Come Running With Me

My second most favorite activity in Mumbai is going for a run. The early morning light is subdued; its cooler and the humidity is lower. Earlier in the day, people are nicer too, And running along the sea-face at Marine Drive is just what life all about. Importantly, starting the day with a nice run makes me less guilty when I indulge in my #1 favorite activity in Mumbai: EATING. Running justifies eating. The more you run, the more I get to eat. I can live with that.

I would start at 6:15 am from home near the Colaba Police Station. After a brief warm-up, I would run by the Cooperage football field, along Madam Cama Rd, past the Oval Maidan, Mantralaya and reach Marine Drive by the Air India building next to the Oberoi/Trident Hotel. This is how it looked on the day I took my camera along. It's a great feeling to realize I would run the entire Marine Drive upto Walkeshwar. A nice 7 Km run.

By Cooperage fields I dodge a gang of mangy dogs, who think they own the road (if anyone is interested in taking a supari for getting rid of these dogs, let me know!). Just past the Oval Maidan I saw this person pulling the water tank.

Past the Mantralaya (State House) and the MPs' quarters, as I trained my camera on the mural of the vigilant Shivaji Maharaj, this person gave me a threatening look. Instinctively I managed a smile and a greeting in Marathi. As he carried on, I slipped away! Phew!

Along the wide sidewalks of Marine Drive, it was heartening to see so many people enjoying the day. Some just sat by the water, others sauntered, others dashed, motivated by speed. Whatever you chose to do, it was the perfect time.

Along the way, a large flock of pigeons were feeding on chanaa; Morning walkers buy cups of this lentil from the hawker and sprinkle it on the sidewalk. It’s quite a sight.

On Chowpatty beach, these two women relaxing on the sands seemed to capture the tranquility of the morning by the water. They seemed to be in no rush, just waiting for the tide to come in.

As I run, I am in a state of euphoria. I can't count my blessings enough: to be here, healthy, to be able to do this. Here and now! What a blessed life. But what’s so special about this place I wonder. Running along the Charles River in Boston is even more spectacular, and you don't have to worry about rabid dogs. What's with this place? As my mind raced on, I noticed this statue in front of me. I thought it was the poet, Rabindranath Tagore, but as I ran closer it was someone else. And the lead phrase hit me like a ton of bricks.

“My place is with my people” it screamed.

Suddenly my heart seemed to slow down, my muscles relaxed, my breathing returned to normal and I was no longer gasping for air. I realized why Mumbai and India were such a special place for me. Because it was my place, and these were my people; and I belonged to them. A place where no one was gonna ask me – where you from?

A calm descended on me and I knew why I did the things I did. I felt I could keep running forever. The ache was gone. I was beaming! I dashed past Wilson College and charged up the hill on Walkeshwar Road. Just before Teen Batti, as the sidewalk ended in a chaotic urban congestion, I ended my run in front of this nariyal paani wallah (person selling tender coconuts) – Mahipal.

Mahipal would slice two large mitha malai-wallahs (sweet with a light cream). At 17 Rs each (~ 30 centes) it was a bargain. The best refreshing drink you can ask for after a nice run. Beats any day, the yucky tasting, colored, chemical laden sports drink you get elsewhere.

As I cooled off here, I would chat with Mahipal for about 15 minutes. He is a recent migrant from Madhya Pradesh and actually works for a Mallu owner (it was satisfying to see the Mallu monopoly on the nariyal paani business still going strong ;-). After a few days, he would notice me struggling up the hill and start to pull out the best nariyal. When I asked him to pose, he wanted a copy of a pic. He planned to send it to his parents in Madhya Pradesh. Apparently they were arranging his marriage, and a nice picture would snare him a pretty lass. With a person’s life possibly at stake, I tried my best. He does look debonair in this pic, wouldn’t your say?

Satisfied with the run, I take a cab back home. Aiee and papa would just be waking up and the kaapi brewing! Its going to be a great day and I am ready to sample Mumbai’s best! My number one favorite activity!

12 thoughts on “Come Running With Me

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  1. Hi SunshineMom: :-))
    Those books shops on the sidewalks around Fountain are still there! it just wouldn’t be fountain without those books. Those guys are well read and know everything about books. Was my favorite haunt in the college days!

    Are you referring to the “Strand Book Stall” on PM Road? It is still there and yes, they still have their annual exhibitions in January when everything is 50% off! I was just there about two weeks ago! Still going strong!

    et me know the next time you are going and I will give you clear directions; and also the nearby restaurant “Apoorva,” for the best fish dishes! 🙂

  2. I miss these places. There is something about Colaba, Nariman Point, Fort that is just irreplaceable! You remember the book shops on the footpath to Flora Fountain? I have always missed them after that – they were a landmark. I would also like to know whether Fort Book Store – opposite GPO is still there. I don’t know the route exactly because I have always taken stuff during their exhibitions, but would like to know the route for my next visit – if you know of them! Oh! I am sure you do!

  3. Hi Jerry:
    THank you for sharing your experience – sorry to say, it is a very depressing environment; How can students be inspired to “learn” in this setting!

    Most of our schools are very poor and we try to make do with what we have; and I do say; the students seem to enjoy themselves “learning”.

    My goal at the Schools is to bring educational opportunities to more needy students, particularly girls! and I do this is small steps, 1 girl at a time!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts; it inspires me to continue doing this work.


  4. I live in a small town and Eastern Oregon and try to stay informed reading the New York Times online each day. The electronic news focused on the usual philosophy of “If it bleeds, it leads” with their focus on the bloody victims. Your blog and Twitter content bridged the cultural gap that exists between our two countries. The biggest revelation to me was your sharing of the life of students in the school where you support kids in need. I have worked in Watts in South Central Los Angeles and their residents risk being killed by their own neighbors each day. Their 2 high schools have steel doors that are locked at the start of each day to prevent gang members from entering and killing students. All the windows at the school and the community have bars on them. The doors have no door knobs and are locked by the teachers from the inside to prevent an invasion. The fast food restaurants have bullet proof glass separating their employees from their customers. The kids at the high schools qualify for a free lunch program but they throw the food away and prefer candy, caffeinated sugar sodas, and junk food. They would never eat the nutritious lunch seen in your great photographs.
    Your portrayal of the Indian schools and students is a sharp contrast as kids there are motivated and supported by their families. India’s brain power is exemplary.
    Thank you for your great work.
    Kudos from a former Peace Corps Volunteer.

  5. Hi Suri! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me! As I re-read this post and come to “My place is with my people” – even now it affects me deeply! What powerful words!

    and sometimes it is best not to try and put our emotions in words – just let them settle slowly!

    Live Well!

  6. Arun,

    I wanted to say something after reading your blog … on “My place is with my people” but I give up and struggle with my emotions to say “Thank you”.


    PS I cant wait to read your daily log / memoirs.

  7. Thanks Jennifer:
    I just went for a nice run on the same route this morning!
    Absolutely brilliant; and at the end, i had TWO of those tender coconuts!

    Hope you get to visit Mumbai on this trip.

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