up' a bit. After a week of waiting I held her anyway .. albeit with her mom also holding her from the other side. She looked into my eyes and smiled. We bonded .. right there.

All wasn't rosy though, there are so many obstacles to overcome. Like the naming ceremony, easily my worst moment, one that exposed my deepest darkest secret. I couldn't sit with my legs folded and that was what the priest asked me to do. Nor did the added bulk after marriage help my cause. After a long, arduous and painful struggle I finally managed to fold and lock my legs. They stayed locked right through the ceremony .. and after it too. It took another long struggle to unlock them. But it was over. We named her Kanush, it means beloved, and that is what she is to us.

Three months later Kanush had passed all the fitness tests her grandparents could throw at her and her mother and she were declared competent enough to live with me in Hyderabad. The big day came. I rose early and spent the whole day cleaning and decorating the house. In the evening I gave up and paid the watchman's mother to do it all over again. Then I rushed to the airport, made it in the nick of time, and brought them home. I spent the whole night looking at her and harassing her mother. "she doesn't look comfortable". "What do you mean she doesn't need a pillow?" "Get out!! How could you say that!! I'm just trying to help" And on and on and on. I had bought a few child rearing books but she, having read them all, made sure everything she did was out of the book . It was frustrating to me who had build my expertise on the strength of the books I had read. Little by little she opened up. First with smiles, and then with chortles and gurgles and finally with words. She learned to crawl and took a sinister pleasure in watching our faces as she made a dash for the edge of the bed. That game ended recently when she fell out of the bed for the first time. Her first birthday has just passed and she had a wonderful time eating the wrapping of the presents while more resourceful kids made off with the presents themselves. She has given us some heartstopping moments but it's been a fun ride so far. I hope the future is just as joyful.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Half Marathon (Nov 2006)

A half marathon is twenty one kilometers. Why would people want to run twenty one kilometers and end up at the same place they started running? Two hours and six minutes after I started, I had the answer .. It takes 21 kilometers of running to figure out how good it feels to finally stop running. But again .. let me start from the beginning.

As with all my mad moments, there was a wheelie behind this one too. Anand Takale. Wheels' resident marathon runner. It all started with him innocently directing me to the website of 'running chick'. Hers is a fascinating story .. started off as an amateur trying to lose some weight and as I write this she has qualified for the Boston marathon with a time of 3 and a half hours (a marathon is 42 kilometers). I was inspired. Much like the dog 'Dollar' in 'Richie Rich' cartoons, I was transported to a world where I was beating the Kenyans and Ethiopeans in 100 kilometer races. It all looked so easy. Twenty one kilometers was puny in comparison .. and so I resolved to run the Hyderabad half marathon.

There I was, in KBR park, all set for my first run. 30 mins, easy pace, piece of cake. And so I started running, it seemed like time itself had stopped for me. When most people say 'time stopped' it's usually to describe some wonderful, romantic moment in their life. In my case, it was because I was gasping and panting and about to throw up and the darned watch was showing only 5 mins. I huffed and puffed for another 5 minutes and finally gave up. Walked a couple of kilometers and went back, a dejected and demoralized 'former runner'. The next day the aches and pains started. My ankles pained, my knees pained, my groin pained, even my shoulder pained. I wanted to throw Anand off the 5th floor balcony. Fortunately for him it was all I could manage to reach my seat. That pain, however, saved my cause. There was no way I was going to give up after going through that.

So I soldiered on, day after day, following my schedule and I did my 12k a full month before the half marathon. That was my best run. I dint get tired, I ran fast and after that I really felt I could target a sub 2hr half marathon. Unfortunately the one above chose that moment to throw a spanner into the works. He laid me low for a couple of weeks with a severe cold. It was a low blow that I never saw coming. A failed attempt at 15k dented my confidence even further.If that was a test of character I failed miserably. Only a pep talk from my wife made me decide to turn up for the race.

The race was at 6:00 in the morning. Ganesh, Atul and I had planned to run together for as long as possible. There were a surprisingly large number of people there and I couldn't find either Atul or Ganesh (turned out they arrived at the last minute). So I had to start off alone. I managed to find someone to run with and we set off. He said he was a policeman who had just run a 5k in 18 minutes and was now looking to see how good he does over long distances. I dint even bother to tell him who I was, this was the time for action. In a flash I bent down as if to tie my shoelaces and told him to run on. Whew!, saved from being forced to retire at the 1k mark itself. By then I had caught sight of Ganesh and Atul and we ran on for a few kilometers. Those two, however, were doing a recovery run as part of their Mumbai marathon training. They dint plan to go all out. So I was forced to move ahead. I ran into a couple of runners who seemed to be running at a manageable pace and I fell in step behind them. We plodded on till the halfway mark. Surprisingly I was still fresh. The adrenaline of running a race as well as the wonderful atmosphere was getting to me. I really want to thank all those policemen who held up the traffic for us (It's really difficult to do that in India, and they did a wonderful job). That little sub 2hr dream of mine peeked out again and I picked up the pace. I was on target till the 16k mark, but by then I was exhausted. I had to slow down and I regretfully decided to shoot for that in the next race. By 18k I had to stop, walk a bit, and start again. I did that twice more and finally there was just 1k left. I don't know where it came from, but suddenly I was fresh again. I pretty much sprinted down that stretch, with lots of people clapping and cheering me on. Final time - 2hrs 6 mins. I guess that's ok for a first timer who had never run more that 12k in practice. I loved the run. I loved the race. I'll do it again, and again, and again. Alright Anand, I'll hold on that thought of throwing you off the 5th floor.