Monday, December 01, 2014

The Horologicon by Mark Forsyth

As my credit card provider announced a downward revision in encashment policy on points, I scrambled to make the most of accumulated points by buying the above book, driven by a nice extract in the Guardian, last year.

The search to find something that fit my budget was painful to say the least, given Landmark's increasingly terrible state of affairs. The knowledge of online bookstores selling the same books for at least 25% less was an added burden. Eventually, I just gave up and bought chocolates with the remaining amount, rather the kill myself in the search for a good book to make up the 3 in the 3 for 2 offer :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Remembering Manju - 9 years on

My batchmate, Manjunath was killed on this date 9 years ago. I have made various posts in the past, on this topic - see posts tagged "Manju" on this blog. This eve, Zee Movies will telecast the movie version of the story.

Please watch it if you can and while you are at it, spend a minute reflecting on Manju's unplanned sacrifice. Even if you don't see the movie, spend a minute in Manju's memory today.

9 years since Manju was shot dead, just doing his job. Bless your soul, Manju

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Raising Funds for Child Nutrition Foundation (CNF) by running the Boston Marathon 2015

2015 is going to be a significant year of my life. A long standing personal goal will see its completion. I will be running in the Boston Marathon 2015. To increase the fun, I have also signed up for the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge.

Throughout my running journey, I have been the recipient of various acts of generosity and kindness from both known and unknown people around the world. While training for my runs at Mumbai in the past, I have raised funds for Parivaar and Udayan, which have made the entire experience of training and racing much more fulfilling than it would be, had the journey been limited to running.

When I was still training to qualify for Boston about 2 years ago, my friend Pooja, had asked me if I would raise funds for Child Nutrition Foundation (CNF), an organization she co-founded and currently runs. My response to her then had been that I would love to do so, whenever I would run the Boston Marathon. Well, the time has come for me to make good on that.

CNF works towards the eradication of malnutrition among children in India. Its mission is to reduce child malnutrition in vulnerable communities in India, particularly in the first 1000 days of a child's life, through active intervention, behaviour change communication, facilitating linkage to health care resources, awareness building, empowerment of families and preventative action. You could read more about CNF's work here. I love the fact that 100% of donations go directly to beneficiaries.

CNF is preparing to launch an 18 month nutritional intervention project called “It takes a Village” in 5 impoverished villages in Shravasti district in Uttar Pradesh, that have a dismal track record in child and maternal health. The project will impact approximately 15,000 pregnant women and children 0-6 years of age. The project will be run in partnership with Manav Seva Sansthan, a respected NGO who
have been working on various child-related issues for over 30 years in Uttar Pradesh.

My goal is to raise $6000, which will benefit 3000 direct and more indirect beneficiaries in one village. However you could contribute as little as $10, which will help 5 mothers/children over an 18 month period.

Here is the donation link.

Your contribution will help make my journey even more memorable and of course, more importantly help change lives. Once you have made your contribution, please drop me an email at dhammonia[at]gmail.com so that I know we are making progress on this.

You could also write to me at the same email address if you have any queries about CNF.

Thank you.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Persiflage 2014

Thanks to my killer teammates D, master Menon and Raju, my team came a happy 2nd to the team led by the legendary Arul Mani at KQA's annual books quiz "Persiflage" on Sun. My team with D has featured in the Persiflage finals quite often and this is perhaps my favourite KQA quiz, combining as it does, 2 of my loves - reading and quizzing. Joining forces with master Menon and Raju made it even better, as I had to struggle to make my presence count, frequently wondering how my teammates knew what they did.

The resulting voucher from Blossoms yielded

One Summer by Bill Bryson (loaded with anecdotes from a phenomenal year in US history)
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

The Bryson book is a hardbound edition, which makes it tremendously lovely to read. Back to reading now :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Book buying, some reading and quizzing

I've claimed in the past that I no longer buy books unless I've book coupons or credit card points or the like. While that has been true for most of the purchases in the last year or more there has been some leakage from time to time, as happened today. While most of the funds did indeed originate as credit card points I did spend some very hard earned money as well. And yet again, none of the first 3 books below, which I bought from Landmark were pre-planned.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Give and Take by Adam Grant
Small Wars Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh

I've also acquired Faster than Lightning by Usain Bolt by virtue of a gift from a dear friend, thanks to running. Quick summary on the book is that Usain is predictably an uncomplicated, mostly likeable person but he does have a bit of a mean streak.

Electrified Sheep by Alex Boese &
Elephants on Acid by Alex Boese

were both bought as ebooks, in a prize-induced high after a quiz at the Bangalore Lit Fest. I have no idea how I selected them or what caused me to choose them, beyond the fact that I didn't need to step out of my house or find storage space for new buys. I do have a vague memory of making a note of Electrified Sheep from some review I read a while ago but can't find it now.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan &
If it's Monday, it must be Madurai by Srinath Perur

were both thought out purchases and the latter has already proved to be a delightful read.

Thanks to a Twitter quiz, I won Symmetry by Marcus du Sautoy from Kindle Magazine.

Also bought Shikhandi and other tales they don't tell you by Devdutt Pattanaik on an earlier visit to Landmark.

Now to read some of the above and generate fresh funds for more books :)


Monday, September 15, 2014

3 years

I delayed this post by a few days since I was waiting for an email from the BAA that arrived this morning.

My entry to the 2015 edition of the Boston Marathon has been confirmed. That adds another line to the story of my life since Sep 2011, while ticking off the one item that spurred me to quit my job, 3 years ago.

My running is quite fine, although I wish I were lighter but if you ate 4 kadubus before breakfast, you can hardly expect your weight to watch itself! I know what I will be doing on the running front for the next 6 months at least. The weight should drop by a bit as I head towards the end of the year. Coaching has been a mixed bag as several of my trainees have hit personal bests while some others have been dogged by injuries. My own left shin, the cause of much heartburn last year is now mended.

In addition to my BQ, I also managed to get certified as a personal trainer this year. So that has lent some much needed perspective to my health & fitness in general, not to mention opening fresh avenues in my professional life. I am hoping it aids my quest to remedy the bank balance anxiety, which is surprisingly a frequent item in my thought process.

Reading recovered mildly in Apr-May, since I spent 6 weeks in the US, during which I read a book every week but has withered since. My bank balance is rather precarious but life in general, is quite wonderful.

And I managed to revive my podcast, Runalyze This, which had become dormant for almost a year. Keeping it going will be quite some work, though.

I managed a trip to Jog Falls, last month, after having wanted to go there for almost two decades! That trip was amazing too, as my wife and I, got away on a trip for more than a day, for the first time since our Europe trip last year, which was kickstarted by my appearance in the Berlin Marathon. The trip to Jog Falls also helped restore some balance to my married life :)

As I alluded to in this post, my life continues to be enriched by the generosity of numerous friends. Am really looking forward to the next 18 months or so, during which many things are planned - not all of them running-related, some of which I shall share on this blog from time to time.

So how have you been?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Whither Landmark?

This rant has been pending for a while.

For years I have bought from the Landmark bookstores across India, especially in Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai in my stints in each of the cities. I have lamented the condition of full-priced books at Landmark on several occasions in the past. I admit I am a bargain hunter, but even if I weren't, it is reasonably standard practice in the industry to discount books which are not in excellent condition. If you walked into the Forum outlet in Bangalore, you will find books in poor condition ranging from soiled copies to those with dog-ears and several with torn covers, all at full price. I have shown these to the store manager (more than one of them) on my visits to the store in the past, but the incidence of such copies has rarely changed. On several occasions, the copy in less-than-perfect condition is the only copy the store has. Combined with the drop in the available selection of books at Landmark, this makes a trip to the bookstore quite a chore.

Additionally I learnt of a weird condition that Landmark imposes. You can't use their gift vouchers or gift cards online. This means that you may end up buying books at increased prices at the store when you can buy them online bookstores including their own website at discounts. And I know this is not a fair comparison since online bookstores usually sell copies at discounts anyways but a bookstore which has an online presence does expose itself to this comparison anyways. Why'd you shoot yourself in the foot like this? Sure, not every book buyer looks up prices online when they are buying. But surely you'd notice the disparity sooner or later.

In any case, I no longer buy from them and have switched to discounted copies from Flipkart/Infibeam or ebooks from Flipkart/Amazon. I ended up making a visit today since some generous souls had gifted cards. I can't figure out whether it is apathy from the management to let the books section decay or whether it is a deliberate move or something else.

But still it pains a bit each time I visit the store to see the store whither like this, since I have good memories from shopping there in the past. Such is life

Books time

Thanks to gifts from friends (more power to the benevolent billionaires!) and some credit card points (yes, I know it is the same old boring story the past few times, but you can't believe how much discipline it has enforced on getting some read while not loading up on too many new unread ones)
I added the following books to my collection

Atlantic by Simon Winchester
Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami
The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham

The meditation+running book was a gift. I am curious about it since I have been considering meditation for a while. Added incentive is that the author qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon in the last decade. I had my eye on the Winchester book for a while and even dropped one version I found in a sale in Palo Alto since I couldn't carry too much on my trip back from the US. Infibeam allows me to buy using my credit card points while Flipkart from whom I have bought more, still doesn't. As for the Murakamis, I bought them all under a 3for2 offer. And as my good friend P says, when you buy Murakami you don't need to worry about which one. The 3 I did buy join some more works by Murakami that I already have. I shall also save up a rant on Landmark book store for a separate post. These are also rare fiction purchases for me as I have tended to buy more non-fiction works in recent times. All in all, nice bibliotherapy for the weekend. Amongst other decision drivers, the back cover of one of the Murakamis said, "...When a man's favourite elephant vanishes..." How can one not buy such a book?!