Sunday, September 30, 2012

Running in New York City


Over the past week, I've been running without earphones. It is the most amazing feeling to just run without anything going on in your head (When the music plays, I tend to crunch running stats in my head). On the other hand, I can't help overhearing conversations that take place between people and their running partners. So here are some observations based on one week of listening and watching.

1. People who run along the East River seem happier than those who run along the Hudson. I suppose it's because there are fewer people running by the East River and , people running along the East River are mostly solitary runners. East River pathway runners and bikers tend to be more polite and considerate.

2. A lot of people are really frustrated and unhappy with their jobs. Runners in the Battery Park City area don't hold back from any kind of venting. Do I sense a correlation between unhappiness and working in the financial district?

3. Running with a partner can be very unnerving and annoying. I noticed a bunch of sour faced couples running near the Hudson River Park. This is understandable since it's not always possible for two people to run in sync. Things get worse if the couple in question has a baby in a stroller.

4. Men tend to talk about sports. Yes, it's been all about football statistics the past week.

5. Women tend to talk about who dated whom and who said what to whom etc. etc. (dear ladies, why must you live up to that stereotype?).

6. Dogs are the best running partners. They go out of their way to please their humans. The trouble is,dogs are generally sprinters and not long distance runners. I wish more people understood that.

7. Babies in strollers don't care how fast you run. 

8. Tourists find runners very amusing. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Loneliness of the Slow Runner

I move my limbs with great trepidation. Movement has never made me happy. I feel constrained, as though there is an invisible string tied to each and every muscle of my being. In order to run, I must move. In order to dance, I must move. My shoulders sag from the weight of thought. I want to be inconspicuous, invisible, non-existent even. I think all the time; my mind works like an endless oscillation, vacillating em to stop, between extremes.

I cannot look at the others. They pretend not to stare, but I see scores of eyes piercing my frame. The endless scrutiny, often a figment of my imagination, is unbearable. I want to beg them to stop, but I can't. They only do these things in my head.

P.S. Because running in New York City is never easy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Note to Self

Growing up as an only child has often compelled me to write notes to myself. Here's a note that borders on the verbose. I wrote it a couple of months ago, and I assume that I wrote it at 3 in the morning on a glorious day in Ithaca.

Dear Self,

There is nothing to be done. Haters will hate and parents will be parents. Bigots will not change, and the world is too large, too magnificent and beautifully imperfect. Change is constant, but it unfolds at snail pace. In your lifetime, you will want to mould certain aspects of time in a way that seems to fit your purpose. Your purpose, unfortunately, is rather open ended. Time will wrap itself around you and hold you to ransom if you allow it to. Remember, as living creatures, we're inexplicably timeless. Life is a lot more bearable if you look this timelessness squarely in the eye and make peace with it. Life is not intended to be a sequence of milestones with defined boundaries. It really is a blur. It is rather vague; incomprehensible actually. The breakdown of reason and intellect is inevitable. So is the loss of faith and endurance. It is true that nothing is necessarily written, but our destinies are sadly limited by the extent of our longevity.

When this realization sinks in, remember to laugh , to dance, to sing, to scream, and to stretch your limbs and being till they can no longer be contained. You can only yield when you've pushed the limits of resistance. In this, you will find overwhelming peace and well deserved comfort. Hold high that head, and grit those teeth; but at the same time, keep those fists 'unclenched' and those toes warm.

The self,
From without,
Ramen!

Afterword:
1. This is reproduced exactly as it was written, right down to the grammar and punctuation.
2. It seemed so compelling and phenomenal when I wrote it. Now it sounds like a generic passage from a generic self help book.
3. Ithaca can get really cold, keeping one's toes warm is of utmost importance.
4. With this post I do concede, that although I am a fence-sitting agnostic, I often pledge my allegiance to 'His holy noodliness', 'The Flying Spaghetti Monster'. I am secretly(not so secretly anymore) a boiled again 'Pastafarian'. Ramen!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Retraction?

If this is a legitimate Twitter account, and if it is true that 'Gangarams' is moving to a new place above Koshy's restaurant, then my blog might just have its first retraction!

Apparently , this overly nostalgic post got my blog more traffic than it's accustomed to. A lot of people took pictures of the sign outside 'Gangarams' and thought that the store was closing for good. Here's the response I got from the 'Gangarams' Twitter feed. It was hard to find any decent coverage of the purported closing in any of Bangalore's newspapers, and since I don't live in Bangalore anymore, there was no way for me to get the details from the people at the store.

There are still conflicting reports coming in from different sources. This one from IBN Live says that the owners had finalized on the location above Koshy's, but there are fears that the building may not be "strong enough to hold the weight of the books".

This isn't an official retraction, but in this case, I hope there will be good reason for me to make this a first for this blog.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The End of an Era : The Closing of 'Gangarams'


'Gangarams' wasn't just a bookstore. It was a monument, a landmark, a family tradition; a sign of assurance that people in Bangalore still loved to read. When I think of 'Gangarams'; I think of climbing a somewhat steep flight of stairs, scuttling between four different floors, keeping my belongings in lockers and , as a child, ambling down a grid of book lined shelves with my parents. The only people who could navigate the store with frightening precision were members of the staff. They could whip out books from inconspicuous corners, without the blink of an eye or a whiff of judgement. It used to be common for other booksellers to say, 'we don't have this book, but you will find it at Gangarams'.

I still remember buying 'Living to Tell the Tale' by Marquez from 'Gangarams'. 'Back to school' season wouldn't be the same without a trip to 'Gangarams' for a textbook buying spree. No competitive exam preparation was complete without the acquisition of that rarely published and rather 'ninja' study guide. 'Gangarams' also had an entire floor called 'the computer section', something that my father cherished. There were times when I would leave the store empty handed and scowling, while my father beamed like the 'Magi' as he clutched a copy of  'Computers for Dummies'. The store was also a place where I would return to reminisce; to breathe in the scent of books fresh from the press, to be the six year old that clutched her father's hand, and to be the adolescent who watched her mother's eyes light up at the sight of a favorite classic.

 Today, upon hearing this, a part of me is glad that my father isn't here to see the store shut down. On the other hand, I imagine him, in all jocular pragmatism, saying, 'Everything is an illusion. Nothing is forever; not people and definitely not bookstores'. One has to acknowledge that 'Gangarams' didn't generate the kind of hype that 'Crossword' and 'Landmark' did with their literary events. It didn't organize massive, garage sale like giveaways at dirt cheap prices, and it didn't have a coffee shop. It is now an established fact, that if a bookstore is to survive, it must give readers something more than just books.

On days like this, the naive sentimentalist in me trumps over the headstrong technologist. I feel as though a part of my memory has been sliced away and that I will never have access to it for either consultation or comfort.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bookstores in New York : 'bookbook'

This is the first in an intended series of posts that chronicle my adventures and misadventures in New York bookstores. It has been two weeks since I've moved to New York, and I've already visited my first bookstore! The idea for this series comes from a friend who seems to have a very prescient understanding of my obsession with books, despite having known me for less than a year. This is not intended to be an authoritative reference on what bookshops to visit and which ones to avoid. The intended purpose of this series is to have a catalog for posterity (I have this irrational fear, that someday, I will lose my memory, and that I will have to reconstruct my life from scratch.). I intend to cover bookshops in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

'bookbook' is a tiny and intimate shop located roughly at the intersection of Bleeker Street and Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village. I'm ashamed to admit that I discovered this place, in a rather unromantic fashion, on 'Foursquare'. The only redeeming part of my minuscule 'adventure' is that I was sitting in a park in Greenwich Village, watching squirrels, and listening to a jazz band, when I decided to pull out my smartphone and look for bookshops in the vicinity. 

It is somewhat disheartening, even for a Kindle user, to walk into a 'shop around the corner' bookstore, and to hear people whispering about buying Kindle versions of books on display. The staff at 'bookbook' are courteous enough not to chide truant customers for uttering 'the K-word' (there are bookstores where such people are publicly shamed). So here's my little tip for readers who want a nice deal; 'bookbook' houses all its bargain books either outside the store, or in the first few shelves inside the store. There maybe discounted and regular priced versions of the same book. In fact, one of the store managers went out of his way to encourage me to buy the discounted version. I suppose it speaks volumes about the state of business in smaller bookstores.

I bought two books by Murakami ('Kafka on the Shore' and 'Dance Dance Dance), and 'In Cold Blood' by Truman Capote. At first sight, 'bookbook' may not look like a place that has too much to offer, but trust me on the impressive variety for a shop of its size. The selection of books is somewhat restricted to genres like art, music, poetry, literature, and pop culture. I wouldn't go far enough to label this place as 'niche', but look elsewhere if you want books on science, technology and fast paced reading in general. It is one of those places where asking gets you around faster than just looking.

As a bonus, a friend of the store manager walked in with his pet Pitbulls, and I got to pet the friendlier one. The purportedly 'unfriendly' one had a gag around her mouth. Apparently, she bites people 'despite having only one tooth' !