On a new Workout Regime, bound to Fail..

Apparently, some of my best pieces of writing are the ones where I write about my attempts at staying in shape and keeping up with personal health. For over a year now, much thanks to my never-changing eating habits and the fatty nature of Estadounidense food (not American food, because 'This') I've begun ballooning. It's almost like the fat trapped inside Anant Ambani's body is transiently entering in my body, without my permission. Technically, that'll be an 'invasion' but they're rich people, so who's to listen? Look what Russia did to Crimea (shakes head).

I was so pumped up before November, last year. "Must. Lose. Weight." had become my slogan. I had stood naked in front of the mirror (despite early near-fatal shocks, I've conditioned my eyes to stand the view) a number of times, narrowing down the parts of the body that I need to cut down or build up. Some parts didn't need to be touched at all - they worked just fine! Others needed my immediate attention.

So I hauled my roommate Jason. Set up a work-out routine. Gym, every evening. Tennis, every other day. Squats, every Friday (because we meet interestingly beautiful women doing the same thing at that hour... Sigh). But like the wuss that you can imagine us to be, we dropped the whole plan when winter stepped in and a 5K on the treadmill didn't do shit to send the shivers away. I took the trip to India and passed by my old gym. I glanced at the building now buzzing with new regulars, belittling me. Mocking me. I guess, I failed the test of perseverance once again.

That failure persisted till I and my friend Emily had a little conversation. She runs. I don't. That should be declared right out, as we move deeper into this pointlessly tiring post.

"How? How do you do it? How do you put up a brave face every day and go out to face the road?" I asked.
"There's this app.." (there always is one) said she, "It makes you do it!"
"How do you mean?" inquired I.
"It tracks you. Your movements. Through GPS.." replies she.
"Like NSA?" asked I, a little scared.
"More than that! This app tracks your movements. Like where you're going. What speed. What elevation. And when you're contemplating giving up on that 1 mile climb, it's there, watching you. Judging you.. So you run!" said she.
"So you run.." repeated I, as if in a trance.
"You can add friends in there too, and compare how much more you've run" added she.
"Damn.." concluded I, as I was effectively hooked to the idea of it!

The next day was the first day of the weekend. I woke up and I downloaded the app. "Please permit us to post on your behalf on Facebook. If you run, we post about it. If you don't run, we go viral. Please give the app permission to do all this shit" said the app, upon it's first start. "Not now" said I. That it'll only be a cause of humiliation, I was assured of it.

I couldn't wait till Sunday. It was supposed to be a beautiful day, and I would be using the app to make me run. My roommates and friends had planned to go to the beach, but I had other worldly plans later that day, so I woke up early and planned the whole day on my own.

"You coming with us for breakfast?"  asked Chris, the Tall One.
"Where are you guys going?" I asked back, as I was gearing up for nothing less than a 5K.
"Chicken, Bison, Buffalo meat-eating extravaganza for breakfast. Humans Rule!" (That's not the place's real name, but it should be). "You coming?" asked Israel, the Jobless One.
"Damn! That's too much meat to start a healthy day, dawg!" I exclaimed.
"You, wuss", exclaimed Jason, the Jew as they drove away to meat haven.
"We'll see about that, clogged arteries!" I shouted after them, waving my clenched fist.

I set my target. Chose my route. Set up some music. Reggae (yes, I wanted to take it slow at first). Locked the door behind me. And started my run. However, less than 50 feet later, I get a call on my phone. It was my dad. And he wanted to talk to me on FaceTime.

"Baba, I can't.. (huff).. talk right now.. (puff).. I.. am running.. (cough).." I quickly let him know.
"Running? RUNNING? RUNNINNNGG?!" he exclaimed, totally taken aback.
"Yes" I replied, curtly.
"Deep's mom! Deep's MOM!!! Listen up! Guess what your son is up to, today morning?" he started talking to Ma, on the other side.
"Oh come on, Baba.." I pleaded.
"Sleeping, you say? Nope! What? Eating, you say? Chicken? Nope! Lazing about the house? He wishes, but nope! He's RUNNING! Yes yes, RUNNING! No, I too think he's completely making it all up right now!" my dad kept up the conversation with mom. Sigh.
"I'll talk to you later, Baba.. give me an hour!" said I before I switched him off.
Last I heard, he was still laughing about my planning to have run for an hour.

I ran the first few steps the hardest. I was on the trail, running alongside some seemingly seasoned runners, pet dogs and other semi-naked Floridians of Tallahassee. A cool breeze was hitting my determined face. My arms were synchronized with my legs perfectly, which were rising all the way up. I was one with nature. Peace. It was going to be a good day.

After what seemed like more than 10 miles and a couple of hours, I was beginning to wonder if the intimidating lady in the app gives any kind of feedback as to how much I've run till now. I didn't want to overrun. If you remember what happened to me the last time I ran that hard, you'd know why I didn't want a repeat of that. Also in any case, this was not confined to the limits of the four walls of a gym. I was beginning to go seriously short of breath and no matter how much of those green leaves made oxygen around me, I seriously considered pausing my run, as soon as possible. Right about then, the intimidating lady from the app spoke up to declare "You have run.." - finally - "0.5 miles!"

"WHAT?! This distance was only 0.5 miles? ONLY?! There's got to be a mistake!" I stopped and sat down by the side of the road. The sight of me wasn't the best you would see of a young man panting and puffing by the side of the road. I still had 2.6 miles to go for a 5K. Fuck.

I got up and decided to push it. I would not run too hard, but only lightly. Movement over speed. Determination over performance. I could do it. And so I ran again. I decided that I should move away from the trail and move onto the street. This'll keep me distracted, enough to keep going. I changed my route from the intended "around-the-campus" route to "run till you reach Biology building (if at all), come back home by the shortest distance" route.

I ran by the stadium. I ran by the gym. I ran by the track and I ran by the psychology department and med school. I made a stop at my department, where I bought a bottle of vitamin water from the vending machine. As I started sipping on it, I went and sat (my first big break from all the running, which was commendable) at the floor of the lobby. I guess, I passed out of my senses for about 10 minutes. My tired legs reminded me of bygone episodes of shin splints. I just sat there thinking about how many people were currently in the building. It was quite early in the morning on a Sunday.

I got up and prayed for some kind of a second wind. I looked at the map and tracked how much I had already run. The route I had followed till now curiously looked like the map of Florida for some reason. And, guess what, I had just about 1.3 miles to complete a 5K! Not too bad, right? I decided to run a particular way to finish the map of Florida and by the time I reach home, I'd have completed a 5K effectively.

I got on the road again. My mind began to wander. I wondered how this app works. It tracks the movement of my arm and not simply locomotion. What would happen if I was to climb on that fast approaching truck and keep moving my hand? Would I be breaking a land speed record by walking, according to the app? I wondered about stupid things like these. Like I always do. But it helped take my mind off things and I kept pushing.

By the time I reached home, I had to come over a huge elevation - the greatest climb in the whole track. Needless to say, by the time I reached home, I was done. I was done running that day. I prayed that I hope my calculations were correct and that I had crossed 5K but alas, the app reported that I had run 2.91 miles. About 0.2 miles shy of a 5K. Well screw 5K, said I and went inside the house. I dumped a giant scoop of cookie dough ice cream on the largest available bowl, put on some chocolate syrup and topped it off with whipped cream. And as I turned on the tv, I sent Emily the map that I had just created. Like a 10-year-old that I am, that was my biggest achievement and not that I had almost run a 5K after half a year of hog and sloth.

Later in the day, Emily sent me her map - one she didn't plan on making. She had no plans to run that day. But she did. It was a hot evening and she ran a lot. I asked what kept her going? Prompt came the reply, "Your almost 5K!"

"What? How?" I inquired.
"Your map triggered it!" she said.
"How is that even possible?! You run way more than I do!"
"I wanted to give up the entire time because it was kind of hot this afternoon, but I was motivated to at least go a little bit farther than you.... So I forced myself to go three miles, which is 0.09 miles more than you! HA!" This is exactly what she said, I had to refer to my Messages on the phone to write this down.
"Unbelievable, Em!" I complained.
"I know, Deep. But competition works.. and I am a winner tonight.. you, the sucker!"

Well, she didn't exactly say that. But I felt the sucker punch way below the belt anyway. Goddammit, this is on. This is SO on. I thought about how I will keep pushing, run for miles, more and more with practice. If only someone could get me off this 'three scoops of cookie dough, with a chocolate syrup and whipped cream topping' bandwagon.


Musings on my Colonial Hangover

I have always been severely judged in the way that I talk.
"What is that, a colonial hangover?" I've been asked.

When I moved from a city in northern India to the eastern part of the country, my first reaction was "Wow! I can't have spoken secrets now. Everyone here speaks Bengali!" - which blew my mind. I suddenly found myself relatable to the kids in the neighborhood. They spoke the same language, confided secrets in similar tongues in to their mother's ears and listened to similar reprimands from their fathers, just like the 10 year-old me. I made friends - who quickly became my closest friends - perhaps because I connected with them more personally, our mother tongue being the common factor here.

Soon I developed a childhood crush on this girl who, among other common friends back then, was the only one who spoke Bengali and we used to go out skating in the evenings, hide together for hide'n seek and row together on imaginary lifeboats on Sunday afternoons.

But then, I went to an authoritarian boarding school which housed most of the students from Bengal, specifically from rural Bengal who even dreamed in their local language. In the very first class, I was asked by our aged class teacher where we were from. Having just moved into a wholly new city and having just turned 10 years old, I could only recollect my address from the nearest subway station which was at a walking distance from my neighborhood.

"Tollygunge" I said.
The teacher squinted, indicating that he didn't hear me.
"Tollygunge.." I repeated.
He skewed his head a little to his left side, trying to hear better.
"TOLLYGUNGE" I exclaimed loudly, enunciating the words carefully, "..or that's what the metro station reads."
"I am not hard of hearing, boy. You're just not saying it right" the teacher remarked sternly.
I kept quiet. I was really shy back then, and the prospects of living without my parents in the room next to me was hitting hard only then.
"A true Bengali would call it Taal-ee-gonj" he corrected me.
"Taal-ee-gonj" I repeated after him, feeling like I've failed my mother and my mother tongue.
"Are you a probashi?" Probashi is a word for a Bengali-speaking person who lives outside Bengal. If you are one, you must've been subjected to the sermon of how your Bengali sucks ass.
"Yes sir." I replied.
"Evidently. What's your opted second language?" he inquired.
"Hindi, sir." I replied.
"Very good. A Bengali's son chooses to study Hindi. Disgraceful." said he, not very impressed.
As a 10 year-old, I was unfamiliar to sarcasm, so I sat down.

A Quick Bit(e) of Desi Nostalgia

As y'all probably know, I went home to India last year in December. I met, snuggled and caught up with my family, cousins, girlfriend, friends, their families, the house staff, the local grocer and the the homeless man down the street. No I didn't exactly snuggle with the last two. They all asked me about my Floridian life and whatnots. They carefully stayed away from any kind of update on my work life. They're not a very 'sciency' bunch back home. Which was good, because I took a backseat from all the work and instead tried to suck in all the Indian-ness that I've missed all this time.

The first thing I did was talk in my UP-waali Hindi with the cab driver on the way from the airport to where I stayed the night in the capital.

"Bhaiya, thand nahi padi abhi tak aap ki Nayi Delhi mein?" I started a warm conversation about the speculated delay in the onset of winter in New Delhi.
"Nahi, sir ji. Thand ki toh maa ch** rakhhi hai Dilli mein!" replied the driver. Winter is (as he much eloquently put it) quite fuc**d.
"Pollution toh kaafi badh gaya hai yahaan, bhaiya?!" said I, without sounding too condescending about the rise in air pollution in the country.
"Arrey ka bataaye aapko sir ji, ee behn***do ne sab police logan ko khila-pila ke bh**wa bana rakkha hai.. aur pollution ki maa ki a**kh ho rakhhi hai!" said he, as we sped across on the highway, leaving a thick black smoke behind us. The cuss words he spewed time and again while describing how widespread corruption has rendered the police system decadent, were absolutely on point. Almost like the beats in a peppy South Indian (read, Telugu) song. He was probably talking about the vehicular emissions and how the cops are supposed to keep a check on them.
"Construction bhi toh kaafi chal raha hai.. dhua-dhua ho gaya hai sab." I remarked, keeping a straight face, making note about the impact of construction work.
"Arrey unki maa ka.." began he. But I zoned out instantly.