Vouching for the 75

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It is a popular belief that when you write down your objectives or speak about your goals and aims with people, you’re more likely to achieve them. Speaking up about objectives binds you closer to goals, they say. Not a bad idea.

So here I’d like to disclose my cycling objective of this year: Ride 75 km in a single trip. In my scheme of things, this means 38 km up and equal in return. Going deep inside Greater NOIDA. It would be great in many aspects – excellent greenery (by Delhi standards), almost flat roads, and plenty of fresh air. Well, that’s what I aim to achieve.


I’ve started off a few weekends towards this goal and has so far clocked 65 km in less than 3 hours. Way to go. I’m planning to raise the bar little by little every weekend to reach there. Our little family is united in support. I’m getting reinforcements transported to my destination. In my terms that’s what luxury actually means.

My family considers this goal with a significant weight and keeps pushing me towards achieving it. And with inspiration from serious riders such as Jim  and Diego, I’m starting this long journey towards the 75km mark, hoping that someday I’ll cross the 100km dream limit too.

Currently I stand at 65 (km) and in a not so good shape. So I understand the gravity of the situation and have only a mild idea about the level of effort I would need to make in order to reach there. So wish me luck. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and am trying to get back in shape.

Do you believe in the practice of making your goals known, and thereby binding yourself to them? Please share your thoughts.


For the Survival of the Unfit

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I am fond of cats. Be it any species, even the wild ones. And I honestly believe, there is no animal that you can’t domesticate (I am a little opposed to the term and the concept of “taming”) since I grew up between snakes, had lizards, hamsters, crows and even a tortoise for pets (most of them were not in captivity) as I grew up. Quite recently I had a friend from Russia visiting me, who pointed out that she hasn’t seen a single cat during her fortnight-long stay in Delhi. Here is the fact:

Delhi doesn’t like cats

“I don’t see any cats here. Surprising! If you were in Russia, you could see them everywhere – all sizes and shapes.” She was peacefully sipping tea in the front room.

Well, that’s true. And it is also true that I love cats. I have loved them all my life.

The reason behind the suspicious absence of cats in all neighborhoods in Delhi I’ve lived, can be attributed to two basic reasons:

(a) The abundance of man’s so called “best” friends – canines
Tooth-flashing, tail-wagging, barking and biting canines. It is not that I dislike dogs, but there used to be “a peaceful coexistence” (to borrow the words of Nikita Khrushchev) of canines and felines when I used to live with my parents till the early 90’s.

Here in Delhi, I don’t see that. Both species are at war (as usual) and in Delhi, the dogs outnumber their feline opponents. I found a reason why.

Delhi is a large city and is not immune to such untoward incidents like carjacking, theft, etc. In an effort to control bad incidents, individual neighborhoods and resident societies have employed security guards of all kinds and calibers. In neighborhoods like mine, the security guards prefer to “outsource” part of their work to the stray dogs, so that they themselves can report late for duty or have their way while at work. Dogs will raise alarm if they see unusual people or situations. Unfortunately, we do not have a comprehensive animal management policy for the urban areas, and at the same time it is against the law to kill a stray animal on the streets, no matter what nuisance they create. Hence the security-men feed the stray dogs, who over a period of time, infest the neighborhoods. Since cats are yet to be put to such crime-control efforts, they are not a preferred option for anyone. As a result the canines are large in number and the felines (if they are there) have to constantly be on the watch lest they fall prey to stray dogs. Being a cat-lover, whenever I see a dog chasing a cat in Delhi, I always shoo away the dog.

(b) Delhi doesn’t eat fish like Kerala or Bengal does

Though I couldn’t corroborate the statement with solid facts and research reports, I believe there is an aeonian relation between cats and fish. Naturally you will find felines in abundance in places where fish is a significant component of daily food.

Thus people of states like Kerala and Bengal where fish is an almost mandatory part of the daily food are used to keeping cats for pets. On the contrary in Delhi where “non-veg” usually means chicken, more chicken and much more chicken, it is natural that there is no significant feline population.

A little more than a decade ago in another city, a member of the church where I used to visit, mocked me for being a “grass-eater.” You guessed it right: “Grass-eater” is the impolite expression common in the North to indicate a vegetarian person. Since people in the North are more obsessed with chicken and I was yet (yes, I started falling prey to chicken after moving to Delhi) to taste it, naturally he couldn’t know my choices. I met the same person on a different occasion where I was visiting a Malayali friend in the same city and we all had lunch together. Since there was the typical Central-Travancore “meen curry” (fish cooked in spicy gravy) which my poor Northern friend couldn’t eat despite his hard efforts, it was my turn to throw the same question back. It takes a lot of patience and good practice to remove the bones from fish before you eat, and no matter how deep a carnivore you are, never challenge a Malayali with fish!

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Glimpses of the ‘Us v. Them’ Debate

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While reading Gayatri Jayaraman’s entry on gastronomical North-South debate in the Livemint Blog(1) this afternoon, I was remembering a conversation with a distant relative of a close friend about the ‘strange behavior of people in Delhi’ which prevents him from having many friends here, despite having several relatives. I am too, not distant from this feeling that took me almost a decade to overcome my surprise about the strange way people respond to your queries. I would like to share my thoughts on some such observations I picked up from different parts of the country. North v. South or India v. Others. Having been able to overcome (I believe so) the barriers of culture and region, I do like to be an independent observer without hurting sentiments of people around me. I also feel that friends across the globe would also find it an interesting reading.
My initial observations are from my city.
People in Delhi shut the doors on your face
It has annoyed me more than once when I visit a neighbor or friend to hand over something (even a domestic delicacy or a gift), they just take accept it from you, make some comments, and finally shuts the door on you. In rural Kerala, we take this as an offense (my family doesn’t even shut doors at the face of beggars!) when someone shuts the door on your face. Even a stranger who visits my house just by mistake gets a proper treatment and a set of questions (‘who are you looking for?’, ‘what is the house/family/person name?’ etc.) and is shown the door peacefully and the door is shut only after person exits the compound.  
The fair logic I feel for this anomaly is based on two other observations:
(a)    Delhi has one of the world’s highest population of mosquitoes
 Uncomfortable, but true. This explains why we all have metallic external doors with a wire-mesh small enough to keep mosquitoes away but sufficient to let in the flow of air. One of my friends who came calling from Russia just thought that this metallic grill is the only door of the house. I can’t blame her for thinking so. As she found out later, there is a separate opaque wooden door too. Given such a high population of mosquitoes in the city, no one would risk keeping the door open for more than a few seconds. So you better come inside and talk or I may have to shut the door!
(b)    We don’t welcome strangers so easily
The level of crime in the city is alarmingly high and no one would risk being friendly enough to open the door and come out to welcome you if you visit their house with a query. Yet there are instances where people really come out to help and be friendly. But yes, Delhi is cautious and hence the quick door-close.

This has become so much of a practice here having evolved due to changing circumstances and environment of the city. Therefore a typical Delhi-ite would never see anything wrong in the practice even if s/he is at the other side of the door.

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