This is perhaps the darkest week of the year - every year since 2006.
A decade later, once again, I feel like nothing about me will be the same again.
This new sense of purpose I feel is a few months old, sleeping a few feet away.
The baton is passed, not quite yet and I haven't let go.--
"Life is effort, and I’ll stop when I die."
-- Rick & Morty
Today's the first day of year 5 for me in Hortonworks.
I've now spent more than a decade getting paid to do open source work. But until Hortonworks, all work I did was tangential to the business arm of the company. All my customers were internal, which meant mostly I got privileged access to the problems. The bug resolution for complex issues never had to deal with walls of customer solutions obscuring my insights into the system. There was never a day when I couldn't tell someone from Yahoo mail that I was working on another issue with Frontpage.
During my Zynga period, I learnt how to sell your ideas to a product focus team looking for solutions - to explain better, to justify my arguments with numbers, to convince and to persuade. To keep my sanity, I also learnt to pick my battles, drop issues and walk away when the friction gets personal.
I never had to sell to a customer direct - even at my best, on the books of the company I was a cost, an engineering expense. My work at Zynga or Yahoo, was helping the company bring down its bottom line by a fraction without ever touching the top line, except by accident (yay, faster load times).
This is generally an area of work with no real conflicts of interest built into it - use of APC for instance was mandated and in most cases, my code was the only available solution to the problem. Giving up on APC meant switching to HipHop, which also I worked on (never got the CLA signed by Zynga, which was sad though). The pattern followed me through out the period even through ZCloud build-out, through ZPerfmon, ZProf and pretty much everything I touched.
Hortonworks has been a completely different experience. I'm still a developer, but my contribution to the company has turned into a top-line enlarging investment in most scenarios. The work I was doing with Stinger was actively bringing in more customers and indirectly, more revenue in. This brings in some interesting conflicts for a developer, when talking to a customer about your features, because that particular transaction starts off as a zero sum exchange of money with the implicit declaration that the "solution" is a non-zero sum win-win.
This shift in the nature of my job has been interesting. The role now requires a completely different social skill set which I didn't need in any job before this. The goal is nearly the same, but conflicts fall onto my lap instead of being able to just say "Zynga first" to end a discussion.
Honestly, it's been a bit of a culture shock.
I feel like I'm astride an elephant, with my toes pressing suggestions of direction. The benchmark numbers are just numbers, unless someone else decides that those need some action. I cannot actually move the beast, but the beast does move, never to stand still.
As always, I've stayed on top of that beast here for the last four years to learn and cope with that process. The learnings are rather harsh, that while in a single company you get to deal with your users first, the actual users in this mode don't run the systems, those who run the system don't make purchasing decisions and those who write the checks don't really deal with either of those folks directly. And in the end, the check they write is eventually only fractionally related to my paycheck anyway.
In that world, it feels ultra depressing to sit in on a call where the dreaded phrase is said - "what the hell do we pay you for?" . There's the sub-text in your head going - uh, you don't ... I'm here because I am the only one who can help with this and this is not even my job, neither is it my turn on the on-call roster, so get off my back. But you learn not to lash out in knee-jerk fashion and close down the conversation, but continue debugging which is upto your discipline, a thick skin and the knowledge that your self-worth isn't tied up in that guy's opinion. I still don't know how to communicate that Insulting my commitment to your problem isn't helping - making it unpleasant might feel better, but you're burning good will here. Looking back, some of what I did never made any sense in the big picture, to feel the pressure from the sales cycle to deliver something over the christmas weekend and then get back on it through the new year weekend too. However hard those weeks turn out to be, the rewards for such heroics diffuses away as the company gets larger and as the customer base expands outwards - no deal ends up being the end-all of your work.
I still love solving those tough problems and solving them are their own reward, but the process friction is draining for your attention spans and your ability to take criticism for no fault of your own wears thin (I'm rarely the person who wrote the slow bit of code I'm fixing and I'm unlikely to be the one in the next case either, *sigh*). Collective responsibility is hard with open source, when this issue was because of someone back in 2009 who thought this was good enough, way before the YARN and Hive teams sat under the same roof. It's nobody's fault, but remains your problem.
There are some upsides to being thrown about into the rough and tumble of that process, you develop a lot of breadth in your skill sets out of sheer necessity - whether it's about something esoteric like Kerberos or the specifics of file listings in Azure or S3. There are technical savings you build up over the years, which work exactly the opposite of how technical debt works - readymade solutions which you refine through one customer aftet the other, to feed back into the product as much as you can. This is what a front-line engineer does in a small company, to carry a huge memory bank of all the problems cross-referenced to their solutions. A bigger company divides away expertise until no one person has the entire picture and start operating in managable fractions of expertise.
I came into Hortonworks, expecting to fix MapReduce and HDFS, possibly to dig deeper into HBase latencies - it is odd to say that right because instead of polishing old code, I got to work on brand new ideas with Stinger on Hive, ORC and Tez. But unlike my work at Zynga, I've never had to bury any of work (and to have the company salt the earth behind it) - my patents from Zynga are clearly dead-ends which I cannot pursue somewhere else, original ideas which I had and lost posession of. Putting up every little thing I build onto a github repo has been a liberating experience, being able to talk about my work in great detail to everyone including business competitors gives me a sense of autonomy which I have not experienced since college.
There have been so many mishaps along the way too. It was a horrible idea to work as a contractor in India when Hortonworks failed to hire me in time for the H1B cap - every bit of my immigration that followed has been a pain because of the fact that I was an Indian contractor moving to the US. Unfortunately it's too late now that I'm already here and is probably beyond recourse, I would probably have to quit or move out of America to reset that, in the near future. And that's sort of been the only regret of mine in joining Hortonworks the way I did.
But this is the second longest I've worked in my career and this journey has been very different from the Gumball years of the Yahoo. With Hortonworks, I joined a small company in Maude & Matilda four years ago and I now work for a company that is so big it has offices around the planet. When I interviewed at Hortonworks in February of 2012, that was way before the this company was - back before there was a packaged product or an installer, before the "do or die" phase of working for an underdog company.
And an underdog might be down, but always gets to punch up.--
Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.
-- Thomas Szasz
My grandfather passed away last week.
When I was at one of life's cross-roads, he rescued me with some advice I hold onto as one of my life's truths.
Sacrifice. It's a word that gets thrown around in the social context without any inherent meaning. Just like other things caused by peer pressure, the sacrificial act is a social demonstration of emotion, at the detriment of nearly everyone intimately involved in it. Mothers give up their careers to stay at home. fathers end up working longer and so on.
After my dad's untimely end, there was a choice left to me - envelope pushed under the door of my mourning, if you will. Move back to Trivandrum and try to support my mother & sister while they mourn the inconsolable loss. Social signals told me clearly that it's what's expected from a "good son".
I thought otherwise. I was wracked with guilt at the thought of staying in Bangalore, chasing my own life's goals which had been on hold for the couple of years my father was ill. And I couldn't bring myself to ignore the social pressures and was caving in to them, when I talked to my muthachan.
He got to right to the point.
"Is this something your mother asked you to do?" / "No". "Do you think leaving Yahoo and moving to Trivandrum is good for you?" / "No". "Is moving back home likely to be a disappointing thing for you?" / "Yes".
"Then don't do it. We're here to take care of your mother. She is my child." / "Ok, but ..."
"Your mother will need you in a few years, your sister will need you. Be there. But you will do this one crazy gesture they never asked for, because people pressure you into making it. When times are bad and your life isn't moving forward, you won't think of those pressures. You will blame the ones you really did it all for."
"And one day, you will get angry about something and tell your mother that you did it all for her. That your life's frustrations are due to her. Maybe it won't be your mother and it will be your sister - she will tell you that she didn't ask for it, that you did it all on your own. That your sacrifice wasn't necessary and then you'll feel hollow, because it was all for nothing, how you turned away from your self, silenced your wants and died a little for them. You will be truly angry with them for your thoughtless sacrifice and never let it go."
"If what I said sounds inevitable. Don't do it. Go do your thing now and whenever your mother or your sister need help they will not hesitate to ask. Be there for them without question. When it's the right decision to take, you won't feel yourself tearing apart."
That is how I got to today, half a world away mourning his death, knowing fully well I couldn't go & be by my mother's side.
And this time, I wasn't tearing myself apart.--
Much of what was said did not matter, and that much of what mattered could not be said.
Must be a strange coincidence, but I think nearly all of my farewell letters have been written in August.
As the days get a tiny bit shorter, all the energy that the summer brings turns into a certain impatience. Sitting in front of a desk, when the brightness outside is getting wasted.
Perhaps you don't feel it, but there's a general ebb of life that makes me acutely conscious of my mortality. A certain knowledge that summer is passing and I'm still indoors, to wait for another year perhaps to enjoy the summer sunshine.
And yet, it's not that I feel sad about the passing of days - those days aren't here. It's a call to freedom. A primal urge to make most of the days in the sun, without concern, because the winter that will follow is inevitable. To plant all the energy of the summer that's half-gone and reap the rest.
Need to just head out into the sunshine & high mountains, leaving work in the valleys.--
Your career is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get.
Nobody commits suicide.At least, nobody commits suicide any more than they commit a diabetic coma or a cardiac arrest.
It isn't a crime to commit, it is the unfortunate demise brought on by years of accumulated damage - perhaps a less acceptable one than a surfeit of cheeseburgers.
If you're the one playing the devil's advocate for sinners, please rank it with gluttony and sloth.
I don't intend to minimize the act here, but nobody in their right mind goes that way. I want to talk about those that did, but I never know how to put my words together. But I talk about one death - the same death, over and over.
A loved one's suicide never quite washes off your mind. And it is never the day or the moment that just fails to fade out. What I remember vividly is the year before that, was a witness to it, from as up close as humanly possible. I saw the face of depression up close, felt the shadow if it touch my future.
Perhaps some of you can describe being depressed. For the lucky folks here, let me describe the sensation I had by proxy.
Imagine you're having an asthma attack - you can't breathe, your lungs are choking up and your throat is straining. Right at that moment, someone tells you that what you need is some fresh air in this beautiful garden of roses and shows you how they breathe in & out throwing their chests out. And then ask why you're ruining the day for everyone by reaching for the inhaler, before it was even 10 AM.
This isn't some pervasive sense of sadness, but an accute occurrance of hopelessness and despair. The weight of the world falls on your shoulders and you can't move - everyone's just asking you to get up and do things. The inability compounded by the knowledge that at least some of the world is your responsibility to move.
And there-in, Ophelia, lies the rub. Social conditioning and my personal observation tells me that's where being brought up to be a Man bites your head off.
Years of indoctrination has taught (me) that - Men are resilient, Men do things, Men have responsibilities and that when in a crisis, the rule follows that you save "Women and children first".
Imagine, after fifty long years of being that, you're stumbling for the first time. And there's a huge stigma attached to being a problem for the people who depend up on you. I suspect, the indoctrination goes to your heart for those who've survived long odds, like returning soldiers from a war front.
Except you haven't learnt to talk about your emotions. You've lived your life with rational thought and enlightenment, treating emotions as fickle pertrubances to be ignored, like fear or desire - talking about them gives them more credence than necessary.
And then there's the stigma of treatment. Treatment for the chemistry in your brain is considered somewhat different from any chemistry elsewhere. I've never seen anyone reluctant to take Insulin for social reasons. I have never seen anyone skip an X-Ray in case they need a cast for their swollen foot. I've never before seen someone dodge treatment or diagnosis for worry that they'll get caught up in it.
Insanity has a huge price attached to your sense of self, since it is the only scenario your own input into your condition can be disregarded. In fact, just worrying about your own improvement might be treated as a symptom.
I have to come to understand that death - the terminal condition of an untreatable depression.--
It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It's called living.
-- Terry Pratchett
It has been 7 years since my last conversation with him. Maybe it's only been six since I missed him.
Maybe I didn't say anything to anyone when he died, but with all the lack of orginality I posess, let me repeat something. If only as l'esprit de l'escalier, 8 years later if you will.
MY FATHER WAS AN EXCEPTIONAL MAN! He had his... shortcomings, but he took care of his family. He loved his family. He loved this house. He worked hard. All I wanted today was to show him how much we all loved and admired him. To give him the respect that he deserved... Is that really so much to ask? We all get so distracted by the... little things in life. We forget about the important things. Like the fact that we lost a great man. We don't know why a man makes the choices he makes. But I do know that my father made the best choices he could make. Life is complicated. We're just thrown here together in a world filled with chaos and confusion... and we do our best. He taught us to go for what we wanted in life, because you never know how long you're going to be here. So when you all leave here today, I want you to remember him for who he really was. A decent, loving man who never condemned anyone for how they lived. Who never cast disparaging remarks or held prejudices against race, gender... height. If only we could all be as giving, as generous, as understanding as my father. If I am half the man my father was, my child will be incredibly blessed. -- (paraphrased from) Death at a Funeral, 2007
My father was an exceptional man. He was exceptional in every way, in his strength and his weakness.
My mother taught me how to endure, to abide, to suffer the endless slings & arrows - my father showed me how to fight, how to lose battles and win wars. To take invisible swords upto invisible monsters and slay them. If my father taught me to fight, my mother taught me to never give up. She passed onto me, her endless source of hope. She taught, if not by words but example, that everything passes, including waves of troubles & sadness. Just hold your breath and dive, she showed - find the bottom and push back all the way up.
I learnt strategy from him - I very rarely played chess with him and he would reluctantly destroy me in calculated moves. I rarely put myself in front of that juggernaut because of what came after I lost, a clear description of why I lost, step by step of when I had an advantage & how I squandered it. I learnt patience from watching him - that patience isn't waiting, patience is observing, watching for the right moment - with a finger on the trigger, eye on the scope.
I learnt to listen and remember. Of all of my life's conversations (yet), he's the person I've talked the most to. I missed the conversations with him about fundamental human nature, sitting on a Bajaj Chetak, with him explaining to me in great detail the importance of understanding. Nothing more, just understanding everything. Perhaps, I learnt to be pedantic too - to understand what's different about wealth, value, cost, price. Understand that money is important, but never a goal. Understand that you should always engineer all-winner scenarios and never work with people who will still want you to lose. Understand altruisim & co-operation is just another word for long-term selfishness. Understand that help you give that is nothing to you, but everything to someone else is the best form of it. Understand that gender is meaningful, but not discriminatory (between me & my sister). That laws we have to obey are never entirely fair - that both the rich & poor are prohibited from sleeping on park benches in the night.
He didn't just talk about it, I saw his principles moving him - some of those came up because he was the Director of Social Welfare in Kerala government.
Not all his lessons were imparted kindly. I watched over my father for a year. I felt like the parent - making sure he ate food on time, took his medication, to make sure he slept, to run to his bed-side when he had nightmares. To stay up next to him when he slept in his hospital bed, reading, while the sedatives kicked in and kept him from tossing about in his bed. I had to deal with him when he threw tantrums and I know it hurt him more when I couldn't understand him or calm him down. I was filled with a homesickness that only comes to those who are already home and I wanted him to go back to being the same awesome father I always had. Deep inside his heart, he knew he could never be that person again. And he tried to tell me, but I didn't believe that - to believe him seemed like letting go of all hope. Never wanted to pass through the door inscribed "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here".
Years after, in mid-November I get angry about all that again, I remember that he was the most considerate of human beings even to the end - I found his paperwork sorted and filed in the order of use after his death.
I wonder about all our conversations - was he was leaving a part of him to live, even after he takes the rest to an early grave?
And just for that, I will always love him.--
All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.
-- Helen Keller
I work from home and that causes more trouble at home than at work.
Today Kavi asked me if I wanted to come along for a 4 hour round-trip to the airport to drop off her sister. Now those four hours of that has to come out of my work hours for the day & is a distraction I hadn't planned on having, but that is really my problem, not hers.
But if I were in an office building approximately two kilometres away, doing the exact same thing today I wouldn't have been asked that question. There would've been no expectation that I can spare four hours from the middle of my work day for a car ride.
I didn't go, of course - I'm sitting here ranting about it while my cluster is rebuilding ORC tables. But I didn't really have a pleasant time saying "NO" either. Just having to say *NO* and having her drive back from the airport alone seems like a choice I'm implicitly making.
In reality, I'm spending more time with both of them today, while my cluster rebuilds. But the fact that the question is pursued implies that the people involved do not consider me "at work" and therefore unavailable for anything else. And that question hurts my commitment towards both parts of my life.
The real trouble is that occasionally I do take time out of my work hours to do things with her. It is no sacrifice, because we do things that can only be done in daylight - shopping for things, brunches which last till 2 PM and evening runs where I spend an hour in the middle of the work day clocking up some mileage. I did that yesterday, with my cluster churning profiles out.
I probably really only work 4 hours a day. But those 4 hours come in two sessions of 2 hours of uninterrupted work, when I do not reply to emails, my phone is in another room, I'm not reading HackerNews or tweeting anything interesting (people, now you can see how often I work). I keep every activity which involves staring at progress bars out of those hours - my maven repos will be upto-date, my unit tests are run later and my work setup is all done somewhere in the middle, preferably during a meal or a run.
For those hours I'll be in a state of mind that is fragile enough to be destroyed by someone just asking me a rhetorical question like "XYZ is in town next week, we'll meet them on Wed?".
The trouble is that people who inhabit my life can't differentiate between those four hours and the other four hours. You know, the non-work work hours that go into reading JIRAs, replying to threads, attending calls or setting up EC2 nodes. Some of those leaks into the weekends, but I deal with it if it means having more quality time to spend on a Monday. In those hours, I will not snap back when interrupted, even drop what I'm doing to look at something or get a coffee.
I do try to make it all fit in, usually with some careful & invisible planning. It is the invisibility that is its undoing - it is effort that rarely goes appreciated by people at home (people at work don't even know I do this). It is really hard to say yes to new plans when they keep coming up all the time, without sharing my carefully timed plans - "Yes, I need 10 minutes to setup something that will take 4500 seconds to run. Let's go in a bit, but can we back by 9?".
I love being able to say "Yes!" to a plan, but I rarely say out the rest of the above sentence. And that has repurcussions that affect my happiness over-all. If unexpectedly I have to spend two hours at CPK eating dinner (enjoyable time, of course), I have to catch up by staying up till 3 AM to get my four hours in that day. Perhaps people will come home and I will offer to cook pasta instead of going out. A part of it is selfish even, because if I stick at home, I might get to stare at a monitor while the pasta gets to al dente and get some of the scaffolding work in. Those are not really work hours - if I can cook pasta while I work, I'm not working.
Now, you might wonder about my deadlines when I talk about my time and work. I'm not slogging to meet some arbitrary deadline set by Hortonworks. I'm working because I get paid to do something I actually like. And I do like to take my time off and do other things I like. I want to spend about 9 days somewhere in the Himalayas next month, without cellphones, computers and with my camera, tripod and a stack of well chosen filters. To balance my work and life, I need to put in my time at work doing productive things and I do that without anyone forcing me to "SHIP CODE!" - what else counts as work? :)
But the trouble is that I can't seem to balance my work & life, particularly living with someone who's always up for new things by the hour (which is why I fell in love with her). And it is a question of expectations from the people in my life, because I work where I live, most of the time. Perhaps if I walk out of the home for 8 hours a day and go sit in Yoga House, the assumptions of my availability for plans will drop out of her mind.
I still love working from home. I do get to head out for an hour or so, eat lunch, drink coffee and spend quality time with people. I just wish they'd understand that I have a work schedule between those pleasant punctuations and make my life a little easier with fewer questions I have to say "*NO*" to.
Because saying "NO, I HAVE WORK" makes me sad. Very sad, indeed.--
Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
-- Anton Chekhov
I made a lot of fuss when I was turning 30. It seemed like a big deal.
There's something special about completing a revolution around the yellow star.
It is special to know that you spent the last year doing the important things - writing code, climbing mountains, running distances and sometimes just doing nothing at all.
But what overwhelms me is a realization that the more important anniversaries are elsewhere on my calendar now.--
Like most women my age, I am 28.
-- Mary Schmich.
To put a price on a thing is an odd thing to do.
I've never sold my photographs. I'd dreamt of doing a photo exhibition. I wanted to do more than show them only to take them home afterwards. I wanted to do something good along with it - to auction them and raise money. I didn't know what putting a price on one would feel.
But before I wade into my moral dilemma, let me thank the people without whom this wouldn't have been possible - Kavita, Tharak, Kritika, Pooja & Vivek. These five people were the hands, feet, brains, heart and occasionally filled in for all the other organs that were needed. Kavi was the mastermind of this project. I might've taken the photographs but she put on this show. Tharak for all the posters & the artwork in the coffee table book. But my gratitude really goes out to the last three, who flew in from Delhi & stayed the whole week to help!
Back to my dilemma. It wasn't as if people were paying for the photographs. They were paying for a visually impaired student's future & education - that this framed photo was merely a glorified thank you card, from me to you, all paid-for by me. But it did feel like I was making a sale.
Until that point in my life, I'd marked a large number of my photos online as CC-BY. All anyone needed to do was connect my photo to the original upload & use it as they please. They ended up on song cover art, safari brochures, treehugger articles, wikipedia and god knows where else. And if I cared, it was only to know that they were of use to someone.
As an auctioneer, I was conflicted. I wanted to give everyone the picture they liked, but I had to push the price up for the cause. Bidding wars may push the price up, but they do so by denying someone their wish to take the photo home. I wasn't happy to call up someone and tell them they weren't getting their photo of choice - I wanted to prevent people from outbidding others. At the same time, I wanted to hit my fund raising target.
I felt like I was the bad person here, keeping people from having what they want - for money. Generating artificial scarcity for something that was still available at no cost - I felt like I had sold out. Felt like I was doing something morally wrong, cheapening the sensation of having raised a whopping 1.3 lakhs for mitrajyothi. I might be feeling a bit low about the auction, but that money is going to go do a lot more good to a lot more people. But I do have something to re-iterate about my photos and your right to enjoy them.
My Creative Commons photos have always been available for anyone to download - use one as your wallpaper, take a print & frame it or paint a copy.
Just leave a comment or something, so that I have a reason to keep uploading more.--
The essence of all art is to have pleasure in giving pleasure.
-- Dale Carnegie
And I'm concerned.
I'm concerned that she does not understand the difference between marriage and love. That she does not understand the difference between love and sacrifice. That she does not understand the difference between loving someone and living with them. That she does not understand that marriage is not the finish line for love. That she does not understand marriage takes more than love.
And the more I think about it - I'm even more concerned.
I'm concerned that her apathy towards her career will be the death of it. That she will end up being a homemaker, after having a gold medal from NLS. That she will end up succumbing to the social pressures of being a Mrs Somebody. That one day somewhere in her middle ages she would regret her simple surrenders. That if she's wilfully ignoring the springboard of opportunity that so many of her peers don't have. That she might be decieving herself into becoming the role model wife and bahu - and fail. That she'll lose something precious and ephemeral - the fire to burn as bright as you can.
And in some way, I'm saddened.
I'm saddened that whenever she explains her idea of relationships it is to suffer for the sake of her partner, to be with him whatever it takes at whatever cost to her potential. That I couldn't pass off my own ephiphany about love and relationships - that it took me further ahead than I could've done on my own. That my efforts to fulfil my dad's hopes for her weren't enough - simple enough as they were, to see her "breaking through the limitations society might impose". That she won't see that in some way or the other, I've been on her side for twenty odd years in the case of Sister vs The World, 1986-present.
I'd don't think I'll ever stop being concerned about her - she's my baby (sister) too.
But in more than one way, I'm happy for her. And proud of her too.
She's marrying someone of her own choice - after six years of knowing each other. And it's happening out of co-operation between both the families. She's doing this completely out of her own volition, dreams and desires - which is what will truly give her the strength to push through when push comes to shove.
Also, she's been known for making me look very stupid - which this blog post might do in a couple of decades.--
Marriage has some thorns, but the alternative has no roses.
-- Vernon K. McLellan
Monday, August 11th 2003.
I will remember.
I can still feel it in my gut. The pointless despair, the rising anger, panic and the frustration of being at the recieving end of someone else's ego trip. Knowing that I was forever changed from that moment forth.
It was a valuable lesson - something I don't plan on forgetting.--
Experience is the most brutal of all teachers.
-- C.S Lewis
I make it look easy.
I even make looking things easy, look easy. I guess I've had enough practice.
The truth is, most of the things I really want to do are hard. So hard that it hardly seems worth the effort. If I knew what it would take to do them I would've probably never even done it.
The long sleepless nights, the weekends consumed, hobbies neglected. Little sacrifices and the big ones. Perhaps even by someone else. That's what it has taken to make it happen. Every step of the way.
If you knew, you'd probably never attempt them. That is exactly why I can never tell you. That is exactly why you'll never know how hard it was for me. Not that it matters, because here's the kicker, it won't help you.
In some sense, I'm less capable of the impossible once I've proved it is merely difficult. I'm guessing you all think the same. So I deceive you and anyone else who asks. Everything's easy and all you need is a little time & determination. And you're just a few steps away from success, always. There's really nothing to it.
See, *that* was easy.--
If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough
-- Albert Einstein.
Not for me, of course.
Today's the day when the burdens of all the what-ifs of my life becomes unbearable. The day I work up a year full of courage to face. A day which I devote to despair, for I leave no room in my life for it otherwise. To lay myself bare to all the demons of my mind. And survive.
Four years ago today, I lost a father. And today, I will remember the greatest lesson he ever taught me.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
-- William Shakespare, "Julius Caesar"
This sunday, there will only be a finish line. There are no easy ways out of it.
42 long kilometres between me and that line. My tired feet pounding out fifty thousand footsteps to get to that line in the sand.
There's no quitting, there's no giving up, hell ... even death is not an option.--
We won he said, and immediately he fell down and died.
-- "Battle of Marathon", Herodotus.
In Memoriam - Monday, August 11th 2003.
And I mourn for a loss I cannot explain.--
I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.
I run. Out on the road, as each stride drags me ahead, my mind is truly free. Free of this world, free of troubles and free from everything else, but the next footfall. Distances blur out, time stretches out, pain becomes a companion and your body falls into a rhythm which you dare not break.
About three years ago, I started to run. I never really had a reason for it. I ran everywhere and ran back as well, if I could. But then people started to pop up in my life who couldn't keep up. And I stopped ... for a while.
But just like everything important, it came about from a random conversation over coffee. There we were, me & @teemus, sitting in Java city, checking out all the upcoming concerts. Right in the middle of everything from jazz to house, was a bright red poster telling us to run (and eat sunfeast biscuits).
For the good part of two weeks, I lived a very disciplined life. Ate right, slept right and spent an hour or more in the gym. Racing each other on the treadmill, steadily upping the distance, speed. Finally one morning, stretching up in Kanteerva stadium, drinking redbull mixed with orange juice, I knew I'd always wanted to run long distance.
10 Km: Ran the Sunfeast 10k. Running slowly became more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. To actually cross the line of discomfort to actually hit the limit of pain was more of a mental barrier than I thought. It was just too easy to just quit, stop by the side and take a breather.
The physical barriers were there. They were definitely a huge challenge all by themselves. But even when I could run 5km without falling over, the urge to give up does not fade. To actually gag and silence that part of your mind which keeps whispering "quit now, there will be cake".
It was all in your head.
You could stop anytime you wanted. But it took all my vanity and ego, to keep me running. To see others vanish ahead, lit a fire that would burn me through the miles and miles ahead of me.
faster: The Nike+ Human Race was the next one. The last 400 metres were run at blistering pace with me and @balajijegan running together. Adrenaline pumping through my veins, Nicotine blasting in my headphones and out of breath, I crossed that finish line. 10 Km was turning into a race than a test.
25 km: Finally, it was time to play with the big boys. The Bangalore Ultra was looking like too big a challenge to actually pull off. The track was all ups and downs. I ran the first 18km in complete zen, in under two hours. The safety pins holding my bib to my chest had started to cut into my chest and I had cuts on my chest from the friction. I had to stop after the 20th km to get medical attention. After barely six or seven minutes of standing still, I had cramps.
last mile: The pain was getting to me. 21st to the 23rd was a sheer exercise in masochism, all the way uphill and through slippery mud. After that, it was just a test of sheer willpower. I knew that I would just fall over if I stopped running. Running along on empty, in pain, with my face showing it - you'd wonder why I was doing it. You have to be a runner to know why - there was no way out of that agony other than that finish line. I don't think I left myself any options.
21 more: The next half-marathon had significantly less training behind it. The weeks preceding it was mostly spent on FOSS.in and almost everything going wrong with that conf was my fault. The Times of India midnight marathon was a lot of fun to run, because it was flat, late in the night and I had my personal cheerleader waiting at the finish line. I ran that at my best time, ever.
Running will change your life. I'm running out of reasons to explain why I run, but it's changed my life around and made me a happier person overall.--
One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure its worth watching.