6 November 2015

Observing Athinians…

After the Parliament, I went to the bOG market and shopping area – in the heart of Athens. Here are a few observations:

  1. At least in Central Athens, you will have no idea that the country is in economic trouble. All the brand stores are teeming with people.
  2. People are very courteous. Many are not fluent with English. But they will go out of their way to help you with directions.
  3. They call Marathon “Marafonos” (the best I could figure out). If they get to know that you have come from abroad to run the Marathon in their country, suddenly you are a hero. They talk to each other in fast language – with the end result you can (I did) get a free drink
  4. Remember the proverbial Greek nose – straight, pointed nose? I am yet to see a Greek with a Greek nose!! Chatred up a local guy at the bar and asked him what’s up with that – he let me know that Greeks have the most number of nose surgeries. Apparently Greeks are not into Greek noses.

BTW, I was checking up on Google this guy’s assertion. He is wrong. You want to take a guess which country has the most number of rhinoplasty (nose surgery). Take three guesses and then let me know how far were you from the answer!!



6 November 2015

Athens by foot – the Parliament

Walked  in to the hotel. Finished office calls and home calls. Then hit the road. It was dark already. First place to see – the Parliament. Amazing history. This city introduced democracy five centuries before Christ was born.  This is where the simple concept (still denied in many parts of the world) that we will be ruled by those who we choose was birthed.


6 November 2015

I did not get a laptop!

I was one of the first guys to get into the plane and after a brisk walk up the stairs, I settled down in my seat. About five minutes later a young lady came, stood near me and started checking out the bins above. I politely asked if I could help her with the suitcase. Which, she  readily agreed to but asked for a couple of minutes to get a few things our of her bag. I waited till she went thru all sorts of stuff and when she was finally done, I put the suitcase up and she settled down in the seat next to me. Well, in British Airways, it is a little funky – next to you means actually you face each other with a rather uncomfortable couple of feet between you. A little weird, if you are strangers. A few pleasantries  were exchanged and all was quiet on the upper deck.

A few minutes later came in an elderly couple who gingerly moved from seat to seat looking at seat numbers. Not really having much else to do, I asked them what their seat numbers were. Turned out they were right across the aisle from me. Again, helped them with their suitcases and exchanged pleasantries. The elderly lady was very talkative. She explained that she had never flown business class before and her son had paid for their tickets to go on a cruise from Venice for 19 days. Further, she was very afraid of missing her flight from London because she was told that she had to switch terminals. I checked her boarding pass and explained that I will be going to her terminal too and that my flight was before her flight and that there was no way she was missing her flight. In fact, I went to the extent of promising them that I would accompany them all the way once we reach London.

And with that, I thought, everything was settled. Little did I realize that the fun had just started.

I was deep in my book when I thought I could discern some excitement going on across from me. I lifted my head up and sure enough the old lady was ecstatic as she found out every new feature of the business class seat and started telling her husband about it. Her husband, on the other hand, seemed like he was pretty happy with his lot. He did not need any more features in his seat. He just wanted to sit there and enjoy a glass a wine.

I went back to my book.

And then looked up again because the old lady was really excited. She was almost yelling to her husband by now (remember it was only four of us still upstairs) – “Wow! They give you a laptop in business class. This is how I like to travel. You never took me anywhere like this”. At this point I was more surprised than amused. Then I realized what had happened. But in the meanwhile, the old lady was urging her husband to find his laptop in his seat. Once again, he did not care. A few seconds later, she opened up her laptop, stared at it completely perplexed and then looked at me – “Do you know how I can get the password for this laptop?”

“No, ma’m!”, I replied truthfully.

“How did you start your laptop?”. She asked and then looked all around me to realize that I had none. “You did not get a laptop?”.

“No ma’m!”, again, I said truthfully. But this time I kept smiling at her… It worked!!!

“This is not meant for me, right?”

“I think you might be right, ma’m”.

Around this time, one of the stewardesses came helping a passenger find his seat. As the old lady tried explaining to the stewardess that she found a laptop, I asked them to hold on for a second. Looking to my other side, I gently nudged Lucinda – the young lady.. After apologizing for waking her up, I asked her if she was, by any chance, one laptop short 🙂 A few seconds of blank stares all around later, the problem was solved. Lucinda had kept her bag on the seat while rifling thru it and forgot to put the laptop back. The three of us became great friends thru this. Did I say three? As we clinked our wine glasses the elderly gentleman stood up and clinked too!!

A few minutes later, I was again interrupted. “What now?”, I asked myself as I looked across the aisle. Turns out the elderly gentleman had found out how to raise the privacy screen (the airlines does give one in case you think the couple of feet apart is too uncomfortable for you) and had made the most use of it. His wife was yelling from this side to lower it but he just kept saying he did not know how to do it 🙂

The exasperated wife helplessly looked at me and said “He always messes up things like this at home”. I was so amused by now that I ventured “Ma’m! I am going to go out on a limb and guess you two have been married for a long time?”. “Thirty four years”, she said.

I knowingly nodded. And then putting my finger on my lips – so as to tell her not to make noise, I pointed to the button on my side of the aisle that she needed to press to get the screen down. You could see the glint in her eye as she got the signal and after some fidgeting with her fingers trembling due to the effects of age, managed to get the screen down.

Much to the chagrin of her husband. Who caught me smiling as he glared at me.

I quickly went back to book and casually flipped the page to Chapter 2!!

[At the time of going to press, as I try pulling the blanket over me and go to sleep, I can still hear them bickering. And I think that is in fitness of things. After thirty four years of marriage, you need some friction to keep the spark going in your relationship. By the way, full points for their gracious and grateful son.]

6 November 2015

Giving credit where credit is due..

You know I named many of my runner friends for continuously encouraging me to try my first marathon. But I forgot two guys who were actually the biggest contributors. Did I mention I am going to hit 50 soon? Age induced forgetfulness is my only excuse 🙂

It was actually Greg Jones and Dan Parzych from my previous job that kept pushing me to try a marathon. Every time I ran into them in the running trails, the first question – especially from Greg – used to be “So, when are you signing up?”. He even sent me a four month training calendar that he wrote up in an Excel spreadsheet!!

I am not saying I left my previous job because of them, but certainly, I used to get worried every time I saw two guys without any shirt on coming like the wind from the other end of the trail. Eventually, they wore off on me. And that is how I landed up signing for the Original Marathon.

Regardless of whether I bust out or finish it, now I can legitimately tell them I gave it a shot! (my first shot, if I bust out – because I am so going back there next year to finish it if I can’t this year)

5 November 2015

“Alea iacta est” (Latin: The die has been cast)!

Well, tomorrow is the day to catch a flight to Greece! This is not a relaxing vacation trip. Far from it. I will be in and out of the country for a particular event on Sunday.

In spite of running for over 10 years, I had never been inspired to run a marathon. I had done a few 30 KM runs. I was sure that I could push myself to do another 12 KM. But somehow it never caught my fancy. Not for want of encouragement, mind you! Most of my runner friends – Lia, Lara, Heidi, Russell, Roger, Bob VanderMeer often pushed me to think about it reassuring me that once I did one, I was going to get addicted.

About two years back, when I was exiting my previous job, I started refreshing my bucket list items (or as Sharmila calls it – what makes me “quirky”). Something got awakened at the back of my mind and I was like “Wouldn’t it be cool to put one marathon in life?”. I figured – okay, let’s it get it done as I turn 50.

But the challenge was that I was not going to do the usual marathons. Since it was going to be my only one (so that I can checkbox my bucket list item), it had to be “quirky” and unique. I started thinking about how marathons came of being and started reading up about how the Greeks beat the Persians inspite of being outnumbered 1:4 and how Pheidippides was chosen to run the distance from Marathon to Athens to give the message of victory. That was whole five centuries before Chris was born.

I got fascinated by that history. A little more research on the internet and found out that they actually have a race on that route. That was it!! I decided then and there – that was going to be my marathon. Certainly I prayed for better results than Pheidippides who died after giving the message “Nikommen” to the rulers in Athens. (Athens was already a democracy then). In his defense, he had to run for 300 miles from Athens to Sparta and then to Marathon before joining the fight and then had to run to Athens.

One fine day, in an obvious lapse of judgment, I signed up for the race. This is in a country I have never been to in my life and that was on the verge of economic collapse and is only doing marginally better now. Evidently, you are rationed how much cash you can get from the ATMs everyday (I understand this is not true for foreigners). If that was not enough, I had never run a marathon before. Let alone the long uphill run for the first 32 KM of the run. (The next 10 KM is relatively easy as you start getting into the valley). The first attempt at a practice long run a few months back did not result in spectacular results either. Some of you might remember from my posts a certain paramedic ambulance had to get involved 🙂

Right now, I have drawn up my priorities:

(*) Don’t die

(*) Don’t lose a limb

(*) If at all possible, finish the whole 42 KM

I am not sure how I managed to get myself into this mess. Except to remind everybody that any idiot can run. It takes a special kind of idiot to run a marathon for the first time in a completely unknown country.