Sunday, 17 June 2012

My Numero Uno Man!!

A dashing, heart-stopping smile, tall and lanky in his Air Force Officer's Uniform, my Dad has always been an easy-going guy!! He grew up in Delhi, aspired to be an Architect, became an Engineer and joined the Indian Air force in his twenties. He worked hard, treated his colleagues and subordinates with equal respect and regarded good values and a sound character above rank and file, status and riches. He still lives by the same tenets, and inspires me everyday. Okay, let me tell you something about my Dad. Having grown up as an only son with  three younger sisters, under the watchful gaze of a very principled man, (my grandfather, Shri Halubha Sodha aka Bapuji) Dad always, instinctively, knew right from wrong, and followed Bapuji's word to  the letter. ( See post  the humane divine for more...)

Dad has always been quiet, and never talks too much. Only now, as we have grown up and sometimes get a chance to converse with him and share our concerns, problems, dilemmas and joys with him does he talk about what he and Mum, as young parents and as a couple, went through. They were always each other's best friend! He was immensely proud of her PhD in Sanskrit, she was always tremendously graceful and supportive of him and stood by him, steadfast and strong... Together, they are my Rock of Gibraltar, if you will...! They shared a love of music, of reading and always made times out as a family special. Even if he had to ride over on his trusty Bajaj scooter twice, to ferry our family of six to the venue, he never complained! They both had worked on their marriage and its wheels spun smoothly and noiselessly, making light of the miles they traversed...

His natural simplicity was not evident to me until I hit my late teens. Okay, so, on many occasions, he laughed with us and showed us how do do something, and often surprised me the most when I would be ready to cringe expecting a good-old dhaap, but just got told I should 'get lost'!! (Yeah, I'd scuttle away, relieved and yet, terribly ashamed. This 'तखलिया' from Dad served two purposes- it gave me time to think back on the incident and introspect, and gave him time to 'cool off'!)

 If we got ranked 5th in class at school, he'd joke that someone else should get the chance to stand first, sometimes and always maintained that being in the band of average students was good, as long as we did our best and never cheated at tests. "Ask an adult for guidance if you're stuck and do not understand something..." , he would say. There was no pressure to perform well at school, no pushing us to do drama, dance or drawing... We could do what we liked, so long as we were mindful of others' feelings and never hurt anyone (including ourselves) in the process! So we learned to ride our bikes and climb trees, and also passed on the dubious skills to our cousin Parth, our house-hold help's daughters Anju and Mita...! We made pots and pans from mud dug up from the garden and even baked it in a make-shift kiln fire (imagine the horror on the HSE's face) in the very same garden, on the porch... 

But I digress...! This post is not about the fun I had as a kid, its about my Father! That he is my ideal man is an understatement- He is the only man - apart from my husband and my brother- who invokes love and respect from me in equal measure! He is kind, he is a surviour and someone who lives a simple, self-sufficient life... Since I lost my mother to Cancer 17 years ago, He's been both a father and a mother to me. In the year after mom passed away, my sister got married and my brother joined the Indian Naval Academy. Now there were only Ba, Dad and I left at home... We grieved, we learned to smile again, and our silences became a voice too... We would all sit and listen to the radio- (Vividh bharti-at 2100 broadcasted a programme called bhooli-bisri yaadein that we listened to, then went to sleep)... This time together was precious, and still teaches me a thing or two about parenting, as I watch my own daughters grow. I share my difficulties with him, both personal and general, and his kindness and wisdom shines through. He is my father, my guru, and my God, he is inspiring, loving and very much loved back!
Dad, if you're reading this, accept my love and pranams and do NOT be self effacing (as you often are) and say "arre, Ruch...!" This Ruch is here, today the way I am, the person I am, because of you...chalo, अब बच्चियों  को उठाने का समय हो गया है! Sunday है, पर मुझे काम पर जाना है!

Dad and Rani in the summer of 2010.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

CYCLETTA 2012: Biking for STROKE CARE.

What does it take, to turn my steps into soaring flight,
what excitement banishes my sleep in the night!? 
what is it that makes me alive,
What do I crave, is it company, is it solitude,
is it winning the battle against my ineptitude??
is it peace within and calm without,
..... -It is self motivated discovery and working within reasonable, honest means for the common good of all...

 I have always loved riding my bike from the first time I pedalled off at the age of six fully in control after many days' struggles, scraped knees and elbows and crashes. As my joyous sister and friends cheered me from behind, and as the wind whipped through my hair, I felt as if I were flying!! Many childhood afternoons were spent in the summer heat of North India, my brother and I pushing each other on the bike, in turns, and running up and sitting down on the stainless steel 'carrier', sending the biker and bike wobbling precariously for a few uncertain moments!!
My favourite childhood memories are all about family trips and outings to zoological parks, the Rose Garden, Rock Garden and Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh, India. As an adult, I travelled widely, mostly by myself, and a bike became my transport of choice!! Buses, Scooters and Trains came to be relied on, when the journey demanded it, but my trusty bike was always my favourite vaahan!
From the time i first read about Cycletta last June, in the local paper, I was hoping to be one of the lucky ten from Luton and Dunstable chosen to ride hundreds of other women, fund-raising on a hair-raising adventure!!!
This year, on 13th May 2012 at the Cycletta Bedfordshire event, God once again gave me the close-to-home opportunity to be part of something magical and magnificent!!

It was a beautiful summer's day in Luton, U.K, on the 13th of May. I was full of anticipation and last-minute jitters about how I would feel post-ride,after cycling for 40 Kms.... Outwardly, I chatted easily with Brian, as we drove to the venue with my bike in his taxi. Brian is our friend, neighbour and count-on-me gentleman and he has always helped us as a family whether it is to drive someone to or from London Heathrow airport. He knows the routes and traffic so well that we were there in about twenty minutes! After helping me place my bike of terra firma, we shook hands as he cheerily waved goodbye and  wished me luck for my ride and fundraising!
After obtaining my starting pack and chip, I made my way down to the sidelines, where scores of women, some with their families, some with partners and parents, put on their gear and began to go through their paces, warming up for the ride. I still had about 50 minutes till my start time, so I self-consciously fumbled with pinning my rider's number on my back, (incredibly difficult without anyone to help, mind you!) and attaching my timing-chip to the handlebars. Having dine Cycletta 2011 at Whipsnade, ZSL London, last year, I was familiar with it all and there was an easy atmosphere with peppy music, a last-minute breakfast-buttie and energy drinks' available to all riders. Their families were settling down on camping chairs, car hoods, or simply on the grassy verge (with push-chairs for toddlers and babies) with lots of activities for kids to engage in, as they would be waiting eagerly for their mum's and sisters to make it back across the finish line later in the day! One thing I love about British families is how beautifully they turn every outing into something special and relaxed, fun for all and full of joy! Its this get-up-and-go attitude that I absolutely loved and have been taking my kids out on lots of trips with my friend and her young son.
That day, however, I missed my two little girls a lot and reminded myself that Raj would be coming to see  me at midday with the kids too!
Feelin' the BUZZ!!  Scores of ladies at the start of the ride!
The Cycletta event was spectacular, with the scenic, breathtakingly beautiful estate at the Woburn Abbey grounds in Bedfordshire providing the perfect, Zen-like experience that made me and my bike, essentially, one!! The ride began with a light breeze and sunshine coaxing scores of Deer and Elk out into the open grounds near the trees, by the lakes and waterholes and under the massive age-old trees. I found myself having to decide between keeping my eyes on the ride or sneaking a look at the beautiful sights all around us. This time around, there were no steep gradients like last year, (Cycletta 2011, Bedfordshire riders will recollect Bison Hill with a smile!!)
Sarah B and I after the finish!!

I loved the weather and enjoyed the sunshine on the day!

After the ride (which, amazingly enough, seemed to seem to take much less time this time around!) and the exhilaration of crossing the finish line, I met my friend Sarah B, who rode with me last year too. She is a keen cyclist and had achieved her aim of finishing the ride within two hours. ( I rode at a very leisurely pace and being the kind of love-the-journey person that I am, took about 2.5 Hrs to finish my ride!)

The long, winding road!!

 Shivangi and I after the ride. (Photo by Rani)
 My fund-raising began at the time of my decision to join the event at Woburn, and I researched Stroke Awareness sites recommended by my senior colleagues and from info on posters at work. A chat with my Hospital fundraising Manager, a few clicks and 'paste's with a mouse and I had set up my page, ready to roll!! Sarah Newby, the Fundraising Team Manager has recently participated in the London Marathon 2012, and is a huge inspiraiton! Since I work on the Stroke Unit at the L & D Hospital, thinking about my patients and their well-being has become second nature to me. After 8.5 yerars with  the Stroke Team of dedicated nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Doctors, I wanted to do something for the team by spreading stroke awareness and fund-raiser from my bike ride and sale! Over the two days of fundraising at work, I managed to raise £122.40 in total, and its still trickling in!!

Sarah and I with a male staff member at the hospital who just happened to be there!!

Day 2: display of the fundraising stuff donated by Raj.