21.1km

Weekend Projects

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 11.24.50 PMThere was no gunshot at the stroke of midnight, but we, OSIM Sundown half marathoners singing to the tunes of our host started our journey. This was my first race at night and my first half marathon. I am an average runner with a decent will power. But this time it was different.

A week ago, I had over exercised and my knees were a bit shaky. The pain from my ankle injury had returned and to top it up Achilles was back too. I had rested and massaged painful spots, but I knew it was not going to be easy this time.  I bandaged my ankles, my heels and my knees. I had compression pants on and finally the singlet. “Sleep Can Wait” the catchline of this race made me believe that I can sacrifice my sleep for a day.

I was one of them, one of the OSIM Sundown half marathoners. I knew if I can do it today, shatter that mental barrier, I will be ready for the big leagues. And so cheering each other and giving space to the fastest runners we all picked our pace and pacers. I managed a non stop first hour and was determined to go this way for another one. I stopped for a while to use the toilet, the first one in the left lane.

Although, the pain in my ankle was starting to show signs, I gave myself another boost of encouragement and picked up my pace for the second hour. I was thinking about my colleague who must be getting ready for his marathon at this hour. I was excited about his race, and prayed he could give his best too. Maybe somewhere our paths might cross in this race.

It was dark, but far ahead I could see the sign read “Marina Barrage”. This was DXC Runners Club favorite spot. I started reminiscing about our weekend runs to this very spot. It’s beautiful in the wee hours of the day but at night you could barely see anything. I join the runners often over the weekend, but sometimes embarrassed to slow them down. Some of them would even sprint back or wait for me at the turning points. We would relish Vietnamese breakfast after our weekend run and it would be nice to have it today. My watch told me it’s 2:00am and perhaps I needed something else to distract myself.

I was lucky that a pacer just came along. I managed my 17 kilometer mark with him and decided to take a short break. “Listen to your body”, the sound of the MC was echoing in my brain. I saw a lady, a few feet away, wobbling side to side and I wondered if she missed the last hydration point. I was afraid, I might be dehydrated myself. It was extremely hot and humid. And there was no sun.

I was desperately trying to distract myself from sleep, body aches, nausea, you name it. Even quitting the race after reaching the 20th kilometer mark came to my mind. Every step was like lifting lead shoes. The best part was I could see the finishing line. The nausea was hitting me over and over, but I knew I had to bear it for just few more minutes.

I could see the photographers lined up, loved ones cheering up, couples holding hands to take the last step together, friends taking selfies and volunteers lined up to offer assistance. Then there was a gentleman who saw me struggling and came a bit closer so I could hear him say just 50 meters ahead dear, you can do it. He gave me a big smile and I went off my last steps.

The pain miraculously vanished as I touched the finishing line.

It was just seconds later everyone rushed towards me and I was taken aback. What was going on? There he was, the first marathoner who was behind me, crossed the finishing line. Of course he started an hour later and had finished a full marathon. But I was elated to witness an epic event.

I slowly walked to collect my energy drink, water, banana and medal. I managed to find a spot stretched a bit, removed my shoes and slept on the street.

It was almost about 2 hours later I realized that something was moving near my face. It was some specie of caterpillar trying to wiggle its way into my ear. I quickly woke up and shove it away. It was still early and there was no train back home yet. So, I decided to find another spot. This time just beside the big screen playing “Wonder Woman”

Another hour down and I had a baby caterpillar crawling over my arm. Even though I was deprived of sleep, my reflexes were good. I shoved it away too. I didn’t want to sleep on the street anymore, but there was no other place to go. The benches were packed and the grass had its own ecosystem of insects. I waited for the clock to strike 6:15 and I headed to the train station to ride back home.

I learnt about RICE recently. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. To recover quickly from today’s exertion, I must rest, apply ice to my sore ankle, wear compression bands and finally elevate my feet.

After all, I have another race to go in just about six months.

Digital Footprint

Weekend Projects

apps-blur-button-267350.jpgIs your wife expecting soon?, I asked my friend

Yes, she is. How do you know?

Were you researching about epidurals?

Yes, I was. But how did you know? We haven’t spoken for ages.

Well, this was a conversation I had recently with my friend and yes, his wife was expecting. Congratulations to both for being blessed with a healthy baby.

Unbeknown to him, his research left a digital footprint and I stumbled upon it. You must have noticed any search or research on google results in an overwhelming advertisement in your promotions or social mailbox. Does google learn about you from you? What about Facebook? Does it perform behavioral analysis behind the scenes? Is this leading to some form of data analysis? What is really data analytics?

Perhaps, unraveling the mystery behind copious data is called data analytics. Data has become an invaluable possession. It beholds the secret of demand and supply.

For businesses, it is a powerhouse. What about politics? Do we leave digital footprints that lay down the grounds for gerrymandering?

What if I don’t want a digital footprint but still want to stay connected?

Do you know a way?

Selfless Service: Sewa

Weekend Projects

Gurpurab also known as Prakash Utsav, celebrates the birth of the Sikh Gurus. Sikhs had ten Gurus and each year there are at least ten events to celebrate besides Vaisakhi-the birth of Khalsa.

Langar is something that excites me the most about these events. Langar is the term used in Sikhism for community kitchen in a Gurudwara where a free meal is served to all visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, color, gender, economic status or ethnicity.

My favorite part is to take a small portion of the dough, roll it between the palms of my hands, form a ball, and then flatten it to form a 6-inch circular disc. It is then passed on to the ladies standing beside the hot iron griddle to cook the chapattis. Every disc of dough that I flatten is better than the one before. It is a self-challenge and the results are strikingly visible.

The only key is to find a seat in the kitchen. There are so many devotees willing to help in the preparation of the meal; it is never easy to get the role you desire the most. Kids mainly play the part of kneading the dough or rolling balls from the dough, but adults get a chance to flatten the balls into a disc. Some ladies prefer chopping the vegetables while the others like to stand beside the hot griddle to cook chapattis. Men prefer assisting in lifting heavy weight pans and pots filled with curries or perhaps stirring the curries while they are being cooked with giant spatulas.

Besides the selfless service, each one of us has the opportunity to make new friends, share our joys and seek advice from elders on some of the troubling circumstances be it work or home. The younger generation learns from the adults and the adults learn from the elders.  It all happens under one roof. The system worked its magic especially for a generation heading towards nuclear families.

Nowadays, I hardly see this congregation in India. The interaction between toddlers and teens, teens and adults, adults and elderly and all the other permutations have been wiped out by just employing the chefs to cook the meal for the community. The service that was done by the community for the community has dropped down to an astonishing degree. The scale of patience has dropped, interaction is limited, stress levels have surmounted and divorces are no longer a rarity.

Is it just me feeling this loss or is it really losing its touch. I wish we can all get together and revive this tradition. Once again we can all mingle and laugh and share our joys and sorrows together under one roof listening to the mesmerizing music.

Hydroponics

Weekend Projects

If you search Wikipedia, you will find the definition of hydroponics as a subset of hydroculture, the method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solution in a water solvent. My cousin brother’s recent inclination towards growing rare plants hydroponically got me curious as to what this field is all about. Is it close to growing organic fruits and vegetables or synthetically produced meat?

To find out more my father and I visited him and were excited to see his prototype. He had grown lettuce (romaine and iceberg), tomatoes, mint, coriander, parsley, capsicum and even strawberries in his patio. His customized irrigation system could manage both the speed and frequency of water being administered. The seeds had germinated and some plants had fruits too.

It was a delight to watch his garden.

There was one thing though that bothered him the most- some plants were not growing to maturity. He was worried if there is a nutrient that he might have missed out.  Since this is his first experiment, we encouraged him to study and contact as many people as possible before plunging into commercialization.

I was wondering, if I could grow some of the plants in my home hydroponically too. Perhaps the mint, curry, coriander and parsley leaves. Maybe celery too.

Do you have experience in kitchen gardening? What about hydroponics? Do you buy the nutrients or prepare them yourself at home?

 

Special Thanks to @Angad Singh

 

 

Savior of Would-Be-Mothers

Weekend Projects

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 9.14.42 PM

You will find this verse on page 473 of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book of Sikhs.

I have loved this verse since I was a child. It reminds me of the importance of women in our lives.

She is blessed with the gift of reproduction. She is the one who can conceive a child. She is the one with whom a man is married to, to  continue the cycle of life. 

She is a friend and she is the one who can set the course of future generations. Once she dies, a man looks for another woman to be part of his life. Why do we abuse women who are the mother of Saints and Kings?

She is the only one who can give birth to a man or a woman and there is no man who has come into this world without her touch. Almighty is the only one who is not born out of a woman. Guru Nanak Dev Ji, explains us that the man who praises the Almighty always, is blessed and revered in His court.

Whenever I came across this verse, my eyes sparkled. I felt respected and felt the same for all the women in my life. In Sikhism, the women are not only praised, but are given deep respect. Yet, I was shocked to hear that these days Sikh families too, abandon their girl child. Although, there are laws to punish the doctors who reveal the sex of the offspring, not much can be expected in a country like India engulfed in corruption. On the other hand, there is no check on the people who threaten the doctors to commit the heinous crime and abort the child if the sex is not male.

My recent vacation took me to one of the charitable institute. It was a multi storey cream building with the name of the institute written in black on a large board painted yellow. There were several workers fixing the tiles of the ramp at the entrance and they directed me to the main office.

I was greeted by a young lady. She was dressed in pink and had a pleasing personality.

“Please take a seat, the principal will be with you shortly. Would you like to have some tea or coffee?”

“Tea, please.”

The main office had a huge black ebony desk with a black ergonomic office chair, a cupboard, couple of sofa chairs and few plastic ones. There were several young girls about 2 or 3 years old running in and out of the main office. I smiled at one of them and she ran towards the young lady who just returned with some tea for me and those waiting for the principal to arrive.

“Thank you”

She sat beside me and shared that one of their students is getting married in a few days. The principal is out shopping for her wedding and will arrive soon. She gave me a multi paged pamphlet to read and learn about the institute. I was keen to view the facility and requested her for a tour.

She was delighted and I went with a couple of others to view the facility.

Each of the floors, three including the basement, had large rooms that could house three to six beds including closets. We met some of the girls studying together and one of them mentioned she has chosen “Arts” and would like a career in that stream. We managed to peek into the new kitchen and serving hall that was under construction. It was beautiful, even though there was much work required until it is functional. We met some of the girls who helped in the preparation of meals. The campus  was neat and tidy, but surely you could sense that donations weren’t enough to run the place.

We returned to the office and had just started chit chatting that the principal arrived. She was tall, pious, beautiful lady in her forties. She was not wearing any makeup or jewelry, but there was a calm radiance on her face. She greeted us all and apologized for the delay. She had been with us for barely five minutes that four young girls ran across the room towards her calling her “Mom”.

One of them wanted to sit on her left lap and one on the right. One wanted to sit on the table and the other wanted to swirl her chair. They were asleep when she went out shopping for the wedding and the young ones were curious what she brought for them. We were all watching her negotiating with all of them and not once did she lose her temper. She requested her senior girls to manage the toddlers for a while and convinced the toddlers that they will receive their gifts.

The interaction was so pure that all of us were convinced that this institute is doing something right. We learnt from the principal how the girls landed in her institute. One of the toddler was found in the dump. She was barely a day old. Some of them were orphans, some had parents undergoing divorce, some parents were handicapped or disabled to take care of their girl and some who were just abandoned because of their sex. Most of the stories fell in the last category.

The current strength of the institute was around 200 and she was proud that she has managed to take care of all of them from day one until they get married. One of the principles of the institute was to educate every female child. Some of the brightest students had opted to become Lawyers and Doctors. We were amazed to hear that the institute was running purely on donations.

It was for the first time that I did not hesitate to donate. It was for the first time that I felt being seated few feats away from someone who is blessed and has the courage to follow her mission. Her mission, to give each one of them a unique identity, to love them, to give them security, to make them feel at home and encourage them every step of the way..

Kudos to you Sandeep!!

 

Cultivating New Habits!!

Weekend Projects

I am nervous, anxious and sometimes even feel responsible to fill the silence of the room. The stress of nothing activates the palpitations of my heart and it is sometimes unbearable.

My brain is working at an accelerated pace and I sometimes miss collecting my own thoughts. If I start speaking out loud I’ll start to swallow words and things become difficult to comprehend for the audience. I can relate to all things perfectly, but my audience is left stranded.

I want to calm down, breathe, listen, absorb more and then share my thoughts. I requested a Friend to hear me out and help me deal with the situation.

The realisation is the first step and he congratulated me on identifying the challenge. But this was not enough, I had burning desire to act immediately, so I asked him to help me lay down an action plan.

Rules

First, I must consciously remind myself of the habit I want to cultivate. “Listen More”, “Listen Attentively”, “Active Listening”.

Second, I must learn to let the conversationalist finish first. “Do not interrupt unless absolutely essential”

Third, I must reiterate to have a better level of engagement or write it down if I want to come back to it later. “Reiterate”, “Take Notes”

Each step sounded like a new habit for a talker like me. But I had the recipe crafted in few minutes.

This is an investment worth every penny.

Do you have any more tips for active listening? Share with me.

Gift

Weekend Projects

Meditating about God

To secure a good harvest, a farmer prepares the land, sows the seed, irrigates the land, monitors the growth of the crop, adds fertilizers and sprays pesticides to protect it from any infestation. Each step in this cycle determines the quality of the end result. Good quality seeds offer a promise of healthy harvest but, poor irrigation or lack of fertilizers or even weeds competing with the existing crop can turn the tables around.

In IT parlance, the stakeholder plays the role of the farmer. He has the vision to do better for his business. The challenge, however, is exponential as we are dealing with human beings. The seed cannot think for himself or call for help if the irrigation is insufficient. It is the farmer who needs to know how much and when to irrigate the land.

A human being on the other hand has a gift no other species has.

The power to Think.

Like minded people can accelerate the success of a business. Yes, failures are inevitable, but the power to do better than before keeps us going forward.

Manipulation

Weekend Projects

fad-diet

I have learnt it the hard way that a new fad diet in the market with a flashy punch line “Lose 5 pounds in a week” will not work and neither will the electronic gadgets causing perspiration. However, the exceptional desire to achieve the dream size has clouded my judgement every now and then. The infomercials are contrived with great conviction and appeal to many like me.

Today, I hit the gym or the road for a long jog and try to control my diet to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

I am covered pretty well under my company health insurance and that has been sufficient until now. To be honest, it was only a couple of years into my job that I realized, I was paying my medical bills that my company can fully reimburse. Thankfully, none of the bills were too heavy. But, I saw a pattern that as my colleagues progressed to a higher position, stress levels resulted in hailing one or the other health problems. High blood pressure being the common denominator.

When I shared my observation with my financial agent, he suggested me to buy a health care plan that would take care of me not only during my old age, but also during the premium period. Fear is a powerful motivator and an equally powerful manipulator. To reduce the lurking stress, I was sold to the idea of insurance.

Reciprocal Altruism

Weekend Projects

img_2209The concept of “reciprocal altruism” is defined as an act of helping another individual with the expectation that the other individual will act in a similar manner in a reverse situation.

Lending a helping hand to a younger brother on his holiday homework, endorsing a peer on LinkedIn, complimenting your spouse for a delicious meal, congratulating a colleague on her wedding, recommending a friend for a job opportunity, offering discounts to potential clients and even donating money to political candidates are all examples of fostering goodwill.

I was having a casual chat with my sister on this subject when she shared her recent journey by bus.

“An old gentleman, probably around 70’s, boarded the bus packed to its full capacity. In the absence of a decent straphanger, he grabbed the handle of two seats to stay put and embraced the bumpy ride. I couldn’t watch him balance the bounce for long and offered him my seat. He smiled and thanked me several times as he sat down.

He reminded me of “Pitaji” (Father). Someday, someone might offer his seat to him when he needs it the most.”

I was touched by her random act of kindness and taking reciprocal altruism to a whole new dimension.

Do you believe in reciprocal altruism?

Be your own Shrink

Weekend Projects

whyI was listening to the audio book “Start with Why”, by Simon Sinek earlier today and I came up with the idea to examine every decision I make today. Perhaps it might exemplify my inherent virtues.

I went for an approximately 10km jog today. Why?

The step challenge on my “Garmin” watch reminded me that I am 10,000 steps short for my week. I didn’t want to craft another excuse to rationalize my failure so, I geared up and went for one. I also knew that if I wear my gear and shut the door behind me, I will easily surpass the desired score.

Monitoring is the key and gold stars feed the upholders* like me.

I called my parents. Why?

I call them every other day, but today is a holiday so I thought of calling them a bit earlier, not at our regular hour. Maybe hear from my mother what is she cooking for lunch? Did I tell you, she has magic in her fingers. She can come up with a wonderful dish even when there is nothing in the house. And it was true today as well. She had varied vegetables that can’t be mixed together. But, she prepared a thick flour batter with the greens and fried them to prepare an aromatic curry. I was drooling when I heard the recipe.

Relationships are important, especially with your parents. In one way or the other we all try to emulate what we love the most.

I declined a friend’s request to watch a movie today. Why?

The reviews are good and there are very few in a year that are worth the trip to the theatre. Most importantly, I like the protagonist. The plot is great, but I am a bit tired after the early morning jog. I wanted to get some rest. I scheduled it for another day.

Exercising is important and so is recovery. I like to hang out with my friend, but sometimes my selfish desires -recovery in this case, takes control. 

I changed the setting of my room. Why?

It’s just refreshing. There is not much furniture in my room, but I like to rotate it once in a while. Clutter magically disappears and it feels like I have entered a whole new place.

I like to have a decent amount of cleanliness around me and might have an inclination towards interior design.

I’m enjoying this game of playing shrink. Let’s listen to the remaining half of the book. I might discover another secret.

*read about the upholders in the book Four Tendencies, by Gretchen Rubin