Thursday, December 15

Reference Point

The next time you hear "there's no use revisiting the past", take note. It is good, solid advice. Let me tell you what could happen, when you choose to ignore it.

I've never been one of those blokes who'd give Charles Atlas or any of his brethren a complex. But the slightly slothful lifestyle brought on by working as a consultant for the last month, mostly spent working and writing at home, has taken its toll. A hint of chubbiness has started suggesting itself again, which is troublesome. The path to hell, or rotundity, is paved with vada pavs and other good intentions, so I haven't engaged in any urgently-required callisthenics. Having shamed myself enough, I decided to go for a jog today at the Pune University track.

The University is where I spent two years at the Anthropology department collecting a degree. They were good years, marked more by normalcy than anything else. At that point in my life, normalcy suited me just fine. I'd been jogging at the track there for a few years, so being on campus made it even easier to be faithful to the regimen. And trust me, considering the condition of the track, serious effort is needed to remain faithful. Laziness and a lack of money and other options helps too.

I understand the University may not be resting on sackfuls of shekels, but they could and sadly, can still make at least a modicum of effort to maintain the facilities. Taking inspiration from some ancient Olympic site, the track was originally constructed entirely of mud, with the hope that regular watering and care would help grass grow on the surface. Well, the cows that pass through the campus had other ideas, and were no doubt delighted with being provided a kilometre long snack bar. The track is popular with Punekars and there's a sizeable crowd of people there, morning or evening.

With the passage of time, some sections began to wear out, but that was not considered a problem. Mud is plentifully available. Some bright bean decided otherwise, filling these sections with the choicest of carefully considered sharp stones and bricks. In one fell stroke, it became one of the most challenging obstacle courses in town and has stayed that way for as long as I can remember. People have adopted a peculiar half-trot, half-stumble style when navigating it which is hilarious when viewed from the sidelines. If you can hack through the many thorny bushes lining the track, that is.

I used to be able to run about 5 km continuously. I fortuitously managed 1 km today, before having to stop and move briskly away from a nasty looking stray dog that had collared (ha!) one section of the track. After a couple of shortened rounds, my lungs began frantically telegraphing a "its us or you" signal, so I stopped the sham. And then challenged the past a second time by paying a visit to my department. Again, I shouldn't have. Sunlight filtered through the trees, bathing the place in a cheerful winter evening glow. Which was good since the management seemed to be on some cost-cutting measure and most of the lights in the place had been turned off.

Unbidden, the ghosts of old scenes began to move across the landscape; the group camaraderie at the end of many tough days, moments of friendship, solitude, celebration and grief. The worst was the memory of failed romance. Feelings of "what might have been" seep through the fabric of all our old memories but stab deepest in the case of lost love and its regrets. I scooted out of there.

And, since I was on a roll, went back to school.

Loyola looked as lovely and serene as always, framed by hills and a beautiful sky palette painted by the setting sun. A lonely jet liner cut across the horizon, white plumes marking its path whilst a group of boys were engaged in a game of football on the playing field. It was a scene guaranteed to have Wordsworth going into paroxysms of delight and start blathering on about daffodils and such. But all I could think about on my years at school was a lot of personal potential and possibilities wasted.

In this kind of wistful & melancholic mood, it is easy to blame people and circumstances from the past for who you are today. Thankfully though, I've just finished Abhinav Bindra's superb autobiography 'A shot at history'. It is a must-read, not only because it is superbly written but also because you get a keen understanding into the amount of desire, hard work, discipline and focus needed to be successful. He took these elements to extraordinary levels, but heck, there was an Olympic gold medal at the end of that road.

So, while there may be some just cause for blaming factors beyond our control for our current lives, I suspect quite a few of us could also direct many of those accusatory arrows at ourselves. At the end of the day, if we can't learn any lessons from our experiences, being stuck in a past soaked with regret is all we'll be left with. Surely we can try to do better?

Song for the moment: Don't stop - Fleetwood Mac     


Gobri said...

Dabbling with satire, are you?

And do not ever wonder whether you are good enough. "It was a scene guaranteed to have Wordsworth going into paroxysms of delight and start blathering on about daffodils and such." Nice.

G said...

@Gobri - Satire is generally part of my posts, but I'm not quite sure what you're referring to here.

And thanks :).