Missing in Action – Sadya to Superfast !

I was flying down the stairs…. A green flag swaying a few feet below… A trumpet like sound blowing from a distance… And me waving my hand enthusiastically at the flag… I felt like a Maniratnam movie heroine in the climax of a romcom movie…
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No this is not a dream sequence from a movie… These were the thrilling moments from my day today.
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This is how the scene unfolded. Just an hour earlier before this scene, I was enjoying a nice Sadya, A Kerala feast, for lunch. My friend Sitara’s mother, Bhavani Aunty, had arranged a tasty spread, in the traditional manner.
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The Lunch

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Sitara and me after a quick shopping session, sat down the kids for the treat. All of us had devised individual customized algorithms to maximize the sadya experience. I for example started with ada pradaman, and ended with the same, and punctuated every dish like pulichery, olan and erichery with ada pradaman payasams ! The kids scooped the payasam in the poli and devoured it.
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The ticking of the clock in the dining hall was the reminder that we cannot be sitting in an endless loop of the sadya ; we had a train to catch !! We somehow halfheartedly got away from the table.
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Sadya !

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The dear friends, Abhimanyu-Tharan & Rahul-Ananth tried to play till the last minute. That was their way of saying goodbye.
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We were ready, but the driver was missing ! My friend called him and he said he was on his way. Probably he too was having a great lunch ! At long last he came, and we had about 15 minutes to catch the train. He raced through the streets of Trivandrum, and we literally jumped out of the car at the station. Two porters chatting casually and having a leisurely afternoon, were pressed into active mode with our arrival. I said we had 2 minutes to get on our train, and told them the train name. They seemed to accept the challenge ! My kids and me sprinted across the platforms and impatiently walked up the moving escalator and ran across the over bridge. We were following the racing porters blindly, as I had no clue as to which platform we were to board. As we were crossing the bridge, they slowed down. I was puzzled. They simply said ‘train poiyee’. I refused to believe and thought that according to IST, there were another 10 minutes for the train to leave. But they pointed a moving train to me. It was just starting and I was hoping to catch it. I motivated them that we can and my kids ran ahead trying to stop the train.
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This is the place where the first scene falls in place. As I was waving out frantically to the guard holding the green flag, he looked at me and I shouted stop. My voice would not have reached him definitely.
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Did I say earlier that I felt like a Maniratnam heroine in a climax scene ??!!  Well, that was when I felt hopeful of catching the train. Now I actually felt like Kamal Haasan in ‘Moondram Pirai’ movie climax waving out to an unacknowledging Sridevi in the train 😦 ;(.
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The train kept moving and I believed I could still board the train. Then the train disappeared. The Jan Shatabdi from Trivandrum to Trichur had left platform no:4 at 2.20 p.m, On Time.
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We came to a standstill – the kids, me, porters et al. The other people on the platform too, as they tried to understand our plight. The porters set our luggage down, and a small crowd had gathered around us. I decided not to shed any tear. But I felt lost.
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The people there assumed I understood Malayalam and spoke rapidly asking about our problem; I assumed that they could understand my Malayalam and spoke quickly asking if there was anyway to stop the train or what the next station was. I was surprised by how well I could speak Malayalam, in that panic mode !!
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Somebody said that a Chennai express was departing in 39 minutes. Somebody else said that Nizamuddin Super fast will be starting in another 10 minutes, from the same platform. They offered suggestions to cancel the previous, buy a new ticket, talk to TTE etc etc. My kids were suggesting that we should probably go back to their friends’ grandma’s home, as they can continue playing 😉
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Kids Playing

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I made a quick decision. I decided to try the Nizamuddin. I asked the porters for the charge, and they simply said that they will load our luggage in the new train first, and did not say anything about the money. The train arrived soon enough.
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A couple of people helped us find the AC coach and the porters found empty seats and arranged our luggage. Somebody said that I could convert the previous ticket to this train, but the porters said that it is better to get open general tickets. Seeing that I was travelling with 2 kids and few luggages, they offered to go and buy the tickets. I gave him the money and he got 3 sleeper class tickets.
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I sat down, gingerly, as I was not sure if the TTE would allow us to travel in this compartment. But the kids were already playing live snakes and ladders by climbing up and down the berths !  I noticed the many missed calls from Sitara, who was anxious about whether we were able to board the train, Jan Shatabdi that is. Bhavani aunty too was anxious it seems, probably thinking we spent too much time eating ! But traditional authentic food deserves time, even if it means missing trains 😉
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When the TTE came, I showed him both the tickets, and I had to pay the balance fare (SL to AC).
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We had upgraded ourselves from chair to berth, and express to superfast – albeit at a cost. Experiences like these help us to realize that some strangers are still helpful, that labourers go the extra mile in helping customers, friends care, and, that one can have a feast and still catch a super fast 😉
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Hues of Green - from the train window !

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I am relaxing in my seat now, enjoying the varied hues of green that Kerala covers itself with 🙂
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~Punitha Lakshmi

A Growth Story – of Child & Mother !

The summer of 2012. The cusp of April showers & May flowers !

I was enjoying the ride in the scenic route. The Coimbatore-Velliangiri route was scenic and the weather cool.  I was driving the car and would have been super excited normally… but now I was a little pensive too.

I had enrolled my son Abhimanyu in a 5-day Nature Awareness camp at Isha Ashram, Velliangiri. He was all of 8 yrs and was going away on a camp alone ! It was me who motivated him to join the camp, registered, packed, prepared etc… But now I was having doubts. I tried to hide my worries and was trying to pep up Abhi who was sitting beside me silently, a little thoughtful too.  He was not very happy to be away from home for 5 days in an unknown place, with strangers. Though he was excited a month back while deciding, he was also worried now.

I tried to cheer  the situation by singing songs and telling Abhi how great a time he is going to have. How his little brother is too tiny to be accepted for such camps,, and that Abhi is truly the big boy now ! This seemed to bring a little smile to Abhi. Ofcourse Rahul was not happy that he was being used as a pawn in my earnestness to cheer up Abhi 😉

Abhi clicks - his trekking route

Abhi clicks – his trekking route

I thought to myself of the time when I was in standard 4th in school. My class was being taken on a day trip to nearby Mahabalipuram, a trip of just a few hours from Pondy. My dad had flatly refused to send me, fearing that –  I’ll drown in the beach / lose my way / be kidnapped, or all of the above !! It took me a long time (many years) to convince my father that none of the above would happen to me on  a trip ! But each time it was a struggle to get permission for trips ! But that did not deter me from trying and going on fun trips in school, college & for chess tournaments 🙂

But forward to the present, and here I am, sending away my little 4th grader to a camp – for 5 days !! A camp where I will not even be able to talk to him on phone ! How much more cool can a mom get ??!! 😉

My other family members were not too happy with me sending Abhimanyu to a camp. But, I was firm. I did not want my child to be timid like me, it has been a continuous hard struggle out of this timidness for me. I wanted him to be brave, to live upto his name – Abhimanyu !

I tried to look cheerful & positive about the whole thing. We were now turning into more secluded roads while nearing our destination. Now, I too became quite and little jittery.  We entered Isha ashram and after the formalities it was time to let go, as parents were not allowed to go beyond a certain point. I hugged him and tears started flowing in my eyes.

Suddenly Abhi says : “Amma, don’t cry. Its going to be only 5 days. I’ll ask them permission and call you.”

I smiled at him and thought “That was supposed to be my parting dialogue, and this little guy has stolen my words !!” All I could do was hug and kiss him .

I drove back in silence. Even Rahul’s incessant chit-chat could not elicit a reply from me.

Abhi clicks - trekking with his camp friends !

Abhi clicks – trekking with his camp friends !

The 5 days seemed to move very slowly. I spent the time with my second kid, brother, cousins, nieces etc. We explored Coimbatore, Pollachi & the beautiful Anamalai hills. We spent most of the time soaked in rivers ! Pleasant weather, wonderful people, good food, stunning locations, fun times – yet something was missing.

I tried to call the Isha office, and everytime they said that all kids are fine, do not worry. Once I got the info that the campers have gone to Nilgiris for trekking & camping. My heart skipped a beat. Nilgiris is too vast an area, and I had no clue to which part of the hills they have gone. I was not sure how Abhi would cope with the trekking and camping there .

Abhi had gone on 3 day camps from his school for the last 2 years. The consolation in those camps were that, it was hardly 100 kms away from home, with his dear friends, caring teachers, known people, delicious familiar food, in an absolutely safe place and 2 way communication open with mom – though it cannot be overused. All these previous camps & treks had familiarised him with camp life.

But this Isha camp was different ; unknown people, unknown itinerary, no friends while entering the camp, different food habits and absolutely no contact with mom ! How is my baby going to get through this ?!

Abhi clicks - stream crossing !

Abhi clicks – stream crossing !

I have been taking my kids on a few mini treks and couple of full day treks. They had just glided on the trails with ease and had enjoyed it immensely. So I was confident that Abhi would be able to trek decent trails. I also had faith in Isha to choose activities with safety in mind.

Then why was I worried. Well, blame Motherhood !

The last day of the camp arrived, draggingly in my opinion ! But I arrived at the Isha Ashram in lightning speed, so it seemed to me !

Abhi was dancing with his friends ; ya, the shy Abhi dancing happily to a beautifully rhythmic folksy tune !! Though he tried to become a spectator now and then, his new friends and teachers in the camp were pulling him into the dance floor. It was a heart warming sight to see all the kids dance happily with a permanent smile over their lips !

Abhi saw me & Rahul and ran to us ! Before I could hug him, he was called by his friends.

There were parting hugs and goodbyes and Abhi took me to his dorm to show his abode of 5 days ! It was a spartan hall on the first floor with bunk beds, a few shelves and lots of space for the kids ! The bathrooms were down the hall. It was airy and lots of sunlight came in.

Abhi was telling me about his camp life – early morning wake ups, standing in line for the bathrooms, sharing things, getting ready, yoga, food etc. He tried to tell the experiences of 5 days in 5 minutes ! He had packed his bags all by himself and showed it to me proudly ! I listened to his banter happily ! For once Rahul also was spell bound and listened quietly.

I was looking at this apparently grown up boy and wondered where my little boy was – my careless, home-sick, babyish mom’s boy ! He seemed to have metamorphosed into this self-sufficient, courageous, outgoing big boy ! I was happy at this transformation and was proud of him ! I was proud of myself too for being brave enough to send him to this camp !

Well, my illusion was broken quickly ! Rahul was teasing and pulling Abhi into brotherly ‘games’ ! Abhi appealed to me “Amma, look at Rahul… he is fighting with me !”. Well, All izz Well & Normal after all 😉 !!

We walked back to the car with his luggage and as we were loading the bags, Abhi quickly pulled out a book from his bag. After we were seated he showed me the album of his camp memories, which the organizers had beautifully put together. He turned to the first page and pointed very proudly to a photograph ! My heart stopped on seeing that. It was a picture of Abhi with a snake around him !

Brave Abhimanyu !

Veera Abhimanyu !

Tears started flowing from my eyes and I instinctively held him close. Abhi looked at me silently and wiped my eyes.

“Why are you crying ma ?”

I could only mutter, “Hope you were not hurt by the snake.”

Abhi patted me and said “Amma, it is Indian Rat Snake. Non-venomous. It is diurnal and are found near human habitation !”

I was surprised to hear this from my little boy !

He continued “I was afraid in the beginning ma, but later enjoyed holding it. See, it did not bite me at all and I’m fine !!”

I smiled at him encouragingly, not wanting to diminish his new found courage !

He said with concern, “Ma, you cried when you left me at the camp. You cry when you receive me at the camp. You are crying when you see my pictures.I am fine, dont cry ma !!”. Again this little boy had changed the script and stolen my dialogues. I was supposed to be the brave mother, in control of the situation and telling him words of courage !! I smiled bravely and told him, “I am happy that you are brave !”

His little brother, was in awe of him and utterly proud of him. He kept telling me for many days later “Abhi is brave ma !!” , though only when out of earshot of his big brother ;).

While signing up Abhi for the camp, my goals were to increase his nature awareness, adapt him to mingling with strangers easily, learn to be away from me & home, become self-sufficient in his daily personal activities and learn to eat different foods !

More importantly I wanted him to become independent and bold enough to take his own decisions and stand by them, never going back on a promise, even if the world turns against him. Only a brave person can do this.

I was glad that majority of the purpose was touched upon, a beginning made.

While signing up, I had thought about my acceptance of his absence & my reactions to camp conditions only fleetingly ; lest I do not sign him up at all !

It was as much a test of courage for me, as it was for him ! More so for me, perhaps !

A camp of growing up for the mother as much as for the child !

Now my younger one is waiting to go for the camp and show me proudly his picture with a snake around him ! I teased him that the snake may be afraid of Rahul and so let’s not trouble the snake. But he has made up his mind ! I have one more stage to grow up I guess, with my little baby !

As Abhimanyu turns 10, I look back at the way he has overcome challenges in life at this young age, how he has adapted to sudden turns of tides and situations and how his innocent childhood blooms amidst a rocky sea.

This does not mean that he has magically become mature, very brave, perfect etc etc. That is boring anyways, right ? A child has to take his/ her own sweet time to grow, being naughty, careless, fun-loving etc along the way ! Infact, a person should retain a little of his childlike nature even as an adult.

But exposure to nature and new situations at an young age definitely gives the child a strong foundation, rooted personality , a courageous outlook and respect for all of Existence. This is what I’m trying to give children.

Abhimanyu’s growth reflects my growth as a person and a mother in the past few years, in some ways.

May Existence take care of every child on this Earth.

~Punitha Lakshmi

Bonding over Bicycles !

The air was moist and cold. It was dark and the world was still in dreams. But not so for us ! We were eager to get on our bicycles and bond !

My brother Prasad and me decided to bicycle to IIT from Velachery ; I for the reason that I wanted to enjoy a traffic free ride early morning ; my brother partly for the reason that he had no choice as we could not load 6 cycles in a car !! Yes, 6 cycles ! We managed to load my cousin Tharini’s and our 3 kids’ cycles into/onto the Alto !!

The ride from Velachery to IIT was adventurous, with most places still sheathed in darkness.  It has been ages since I cycled with my brother. It was our primary mode of transport during childhood for chess tournaments and hindi classes. We two along with our sister Arthi have traversed the entire Pondicherry, and we have many fond memories from that era – some wonderful and some thrilling 😉 . I was transported back to those wonderful times during this ride !

We entered through the rear gate of IIT and the guard just glanced at us and went back to whatever he was doing , probably he was used to cyclists in strange hours around campus !!

The air was colder inside the campus, owing to the heavily wooded space inside. We cycled our way to the main Adyar entrance . Few students and faculty were in their morning jogs. Our co-riders from Chennai Trekking Club were assembling at the entrance. A few parents and kids had signed up to bond over bicycles on a Sunday morning, forgoing their weekend sleep !

Thilak and me were organizing this event as part of CTC’s 5th bday celebrations ! We took a head count, discussed the route with Noel, an IITian who was also instrumental in getting permission to conduct this event here, and started off towards the car park. Prasad protested jokingly that he had already rode around 10 kms and so his event was over ! But his daughter Sanju was enthusiastic to start off on her maiden long ride on her new bicycle.

Arya, a tiny 6-yr old, in a tiny cycle pedaled furiously to keep pace with the bigger cycles ! And he seemed to be successful ! All the kids were chatting and laughing while cycling around the empty roads.

Warm up & fun games !

Warm up & fun games !

We assembled under a big banyan tree and Vallab, an expert in sports physio, guided the kids and parents through some warm-ups and stretches to make the ride injury free. He had brought colourful rings and had some fun games for kids to improve their agility and loosen their muscles, so important to avoid tearing ligaments.

Now the kids were rearing to get back on their bikes and ride uninterrupted ! Shumon on the bike and Nobal on the cycle, seasoned cyclists, were making sure that all the riders were safe. We had instructed the kids to stick to one lane, and they were very co-operative, well for the most part atleast !

Its always a pleasure to visit the IIT Madras campus. The last time I was here was o organize a kids marathon in january. The lush greenery in the heart of the busy Chennai is like an oasis in a concrete jungle. It was still early in the day and the birds were chirping in the trees. One specialty of this reserve forest, which is part of the Guindy national park, is the vast number of banyan trees with their hanging roots framing the roads like thoran ! This makes the place cool even on a hot summer day  – perfect for any outdoor activity ! And ofcourse the deers and blackbucks stops  everyone in their tracks – just to catch a glimpse of them while we can. But they are camera shy and run off into the woods if they see visitors stopping close to them with a camera !

sun thru trees

Nivya, Gowtham, Ganga Dharan and Naresh, expert photographers from CTC, criss-crossed the cyclists to click some awesome pictures ! The kids were the focus of the show, until one saw an endangered  blackbuck ! Then everyone went in pursuit of these 4-legged wonders to click a perfect wildlife picture !

Agni & Sanju were riding together happily, Kavin was chatting and declaring that he wanted to study at IIT, Arya was performing stunts with his small cycle and Nisreen was enjoying the ride. My kids Abhimanyu & Rahul joined the party after their tennis and immediately got into the groove ! The kids shared their snacks, water and glucose. Kids never need any introductions. They are hardly bothered about the other’s background, they are only bothered about this moment of enjoyment and camaraderie with the other kid !   Kids have the gift to form simple friendships instantly. Not losing this gift as one grows up is also a boon, which few adults have.

Cycling in a lung of the city...

Cycling in a lung of the city…

Noel led the way expertly around campus, and at one point as we were going in loops, it looked like kids would take the lead, having become familiar with the landscape ! The parents should also be lauded for their special effort to join this ride. Muthukumaran, Jovitha, Geetha, Huzefa, Jumana, Prasad and Tharini were a sport in trying out cycling for the sake of their kids !

Many more kids and parents had signed up, but called in the morning to state their inability to join us, because they could not load the bicycles to their cars. We are thinking of solutions to this problem and hopefully next time more cyclists would be able to join such an event.

We took occasional breaks for water or snacks, and sometimes to wait for lost cyclists ! But the kids were going around in circles even during a ‘supposed’ break ! Such was their enthusiasm ! The adults got tired after some time, but not the kids. They did not agree to stop and wanted ‘1 more round’ !! After couple of more rounds, we assembled at the starting point for the intro session !

Kids playing on the Banyan...

Kids playing on the Banyan…

CTC intro sessions are always mid-way or at the end of the event, by which time the participants would be happy and comfortable to reach out to the group ! Kids were swinging from the banyan roots and climbing trees ! They were at their naughty best under the protecting arms of the big banyan tree !  After intros we adjourned to the cafeteria for a hearty breakfast and some much deserved coffee ! Already plans were being hatched for the next trek 😉

The group...

The group…

Bonding over Bicycles is an attempt to bring kids out of the confines of the house to nature , away from screen to outdoor activity. Four hours of fun and fitness has added one more healthy option to the menu of kids activities ! Parents were also happy to spend quality time with their kids while being part of a healthy activity.

With Indian roads largely being unsafe for kids to ride a bicycle, it becomes imperative to organize special events to transmit the joys of cycling to kids, which we enjoyed freely during our childhood. Hoping to bond over bicycles more often. My kids and me cycle together often, and that is one of the most enjoyable activities for us !

Kids cycling Gang !

Kids cycling Gang !

When was the last time you rode a bicycle ? How often does you child ride a cycle ?

~Punitha

 

Inactivity to !n Act!v!ty – CTC’s Kids Fun Run 2012 !

The sunset cast a serene reflection over the canal waters. Few birds were skipping over the water in a playful mood. The high rises of the city, though seen, seemed too far away. Nothing seemed to disturb the peacefulness of this stretch of water and the accompanying trail.

Sunset @ Buckingham Canal, Chennai

But a few of us were busy discussing on the preparations and logistics for the morrow. I left for home when it became dark, but there were a few people who would weather it out in that place, having mosquitoes and stench for company. Lots of arrangements for the big event tomorrow were yet to be completed. There were many other people in different parts of the city doing last minute tune-ups to different aspects of the event.

CTC Volunteers Team – a few people missing in this pic…

What motivates a person to spend a lot or all of his/her personal time in planning/preparing/executing a cause ?

Why would anyone expend energy on something which does not return monetary gains ?

Why on earth would anyone brave the bitter sun, pouring rain or dense darkness of the night to make things smooth for unknown strangers ??

Passion for the cause is one possible answer.

Love for humanity could be another explanation.

Spreading the joy that a person has got from an activity, so that others could also experience that joy may be the reason.

It is all of this and above all the zest to actually go on the field and make all of the above true by actions.

It is called ‘Volunteerism’. It is also the ‘Spirit of CTC’. This is the common thread running through every activity of CTC, be it the treks, runs, cycling, social causes or tree plantations.

Volunteers are the souls who go the extra mile and give freely of their time, energy, money etc in making impossible things possible, simple things extraordinary, and make every participant achieve his goal and feel good about themselves. Not just in words, but in concrete actions.

Volunteers willingly go the extra miles ,

And get rewarded by genuine smiles 🙂

So much theory on volunteerism is not necessary for anyone who witnessed/participated in the CTC Buckingham Canal Marathon on Oct 7, 2012, Sunday @ Chennai.

Peter – the founder of CTC, leading from the front…

It had rained the previous night and the morning was cool and cloudy. It remained so for the entire duration of the marathon. Neither rain nor shine played havoc with the proceedings.

Buckingham Canal, Chennai

Buckingham Canal is a 425 km long man-made canal that runs through 2 states – from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh to Villupuram district in Tamilnadu. Wikipedia has more information on this fascinating waterway http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckingham_Canal.

The stretch of this canal that was chosen for the marathon was the stretch from ECR Link Road between OMR and ECR to Muttukadu. The trail was red sand with cityscapes to the west and mostly empty land to the east of the canal. How many of you have actually got off the main road and taken a stroll by this canal ?? Many would not have, despite residing in or visiting Chennai for years. It was my first time and I was stunned by its beauty and the potential it held for being a major outdoor jogging/cycling trail in Chennai. Thanks to the founder of CTC, Peter, for identifying this offbeat location for conducting this marathon.

This canal is a sad testimony to the unplanned urbanization and mindless industrialization of the city without any responsibility towards conserving precious water and other resources in the vicinity. This situation is not unique to Chennai as many Indian cities are grappling with the same issues.

Cityscape on OMR forms a backdrop to the scenic Buckingham Canal…

Hope this marathon brings into limelight the wonderful possibilities this canal and trail hold for recreation and fitness, apart from using it as a water resource.

And the whole purpose of this marathon – the determined runners of all age groups, different fitness levels and across distance categories. But the goal was one – to complete the chosen distance with good timing without any untoward incidents. They were all excellent and eager athletes. First timers did not fully comprehend what was in store for them but were excited to start their running journey ! Veterans of the track were aiming at bettering their own personal records. I had been eager to run my fourth Half marathon in this track, but organizing/ volunteering responsibilities placed me on the other side of the start line ! And I was equally happy in this side also.

Kids Fun Run – colourful and raring to run !

My main focus for the day, the CTC Kids Fun Run, turned out to be a colourful, fun and wonderful event with 53 enthusiastic kids. The little ones reported well ahead of time and brightened the place with their pranks and laughter. Ofcourse, they were running around so much that if measured it would be a few kms that they had covered 😉

All the CTC volunteers made sure each kid felt extra special and happy.

Happy volunteers :)… Happy participants :))

Some of the parents, guardians were inspired to hit the track themselves and participated in the 5K or 10K. Some were cool and some were anxious. Overall it was a lively crowd.

A family that runs !

My 2 kids were also participating and they were waiting for this moment since many days. Since I had taken them to few marathons with me, they were inspired by my running and were eagerly waiting for their turn at the start line ! Atlast their chance came in the form of this kids run. So in a way, my kids Abhimanyu & Rahul have been the inspiration for me to organize this kids run. Kids of my brother, sister and friends also participated enthusiastically !

 

The kids had 4 distances to choose from – 3 kms, 2 kms, 1 km and 500 mts. They looked like professional runners with their shorts, tracks, tees and shoes ! And ofcourse the id of a marathoner – the running bib with numbering !!

The kids run was to start after the 5K, but some of the kids were already running to the start arch and had to be called back ! Balloons and chocolates adorned their hands, but the former was burst or blown away and the latter was gobbled up in minutes !

Parent clicks !

Assembling the kids for a group picture turned out to be an event by itself. The official volunteer photographers had a tough time to click the group without many parents heads popping in between. Each parent had a camera and it was a sight to see all of them click away standing in rows, even as kids were not eager to stand still !

Kids on the trail…

The kids were assigned one pacer for each distance and they were asked to stick to their pacer uncles ! We came up with this idea as many kids were talking about marathon as a dash/sprint/race and were planning to speed up their run ! So we told them that this is a run for health and outdoor fun.

CTC Kids Fun Run poster

Stretching and warm-up exercises were done for the children and they were flagged off in batches. The distance being short, they were back to the finish line in a jiffy, or so it seemed !

CTC Marathon Start Line….

The refreshment tables on the trail and at the start point took care of their little tummies and kept them energized with glucose, bananas, cookies etc.

Energized…

They posed extensively with their certificate, poster and medals in different locations ! And some of them are eager to run longer distances soon.

Kids posing with medals et al !

But we at CTC are sure that these kids are on the path to have a healthy lifestyle and grow into healthy adults. And definitely, they will create a ripple effect to spread the message of health, outdoor play and fitness to their friends and families.

From Inactivity to In Activity !

From On Screen to On Track !

From Online to On Lane !

My son Rahul… All smiles and says – Run is Fun :))

This is the right wealth to bequeath to our dear future global citizens !

~Punitha

P.S : Except the pics watermarked with my name, the other nice pics are all taken by official volunteer photographers at the marathon. Thanks !

Mother’s Day Trek 2012 to Nagala !

What does a Mother do on Mother’s day ?? Clean, cook, feed & chauffeur kids, finish her pending office work, do projects for her kids, go about routine, and if one is lucky maybe go to a restaurant or catch a cinema?!

Well, in India many of us don’t even know of this day or are just going about our routine. But this Mother’s Day turned out to be special & adventurous for some fun-loving Moms !! We went on a trek to Nagala, AP on May 13th, 2012 ; with our kids ofcourse ! And this trek was special for me as I was part of the CTC organizing team ! Being in Pondicherry and organizing a trek was a bit tough. But the CTC team helped . It was a great experience organizing a trek for kids !

I do not celebrate special days anymore. For me the attraction in this trek was nature & kids – to be close to Nature & spend time with kids, while making kids familiar with nature & adventure.

This is a new initiative by the newly launched CTC Women’s forum. Chennai Trekking Club is a volunteer driven adventure club based in Chennai that organizes regular treks on weekends.

When I reached Chennai, I had to do some preparations for the trek. My kids were also excited and were giving ideas and suggestions – well Rahul’s idea mostly had to do with stocking up on chocolates, cheetos & other such junk food ! At the end of the day when I was ready to sleep, Sinu called & says one of the vans will be unavailable and we had to make alternative arrangements for transport ! This was at 11.00 p.m and we were leaving for the trek at 4.00 am – we had 5 hrs to come up with plan B. After discussion and few phone calls later we were ready with Plan B !!

The response to this trek was good, and the registration sheet resembled a volatile stock graph – numbers kept going up & down and the chart finally stabilized at the minute we left the city limits of Chennai on the morning of May 13th !! We the organizers Sinu & Punitha were busy with preparations for the last few days, constantly making adjustments with the fluctuating registrations ! 3 vehicles, 23 trekkers and 3 hours of introductions and laughter later we reached the base of Nagala mountains.

Abhimanyu & Rahul on top of tree in Nagala !

After a breakfast with the spread from continental to Indian (read chocos to idlis !), distribution of common goods to be carried and instructions, the lead trekker Ajay marched forward with kids matching his steps and some moms trailing behind. Arjun , Sankara and Chellababu were the mid-sweep and sweep of the trekking group respectively, and, between them the regular CTCians steered us safely up the rocky path. My kids Abhimanyu & Rahul had already been on the same trail a couple of weeks before and hence thought they were experts themselves and tried to match steps with Ajay !

We were a motley group, from a spunky 6 yrs kid to spirited 16 yr old teenager to a saree-clad 60 + yrs mom ; with all ages and shapes in between !! But this was planned to be an easy trek considering the differing endurance levels of the participants. The weather also seemed to be celebrating Mother’s day ; it was comparatively cool on that day and we did not feel much heat once inside the forest.

Abhimanyu & Rahul playing in stream !

The first reward for our relentless march was a stream of water – gurgling down the mountains ! The kids had reached the streams along with the lead trekker and splashed water on all others trying to cross the stream ! Soon most of us were drenched with bottles and cooking vessels being used to do ‘abhishegam’ (drench) on all trekkers ! Kids rolled around in the stream laughingly ! Everyone felt refreshed after a dip in the stream ! We reluctantly left the stream to trek further into the forest. But we did not lose sight of the stream from that point on, as we were walking along its banks !

We passed by the first pool and there were two small challenges on the way, like the walk on the ledge and pulling oneself up a narrow space between the rocks. There was another steep climb down a slippery dry mud path, where one had to hold tree branches and find roots for leg support to navigate. With the help of volunteers everybody crossed the path without slipping into the stream below !

After 2 . 5 hrs of trekking we finally reached the second pool which had a small water fall at one corner. It was a picture-perfect setting for our Mother’s Day picnic :). We threw the backpacks, inflated our swim tubes and jumped into the water ! What a sweet reward for a few hours trek !! All the kids took like fish to water ! Soon they were swimming, floating, splashing water, standing under the small waterfalls and playing in the pool !

A cool pool in Nagala

A few minutes later, some of us set about cooking ! First tea was boiled and while sipping the tea we planned on how to go about cooking our lunch – veg briyani, aloo gravy & raita ! And a delicious dessert in payasam ! Ambitious menu indeed ! But with everyone giving a hand, it seemed easy ! We laid out all the ingredients we had carried and realized we had missed out on some items ! Not losing heart, we tried to tweak the recipes and started cooking; collecting twigs, setting up stones for fire and collecting water for cooking.

In between we took turns to jump into the pool and enjoy the cool waters ! Moms & kids splashing water, pulling the other into water and generally sharing lots of fun on that day. The falls, pools & streams of Nagala are all fed by rain water collected in nooks & corners of the mountains. They trickle down, collect , gain force & take different shapes to nourish the mountains, vegetation and nature enthusiasts like us who take the effort to come there !

After an hour or so our lunch was ready ! Well, on any other day and in any other place nobody, especially the kids,  would have accepted what they saw as veg briyani or aloo gravy – neither the colour nor the form was true to the original dishes ! We, the too many cooks who had spoiled the broth, were wondering how to market this lunch to our group and clean up the vessel ! But luckily the group was famished and had a big appetite after the trek and the swim and were ready to eat anything even remotely resembling food ! We exchanged a triumphant smile on the sly ;). We ladled generous portions of the food onto everyone’s bowl before they realized the taste 😉

More luck was on our side ! Two more CTC trekking groups, one a ladies group, were in the vicinity and as they neared our pool, they stopped and joined us for lunch ! A few tried to remedy the situation by making payasam and that was also finished within a few minutes amid laughter !

It was soon time to pack up and trek to the base. We cleaned the place of plastics and collected it in a trash bag. CTC is very eco-conscious and has no-litter policy which is commendable. CTC also has a no-smoke and no-alcohol policy in treks and camps which raises the reliability of the group. We cleaned even some of the stuff littered by other non-CTCians.

Few of us started first with kids and some volunteers stayed back to complete the clean up. The heat had reduced even more and we reached the stream quickly. This time the other two CTC groups (one of them was the Ladies freshers group and another private group) also joined in playing in the stream. Atlast we moved away and reached base camp.

Mother’s day trek group

The sun was setting beyond the mountains and it was xgetting darker. We clicked a few group photos and chit-chatted for a while. Finally we boarded the vehicles and started back to Chennai!

It was a different Mother’s Day – adventurous & fun ! Low on luxury, more on effort ; less on cost, more on fun !! And it was a wonderful experience organizing this trek and seeing many freshers enjoy the experience ! Thanks to the CTC team of volunteers who helped in making this trek a safe & enjoyable one !

Sunset from rocky bed of stream

It was a lovely day, spending fun moments with kids in a pristine locale ! A true Mother’s Day where I,  the Mother became a child in the lap of Mother Nature – temporarily forgetting all worries and challenges in life…

~Punitha


Happy Campers Speak !! – Kids Trek @ Nagala

Happy Campers ! Charting their trail !!

Write up by Abhimanyu (8 + years) !

Abhi enjoying the cool pool @ Nagala !

Kids Trek at Nagala !

I like the trip very much. It was a wonderful experience.

I woke up at 5.00. I went to Chennai to my Thatha’s house. Then from there I went to Nagala in car. When we reached there, we played some games. Then I went to sleep at 12.30 a.m.

I woke up and brushed my teeth with neem sticks. Then I played for little time, then I climbed very little to watch the lake. Then I got down and had boost with chocos !! Then they gave me cap, lollipop and jelly ! Then my mummy gave us swimming tubes and life jackets. After that we started the trek.

It was so adventurous. I walked so much distance. In half the way we stopped in the stream and took rest. Then we started walking to second pool. All the uncles and aunts helped us .

When I reached the second pool, I gone to swim for a long time ! Then they called us to eat noodles. After I ate I went to swim again ! Then I ate my lunch.

Then we climbed down the mountain and came down. We took group photos. Then I had gone to Chennai again.

I enjoyed the trip very much. I made lots of new friends. The forest was so green !

Abhimanyu

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Write-up by Rahul (6 + years)  !

Rahul enjoys the pool !

Happy Camper !

I was very happy !

I enjoy to swim.

I enjoy climbing rocks.

I, my mummy and my brother enjoyed the camp.

I ate noodles and lollipop.

I got new friends.

I was very happy to come to the camp !

Rahul

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Charged trekkers ! Fresh even after a day of trekking !!

Interpreters of A Dream – 3G Frequency Variance !!!


The following scene took place in our home @ 5.30 am one morning… a few weeks ago…

Puni : (Lazily sipping coffee & talking to kids): Kutties I had a dream last night ! I was in a beautiful forest with lots of trees and rivers. There were some snakes around me !

(The half-sleepy kids perked up their ears & excitedly started a volley of questions !!)

Kids :

Abhi : How many snakes ma ?

Rahul : What colour ? Were you scared ?

Abhi : How many metres long ?

Rahul : Did it raise its hood and hiss ?

Abhi : Was it cobra or python ?

Rahul : I will catch it like Chotta Bheem does !

Puni : whoa… whoa… kiddos… too many questions !! Well…. the snakes were…

(My mom overhears our conversation & does not allow me to finish the sentence… she rattles off her opinion seriously !)

Grandma K : Punitha, I think it is some dosham. We need to go to some nagalinga temple & pray & offer milk to snakes.

Puni : Hayyo… Ammaaa… plzzz nooo… don’t try to put me thru’ that ‘dosham’ circuit again !! You know it doesn’t help me ! No milk, silk etc !!

Kids :

Rahul : Mommy, we will give coke or maaza for snake ! (Bcos he is trying to dodge drinking his morning milk and instead dreaming of some cold drink !!)

Abhi : Rahulllll…. snakes can’t drink all that da !!

Rahul : Snakes can drink maaza ! Right ma ??

Abhi : No, it can’t ! (Continues sarcastically) You don’t even have science subject da… only EVS ! I have a separate science book… so I know better… ha ha ;)))

3 G Frequency - Abhi the Scientist conducts Viva Voce for the Snake ! Mom helps him !!


(Before Rahul could think of a retort, Grandma restarts her agenda !) 

Grandma K : We should go to Kalahasthi. Last time we visited Tirupati we did not go there. That is the place for naga doshams.


Now that Abhi has firmly established that Rahul is an outsider to ‘real science’, he continues to build up his superiority !!) 

Abhi : Rahul, do you know that snakes do not have ears outside their body ?

Rahul : tchchk…. how can that be ? Snakes have ears !!

Abhi : Poda… you dont know any science !

Rahul : I KNOW SCIENCE !! I’ll catch a snake and show you its ears !

3 G Frequency - Rahul the Brave catching a snake valiantly and shows off to Mommy !!

(My mom tries again !)

Grandma K : Was the snake’s hood in raised position ? Atleast you go to some local temple today.

1 G Frequency - Grandma K dreams of taking away all doshams !!

(Watching with amusement the animated opinions of her kids & mom, Puni regrets telling out her dream ! She has not even completed describing her dream, but scores of opinions are already floating around !!)

Raising her voice to be heard above the three…

Puni : Wait wait people… let me complete the description ! I was playing in a river in a forest, lots of trees & birds. A few snakes were sliding on the ground, some were hanging from trees !! The weather was cool and only the sound of the breeze, birds & river was heard ! It was like heaven !!

(Addressing her kids) Abhi, we will do a complete read-up on snakes, ok ?! Rahul, we will go to a zoo and see snakes, deal ?! Amma. NO, I’m not going to feed milk in temple. I think this dream is a call from nature for me to go trekking & camping in a forest soooon !! Even if I have to pay obeisance to snakes, I’ll do it in a forest in its natural abode than in a temple !

2 G Frequency - Puni the Nature Lover sings in the River and is @ Home in the Forest !!

(Puni finishes her long monologue in the gap she found and spells her decision emphatically !!)

Grandma K : One more trek ???? No. Go to temple.

Kids : I’ll also come to the forest !

Puni : Only trekking in forest !! Time to go on a TREK & sleep under the stars !!!

Kids continue their one-upmanship dialogues and also plan to go to a forest with Mommy !

Grandma goes to Pooja shelf to search for some sloka to safeguard against snakes !

Puni rushes off to check out the upcoming treks in CTC ;)) !!!

Peace reigns again !!

This happened few weeks back !

3G Frequency variance – 3 Generations interpreting a dream in 3 (or 4 !) different ways !!

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Forward to the present :

Fortunately, a CTC kids trek (with parent) is coming up this weekend and me & my kids are gearing up for that !! So, this weekend, its time to walk in the forest, jump in the pools, sleep on rocks under the stars… and yeah, pay my respects to the venerable snake !!!

I believe now that dreams do come true !!!! So I’ll continue dreaming !!!

Happy weekend folks !! ‘Citi’zens, stay safe in the cities ;))

~ Punitha