Running is a healthy addiction

Running is a healthy addiction

Geneva 2017 Half Marathon started at 8.30 on a cool and rainy Sunday morning of 7 May. At 7 km rain stopped and every one took off their rain-vests or plastic wraps and the fun increased. I was fit but I had not trained to run this race. Nevertheless, finding it difficult to beat the running addiction I registered at the last moment. I crossed the finish line just 2 minutes slower than last year but without stopping.

Only those who run can truly imagine my contentment.

Never too late to run?

I learnt to run in the Nairobi Teachers Training College (1955-56) under the guidance of our physical training professor, McNiel. It is not because I was born in Eldoret, the centre of famous long-distance runners, that I never completely gave up running. But I never ran longer than one mile. It is well known that competitive running is absent in the Indian culture especially among yoga fans. Against the advice of my learned Indian friends I took up running longer distances when I retired; participating in organized races starting with 7 km and gradually increasing to half marathon, 21.1 km. A month before celebrating my 80th I ran the annual 7.25 km my 20th year. The officially taken photograph arrived today, a good reminder to me not to stop.

Kale, the Sukuma wiki of Kenya

Sukuma wiki of Kenya

Those who grew up in Kenya or its neighbouring countries should remember the taste of ‘sukuma wiki’. It is possible that you did not eat it because it tasted better with ugali the type of food you did not eat in those days. Sukuma wiki means “push the week” which implies that eating it would give you strength for a week- claimed to be nutritionally powerful stuff. It’s related to kale. Californians adore its big leaves oven-baked as kale crisps. It can be consumed in many ways. Back in Kenya once a poor man’s food, it’s now commonly served on elegant dining tables.

Stung in California, I bought kale (Sukuma wiki) seeds packed in South Africa from Uchumi in Westlands of Nairobi and sowed them in my garden in Geneva. The third generation seeds have adapted to local conditions and now produce luxuriant big leaves for at least two seasons.

This year I picked leaves in February. Every one especially children relished them as kale crisps. Cooked in the Sukuma wiki way or as salad it’s delicious. Recently I mixed the chopped kale leaves and onions in wheat and gram flour (2:1) and made chapattis.

Most of that stack in the picture was consumed in no time. The few remaining are in the freezer.

Then I pondered: Kale seeds from South Africa, bought in Kenya, grown in Switzerland; Indian gram flour (besan) mixed with Swiss wheat flour and onions with a spoonful of Swedish baking powder; chapattis formed in a cast-iron tortilla press manufactured in Columbia and bought in Trump’s USA; and chapattis baked in a non-stick pan bought in Indian Punjab! Practical globalization.

 

RESPECT THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

 

I had encountered the spirit of Stonehenge on the Island of the Celts (now England) in October 2016 (http://bigbangyoga.org/my-return-to-stone-age/ ). It
foresaw my intentions and where I was going and  landed on the Pacific coast before I. May be it was there and everywhere all the time. How could I  know? , Well, I continue to encounter coincidences as I always did before. The day I decided to see San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge I learnt that GGB was inaugurated also in 1937. I felt a deep sentimental affinity towards it. I got a feeling to celebrate our 80th anniversary intimately.  Instead of using a car and running over it in two minutes, I rented a bike and started peddling towards it.

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Apparently the Stonehenge spirit embodied the bridge. It did not like me meeting him  even riding a bike.  He made the rear tire of Karin’s bike come off the rim so that I approach him more respectfully on foot.

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We walked up the hill to his level and found a replacement bike at the Visitors’ Center. On a bright and windy day I showed my affection by feeling his sidebar then leaning frequently over it to see the Pacific Ocean flowing under it. I touched his mighty impressive cable passing over stalwart cable-supporting struts. They are so high; to see the top my aged stiff neck took some strain.

We cycledSanFransisco-1 (52) across the bridge zigzagging through sightseers avoiding other bikers and frequently stopping to takes pictures, hoping that no one else has pictured him before from our angle of view  We descended to Sausalito, the ancient fisherman’s port now accommodates yachts of the rich and boats of the poor. Visitors go there to see the spectacular skyline of San Francisco city. We crossed the Bay on a ferry that enabled us to see Angel Island from close and the varying views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the prison island of Alcatraz. From the city harbour we biked and stopped to see the famous Wharf 39 inhabited by roaring cantankerous sea lions.  .

 

LA MAGIE DE STONEHENGE

Un retour à l’âge de pierre : La magie de Stonehenge   

(From WMO Amicale Bulletin, December 2016)

Le  site  de  Stonehenge  m’avait  fasciné,  la première fois qu’on m’en avait parlé à l’école, il y  a de ça plus d’un demi­siècle.  J’avais été dans les  parages  d’innombrables  fois,  mais  je  ne  l’avais  jamais vu.  Mais je suis conscient que le bout de  vie  que  j’ai  parcouru  est  insignifiant  en  termes  géologiques.

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(Photo by Karin Nyffenegger)

En septembre 2016, une baisse soudaine de  mes activités avait engendré un espace de temps  vide  et  une  déprime  que  je  n’arrivais  pas  à  surmonter.  Mon esprit me suggéra de remplir ce  vide par un séjour en Angleterre, avec nulle autre  mission que de rencontrer des gens et de visiter  des  lieux  –  pas  de  mariages,  pas  de  nouveaux  nés,  pas  d’anniversaires  et  pas  de  funérailles.   Vous  ne  me  croirez  peut­être  pas,  mais  ma  première attirance fut de « retourner à l’âge de  pierre »  et  de  présenter  mes  respects  à  Stonehenge.      Le mercredi 28 septembre, l’autocar partant  de  la  gare  Victoria,  à  Londres,  me  conduisit  au  fameux site.  De loin, j’aperçus le cercle magique  de  pierres,  sur  un  replat  de  colline,  la  lumière  pâlissante du soleil en fin d’après-midi jaillissant  au travers des piliers.

Le  petit  vent  frais  n’a  pas  calmé  mon  excitation.  Je  n’ai  pas  besoin  de  vous  décrire  Stonehenge,  qui  attire  des  millions  de  visiteurs.   Après en avoir fait le tour avec recueillement, je  me  suis  éloigné  en  me  retournant  à  plusieurs  reprises  pour  l’embrasser  encore  d’un  dernier  regard.  Il  est  incroyable  que,  peu  après  cette  visite,  j’apprenne  qu’une  dent  de  chien,  de  race  alsacienne, avait été déterrée près de Stonehenge.   Le chien avait apparemment parcouru 250 miles  (400  km)  depuis  York  avec  son  maître,  il  y  a  quelque 7000 ans en arrière, bien avant que le  fameux cercle de pierre ne soit érigé il y a environ  2000  ans  (BBC,  7  octobre  2016).    Quand  j’y  pense, je me dis que, tout comme le maître du  chien, j’aurais bien aimé marcher depuis la Suisse  à  travers  nos  jungles  de  béton  et  les  enchevêtrements de nos routes.  De retour dans  l’autocar, je fus pris d’un regret: j’aurais dû cacher  l’une  de  mes  dents  quelque  part,  de  sorte  que  l’archéologue  (probablement  venu  d’une  autre  planète) puisse prouver avec fierté, en 4016, que  moi, être humain, avait fait le voyage de Genève à  Stonehenge!    Rien qu’à cause de la magie de Stonehenge, il  s’est produit plusieurs coïncidences. En prévision  de mon arrivée, l’esprit de Stonehenge avait pris  le contrôle de toutes mes intentions avant même  que je mette pied sur l’île de Stonehenge.  Ce que  je  vais  vous  raconter  sont  mes  pensées  a  posteriori;  je  n’aurais  pas  pu  les  avoir  plus  tôt,  quand les premières sensations de l’automne me  faisaient  penser  que  je  pourrais  tomber  comme  une feuille de chêne dans mon jardin et que je ne  verrais plus ceux de mes proches dont la route ne  menait pas à Genève.    Pour commencer, l’esprit de Stonehenge a tout  fait pour m’isoler.  Deux jours avant de prendre  l’avion,  l’esprit  a  envoyé  la  personne  qui  se  réjouissait  tellement  de  m’accompagner,  à  Oslo,  voir  sa  tante  mourante.    Il  s’est  introduit  aussi  dans la tête de ma chère belle­sœur et l’a dirigée sur  le  Terminal  Sud  de  Gatwick,  même  si  elle  savait bien que c’était au Terminal Nord que nous  avions rendez­vous.  J’ai pris le bus, après quoi  j’ai parcouru 2km à pied, jusqu’à la maison qui  devait  nous  héberger.    La  magie  s’est  encore  accélérée le lendemain matin, lorsque j’ai pris le  train, aux heures creuses, de Crawley à Hounslow,  pour  aller  voir  mon  oncle  âgé  et  mon  oncle  malade.    Ici,  il  vous  faudra  vous  reporter  à:<  http://bigbangyoga.org/stonehenge­magic<  pour  apprendre  ce  qui  s’est  passé  ce  jour­là  et  pour  apprécier le pouvoir de Stonehenge.  Guérison parfaite:    L’esprit de Stonehenge m’avait fait de l’ombre  tout le temps.  Il n’était pas content de mon plan à  visiter  Cardiff.    Il  a  fait  changer  d’avis  les  personnes que j’aurais vraiment aimé y voir, ou  bien il a fait en sorte qu’elles n’étaient vraiment  plus libres ce jour­là.  Ma compagne, Karin, s’était  libérée de ses obligations à Oslo et était venue me  rejoindre.    Notre  car  de  Stonehenge  nous  avait  déposés dans le centre de la charmante ville de  Bath.  Ses bains romains sont vraiment fascinants.  J’avais  entendu  quelqu’un  pontifier  au  sujet  des  propriétés curatives du bassin principal.

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Green magical pool (Photo: Karin Nyffenegger)

En voyant la couleur verte de son eau, j’étais  convaincu  qu’elle  était  magique  et  qu’elle  allait  certainement  guérir  mes  douleurs  aux  genoux.   Mais personne n’était autorisé à entrer dans l’eau,  car, si tout le monde sur la Grande Ile guérissait,  le Service national de la Santé n’avait plus qu’à  fermer boutique.  Vous imaginez un peu le nombre  de chômeurs?    Sur la photo ci­dessus, vous me voyez attendre  le  moment  où  je  pourrais  me  glisser,  ni  vu  ni  connu,  dans  le  bassin.  Aurais­je  attendu  trop  longtemps?    Je  ne  me  souviens  pas.    J’étais  ailleurs.  Tout ce que j’ai remarqué est que Karin  me  cherchait  désespérément.    Pas  de  trace  de  moi.  Finalement, elle a abandonné et est sortie  chercher dehors, dans le parc.

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Moi – parfaitement guéri! (Photo: Karin Nyffenegger)

Subitement, elle s’arrêta, tout étonnée et avec  un  grand  sourire.    Elle  m’avait  retrouvé,  complètement guéri, heureux de rouler en tricycle.   Elle adore rouler à vélo et elle était aux anges de  me voir prendre exemple sur elle. (Traduction Ilse Bourgain)

 

 

 

END OF 2016 GENEVA RACE

END OF 2016 GENEVA RACE

Like many, I closed 2016 by running the 39th Geneva race, popularly known as “Course de l’Escalade”. It was a cold day, rather night.  Earlier I skirted the temptation to getaway to warmer lands. How could I skip my 22-year race? On Saturday 3 December temperature flickered around 3°C. To stay warm some 40,000 participants joyously ran one, two or three times round the undulating cobble-stoned streets of the old town.

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Start of Escalade

Last year I took more than 42 minutes to complete the three rounds totaling 7.250 km. So I was degraded to run in the mixed category of all ages, females and males. The traditional cannon shot unleashed our category of 3000 runners, all rushing unstressed cordially and jovially  to cross the electronic start line. I added 4 minutes to my last years’ time.  Old age does not explain my slowing down. A good excuse can be that all except the front-runners encountered at least three jams in the first round; all trying to push through narrow spots.

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Escalade_2016

Running over the final red-carpeted track I crossed the electronic finish-line with a number of my friends. Together we lined up  to receive the souvenir prize, hot herbal tea, a banana, a  bottle of water and finally a bun with Swiss chocolate. Of course as for every earlier year, exchanging our experiences has become a ritual. No souvenir T-shirt this time. I have at least a dozen from various earlier races.

Still sweating profusely I did not take off my wet shirt and leggings like most other finishers were rightly doing  under the huge tent and putting on dry ones. I picked my small backpack and continued jogging through the thick crowd, collected my bike and cycled back home mostly uphill:  a good end-of-the race recommended stretching.

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Nikhil

“Where is your medal?” my 5-year old grandson demanded. “We don’t get medals for this race. In the morning you saw your sisters Anisha and Nitya run; but they did not get medals.”  He looked at my collection of medals from other races suspended on the water tap, brought them down and arranged them on the floor to be photographed.

STONEHENGE TO MARSEILLES

 From Stonehenge to Marseilles

It’s 7.00,19 October, 2016, I step into the empty pedestrian street with many small restaurants with shutters still down. Turning left towards the nearby old Port I witness the bright full moon in the blue grey sky that the sun has not yet succeeded to dim. The strong mistral whipped the sea and soon kept me cool when running along the sea front. The fishermen have-not returned yet. I feel that streets and the vast quai are there only for me and a few others some joggers like me. I head for Saint Jean Fort that defends the entrance to the port on the northern shore .

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In the background are Fort Saint Jean, Notre Dame and Mucem (photo by Karin Nyffenegger)

Next to it is the ultra modern museum exhibiting Marseilles from Paleolithic times to the present. The previous day I had seen joggers circling the cubic building. Drawn to imitate them I do the same and then climb the steps to Notre Dame de la Major. Having covered about 6 km I return to my apartment sweating profusely. After breakfast I discover that the mistral will not allow the ferry to take us to the Isle of If , made famous by Alexandre Dumas in his Count of Monte Cristo. I am unable to copy-paste here my jog track map from my mobile. You can see it in the FB,

STONEHENGE CURE IN BATH

 

A PERFECT CURE

Quite a few days earlier I  fixed to meet my close and dear ones in Cardiff. This intention did not please the Stonehenge spirit that was continuously shadowing me all the time. It subtly changed the  minds of the people I would have loved to see or made them unavailable on that day.

My companion, Karin, freed herself from Oslo and joined me. Our Stonehenge coach put us in the centre of the charming city of Bath. Its Roman baths are fascinating. I heard someone pontificating the potent curing properties of the main pool.

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Green magical pool (photo by Karin Nyffenegger)

Seeing  the green colour of its water I was convinced that it is magical and would certainly cure my aching knees. But no one is allowed to enter the pool lest everyone on the Island be cured and the National Health Service would have to close down. Can you imagine how many  would be jobless?

You can see me waiting for the moment to secretly slide into the pool unseen. Did I wait too long? I do not recall. I was not there. All I observed was that Karin was frantically looking for me. No trace of  me. Finally she gave up and looked around in the square outside. Suddenly she stopped with a broad wondrous smile. She found me completely cured happily riding a tricycle. She loves cycling. She was thrilled to see me follow her example.

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Me, perfectly cured (Photo by Karin Nyffenegger)

STONEHENGE MAGIC AND TWO JAGJITs

STONEHENGE MAGIC AND TWO JAGJITs

I attribute many coincidental things that happened to me to the magic of Stonehenge.(See the previous post : http://bigbangyoga.org/my-return-to-stone-age/) Foreseeing that I was coming it took over the control of nearly all my intentions before I even stepped on the Stonehenge Island. What I tell you is my after-thought; I could not have known this earlier when the feel of autumn made me ponder that I might fall like the leaf from the oak tree in my garden and might not see many close ones for whom Geneva is off the track. First the spirit of Stonehenge did everything to isolate me. Two days before our flight, the spirit sent the person who was so keen to accompany me, to Oslo to see her terminally sick aunt. It entered the head of my dear sister-in-law and diverted her to the  Gatwick’s South Terminal even though she knew that she should meet me at the North Terminal. I took the bus and then walked some two kilometres to her welcoming house.

The magic accelerated when I took the off-peak train from Crawley to Hounslow to visit my aunt and sick uncle. Walking out of the station I asked a young man the way to the High Street. He tried to reply in English then asked me to say it in Punjabi. He was returning from a construction site and, like me going in the direction of West Hounslow.

“The road in front is a short-cut; we can walk together.”

Manpreet has been in England for twelve years and happily settled. The usual conversations started.

“Where do you come from?”

“I’m from Ludhiana.”

“So am I; which village?”

“Shpar where the annual spring festival is held”.

“That’s near my village Tajpur. I have been to this festival when I was very young”.

We talked about many things including changes in the Punjabi rural society and life in Hounslow”.

“On this road is the Sikh Temple. I would like to stop there briefly to bow before the Guru Granth”.

“I’ll join you. It might do me good as well.”

“It’s mid-day; I would like to eat from the sacred communal kitchen. It’s open the whole day. You can have a cup of tea.” I agreed.

He was finishing his lunch when I told him that I will wait him  near the shoe rack. On the way I recalled that my very close friend Jagjit Sihra, an untapped intellectual, was on the management of that temple. In Kenya we graduated as teachers together. At the time of moving to Switzerland we were neighbours in Kisumu on Lake Victoria. I did not fail to see him every time I went to Hounslow. But this time he had escaped my mind. I asked a priest, “Is Jagjit Sihra here today?”

“He is having his lunch there. I’ll take you to him. Look there is Jagjit.”

“That is not him; he is very tall.”

“Oh, that Jagjit is in the office upstairs.”

I knocked and opened the door. There he was. I greeted him animatedly to surprise him. But he did not react; just looked at my face.

“I’m Naginder. If you do not know me I am closing the door,” I moved to walk out. Suddenly his eyes lit up. As required in any Sikh temple I had  covered my head with scarf. Trying to place me in his memory he first thought I was from Leads to reserve a date for the marriage.  We embraced joyously. I knew he suffered from dementia that seems to have increased with age. His telephone rang. As soon as he finished it rang again and again. He could not free himself to be with me. Then the other Jagjit who shares the office walked in. Sihra asked me to talk with him. We shook hands and I looked at the second Jagjit.

“I know you,” I exclaimed. “Did you do your teachers’ training in Nairobi in 1956-57?”

“Yes.”

You had freshly come from India?”

“Yes”.

“You’re Grewal. I was in the second year. We were together for one year”.

“Oh! You’re Naginder; I recognize you from your voice.”

This reunion could not be a coincidence; surely it’s the Stonehenge effect. At one o’clock Sihra switched off the phone. We talked and embraced. I phoned my aunt that she shouldn’t wait for me for lunch.

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Jagjit Sihra, Naginder , Jagjit Grewal

I was very impressed with their voluntary work and devotion. Both handle all official administrative procedures requiring well-educated persons like the two Jagjits concerning numerous marriages consecrated in this temple.

“To tell you the truth this is my daily past-time”, said Sihra. “I enjoy doing it.”

After lunching together, Jagjit Sihra walked with me to West Hounslow. What wonderful Stonehenge surprise gift!

 

 

 

 

 

MY RETURN TO STONE AGE

BACK TO STONE AGE

Stonehenge has fascinated me since I learnt about it more than half a century ago. I have been near it innumerable times but never saw it. I know that my stretch of life is insignificant in geological terms.

In September 2016 a sudden drop in my activities caused a depressing time vacuum difficult for me to handle. My mind decided to fill the emptiness with a visit to England, with no other mission than meeting people and seeing places – no marriages, no birthdays, no anniversaries or funerals. You might not believe me, my first target attraction was “return” to Stone Age and pay my respects to Stonehenge.

I do not have many years left to undertake such a mission. On Wednesday, 28 September the coach from Victoria in London transported me to the famous site. I spotted the magical stony circle on the gentle hill with the haunting late afternoon sun light pouring across the stones.

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Photo by Karin Nyffenegger

The cool breeze did not dampen my excitement. I do not need to describe Stonehenge that draws millions of visitors. Having piously circled around it I frequently turning back to take the last look.

It’s amazing that soon after my visit  I read that a tooth of a pet Alsatian-type dog has been unearthed near Stonehenge. The dog had apparently traveled 250 miles (400 km) from York with its owner some 7000 years ago long before the well-known stone circle was built about 2000 years ago. (BBC, 7 October 2016). Looking back, like the dog’s owner, I would have liked to walk from Switzerland across our concrete jungles and entanglement of roadways. Once back in the coach I regretted: I should have hidden my tooth somewhere there so that the archaeologist (most likely from another planet) would be able to prove proudly in 4016 that I, a human being,  had traveled from Geneva to Stonehenge!

I did not know that the magic of Stonehenge is so potent. It started to work on me the moment I stepped on that  island at Gatwick Airport. It manifested itself on the very first day of my mission. Of course I could not  have associated it with Stonehenge in the beginning. (to continue in the next post).