This blog as might be apparent from the title has to do with running, biking and basically other outdoor individualistic sports, sometimes extreme, such as rock climbing . But don't be surprised if you find articles on work, personal life, music and even philosophy, this blog is an exception in this aspect in the blogosphere of running blogs and I am trying to revamp the blog to make it more runner friendly. You might want to look at the sidebar titled 'categorised', which as is obvious, categorizes my posts into different areas of interest.
The other thing that might interest many people is a section on 'running videos' and 'general videos' on the side bar, which I keep updating now and then.
I plan to bring in more posts on running and biking, with some added colour, so as to make them 'complete'. That's about it for now.
As a post-note, I have run a half-marathon, but I am yet to attempt a marathon, which through some concerted effort and time should happen in the future, but that ofcourse is not the culmination of this blog, it would on the contrary be something to jumpstart this blog onto new vistas.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Northie-southie divide and language issues in India - Part I

I am a tamilian but I hail from Hyderabad. I grew up speaking hyderabadi hindi and telugu. For instance, a conversation could run this way:

A: "Gemi ra bhai. zara down ga unnavu" (What's up brother. You look a little down)
B: " Yem ledu ra. oka project nanu PARESHAN chestundi ra bhai." (Nothing man. A project is paining me)
A: " pada ra bhai. Chai tagudam. Gada matladachu" (Let's go dude. To have tea. We can chat over there.)
B: "Sere pada. Arre, ninna nenu oka poti ko deka re. kya poti thi re baap...." (Ok, let's go. Arre, I saw this female yesterday man. She was one of a kind....)

Note: Bhai is not pronounced bhaai (as in Hindi) but more as 'bhi'.

In the next few paragraphs I try to look at some of the issues and prejudices, I am aware of, that exist on both sides of vindhyas.

During the summer hols, I would look forward to visiting chennai, since most of my cousins stay there. Now, Hyderabad is a multi-ethnic society. I have grown-up with muslim neighbours and have had a lot of fun doing that. So to get paranoid at the mention of a muslim was simply unthinkable. I am also very tolerant to people who speak languages not my own. So when I would get teased in Chennai by my cousins in a good-natured way for being a gult(telugu-speaking person) more specifically as gulti, I didn't understand the origins for such a prejudice against telugu speaking people. Gulti is derived by reversing telugu. Te-lu-gu -> gu-lu-te -> gulti/golti. Gulti in tamland is some sort of an inside joke.

I never knew of the existence of a northie-southie(more specifically North India vs Chennai(apparently the representative of South India!)) divide till I landed in IIT. North Indians seem to have a general hatred for many things South Indian including food, culture, etc and south Indians seem to be indifferent to North Indians. This is reflected in how a typical South Indian is shown in Hindi movies, that is when that rare event happens. Similarly, I have heard many Northie guys tell me straight that they hate curd rice or sambar or whatever. Basically, they meant to say that south Indian food sucks. But the irony here is, South Indians don't seem to have the same hatred for Chappatis, Rotis, etc. Infact many south indians I know enjoy north-Indian food.
My take on this is, yes south Indian food in many restaurants aren't prepared as well as they should be, but to generalize this to say that south Indian food as such sucks is a) Stupid b) Shows the inherent prejudice that north Indians have against south Indians.

Pride,History and prejudice
Now there's the other side to this issue too. South Indians in general seem to lay way more stress than the general populace in India on their English. Its a matter of great pride if your English is better than the other as in the US. And Tamilians do exhibit this pride whenever they can, though nowadays, this seems to be the case throughout India.
So I understand that this so called show-off of English doesn't go well with North Indians

Back in the sixties, the government of India was trying to come up with an official language that was Indian so as to phase out English. Since Hindi was popular in the North and due to its similarity to Sanskrit, which again is the origin for many Dravidian languages, the government assumed that South India would be ok with Hindi as an official language.
The reference quoted below, makes a nice distinction between official language and national language. While, Hindi was being drafted as an official language, a simultaneous movement to popularise Hindi as the national language sprung up. The states of South India, particularly Tamil Nadu took exception to Hindi being touted as the national language and that's where the whole language issue began(Note: Nowhere in the Indian Constitution is it said that Hindi is the national language of India and it isn't).
The Indian government tried to incorporate Hindi into the school Cirriculum. The TamiNadu government revolted against this and took to enforcing English in the school cirriculum and sidelining or ignoring Hindi. At the same time, North Indians revolted against this anti-Hindi campaign and hence reinforced Hindi and side-lined English. It's interesting to note that Bengalis shared the same intensity of pro-Bengali/anti-Hindi feeling as Tamilians did for Tamil apparently for the same reasons of cultural and historical significance.

Another common crib from the North-Indians is that when they visit Chennai for example, people refuse to speak to them in a language other than Tamil. Well, let's analyse this crib for a moment.
If for instance, a country consisted of regions where people spoke different languages comprising Tamil (60%), Hindi (30%), kannada(10%), I would definitely not claim that Tamil be the de-facto language in this country. In fact, I would expect that if a person who knew Tamil were to visit a region where Hindi is spoken, she should atleast make an effort to converse in Hindi or maybe a common language such as English.
I state this example because, when having a discussion with a few friends in the Indian community here, my North-Indian roomie stated that he wouldn't learn Tamil if he landed in Chennai, since Hindi was more prevalent in India and hence that should suffice for him to live in Chennai!!

Most of my friends in IIT were north-Indians and I spent a good amount of time fine-tuning my hindi so that I now know both hyderabadi hindi and hindi as spoken in the north. So the attitude of my roomie came as a surprise to me. Such narrow-mindedness doesn't help the already existing northie-southie divide. For one, it makes you more defensive when you speak to a North Indian and vice-versa. In hyderabad, most people including people from the North, know telugu and hindi, because those are the regional languages in Hyderabad.

Contd. in the next post...

Cycling to Lyons' creek, Lake Washington - part II

I am outsourcing the photos that come under this post to Flickr since I find it cumbersome to post pics here. Here are two maps in google earth of the route I took.

This one show an overview of the route I took. The part of the route with a line passing through shows my return trip through Burke-Gilman trail, a distance of 15kms.
The place markers' that are not connected show the first part of the trip along Lake city way, a distance of 10 kms.

The above pic is a closeup of the previous pic.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cycling to Lyons' creek, Lake Washington - part I

Been a bit busy lately. Who isn't eh. Thought I had take a break and go out cycling and explore the place. I couldn't have chosen a better time to do the trip, what with spring showing its true colours. Ok, without further ado, let me get straight to the trip....

6 am
On the move

Basically took 30 minutes to reach this place, through lake city way, 10kms away from the university district. On the way, there were 2-3 downhill stretches that simply rocked.

Spent considerable time at this place, mostly clicking away. The return was through Burke-gilman trail which I shall cover in the next post.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The research and ultra running communities

First a few definitions:

Ultra running: The sport(that's right) of running taken to the extreme in terms of distance. More definitively, any distance beyond 42kms 195 metres or 'the marathon distance' would qualify as an ultra marathon. And training for such distances, usually on mud trails and close to nature would qualify as ultra running.

Research: 'The real head banging'. To expand the theme, being occupied by a group of related ideas on a very specific topic that may seemingly have no connection with the 'real-world'. I was chatting with a friend the other day who is working in neurobiocomputing and he told me that he had had an orgasm the previous day when preparing for the mid-terms. Here's a sample of the conversation.
Me: "Wow!!! It was all 'ah...ah' level eh"
Him: "Yesh, nothing like understanding how you your brain and senses work".

Now, for a few comparisons or rather parallels which I draw from experience and reading.

1) Both the communities occupy an area less than 5%(2 standard deviations) in a normal distribution(or any relevant distribution) of the sizes of different communities.

2) There are huge highs and lows experienced in the regular workings of both the communities. The highs come from either endoprephines, anandamides or pure insights as the case may be or just the condition of being focused or what can also be termed auto-cruise control.
The lows could be pains categorised as physical, mental or a mixture of both. Research tends more towards the mental/psychological and sociological frustrations while ultrarunning involves a healthy mix of both the mental/psychological and physical pains/frustrations!!

3) There is always the "Why am I doing this? I must really be insane..really really insane" genre of questions that pop into the runners'/researchers' mind now and then.
a) Running on trails for 5-6 hrs with no one in sight and the body has already given up all hopes of rest, working in submission to the mind's fancies (I haven't run for more than 2 hrs straight so I can only sort of imagine what it feels to run for 3 hrs, leave alone 5-6hrs straight). Here the mind is fixated on one thing which the body has to put up with.
b) Sitting in the lab in front of the computer for the whole day doing assignments and stuff and you realise you got a weekly meeting with the professor the next day. The day shift ends, the night shift begins. Here, mostly the mind has to put up with itself.

4) People seem to find that ultra running/research occupies most of their time and they can only talk about their next training run or how they have been put off by an injury and can't wait to start running again. An anology in the research community would be, people who can only talk about their current research or what they plan to do next and how the crappy assignments are interfereing with their research work.

5) Ultra-running and research complement each other well, since you can run on auto-cruise control(analogous to recharging your batteries) while running (i.e. switch off the mind and just observe the surroundings) while on the other hand while doing research, the body is given a damn and the mind is actively involved in a play of ideas, analysis and dreams.

6) Quite a few ultrarunners also seem to do well in their 'professional life', whatever that maybe.
Motivation needs to be high, to be able to undergo some of the treacherous pains experienced now and then in ultra running and research. For example, whenever I run a 5km race, I always tell myself that I will never do it again since the body heat, pain in the legs, stomach during the race sometimes are intolerable. But the desire to be able to run faster and the feeling of fast movement will always brings me back to running such races. A similar analogy can hold for ultra running. As far as research is concerened, writing a document brings me the most pain, because of the seemingly infinite corrections that need to be made to make the document coherent, structured and understandable to the targetted audience.

There is also an article by a researcher who runs ultras on 'Why men run ultras', which gives an alternate explanation on why more men than women run ultras. The article is not sexist as some feminists might immediately want to conclude, but merely put forths a psychological hypothesis for why men run ultras which is also consistent with why not many women may not want to run ultras. However, having said that, digest the article in with a pinch or two of salt especially the statistical analysis part, since the sample size or even the population of ultra runners as compared to men who don't run or those who run lesser distances is known to be negligible.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Felt good. 10 minutes. A lesiure pace around the campus. Got a couple of comments from bystanders, which is usual. Don't know how my legs would respond, since I was mostly running on the pavement. My guess is it would be atleast two days before I can run again.

Kennenisa Bekele with the WR

Robbie Mcewen and steve o'grady - The 'Nudge'