Saturday, February 26

A super vehicle

Even as I was on Cloud nine riding the brand new Hero Honda Splendour Plus on Saturday, I had a slight problem midway. Unable to restart, I was taking the vehicle back to the showroom when a watchman seeing my struggle offered help. Smartly putting the vehicle into neutral gear, he brought back relief and smile on my face. The vehicle started.

What I liked about the vehicle is that it is light (92.7 CC) and the handles are as thin as a flute. After having been used to the five-year-old unclean YBX Yamaha for two years, driving Splendour Plus is pure pleasure.

In fact, I'll suggest light-weight young men like me to opt for Hero Honda Splendour Plus.

Thursday, February 24

Amitav Ghosh's new and unlikely fan

Novelist Amitav Ghosh's latest book has got a new reader in the form of my mother.

A Pre-University course holder with English Literature as major (in the early 1960s), my mom's literature knowledge died a natural death after work (TNEB) and family duties took primacy. Ghosh's latest 'Hungry Tide' has revived that interest in her.

I too am currently reading this book. And am very impressed with the way Ghosh describes small things we feel and go through in our daily life. More than pictures, words, sometimes, can have a magical effect on you. Literature at its very best, Ghosh's book 'The Hungry Tide' certainly is.

My bike

Two years after travelling in the Pallavan Transport Corporation and another two and a half spent riding the Hero Honda (my brother's) and YBX Yamaha (my brothers' friend's), I will finally have my own vehicle--a dark Blue Heron Honda Splendour Plus. On Saturday (February 26) I will proudly go to the Honda showroom in Anna Nagar (Chennai) to take home my valuable possession.

Sunday, February 20

Today's kids are a smart lot

When I was thinking how am I going to spend my three hours (I finished the race at 7.45 a.m., the prize distribution was scheduled at 10.30 a.m.), Ashok Venugopal of the Indian Express joined me. He was covering the Chennai Marathon for the paper.

Even as he complained of poor media co-ordination, we heard a mother talking to the organisers of how their kids were asked to run again after completing 5 kms. Several complaints poured in.

Even as we were leaving the area, a group of kids all aged between 12 and 15, besieged us.

"Uncle, we have come all the way and the organisers are doing like this."
Ashok intervened, "You are all from which area." "Sowcarpet", they replied. One from the group retorted, "why ask that?" That kids repeated how they were misled by the organisers in taking the wrong route.

One another boy said he was winning the event for the last 2 years, but this time the organisers did not take note of who finished first or second. "I was training hard for the last few months. And this is what we get," he said.

The group of Sowcarpet kids kept going to all the TV reporters (Aaj Tak and DD) to say their side of the story.

Today's kids are a smart lot.

I did it in 30 minutes

For the first time in almost four and a half years with the Hindu, I got up at 5.30 a.m.

I was very excited as I was making my debut in the Chennai Marathon. On my Yamaha YBX, I sang throughout the 20-minute journey to the Labour Statue (the starting point).

As I parked my vehicle and surged towards the venue, a sea of people greeted me. I quitely went and sat in a corner. Madhavan was there with the mike in hand, then Manzoor Ali Khan came.

When 'the Run for a Cause' race was announced at 7.15 a.m., I had to forcibly move towards the race arena, and lift the barricade to run.

I didn't want to exert myself fully in the first 1.5 km. I kept half-walking, even as 40-year-old lady raced past me. I said to myself, "Keerthi, buck up."

Mid-way, a band was assembled to entertain the amateurs. By the time I finished my first lap of 2.5 Km, I knew I will not be able to complete among the prize wineners (the first 25 gets cash prizes).

The real runner in me emerged in the last 100m. Seeing runners older than me, I pressed the accelerator, and with the crowd egging on, I sprinted superbly to finish in a time of 30 minutes.

I was not a wee bit tired. Way to go Keerthi.

Wednesday, February 16

An eager participant

You know, I have always believed (rightly or wrongly) that I was a very good athlete. And one who is fit and hates even a slight arrival of a paunch.

That took a beating when the back ache surfaced. My regular exercises stopped, my fears of developing a small paunch came true.

I have been doing my exercises only for the last week or so.

So when I read the announcement of the Chennai Marathon (it will be held on February 20), I thought this was my best opportunity to test my endurance. I registered immediately.

Moreover, I liked the concept of Mumbai Marathon when it was staged in the city last year. The whole city took part in the event, it was a sort of festival. Media coverage gave it that much more glamour.

I'm eagerly awaiting the Chennai Marathon.

Friday, January 14

The art of working under deadlines

In my four years of covering the ATP Tour tennis event in Chennai, never has the importance of giving a first-class and error-free copy on time, hit me as much it did this time. There have been times when a match has ended at 9.30 p. m., and the copy had to at the desk within half-an-hour. Talk about pressure.

You have to be as quick as a typist, and as good a storyteller as Yeats, or a Ruskin Bond to come up with a readable story. No easy combination that.

Even though I did a fairly good job (even my boss said so), at the hearts of hearts, I felt I need to read a lot of good literature to produce a sweet, reader-friendly copy under deadline.

This is not to say that the Chennai Open was not exciting. I had my share of fun. I got to interview Jonas Bjorkman, Carlos Moya and Rainer Schuettler. I'll tell you more on that in my next blog. I have done exclusive interviews with Moya and Bjorkman for the Sportstar.

Wednesday, December 22

The importance of being Vijay Amritraj

Retired sportsmen are of different kinds. Some become coaches, some retire into family life, some reinvet themsleves and become very successful.

There have been many glamourous retired Internationals who have been a roaring success, but I am yet to come across anybody as successful and non-controversial as Vijay Amritraj.

Every time I have met him, I have invariably returned satisfied. Confident that I would provide a colourful and highly readable copy. More than that, what struck me about him were his accessiblity and charm, the characters missing in others as famous as him.

He has had his share of differences with the administration and other players during his heyday. Recently when I met him, I asked him whether he is writing an autobiography. He only smiled.

He is very tactful when he wants to. During 2003 Tata Open, he organised a press conference to tell us about the wounding up of Britannia Amritraj Trust, a tennis academy formed by his mother Margaret to train promising youngsters. Leander Paes is a product of BAT.

He said or rather mumbled a few words and the PC was over.

Only much later after the PC did the journalists realised that they hadn't got the answers. They went over to Vijay personally to ask him about the 'real' reasons for BAT's closure.

The reason why I am writing about Vijay is that his role in the five years (2005-2009) of the rechristened Chennai ATP Open will be of much significance.

His rapport with current international stars and with the TN government is very good.

He will play an important role in the success or failure of the Chennai ATP Open. If he could somehow rope in Roger Federer (he said he almost brought him to Chennai this time) and convince Andre Agassi to have a vacation in Chennai, the city will be thankful to him.

And if he doesn't, the hard-to-please spectators would not bother to know where Nungambakkam Stadium is located. With telecast being in Ten Sports (CAS and all). the officials will have a tough task at hand. So does Vijay.

Wednesday, December 15

How not to exercise

It was a routine off-day or so I thought. At around 8.30 a.m. on December 10 when I completed my exercises at house, I ventured out to buy a magazine. For the next 25 minutes or so, I felt an acute pain in my back. I walked diaognally, more like a giraffe, u can say.

Unable to tolerate the pain, I rushed to the Bone and Joint Clinic in Anna Nagar. After taking an X-ray I met the doctor who said there is nothing to worry except that I undergo physiotherapy sessions.

The physio, smart and jovial chap within minutes of talking with me found out the problem.

"Sir what exercises you do," he asked. The normal stretching exercises," I replied.

I also told him about the stretching routine where lie down on your back and make contact with nose and the knees. I dutifuly did it for him.

With a smile, the physio said, "that's what caused the pain."

That exercise, he said, should be done after you have through with your running, and not in the early morning (which I have been doing for nearly six months).

"Don'ty worry sir, three days of physiotherapy sessions and the pain will vanish. I am hopeful.

PS: When you do any exercise, consult the 'right' people. Otherwise you might end up with a problem. Back problem, to be precise.