Let the ass kicking begin…

squash_player_quoteSanta Cruz squash club (circa 1999)
It was my second year of playing squash seriously. ‘Seriously‘ doesn’t mean I was any good yet. I was at that rookie stage of a squasher’s evolution when I was constantly looking for easy winners (read “low percentage drop shots or optimistic boasts”). I had signed up for a squash tourney at the Santa Cruz squash club.

I have little recollection of the two games I played – quick embarrassing losses I’m sure.

On the bright side, I got to watch several great games. The standout memory (and the trigger for this post) was the matchup between the club pro (Alex) and a sturdily built bloke (let’s call him Blake since I don’t know him).

There was no danger of Blake being picked from a which one of these is a squash player lineup. This is not to say that he was unfit.

As the players warmed up with rails and crosses (and the occasional boast), it was evident that Blake had talent. There was an elegance and efficiency to his on-court movements that belied one’s cursory examination of his physical profile. But my money was still on the athletic squash pro Alex.

Game 1 score: 9-5

The game was close for the first 2-3 minutes. Blake had gotten Alex’s measure by then and started putting him through his paces. An array of accurately deep rails laced with a perfect blend of drop and boast winners. This was a pattern he oft repeated. And as though to remind Alex that this wasn’t his full armoury, he’d throw in a clinically precise edge smash winner… seemingly at will.

I watched Blake as he nonchalantly took his break, changed to a new tee and entered the court before Alex.

“Let the ass kicking begin”

This was the message on the back of his game#2 tee!!

The programmer in me wondered whether he had different tee shirts ready based on whether he won the first game.

I concluded that this was the perfectly appropriate”mind games” message to an opponent in both scenarios.

If it was a close first game that he had lost, the taunt could have inserted a doubt in his opponent’s mind. 

In this case, however, Blake was openly taunting Alex.. just getting warmed up buddy. I’ll now wipe the floor with you.

Blake then proceeded to do just that. Game 2 score was either 9-2 or 9-3.

Beyond the cheekiness and mind game evoked by Blake’s tee that day, the message stayed in my consciousness. 

Strangely my runner persona can relate to that message.

Like many amateur runners who will never be podium finishes (in the open category), my ‘opponent’ is me. The current me is constantly competing with the previous me. 

If I ran an FM in 3:48, great. Let the ass kicking begin.. to get to the 3:30 to 3:45 quadrant.

If I’ve run 75k multiple times, great. Let the ass kicking begin for a hilly 80k or a 24 hour ultra.

If Dr. George Sheehan can get his PB at 60 years, surely I can try my darnedest in my late 40’s.



When in Rome be a barefoot runner

When in Rome be a Roman.

If you are a runner there’s possibly no better city than Bangalore for year-round running. There’s at most one hot month and even then the mornings are nothing remotely like Chennai. There’s hardly a run where I don’t thank my stars I’m in Bangalore!

While it’s widely known that Bangalore roads are terrible for motorists, it’s probably the worst city for barefoot runners.

If the roads weren’t this bad I might have never switched to 4mm huaraches.

Inflection points in my barefoot journey:

The rhythm seemed to return but it would get punctured every time a blasted pebble got stuck in my sandals. This probably happened a 100 times and I only exaggerate slightly. THIS was the elephant in the room “rhythm crusher” that I had missed! After running KTM for the third consecutive time barefoot (barely 2 months ago) and extracting 25+ thorns, I resolved to NOT run barefoot at that course again. Now extrapolating this Aha moment to Ultra with its pebble-laden obstacle gotchas and non-trivial stretches of gravel-masquerading-as-road would require a level of intelligence that I clearly did not possess. Or maybe it was bravado?

The above extract is from the Bangalore Ultra 2014 race report. I wouldn’t blame you if you concluded that I relapsed from a barefoot to a shod runner.

However, that hasn’t happened yet.


Barefoot running is religion. Barring the Tarahumara, Zola Budd, and a smattering of insanely talented (but pecuniary) elite runners who only knew barefoot running, the rest are mostly the born again religious variety.

Given how the resurgence (or the start?) of modern barefoot running was inspired by Born to Run, the anti-shod religious moorings should not surprise us too much.

As a practitioner, observer of other Bangalore barefoot runners, and chronicler of barefoot running in India, I know very few barefoot purists – the ones who run *all* their runs barefoot. If you excluded the slower runners, you have maybe 2-3 such runners (in India). The most famous in that exclusive list is Thomas Bobby Philip. Someday a tome will be written about this mutant runner with a VO2Max of 65 and an enviable Benjamin Button core.

The rest of the barefoot runners who have persisted for longer than 3 years (and I include myself in this category) have dabbled with various forms of minimalist footwear (sandals, Vibram 5-fingers or zero-drop 4mm shoes) before finding their ‘new normal’.

For many, the new normal was Vibrams all the time or sandals all the time. For me, it’s been an annual reset of the previous normal.

What’s my current normal? Barefoot for my speed/hill runs and sandals for the long runs on Bangalore roads though I’ll shed my sandals for more of my long runs to re-acclimarize myself for SCMM 2017.

Give me a smooth urban terrain and I’ll run barefoot anyday.

When in Rome, or any city with smooth asphalt or concrete, I’ll run barefoot anyday. For any distance.



Three Act Play for the Fourth Time

“The human being, by and large, is a very bad companion for himself; where he has to face himself for any length of time, he acquires a deep disgust and a restless anxiety which makes him seek almost any escape.” – Victor F Nelson

[Editor’s Note: Started this post the Monday following Bangalore Ultra 2016 but I finished it on Nov 25, courtesy a 2 hour flight and WordPress for Android. By my usual gestational standards, this baby came out super fast.]

Yesterday marked a first of sorts – watching a play with my teenage son. “Perfect Nonsense”, PG Wodehouse’s adaptation by The Goodale Brothers was thoroughly enjoyable. Judging by my son’s reactions, I believe he’ll give Plum a try soon. The play capped off an eventful and satisfying weekend.

A weekend that started on Saturday at 6am with a different three act play.

It was the 10th edition of the Bangalore Ultra and I was running the 75km distance. Each loop (out and back) = 25k so 3 loops in total.

Pre-race prep and target setting

My lungs were in better shape (albeit Symbicort aided) than last year but nothing close to the 2013-14 season.

Having run this race 3 of the last 4 years, the distance/terrain/heat weren’t daunting. I wanted to push myself though. Specifically, I wanted to improve on my previous best time of 8:38. Feeling strong after a 52k training run at 6:10 pace made me greedy. Was a time between 8 and 8:15 possible? A question I would keep asking myself until race day.

When Bhasker posed the same an hour before start, my answer was “will run first loop in 2:40 and see” which is a cagey way of saying “8 hrs but…”

The silly organizers (in their infinite wisdom) had moved the start time from 5am to 6am. Why fix something that wasn’t broken? Grr…

My target time was allegedly adjusted for this extra hour in the sun.

Didn’t mess with my nutrition and hydration plans from previous two years (ragi pudding + coconut/PB sandwiches, Cocojal and water, and salt tablets).

Quite satisfied with my mental preparation in the week leading to the race. I even visualized the race a few times – something I’ve never done before.

After my less than stellar performance in 2014, one thing I swore to change was my choice of footwear which turned out to be the Umara Z-Trail sandals (acquired in March). Since a ball-of-foot callus had returned to torment me for the nth time, I decided to add socks to the mix – it would turn out to be a smart decision.

Act I

Nearing the end of act I

Nearing the end of act I

Considering how much I abhor arriving late to a race, was unable to avoid a mad scramble to get my stuff to baggage claim, etc. Mild rumblings from the nether regions with 10min to the gun so I needed to make my first decision.

I called my gut’s bluff. It was a trail after all and I had TP tucked away. Would turn out to be the right call.

I set off strong and (since I was wearing a watch, not Garmin) realized at Km 2 that it was too fast. A progressive slowing down in the next 7 km brought it down to an average pace of 6:00. The return 12.5k (with a few inclines) would get me back on target I figured.

I finished Act I four minutes faster than plan. You’d think 4 min over 25 km isn’t significant, right? I’m sure my running geek friends will tell me how significant it was. Discipline in “holding back” in ultras is key (especially since I had a target, an aggressive one at that) and i had failed the test. I would learn my lesson in acts II and III.

Looking at a runner as a celestial object revolving around the sun, an aggressive push to a higher orbit carries the risk of careening downward to a lower orbit.

Act II

Eat and run.. in the middle of Act I

Eat and run.. in the middle of Act I

Normally I’d go half-monty in act III but the 6am start messed with that plan. At the 2 hour mark, I was already feeling straitjacketed with a soaking tee and a playful sun. So I decided it was going to be a 50k shirtless race. Game on.

One of the fringe benefits of going shirtless is that it’s a photograph repellent. While I have nothing against photographers and viewing a rare runner-in-repose picture can lift the ego, seeing them in the middle of the trail strikes me as unfair. It breaks the meditative spell, I get conscious, and I just can’t wait to cross the range of the lens. (having said all that, I’ve attached 3 pictures from the race)

Unsurprisingly, I slowed down in the second loop, completing it in about 3 hours. I kept comparing my performance with how I felt during and after my bolstering 52k training run. Why WAS I not feeling as strong as that run? Especially when I was running at least 20 min slower over that distance.

I had started my training run at 4am – a whopping 2 hours before race start conditions. Bleddy aggressive optimist me was also el stupido!

As I approached the end of the second loop, here’s how I assessed my 3-act play:

  • (utterly) foolish first act
  • steady as it goes second act
  • gear up for survival act!


They managed to snag the half-monty

They managed to snag the half-monty

At the turnaround it was evident that a spectacular third act was the only way I could come close to my previous best. ‘Spectacular’ entailed not cramping AND maintaining the pace from my second loop.

A heightened state of proprioception would ensure I wouldn’t cramp. I was regimental in my intake of Cocojal and salt tablets. I was able to detect the mildest pre-cramp tremors and take evasive measures (salt or electrolytes). The fact that I finished my 10th (and last) salt tablet between 55k and 62k told a tale of treacherous heat. Fortunately all aid stations were abundantly stocked with salt.

About that second dimension of spectacular? Ha.

Survival it had to be.

Once you’ve run enough, you know that the sublime races are but a few. The non-sublime races are wonderful opportunities for self-learning and experimentation.

My personal favorite is the experimentation with mantras. Different mantras for different situations.

The racing, not running mantra worked great for my sublime 2013 season but it was a non-starter for this race.

In the middle miles of trail races, I’ve found this to be very effective in re-centering my mind and bringing my focus inwards. It also helps in regaining my breathing rhythm. Time stands still while the miles are eaten.

A new addition to my mantra arsenal was an Indian army war cry that one of my fauji friends had elucidated on our WhatsApp group sometime ago.

No external enemy to contend with, no hill to be taken but a lot of inner demons to be vanquished.

I employed this mantra twice, somewhere between 58k and 65k. It seemed to work, though it’s effect was short lived. Me thinks I haven’t really internalized the import of the fauji mantra.

I walked three times in act III. The longest walk duration was probably 3-4 minutes but I hated every second of it. I hated it because I wasn’t remotely in distress. My nutrition was working – no exhaustion or bonking. No cramping. Just plain old misery of having slowed down, being unable to speed up, the prospect of additional 15/14/13 to go, absence of a good reason to DNF. Yes you fool – km markers take longer to traverse at an ambling pace.

The best news from the third act was that I got my proverbial “second wind” several times. They’d only last a kilometer but gave me great hope. Without these bursts I would have had an utterly miserable finish.

If my mind was the rider and my body the horse, I needed a few more mantras in my arsenal.

At the 62.5 k mark, met Lawrence (who was running 100 k) and we got chatting. He was running at a blistering pace, but his lower body was killing him and he wondered if he could finish in under 10 hours. My lower body, on the other hand, was doing just fine. My lungs however felt as though somebody had compressed them down to 50℅. We bantered for half a kilometer before Lawrence found his groove again. He would finish in an amazing 9:50 to take 2nd place.

While Lawrence was computing his sub-10 hr pacing misery, I was calculating my sub-9 hr chances. Things weren’t looking good so I blanked those thoughts and concentrated on just running the remaining 12.5 km. I had walked thrice in the preceding 6 k and I’d be damned if I did that again.

Amazingly (and seemingly suddenly), the 69 k marker was sighted and a quick calculation told me that a sub-9 hour finish was in the realm of possibility *without requiring a superhuman effort*. If I was a whistler, I would have whistled till the end.

Finished in 8:58. 4th place overall. Apparently I was the only oldie running 75k so they gave me a trophy too.




I’m racing, not running!

Progress is linearly proportional to one’s efforts but results often come in cycles. – several wise men

Coming off a 22-month streak, the 2013-14 season was looking rather normal. KTM in Sep followed by 75k Ultra in Nov and finish off with SCMM in Jan.

I had come within flirting distance of sub-4 times in a few training FMs and finally did a 3:55 (or thereabouts) in Apr so was flush with confidence, optimismghg and expectation.

KTM 2013

ktm_2013_barefoot_flyingCame really close to a DNS (Did Not Start) thanks to a judgement lapse on the preceding Friday – carbo-loading at a non-regular eating joint (Rajasthani Rajdhani at that) was not a smart thing after all. Curd with jeera powder until Sat evening brought parity to proceedings. It was a trail run and I had prepared myself mentally and logistically to dart into the bushes. Fortunately, a final pre-race checkin to the loo brought glad tidings and I was mentally & physiologically re-centered.

In 5 years at KTM (and 2nd time barefoot), a first half of 1:55 was easily my most aggressive start. My ‘two Cocojals per FM’ strategy seemed to be working – for a change, cramps wouldn’t be the culprit this time around. The payback for my unsustainable first half pace was an undramatic and inexorable slowing down. I finished in 4 hrs 9 min. A highly respectable time for KTM but I was gunning for a lot faster. I’d be back (I promised myself).

Ultra 2013

The urge to run my second 75k ultra started immediately after I finished the 2012 edition. I was mentally a lot stronger. Physically too, with a lot of consistently high mileage weeks, weekends and months. Thanks to Sir Gaunker‘s tried and tested nutrition strategy for ultras, ragi was going to be my primary fuel. What’s more, Rajaram’s wife very kindly agreed to prepare the ragi pudding for my race. Meanwhile Rajaram was registered for the 100k and in the deepest vein of purple form that season.

ultra_2013_dawnThe Bangalore Ultra’s starts are always magical. 5am with darting flashlights and a jumbled formation of runners tentatively making their way forward. The conditions ensure that no one takes off at 10k pace.

The usual banter with Nari and Vasu (who deserve a post on what makes them uniquely crazy) continued till the 6.5k hydration point. As I exited, something clicked in my head. An inner voice said “I’m racing, not running!” and I instantly knew what to do. If this scene needed to be picturized (and I was the director), I’d show the protagonist’s eyes narrowing, focusing in a William Tell manner seeing *just* the apple on his son’s head and set off in a copybook stance of an elite Kenyan runner.

Nari and Vasu dissolved into the gray and off I went. To run my race. It was the first time I had turned on my ‘game face’. A face, a mode, an attitude that stayed with me for the remainder of the race.

I completed the first (25k) loop in 2.5 hours. I knew it was too fast so (after briefly feeling good about it) I consciously slowed down a tad bit. I finished the 2nd loop in 2 hrs 45 min. My Bhukmp compatriots noted my in-the-zone running with a range of comments. Nari said “Man! You are going fast” (with a tone tinged with concern). I passed Chandra at the 18k mark. I had not seen him because he was on a bio break. He yelled out to me “Hey, you want to break Sunil Menon’s course record?” There was no danger of that of course. Sunil’s (last year’s winner) time was 7.5 hours. Chandra (who finished 2nd behind Sunil in 8 hrs 15min) was probably afraid I might better his Bhukmp record 🙂 Until the start of the 3rd loop I actually thought I had a shot at it.

Hari observed “Did you realize you just had your best FM time?” He was right! I had crossed the 42k mark in 4hrs 5min.

ultra2013_on_podiumThe 3rd loop pulled back proceedings thanks to my tactical error in the first loop. I had forgotten that my Cocojal stache was only at the starting point aid station (and not at the midpoint) so my first Cocojal dose came at the 32k mark (thanks to Rajaram’s generosity). At the start of the 3rd  loop, I traded my 4mm huaraches with 10mm Puma slippers. The footwear change was by design but things started going awry soon thereafter. With the spectre of cramps looming in my mind, it was only a matter of time before my calves obliged. I had my best stroke of luck that day – this happened 100m from the medical/physio van. Chandra, who had amazingly caught up despite a painful bout of plantar, helped me to the physio. A 5min massage by Physio Peter changed the game again. I felt good as new so off I went again. A bit more circumspect this time. On my final turnaround (with a mere 6k to go), I got a 2nd massage from Peter (for proactive good measure) and finished in 8 hrs 38 min. In 2nd place. Winner that year was Mumbai’s talented ultra runner Abbas Sheikh (in 7.5 hrs).

SCMM 2014

After landing in Mumbai airport, I recall Nari asking me about my target time and my reply was “I don’t know but I was definitely going for it”. What was *it*? I would find out on race day. I took the “racing, not running” mantra to my final race too. At Azad Maidan (about 10 min before the gun), broke away from my group after exchanging some pleasantries and made my way to the starting line. Time to picturize again people… that same purposeful narrowing of the eyes. No William Tell but a killer this time. A killer moving through the crowd with each step taking him inexorably towards his victim. I was slotted in the B corral but I didn’t stop when I reached the front rows of B. The absence of any policing merely confirmed what was already in my head. I kept walking until I reached the first few rows of the starting line. I was probably rubbing shoulders with runners who would finish in the Top 10 but I didn’t care. I was running *my* race and I was expressing intent (to myself) in the most aggressive way possible.

To end proceedings, here’s a brief race report I shared with my gang after returning to Bangalore.

Dear friends,
Had a fantastic race. Ravi made the mistake of asking for my story at the airport last evening and he got the VERY detailed account. Here’s the short version:
Two words: very satisfied.

I didn’t want to squeak in for a sub-4 finish but blow past it – goal largely achieved. First race where I didn’t cramp – 2 cocojals did the trick. I had visualized them as my two six-shooters. Emptied the empty one at the 7k mark, second one was downed soon after the halfway mark. Strategy to go close to 5:00 pace for *as long as possible* paid off.

Decision to run barefoot (as opposed to huaraches) was vindicated and the only time I gazed balefully at the asphalt was on the final few kms of Marine Drive. Great BF-friendly course barring 3 stretches where asphalt was very coarse – the last Marine Drive stretch (where Jugy/Sunil cheered us) and the only time I wished I had the huaraches. Did “catch-back” with Pankaj and Bahuja at 3 different points – I surged ahead each time – Pankaj ko motivation diya hoga since he surged past me in the last 700m 🙂

Played cat-and-mouse game with Vaishali between 21k and 39k. She was super-focused but I couldn’t resist a very brief conversation. I was not sure how to tackle the Peddar hill (apparently I had forgotten Nandi Hills) so I asked her. Pat came the reply – “Don’t walk, increase arm swing, drop stride”. I followed the good lady’s advice and remained untroubled.

First race as “Veteran”, first FM race with the analog Titan Edge (glanced at it maybe 4-5 times). 5:11 in the 1st quarter, 5:12 in the 2nd, 5:21 in the 3rd and 6:00 in the 4th.

Overall rank: 159, category rank: 23. Can’t really complain. Thank you – oh running gods! It finally all fell into place. The sub-4 monkey off my back.

Closing note: This post entered my Drafts folder on Nov 4, 2014 so a gestational stay of 23 months 🙂



A marriage in the winter of 1962

[Editor’s Note: My mother is a late adopter of the Internet. In the pre-Internet era, she used to write the loveliest of long letters to her children. The letters stopped after I returned to India. In the past year, after she got comfortable with connectivity and gmail, the letters resumed as emails to her children. She’s harvesting from the oldest tendrils of her memory which is making the reading so so enjoyable. In this email (Aug 4), she’s relating the story of her marriage in the winter of 1962. If I were to design the wedding brochure, I’d title it as Ooty ki kali weds a Guntur boy. The email has gone through a minor editing lens without changing my mom’s tone and voice. I’ve italicized all the Telugu names (and there are MANY). My mom’s sub-text/commentary is “italicized within quotes.” Editor’s comments are within “[ ]”. The bare boned Telugu cheat sheet is here: Tatayya (grandfather), ammumma (maternal grandmother), mamma (paternal grandmother), Kakki (mom’s younger sister), pellichoopulu (seeing the bride), akkaya (elder sister), Nanna (father – my father in this case), guruvagaru (my father’s spiritual guru), mavayya (uncle). Rest of the glossary is at the end.]

My dear loving ones,

Some interesting flashback. I just finished my final B.A. exams. My ammakkayya, her daughter (Satyavati akkayya), and her family visited us for vacation in Jun 1962. Ammakkayya stayed back and others went back to Guntur. Satyavati akkayya sent Nanna’s match on Savitri ammumma’s suggestion. Communication went on between both the tatayyas. It was decided that pellichoopulu will take place in Tenali where my grandfather was staying with Viswapati babai. The three of us (Tatayya, Ammumma & I) along with ammakkayya started for Tenali. Kakki had to stay back with our neighbours as her 11th standard classes had started.

Post-marriage studio pic in Guntur

Post-marriage studio pic in Guntur

We halted in Madras at my mavayya’s house. All five elders discussed the match. My father was not that happy about Nanna’s complexion. My athayya expressed her view that if both the couple are short, children also will be short. My mavayya and ammakkayya had made the final decision: All the other things (raised by people) are petty, the boy is qualified and buddhimantudu, family is well known etc etc. I think my mind was set without knowing myself. We three proceeded to Tenali.

The day came. Ambu kakki and Satyam kakka came from Kolluru on my father’s request. They made me wear pinni’s blue pattu sari with big border (“I don’t like big borders”). Ambu kakki made my jada – I was not satisfied that much. I was used to ammumma’s  jada (I used to take papidi and hold the hair and  she would braid). Moreover I missed Kakki very much. On top of it there was no big mirror. [mirror in the Ooty house is a story for a different day]

Mamma and Nanna arrived. Tatayya suddenly called me to come out. I didn’t know what to do next so I went to my grandfather, bowed down and touched his feet. He made me sit by his side. This gesture made a great impression on Nanna. I liked his face (“if you like somebody’s face other things will not come in the way”). Neither of the two (Nanna or Mamma) asked me any questions. Ambu kakki sat near Nanna and conversed comfortably. We were just listening. I don’t remember about the snacks but something was given. Finally I went inside. The event was over.

Next day myself and tatayya had planned to go to Guntur. On finding out Nanna requested tatayya to drop mamma in Savitri ammumma’s house so that he could proceed to his work place (Rourkela). I travelled with mamma to Guntur. I was comfortable in my checked sari. Most of the time she spoke about the time spent with her cousins in her childhood, what songs she learnt from ammumma (Ammumma and she were cousins).

She asked me 2 personal questions. First one was very funny, second one not exactly.

  • “Do you eat rice thrice daily?” I nodded.
  • “Do you have 2 pairs of gold bangles?” I nodded this way and that way. [The great Indian head shake]

We didn’t have gold bangles till then. On the previous day drama, either pinni or Ambu kakki had given me 2 pairs of bangles, which meant that she had noticed them.

We came back to Ooty. It took quite some time to say “yes” because Nanna had to show my horoscope to guruvugaru and get his consent. The two tatayyas were not particular about jatakams. Ammakkayya expressed her doubt about guruvugaru but my father okayed it saying “what is wrong? I too have Baba (Sathya Sai Baba) as guru.” So marriage day was fixed for 18th Oct with a muhurtam time of 4 am. Two months time for preparations – it was quite a tough time for my father as he had not made any plans till then. He had to gather 10,000 Rupees – a very big amount in those days – somehow he managed with my grandfather’s help whose chief complaint against my father was how much money he spent on travels.

Our marriage shopping was very simple – one pattu sari (parrot green) for ammumma, one pattu sari (sky blue) for me, parikini onis (not pattu) for Kakki. We usually bought our clothes from a brahmin’s shop called Seed Depot. His main business was selling seeds. Because of my foolish criss-cross nodding [aka “Great Indian head shake”], my parents had to make two pairs of bangles (instead of one). One should be very careful before nodding.

I was chosen by Kuruganti family 70% on account of ammumma.  I was Ratnamala’s [same as ammumma] daughter! Nobody thought much about her eyesight [Ratnamala was nearly blind when she got married]. My mother-in-law gave points to my complexion and roundness (“I was not this fat then”). My father-in-law was impressed by our lineage – my grandfather and great grandfather were both great scholars in their times. The latter was called yerra panditudu [red complexioned pandit] in Bandar. Moreover, he was impressed by my B.A. degree. My husband was happy because my jatakam was approved by his guruvugaru. [The stars had all aligned.]

Sometime after the muhurtam

Sometime after the muhurtam

Marriage was to take place in my grandfather’s house in Guntur. We four (Tatayya, Ammumma, Kakki, self) started with Tirupati visit – there was heavy rush due to brahmotsavams. Our next halt was at Puttaparti – due to dasara there was a large crowd.  Luckily (and because of Tatayya’s strong will and faith), we got interview and blessings [interview refers to personal audience]. Sai Baba (Baba) asked us to come after marriage. We reached Guntur where my ammakkayya had already arrived (having travelled from Kolluru).  In those days there were neither kalyanamandapams  (marriage halls) nor catering services so everything had to be arranged on our own. Ammakkayya brought gongura, kandipodi, appadalu, odiyalu, and other pickles prepared by her with Ambu Kakki‘s  help. My tatayya was the local support. Anantalaxmi pinni and Nagalakshmi were the other people. We have to really appreciate our pinni – she believed it was her duty and responsibility to help her bavagaru so she left (Viswapati) babai and her two children to manage by themselves for 15 days. My ammakkayya and pinni were two strong pillars who supported my father. Marriage took place in front of the house. Pandiri was laid out, a raised stage was also constructed, and all the decorations were done by aunties and cousins. Cooking was done in the back of the house. My Vishwapati babai’s childhood friend and all-round reliable person took charge of the storeroom.

Our house was in the 18th Cross road. Savitri ammumma fixed an accommodation in the 14th Cross road for Kurugantis. They had planned for Satyanarayana vratam in Guntur itself. Cook also was arranged as they stayed for 10 days.

Baba’s big portrait was kept on a decorated chair. Guests started coming from 16th onwards. There was 100% attendance on both sides of the family. After the muhurtam was over we went inside. Ammumma broke down all of a sudden. We had never seen this before. All these years she never complained or grumbled about her defect [she was fully blind within a few years after her marriage to Tatayya]. She held my husband’s hand and cried like anything. She said “I can’t see anything. I don’t know anything. Look after my daughter.” It was too heavy a scene for everybody.

I changed my sari & wore the white sari for mangalyadharanam.  I came out and saw my father standing under the bogada tree in our compound. Now that kanyadanam was over he was quite relaxed. On seeing me he was SO happy! Till today I remember those sparkling eyes full of contentment and appreciation. He was my mother too.

Our guruvugaru purposely didn’t attend the marriage. He was staying in a nearby peetham. Instead Guruprasad (his elder son) represented him and was well taken care of by Bhaskar babai (my brother-in-law). Later, with my father’s permission, Nanna took me to the peetham. We got his blessings. (Laughing) he said “Kurugantis don’t need tube-light anymore.” [referring to her white complexion]

By god’s grace everything went off well. We started for Puttaparthi. My ammakkayya and Sudheer babai accompanied us. We got interview with Baba – he materialized a locket and gave to Nanna and asked us to return with the baby child [the one who would be my older brother]. We proceeded to Secunderabad. Guntur Tatayya (Nanna’s father) was still in service (with Central bank). The house was near general bazaar. We celebrated first diwali amidst athayyas, babais, pedananna, and doddamma. Mamma very happily took us to Kali temple, to her brother’s place, sister’s place, and other relatives.

Our marriage was given good report, notable quote being “bride’s sister is more good looking than the bride!” Proposals came for Kakki but Tatayya brushed them aside. Our next destination was guruvugarus place – it was a very small village Narendrapuram in East Godavari district. Mamma came with us. After getting down at Rajahmundry we had a dip in the Godavari river on mamma’s wish. We crossed the river by boat, then took a bus and finally reached their house on a bullock cart via a kacha muddy road. We were given a warm welcome. Since it was a village, all the people gathered. Next day was 16th day so they prepared special items (kandabachali koora was a must for newly married couple it seems). Seetamma (guruvagaru’s eldest daughter) was very friendly and lively, others were too young.

By the end of Nov 1962 we were in Rourkela. I was impressed by neat well laid roads and similar looking houses. Mamma used to cook for us. Nanna took us to his friends’ houses. Mamma knew a friend’s daughter in Rourkela. Mamma and I used to go to the nearby market – it was so strange walking without holding her hand. [Context: my mother or her sister would always hold their mother’s hand while walking since she was blind]

On receiving first letter from Tatayya I read it out to Mamma and immediately cried. She consoled me by stroking my back – those were the innocent days.

Three of us went to Calcutta where Ramudu babai was staying in shared accommodation. He took us to Ramakrishna Mutt, Birla Planetarium, New market, and other well-known places. Babai found it very funny when I started crying on Mamma’s return journey. She also advised Nanna on so many things.

That’s it. [See note below]

Marriages are made in heaven it is already planned by HIM. Happiness and success depends on one’s partner. It is one’s own luck and destiny. I thank GOD for everything.

A gift to my parents on their 28th marriage anniversary

A gift to my parents on their 28th marriage anniversary

[Note on “That’s it”]: this is my mom’s signature two words to indicate that the long story just related has finally come to an end. When we were young (before we had started reading classics), I have memories of her storytelling Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Every night she would relate the content of whatever she had read that day. She’d always end those episodes with “That’s it!” On my parents’ 28th wedding anniversary, I presented them with a copy of the same book.

Dear Amma and Nanna, HAPPY 54th Anniversary from your dear loving ones (Srinivas, Janaki & Vishwanath)!!!!

Glossary of Telugu words

  • Buddhimantudu – intelligent
  • pedananna – father’s elder brother
  • dodamma – father’s elder brother’s wife
  • attaya – father’s sister
  • pinni – father’s brother’s wife
  • Pattu sari – fancy brocaded sari
  • parikini oni – aka “half sari” worn by young unmarried girls
  • jatakam – horoscope
  • jada – braided hair; papidi – hair partition and a key preparatory step before braiding
  • pandiri – trellis structure used for marriage ceremonies
  • Satyanarayana vratam – an important religious puja in conjunction with most life change Hindu events
  • mangalyadharanam – tying of the sacred mangala sutra around bride’s neck
  • kanyadanam – marriage ritual (donating the bride to the groom)
  • peetham – ashram
  • gongura, kandipodi, appadalu, odiyalu – yummy Telugu savories



Importance of being intervaly

I will not last forever, but I am damn well going to know I have been there. – Dr. George Sheehan

Roger Bannister is etched in my memory since at least 1982. My correct answer in a quiz qualifier test would turn out to be decisive enough to beat out 3 senior grades to make it to the school team. A weekly diet of Sportstar magazines would have certainly come in handy.

“George,” he said, “you are avoiding the truth. Interval work is the only answer.”

sheehan_quote_sweatWords of wisdom from Sir Roger Bannister to Dr. Sheehan when the latter asked him about “racing a few more 5- and 10-milers or doing stadium steps, or perhaps some real long runs.”

Sir Bannister knows a thing or two about ‘interval work‘.

Sheehan writes about the need for (and the virtues of) interval training in his 1980 book This running life.

 I needed the long, slow distance to build up my endurance. But I also needed training of the anaerobic kind for speed and for stamina. This is energy produced in the absence of oxygen. It is the ability to go into oxygen debt and not develop too much lactic acid. The best way to teach my body that ability is to do interval 440s or 880s at the pace I set as my goal.

Practically every marathon training plan stresses the importance of interval (aka “speed”) work and there’s little doubt about its preeminent spot in the training plan. Most plans follow a steady progression in the number of intervals. Some mix things up between shorter and longer intervals.

But Sheehan’s approach is rather unique. And extreme. Maybe I find his description of it ‘extreme’ because I’ve never pushed myself to that extent. Here he is, comparing swimming intervals of 50 yards with 200 yards of track running.

The sensations are much the same. With each one there is a gradual buildup of pain. Discomfort first, then the leaden ache in the arms and legs, finally the whole body screaming. And each successive interval raises the base line of that pain a notch or two higher.

In Sheehan’s world, there are reasons beyond physiological that compel him to pursue the final two (or three) intervals.

As I see it, interval training is as much for the will as it is for the body. I am getting my will ready for the race. I am, in fact, running the race in advance. I am trying to reach that interval quarter that will feel exactly the same as the last lap of a race. And then be able to deal with it mentally as well as physically.

In interval quarters the will is paramount. The will makes me finish one interval. It calls up the energy to do another.

William James (one of Sheehan’s heroes) says “Effort is the one strictly underived and original contribution we make to this world. He alone is happy who has will. The rest are zeroes. He uses, they are used.”

I know of few better ways to reach this primitive level where will and effort combine than interval quarters. The answer to life’s question becomes simply, yes or no. There is no place for explanations, qualifications, excuses. Will I or will I not continue until I know that this is truly the last lap?

The day I start doing these kinds of intervals is when I can truly say “am doing my very best”. I’ve dubbed that state of mind as intervaly. I’d like to get intervaly. Sometime this year. Pretty please.




Why do vegetarians annoy people who eat meat?


Why do vegetarians annoy people who eat meat?

A 2012 psychology research study, it turns out, has the answer.
But before I get to the study (bulk of this post anyway), I want to give some background.

I wrote this post a few days before Eid 2016, a rather unremarkable piece recounting my witnessing the slaughter of a goat in clinical detail. I’m on a quest to understand vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters and this post was a crucial prelude to my journey to veganism.

Shortly after I shared the post on Facebook, a good friend H (whom I’ll describe as a verbal carnivore and a gastronomic omnivore) commented with “It’s just food” (fair enough perspective) and proceeded to post a rant on his timeline that started thus:

Eid is coming up and these glum-looking goats will soon become delicious food. And on cue the insufferably preachy will lecture us about the horrors of killing animals for food. Pretending of course they aren’t doing this just to feel smugly superior and/or to feed their casteist bigotry over the lower meat-eating orders.

As a direct response to my post, the rant struck me as extreme and unfair. I’m sure there are insufferably preachy vegans out there (I see a few on a Vegan group I’m part of) but I haven’t met any in the flesh or on Facebook. But I allowed for the possibility of more than their fair share infesting H’s timeline.

As I returned to H’s thread 12 hours later, imagine my pleasant surprise to read a comment from one of his friends (N):

But on the first point of preachy vegetarians…Is that really common (i.e. people lecturing)? I haven’t met a single person in the last 10 yrs that lectured on this subject in a private or social gathering. What is confusing to me personally is people asking me “why are you a vegetarian? Why did you give up meat?” or even better “you don’t look like a vegetarian!”. I avoid answering that question because the immediate reaction to an honest answer is “oh! you’re preaching” or “oh, you are one of those who thinks you’re better than the rest”. No! I’m just answering a question that you asked me to answer 😳. For example, I have never asked anyone “why are you a meat eater?” – imagine how preachy that would sound! But I get the opposite question all the time and no one bats an eyelid. So I wonder, who actually considers themselves smugly superior. I find it to be the opposite; I avoid disclosing my food preferences (or killing preferences) because there is immediate judgment and ridicule. The irony is that I can post and express liberal opinions about being against Trump’s ideology, against Burkini bans, against the RSS, against Modi etc etc – but none of those expressions are considered preachy. However, one post on animal rights gets flagged as preachy. This is very asymmetric. I’m primarily speaking for the non-judgmental vegetarians/vegans who claim no superiority externally or internally in their headspace. I find it paradoxical that when I’m asked the question “why are u a vegetarian?”, my honest answer is labelled preachy. The consequence is that I lie and say “I’m a vegetarian because I’m allergic to meat”. That seems to be non-threatening and socially acceptable these days – sad. So while I completely understand your peev with the RSS and Hindutva types, I’m sadly peeved by my fellow liberals who won’t let me eat my food without passing condescending comments like “you don’t look like a vegetarian”! What does that even mean 😂. At the end of the day, we’re all trying to figure out our local maxima on the moral landscape. Multiple mutually exclusive non-judgmental Maximas are possible. Happy Eid and enjoy that Mutton Biriyani for I know what it tastes like – just thank the goat for a few seconds!

Knock me down with a feather. I could NOT describe the behavior more eloquently if I had hours at my disposal.

Now let’s look at the study in question because it totally explains H’s (and their ilk’s) overreactions and N’s/my observations.

Do-Gooder Derogation: Disparaging Morally Motivated Minorities to Defuse Anticipated Reproach (Wharton’s Julia Minson and Stanford’s Benoit Monin)

If the title was a mouthful, don’t click on the PDF link just yet. I’m going to excerpt some relevant points below.

“Do-Gooder Derogation” is our tendency to put down others if we feel they are morally-motivated. When someone’s behavior is overtly moral, we often feel annoyed and resentful, rather than impressed or inspired. The study authors see this as a result of “a knee-jerk defensive reaction to the threat of being morally judged and found wanting.” In other words, when we see someone riding on their moral high horse, we assume that they’re accusing us of being immoral by comparison. No one wants to think of themselves as a bad person, so we naturally respond defensively with resentment and derogation.

You might recall the announcement of the Zuckerberg Chan Initiative (ZCI). The unique thing about ZCI was that it was setup as a limited liability company instead of the traditional philanthropic construct (the non-profit). Critics conjured all kinds of conspiracy theories. “Oh! Zuck is not satisfied with the billions he’s made from Facebook. Now he’s going to don the garb of philanthropy and make even more billions under the pretext of “saving the world”!

Eventually a critic of the critics article appeared which referenced the Minson Monin research.

First the abstract:

In Study 1, 47% of participants freely associated negative terms with vegetarians and the valence of the words was negatively related to how much participants expected vegetarians to see themselves as morally superior to non-vegetarians. In Study 2, we manipulated the salience of anticipated moral reproach by varying whether participants reported these expectations before or after rating vegetarians. As predicted, participants rated vegetarians less positively after imagining their moral judgment of meat eaters. These studies empirically document the backlash reported by moral minorities and trace it back to resentment by the mainstream against feeling morally judged.

If that sounded too research’y, then this succinct summary from Dan Ariely’s blog is sure to help you out:

The authors asked meat-eaters to generate a few words they associated with vegetarians. Unsurprisingly, 47% of participants came up with at least one negative word (like “malnourished” or “self-righteous” or “preachy”). When asked, participants also felt that most vegetarians would view themselves to be more moral than the average meat-eater.

The most interesting part of Minson and Monin’s findings, though, was that the more morally superior participants judged vegetarians to be, the more negative words they attributed towards them. For this reason we might be more accepting of the vegetarian that sighs, “I’d love to eat meat, but right now doctor’s orders say no,” than the one in a PETA shirt.

If you are still reading and want to know how the two studies were constructed, below are details on Study 1 (a correlation study) and Study 2 (which establishes causality).

Study 1 shows that when they think about vegetarians and morality, nearly half of meat eaters generate negative associations. Giving us a first empirical insight into the causes of this derogation, our meat-eating sample also exhibited anticipated moral reproach, reporting that they thought vegetarians would look down on the morality of meat eaters generally, and their own specifically. Furthermore, the more participants expected vegetarians to exhibit such moral superiority, the more negative were the associations they generated. The personal nature of the threat was evident in some comments that respondents spontaneously added at the end of the questionnaire. One participant proudly wrote, ‘‘I’m the antithesis of vegetarian’’; and another, ‘‘Vegetarians, eat whatever you want to eat; no one cares. But don’t give other people [expletive] for what they choose to eat.’’ The traits generated by participants confirm our prediction that many meat eaters harbor negative perceptions of vegetarians. The statistical association with anticipated moral reproach also provides support for the hypothesized relationship. Although supporting our predictions, these findings suffer the limitations of correlational data. Furthermore, the richness of open-ended responses generated in Study 1 is offset by the loss of homogeneity in the responses provided, forcing us to rely on post hoc judgments of valence.

In Study 2, we manipulate the salience of anticipated moral reproach to test its causal role in do-gooder derogation. In this study, some participants considered how vegetarians would judge their morality as well as that of other nonvegetarians before evaluating vegetarians, whereas others started by evaluating vegetarians first. We predicted that when participants first contemplated being morally judged, they would be more likely to derogate vegetarians (as in Study 1) than if they evaluated vegetarians with no explicit consideration of threat.

Whereas Study 1 showed a correlational link between anticipated moral reproach and do-gooder derogation, Study 2 shows that merely thinking about how vegetarians see the morality of non-vegetarians can trigger this effect. When that threat was present, vegetarians were rated less positively on a composite of evaluative traits than when participants were not prompted to imagine being morally appraised. Our threat manipulation did not introduce any new information about vegetarians but simply asked participants to answer four items about perceptions and meta-perceptions of moral standing. The fact that we observed a significant shift in ratings of vegetarians as a result of such a subtle manipulation demonstrates just how sensitive individuals are to moral threat.


Once again, here’s that PDF research link.

N shared the research study on the same FB thread but H wasn’t buying yet. “The West coast / Californians are the most insufferable and sanctimonious among the veganistas” (not exact words). So the fair critique is this “would the findings be the same if the study were conducted in other geographies?”

Closing note: Last month I saw an Oprah Winfrey interview with Michael Pollan where the latter arguably gave the most plausible answer to this post’s question: “It’s like these vegans are insulting your mother.” That sharp observation warrants a new post.



Been there seen that

vedanta_treatise_bookcoverA common thread running across all Indian/Eastern spiritual traditions is some form of meditation.

The variations come in the form of how one meditates, whether it is the sole instrument for spiritual advancement or step 12 of 12, use or non-use of an internal mantra, generic or personalized mantra, addition of a group meditation session every now and then.

Are there more variations? Possibly.

The above is a reasonable representation of the traditions I’ve encountered in my search over the past few decades. A search that could be described as oscillating between the dilettante’ic and the serious.
A few traditions that are conspicuously different from the aforementioned patterns are Jiddu Krishnamurti (JK), Swamy Parthasarathy of The Vedanta Academy (SP), and Michael Singer (MS).

JK is the most widely known among the trio. MS, I reckon, is well-known and heard in the US.

My wife and I had the good fortune of having listened to SP’s lectures on the Bhagawat Gita in the Bay Area – 3 years in a row at that! His book Vedanta Treatise is a fine fine read. I cannot recommend it enough.

One of SP’s peeves against the long list of meditation prescribing gurus is that not everyone is ready (read “prepared”) for it. Perhaps not different from the Gita’s teachings where Krishna outlines four different types of yogas. Different strokes for different folks.

Furthermore, for the ones suited for meditation and putting in (let’s say) a daily hourly session, SP asks “How do you stay peaceful for the rest of your waking hours?”

How does one observe one’s thoughts in the din and roar of the marketplace?

JK’s prescription is simple. And frustrating.

Just observe your thoughts, he keeps saying. That’s the ONLY thing you can/must do. No guru required.

JK’s probably most vociferous in making the case for “no guru required” but that’s fodder for another post.

My wife once asked SP, “What should we parents do for our children?”

His answer: “Just be good role models. Kids watch what you DO more than what you SAY.”

When pressed on what kind of daily practice kids might benefit from, he suggested the following (also described in Vedanta Treatise):

As part of the bedtime routine, have the child do a slow action replay of the events of the day. We followed this for some time with our older son and it went something like this “I got up in the morning. Went to the bathroom. Brushed my teeth. Changed my clothes..<blur of activity updates at school>.. had my dinner. Brushed my teeth.”

Lot of chuckling in the preamble. Unpredictable duration of rambling in the middle when my wife and I had to resist the urge to ask questions.

This was a delayed watch-your-thoughts exercise. Without ‘judging’ the thoughts. Imperfect and incomplete recollection for sure. But it was something.

I was introduced to MS through his book The Untethered Soul, a thoughtful gift from an old school friend I recently met after 30+ years.

The prevailing theme in MS’s book is closest to JK but he presents the observation process in the form of blocking (“holding on” to thoughts/memories) vs releasing (letting the thoughts”pass through”). Repetitive at times but not frustrating at all. While expounding on his theme, he invokes Ramana Maharishi the most (among the Indian masters).

Back to JK.

This time through the lens of KR, a faithfully focused practitioner of JK’s teachings. Over the years we’ve had numerous conversations on the JK Method – with him predominantly sharing, me listening and questioning.

The JK Method is really all about patterns, KR says.

Patterns come naturally to him. You see, he is a software geek, an avid (former) blindfold chess player and a wonderful human being.

What is memory but a unique thought pattern stored away in our memory banks.

By way of a simplistic classification, all our memories are either “pleasure evoking” or “pain evoking”.

We hold on and feel the need to keep “replaying” our pleasant memories and, by the same token, suppress the unpleasant memories although, at times, we replay the painful ones in a masochistic way.

What about the fresh deluge of thoughts? Every waking moment. Day after day after day?

Barring those rare moments of “performing action while completely immersed”, every new thought bears a pattern/signature not very different from the multitude born in the past.

Observing these thoughts at the birth allows us to see the seemingly automatic sequence of “Oh! that was good. Hey, that reminded me of <blah blah>…. Hmm.. that’s not a nice thing he said, makes me look bad… hey, that’s totally unfair, I don’t like this person at all.. she’s insufferable and I’m getting… ANGRY!”

I can’t claim to be anything but a tyro in these matters of the thoughts and beyond. The only ‘progress’ (if I may say so) is that each time I see a recurring pattern (of my ego getting bruised or the antipodal massaged ego) I get amused. Amused at the sheer predictability of it.

I’m told that if I observe these patterns often enough, then I’ll be a changed person.

Changed in a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle way.

MS would say I’d be blocking a lot less thoughts and releasing a heck of a lot more.

What then? The great quietude?

Somebody once remarked “there is nothing new under the sun”.

One Google search later, a Biblical reference found:

What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.

So it is with thoughts.

Been there. Seen that.


Closing note: this post happens to be #300. Yea! I hit a triple century! It took me only 8 years and a few months but still.



Witness to a slaughter

London, Sept 2010It was my second year at BIT Mesra.

My friend was the hostel mess secretary (hostel #7). One of the secretary’s responsibilities was to accompany the hostel mess manager for the weekly groceries+produce shopping.

For one of those weekly trips, my friend couldn’t make it so I substituted for him.

Pretty uneventful stuff for the first few hours. Auto ride to the city market with Singh-ji (mess manager). Buying large quantities of vegetables and basically nodding yes to the negotiated prices. The final stop was at the butcher’s shop. If you are familiar with the area, the shop was on the approach road to BIT Mesra (soon after you turn from the highway).

A goat was the last item on the shopping list. (I don’t remember chickens being bought on the trip and, since chicken was definitely on the weekly menu, I reckon there was a separate delivery run for that)

Singh-ji knew I was a vegetarian. With an understanding smile he said, “aap baahar wait kar sakte hain.” (you can wait outside)

I refused.

It’s too long to recall exactly why I refused. It could have been a sense of duty/responsibility. Or, more likely, a morbid fascination to see an animal being slaughtered and see what it could do to my psyche.

There were several goats tied in the courtyard. They were probably bleating but I have no recollection of sound. My visual sense was on high alert for what I was about to witness soon.

Singh-ji didn’t take too much time to pick his goat.

(Shikha’s tweet this morning was the trigger for this post)

The chosen one was untied and brought to the center. The struggle to escape began in full earnest while the (temporary) survivors watched.

Three men – two restrained the goat while the third wielded the blade.

A quick slit to the neck was all it took to bring an end to the goat’s life.

The blood started gushing on the floor. The limbs thrashed around spasmodically.

The spasms reduced and my spell was broken.

My curiosity and morbid fascination had been quenched.

I walked back and sat in the back of the auto, waiting for Singh-ji to return.

I didn’t peer to see the state of the carcass as it was loaded at the back of the auto.

Was it skinned? Probably.

Was it cut? Probably not.

There was no idle chatter on the drive back to the hostel.


Questions to readers:

  • Have you witnessed  an animal being slaughtered?
  • If yes, how old were you? and did it have any impact on your psyche?

Do leave a comment if you are so inclined.



The Guide’s trouble with the Censor Board

Guide copy_rknarayanIf you thought Bollywood’s troubles with the Censor Board are a recent phenomenon, think again. R.K. Narayan recounts, in The Writerly Life, his experience with the movie making process of The Guide. He appropriately titles that episode in his book as The ‘Misguided’ Guide. He devotes 13 pages to that episode, fine Narayan reading of course. I have transcribed the extract pertaining to the interactions to the Censor Board ‘Ministry’.

Next: trouble at the governmental level. A representation was made to the Ministry dealing with films, by an influential group, that The Guide glorified adultery, and hence was not fit to be presented as a film, since it might degrade Indian womanhood. The dancer in my story, to hear the arguments, has no justification for preferring Raju the Guide to her legally-wedded husband. The Ministry summoned the movie principals to Delhi and asked them to explain how they proposed to meet the situation. They promised to revise the film script to the Ministry’s satisfaction.

In my story the dancer’s husband is a preoccupied archaeologist who has no time or inclination for marital life and is not interested in her artistic aspirations. Raju the Guide exploits the situation and weans her away from her husband. That is all there is to it — in my story. But now a justification had to be found for adultery.

So the archaeological husband was converted into a drunkard and womanizer who kicks out his wife when he discovers that another man has watched her dance in her room and has spoken encouragingly to her. I knew nothing about this drastic change of my characters until i saw the ‘rushes’ some months later. This was the point at which I lamented most over my naivete: the contract that I had signed in blind faith, in the intoxication of cheques, bonhomie, and back-slapping, empowered them to do whatever they pleased with my story, and I had no recourse.