Thursday, January 31, 2008

Civic Sense: Whats that ???

While coming back from a trip last week to Goa, I saw a most heartening, and at the same time, a depressing sight. I was coming back from Goa to Mumbai by train (AC chair car in the Shatabdi Exp). On the other side of the aisle were seated two young women, foriegn tourists (mostly European) who were probably coming back from a holiday in Goa. One of them took a plate of Idli-Chutney and after finishing it, kept the paper plate on the train floor. A sudden gust of wind caused the plate to turn upside down, with the result that the left-over chutney spread over the floor. Now the spilled chutney was quite far from her seat and hence could not have any discomfort to her or other passengers. But to my amazement, the lady took a couple of paper napkins and began cleaning the chutney on the train floor (and we all know how dirty our trains are anyways, although it was an AC compartment). It took her a good couple of minutes to clean the mess caused, following which she dutifully took the plate and went in search of the nearest waste bin and promptly put the plate in its rightful place.

The fact that someone would actually clean the plate on the floor was something that amazed me. What depressed me was the realization that not many of my own countrymen would have bothered to do it. We would have just shrugged it off saying 'the railways will clean the mess'. Which is why our trains are so pathetic in their appearance today. Getting to a bigger question that bugged me, and always does: Why dont most people in India have even basic civic sense ? The sense to keep their surroundings clean. What could be the possible reason ?? Initially I used think poverty was it, but then you find well-to-do people happily throwing their litter in our public parks and gardens. Similarly, civic sense does not automatically come from good education, though there might be a strong co-relation there. Then what causes us to not have even an iota of civil sense ??

Would love to know the answer.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Another Year, Another Marathon !!!!!

It was that time of the year again. If its the third Sunday of January in Mumbai, then it must be the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon. It is the day when the city changes itself. It literally comes to a halt (what with no traffic plying on Marine Drive, Peddar Road and outside CST) and it celebrates the spirit of human endurance which overcomes all physical and mental odds to reach that coveted finishing line. Having debuted in the 2007 edition (and managed to do decently for a first-timer), I was looking forward to the 2008 edition last Sunday (20th Jan). And with some amount of training in the gym (although the maximum I managed to run at a stretch was a paltry 2 km), I secretly hoped to improve on my last year's time.

Getting to Azad Maidan was also not without its fun. Took the train from Goregoan at the unearthly time of 5.12 am and immediately saw groups of people in the train going to the same destination as me, all with their running nos. proudly displayed on their shirts. At Jogeshwari, a big contingent (about 15 in all) of Gujratis strode in, all men and women in their 40s, and full on enthusiasm. They were participating in the half-marathon (same as me), and if they did manage to complete it, then hats off to them !!!! And, of course, like others from that part of the world, they could not resist opening a bag and helping themselves to fruits on the way !!!

I reached Azad Maidan in time for the race start at 6.45 am. About 8000 runners took part in the half marathon, which was the earliest race to start (and thank god for that, since it meant that we were more than halfway through by the time the heat begin to play its part). The race started at CST amidst great roars, cheer-leaders and blaring music, all fit for a great occassion such as this. For the first 2 kms or so (till Air India bldg via Churchgate) most people were either on a light jog or were just ambling along (the contenders, of course, had gone way ahead). After taking the U-turn at Oberoi, the field began to split up. The ones more serious started to run at a brisk pace while the ones more intent on just finishing the race, or atleast have a good morning's workout, continued their gentle trot. Marine Drive, as usual, was a splendid sight. With no traffic on the road, a nip in the air (it was slightly cooler than last year) coupled with a gentle mist, it was the perfect setting for a morning walk or jog. By the time I neared Chowpatty (about 6 kms in 50 min), the leaders passed me on their way back (must have completed about 15km !!). The leaders were well appluaded by the hundreds of people lining up the course,

I continued on through Babulnath temple, Kemps Corner flyover and touched the 10km mark on the Haji Ali stretch in about 1 hrs 20 min. At that time, the roads were partly cleared for the arrival of the full marathoners (who had covered the same distance as me in about 45 minutes less, a fantastic achievement !). But I was pretty well satisfied with my effort so far, given that last year those guys crossed me just after the 8km mark. Nevertheless, the body was beginning to grumble. The run-walk-run-walk routine also did not help. Turning near the Mela Restaurent at Worli (to start the return journey) was a great high, since it meant now that I was running towards the finish line rather than away from it. By that time, the sun had appeared over the Mumbai sky-scrapers in the East and the heat was beginning to show. Thankfully though, good arrangements had been made to provide water and energy drinks throughout the course. To add to that, good samaritans from the neighbouring buildings (esp along Peddar Rd) also provided water and biscuits to the participants. By the end of 2 hours, I had done about 14.5 kms and was in good shape, except for the legs. Evidently, the preperation in the gym was paying off. In fact, I kept on running in bursts even between the 19th and 20th km (unlike last year, where I only walked after the 8 km mark). And it was that energy and adrenaline that kept me going all the way to the finish line, which I crossed in 3 hrs 6 minutes, a significant improvement over the 3 hrs 45 min last year. And there have been no big injuries afterwards, apart from a bad right heel which has sinced healed. It was one of the most satisfiying days of my life !!!

Mumbai Marathon 2009, here I come !!!


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Nano Aaya Re !!!!

So the people's car has finally arrived !!!! Unveiled last week by Ratan Tata last week at the Delhi Auto Expo (with a cleverly used dash of sentiment : "a promise is a promise"), the Tata Nano seems to have got everyone talking and admiring. And by all accounts (since I am no auto expert), Tata Motors seem to have got a winner on its hands. It sure does look good. It initially reminded me of the Daweoo Matiz (one of my earlier favourites). Compactly built, but it still supposedly has about 20% more inner space than the Maruti 800. And the mileage of 20kmpl sure is a cracker, since this will mean that it will not be too much of a burden on its owner even with petrol. What is still open to debate though, is the safety aspect. With such a compact body and no front bumper, the occupants have to be extra cautious. And what might also go against it is the perception that it is suitable only for short intra-city distances. But all said it done, one can already see the queue forming. And the people lining up might not be your usual suspects. The day after the launch, a friend told me about his conversation with a auto rickshaw driver, in which the latter cursed the high maintainence cost of his Bajaj Auto model and was fascinated by the Nano (mostly by its price tag, I imagine). And yesterday, there was an article stating the Taximen Association in Mumbai is actually going to hold talks with the Tatas with a view to modifiying the Nano to be a taxi (CNG version etc). Maybe the Tata's have stumbled on a different kind of market, and couple of years down the line, we might see black-and-yellow Nano's all over Mumbai's streets. And oh, not to forget the thousands of college kids, not-so-affluent bread-winners who might take to the Nano just because of the sheer satisfaction of owning a car (note I am not talking status symbols since I dont think the Nano can be the benchmark for one).

Amidst all this, does anyone spare a thought for the roads and infrastructure still, as I had done a few months back ?? Only time will tell.