We are a strange country. Filled with stranger people. But yesterday, I witnessed a few things in Bangalore during a run that reinforced my faith in mankind in general. I am a person with a pretty thick veneer of cold cynicism. But underneath that lies this optimist who refuses to be frozen by the sheer negativity around us.
I’ll just list down a few things I saw.
There was a little girl running with us. Probably 6-8 years old. She didn’t have a bib. But there she was, making heads turn. She was running with the rest of us, offering kadailekkai (peanuts) to the runners. I’d have probably thought of burning the streets down if I were made to run without a bib, my timing not tracked and without being given a shiny metallic object to commemorate my so-called achievement. But here she was. Made me realize that magnanimity and altruism is not a function of age.
A traffic cop who usually stops you for no reason on many occasions and takes stuff from you-time, money, even your self esteem on occasions, offered me his water bottle. Thogoli thogoli (take it, take it), he said. That’s when it hit me that they are also Homo sapiens and not robotus venalis. But it would be nice if Bangalore traffic police could also offer a sign reading “If you wish to drive to the event on your own, kindly park the previous night and sleep inside the stadium”. But given a choice, I’d rather have them offer water bottles.
A guy fell down at around the 8K mark. A few runners and some staff rushed to his help while I chugged along (confession: if I stop running, I can’t resume). But I did slow down for a second and saw the earnestness and sincerity with which he was attended to. I really hope he got up and finished. I don’t know if it’s fair on him but something tells me that even he’d have liked to finish it because I saw more disappointment than pain and anguish in him. Sometimes I’m surprised how we pick up so many emotions and even express some within a second. But there is no doubt we are capable of it.
People of all ages, sizes took part in this event. The row system (A-F in descending order or previously available timing) seems to be a sham as once you enter the stadium, you are reminded of dharma darsanam (free sighting) of Lord Balaji at Tirupati. There is an ocean of people. TCS should include swimming as a necessary skill to complete this run for it’ll come in handy while wading through this sea. Particularly during the first 1-2 kms. The gamut was fascinating. There were kids (given my age, that means college folks) taking selfies and calling their friends inside the stadium to run together. “Hey look at me I’m waving a red cap! Can you see me??” yelled one as I looked around the sea of red Nike t-shirts and caps with an eil grin. I was tempted to tell him his red cap would be a molecule in a mole of red paraphernalia in the stadium but I didn’t want to burst his bubble. Plus, he seemed to be basking in the company of a couple of ladies so given my proclivity to repel them with my charming verbal skills, I chose to remain silent. Then there were the suave corporate folks with their prim hair, perfectly placed armbands and bandanas, the hippies who balanced the ecosystem with their equally haggard approach towards the same task.
There was a cross section of will powers too. Folks with a lot of paraphernalia tied to them running little, folks with just shorts and a t-shirt running like their rear ends were on fire, elderly looking folks (how dare they run with us and overtake us! You guys have your senior citizen run!) merrily chugging along, kilometer after kilometer, sticking together like it was some human chain game. There was a short, old man. I’ll be honest, if it weren’t for his shorts and sunning shirt, I’d have assumed he was the guy whom NatGeo etc would choose as the model for malnutrition and everything that’s wrong with developing countries from a health perspective. I had tremendous respect for him as he stood in a row besides mine to collect his finisher’s medal. Not because he ran a race but because of his sheer determination and will to fight the odds stacked against him. I wish I have half the gusto he showed when I’m his age.
The real winners: Just take a look at the image at the beginning of the post. To me, it pretty much captures the essence of the event. There is this guy who has crossed the 9k mark sometime ago and is struggling to hit the finish line. He sees these strange group of people standing on the footpath and extending their hands to random folks like Mr. Bib # 29988. But that’s not what makes the folks no the footpath strange. What makes them strange (zany, actually) is the fact they they also have bibs. These folks have finished their runs and chosen to cheer others. And the funny things is, the minute their hands made contact, this struggling fella started running faster. I don’t think this phenomenon had to do anything with nutritive help or any other running related activity. It’s just plain old human contact. But apparently it worked. Here’s another happy camper:
In fact, it had repercussions. I saw a few people who were running in the middle of the roads get charged up after seeing this and run faster. Also, hats off to the folks who kept playing the drums and hollering at us throughout the event. Special thanks to the lady with the sign “Pain for now, pride forever”. My calves right now are telling me that is not entirely true but when I read that sign, it did make a positive impact. So thank you!
OK Mr. optimist, I think you’ve found a tiny crack in that ice cold veneer today and had a field day jumping around and enjoying the sunshine, the cool breeze and all that. Time to get back in there and let me curse at curse at cab drivers on Old Madras road as I head back to my place. But good to have you peek out every now and then.