Tuesday 11 December 2012

The Lost Runner

The Lost Runner
I am a greedy chap when it comes to running.  I want a lot.  Yesterday, Neepa and I woke up at 3:15 am and started our Sunday long run at 4:00am.  This was to be our first serious long run after Comrades 2012 and our first preparatory run with Comrades 2013 in mind.

2013 is so full of promise.  There are a lot of races to be run, some prior to Comrades 2013, and some after. 
When it comes to running, I really can’t get enough. I want to run all over the world.   

First I want to run Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon on Jan 20th as a pacer and TV commentator for Star TV, then I want to run the Tokyo Marathon on Feb 24th and run my personal best time, then I want to run the Tel Aviv Marathon on March 15th and later also run through the sacred streets of Jerusalem, then on June 2nd I will run Comrades, and then in August I want to run a 80k trail race in South Africa. And that will bring me half-way into my 2013 goals. 

Let me not even discuss the 2nd half of 2013.
By-the-way, did I mention that I am a greedy guy?

I really do want a lot and I will certainly be heart-broken if I miss some of these races. 
If time and health and family and work would permit, I would simply spend all my time running races around the world. 

But as I ran yesterday, I thought as to what was really important, the simple pleasures of running everyday or the attraction of running exotic races around the world?  Which of the two is a want and which of the two is a need?  I sometimes confuse my wants with my needs and oftentimes I wonder if I am truly grateful for the blessings that I enjoy. 

As I ran in the unfortunate heat and humidity of a December morning in Mumbai, I remembered one of my favourite short stories, The Lost Child, written by Mulk Raj Anand. 
Anand was born in 1905 and ‘The Lost Child’, was probably written in the 1930’s.  It is a story which can be read at different levels and I have come to my own conclusion about its meaning. 

The story is about a small boy, in a small village in India, who goes to the village fair along with his mother and father.  The fair was taking place outside the village gates and as he walks alongside his parents to reach the fair grounds, he runs between his parent’s legs, brimming with life and laughter.

As he walks towards the fair grounds, he is continuously attracted by the toy shops which line the road and continuously pleads, “I want that toy”.  But his patents simply say, “Come, child, come” and continue walking. 

Soon, they leave the village and walk past a mustard field.  The child runs into this beautiful ‘field of melted gold’ to catch dragonflies and bees. His parents continue walking on the road and simply call out to him, “Come, child, come”.

They then come across a grove which is full of flowers and the boy runs into the grove, forgetting his parents. He begins to gather flower petals.  He then spots a dove and runs after it, shouting, “Dove, Dove, I want the Dove”.  “Come, child, come” is all that his parents say as they keep walking. 

As they enter the fair grounds, the child sees the sweetmeat-seller hawking, ‘Gulab-jamun, rasgulla, burfi and jalebi’ and he runs towards the sweetmeat-seller and pleads, “I want that burfi, I want that burfi, I want that burfi”, but his parents say, “Come, child, come” and they move on.

He then sees a flower-seller hawking a garland of gulmohur and is drawn irresistibly to the sweet scent floating in the air. He runs towards the flower-seller and shouts, “I want that garland, I want that garland, I want that garland” but his parents say, “Come, child, come” and they move on. 

The child then spies a man selling balloons and is now possessed by an overwhelming desire to have them all.  He runs towards the balloon man and shouts, “I want some balloons, I want some balloons, I want some balloons”, but his patents simply say, “Come, child, come” and they move on.

He then notices a snake-charmer playing a flute to a snake and rushes to see the show. “I want to watch the show” he says but then knows that his parents won’t stop for him.

Then, he sees a roundabout in full swing.  He notices the other children having fun on the roundabout and cannot control himself. “I want to go on the roundabout, I want to go on the roundabout, I want to go on the roundabout, Please Mother, Please Father, I want to go on the roundabout”

This time, there is no reply.  He turns to look at his parents, but they are not there.  He looks ahead, they are not there, he looks to his right, he looks to his left and he can’t see them. 

A full, deep cry rises in his dry throat, “Mother, Father!” Tears begin to roll down his face and he is gripped with panic. He runs, hither and thither, in all directions, knowing not where to go, ‘Mother, Father, Mother, Father!” 
He begins to run, through people’s legs, sobbing, “Mother, Father”. As the crowd thickens outside the gates of the temple, erected inside the fair grounds, he falls and gets trampled. 

A man lifts him up and tries to soothe him.  “How did you get here, child? Whose baby are you?” the man asked.  The child weeps more bitterly than ever and only cries, “I want my mother, I want my father”

The man tries to soothe him by taking him to the roundabout. “Will you like to sit on it?” he asked.  The child breaks into wild, deep, shrill sobs as he cries, “I want my mother, I want my father.”

The man heads towards the juggler and says, “Look at the cobra and listen to this music”, but the child cries harder, “I want my mother, I want my father.”

The man takes him near the balloons, thinking that the bright colours might distract the child. “Would you like some balloons?” The child turns away and sobs, “I want my mother, I want my father.”

The kind man, still trying to pacify the child, takes him to the flower seller and tries to buy him a garland, but the child turns away and cries, ”I want my mother, I want my father”.

He then takes him to the sweetmeat seller and tries to buy him some barfi.  No, says the child and continues sobbing, “I want my mother, I want my father.”.......

Sometimes, it takes a traumatic event for us to realize the significance and importance of that which we already have. If we are unfortunate, the lesson comes home when it is too late. If we are fortunate, we become aware of our blessings while we are enjoying them.      

Yes, I want to run races all over the world, but is that what I really need to be happy? I think not.

I know that I am a very blessed man to be able to wake up every morning and step out my door for a short run. It is such a privilege to be healthy and to have all my body parts functional, to be able to step out into the hazy morning light and inhale the slightly-polluted Mumbai air into my strong lungs. 

The greatest blessing is to run with Neepa by my side.

That, is all I really need and what I really want!

Great, so after getting a clear perspective on this running business, now let me ponder upon my sex life.