“The new normal”

After almost 3 months, I ventured outdoors. Singapore is an amalgamation of a tropical sized-down jungle and a concrete jungle coexisting symbiotically. It’s always great to chat up with grab/Gojek drivers, and know about the ground realities. It was even better to look out of window marvel at buildings festooned with flora and fauna.

We (assuming you are as ‘mea-culpa’ as I am), usually are lost in our digital bricks called smartphones, when at home, when outside, when in the MRT or taxi. But this time I conspicuously attempted to notice the streets, the buildings, and the sun and the sky behind them, filtering through the tinted taxi windows. 

My grab hitch driver , owned a construction company. He casually chatted about the plight of construction companies in Singapore. ref [1]. The construction sector has been closed for four months now. Additionally, most of the construction workers’ dormitories were the worst hit in Singapore. (Accounting for 44,044 cases of total 47,126 cases till date.) He emphasized that it’s not like the software/IT field where WFH is easily doable. Indeed. He ended up narrating more about Lexus vs BMW, and how he gave up on BMW, with its frequent troubles and finally settled for a Lexus. (And when did Toyota acquired Lexus ? Lexus is not even on F1 team what !! )

While coming back on Gojek, the full-time Gojek driver was lamenting the loss of tourists in Singapore. Even in the CBD, with only 50% workforce presence in the office, gig economy drivers aren’t able to do business as it used to be. 
“Orchard road still has some traffic, but not what it used to be. Tourists from mainland China aren’t here anymore.

When the lockdown started, all of us were sceptical, scared, and anxious. But the human mind is a work of marvel, how fast it acclimatizes to its surroundings and circumstances is astounding and sometimes ironic. Earlier I was disappointed about not being able to go outdoors and do the usual diurnal stuff. And now after these four months, my mind has humbled my existence. Living a caveman life, in this apartment, now going out seems Sisyphean. Like our ancestors, we have our tools for food and entertainment, cave paintings (read IG/FB posts). The digital life has overtaken the analog life. 

My phone tells me about it weekly. 😦

I am pretty sure when things become normal again after this “new normal”, we all would have probably forgotten how all of this started.

References :

Impact on Construction sector Singapore 

Impact on Sectoral Impact (Singapore)

Tourism Singapore 

Tourist arrivals Jan-Apr 2020 chart

Musings

On his diurnal morning pilgrimage to work, sometimes his eyes were wide awake to register happenings around. Today was this day.

There was a girl with coffee, spilled coffee on her snow-white sneakers, which were current haute couture of this generation.

She tried to erase the coffee marks using a tissue, for what were white sneakers sans their white glow?

He sat surrounded by daily commuters, mostly engaged religiously to their smart phone screen, among the cacophony of apps and data. A bright shaft of sun illuminated their plebian shenanigans, revolting against their machine, and trying it’s best to get their attention off their artificial lighting, and all it got was squinted eyelids in response.

Michael Chabon had been his constant companion for almost two weeks now. The book, though short like a novella, was ” a natural exuberance and extravagance of Chabon’s writing is matched by his dazzling wit”, as Sunday Telegraph has noted.

It provided a certain solace and nutrition to his senses starved of prose & verse, but abound with automation tools and career/soul searching

The metro moved through the stark contrasting world on either side, as seen through its windows. Greens of Dover juxtaposed to cemented high rises, on opposite windows.

They descended at Buona Vista. A diffident Chinese teen, adjusted his coiffure subconsciously, while passing by cute European teenagers. For such was Singapore, a complex amalgam of countries and continents, merging in this giant 740 square kilometer cauldron of dreams, identities and life.

“One north “, the automated voice announced.

And thus began his work day.

Of Half marathons, lizards and type A

Recently if you have been around him, you would have come across him repeating type A personality, almost as a leitmotif : Type A’s are this, type A’s are that. Type A’s  had  this system of competition, where they challenged themselves and others to around 100km per month, nike running challenge. He usually tried to keep it easy and disciplined, like 2km per day , would garner him, 14km /week. But math worked that way, not his  fickle self. Inadvertently after every two weeks or so ,he would always be short of 10-15km, after 2 weeks. That was when his type A kicked in , fuelled by the incoming losing challenge , and a will to lose unwanted calories from weekend bashes. Along with it came his faithful 2L hydration backpack, Asics gel running shoes, and determination to run for at least 10km.

– One round around Macritchie would be 12km , and may be if I   can just sustain for another one hour or so, I am set for a half marathon distance, and a second place.

Somehow the weather was good, his knee supportive , and he ran-walked-sprinted through first round, and by the time he was at hydration point of café at Macritchie , his app read 14.0kms,

– so another 7kms to do, And if I am lucky enough I will break PR of 2:50hrs, which means 7km in 50 mins.

He buckled on his knee brace, and refreshed by an from isotonic drink, he started off pacing after 14kms, tired yet determined to beat his PR. After 2km he was out of breath, shins revolting and heart beating faster.

-May be not today, just finish off 21km, and you would be back in challenge.

There was a gigantic monitor lizard on the plank ahead, twice the size of breadth of plank, probably out thinking

Monitor Lizard : “ahh all them humans would be off now, I can venture for my Sunday evening stroll, or might as well go skinny dipping.”

 

Him : “Wtf , this one is huge and menacing, do I wait for it to go , or just keep pacing, with heavy footfall, and shoo it off “

 

M.L. : “Is this runner dude gonna come over, OMG, I am scared, may be if I can just jump off in water and swim away quickly . What if this predator follows me in water, they sure can swim. OMG OMG “

 

Him: “Get over your fear !  monitor lizards are as scared of you as you are of them. We have similar self-doubt about one another. Continue running ”

 

M.L.: “ bastard !, he is coming this way, forget the swim, just get back to the jungle”

It moved back, and got in quickly behind the bushes. He kept running with heavy footfalls, unsure of himself and of the monitor lizard.

 

Him: “I hope it isn’t lurking behind, and will pounce with its bare teeth on my poor naked shins, just imagine its teeth sinking in my flesh. Oh dear, just fucking run ”

 

M.L.: “ I hope he doesn’t follow me in the bushes. Fuck he is running faster, run for your dear life. Great komodo , help your disciple”

 

And faster it ran inside the jungle, over rustling leaves , and faster he ran off the wooden planks , and continued running till he was some 100m faraway.

 

Him: sigh, I should just come back fast enough before it’s total dark, faster ! “

 

M.L.: “ oh dear, that was close, that bugger will probably come back again, sigh !”

 

Nonetheless , he finished off his half marathon distance – first half for this year –  still not able to beat his PB of 2:50hrs. Back in his condominium hall, stretching with ice pack, lemon ice-cream, and 4 glasses of guava juice mixed with rock salt, and promise of social validation through an instagram post.

Nonetheless, it finished off its Sunday evening stroll distance, and skinny dip across the lake. Back in its nest, it lay stretched calm and quiet, near the moist corner of lake, marvelling at the stars above, and the fish it just had consumed, and promise of its survival through nature.

Until next time, when he would again slack on his training schedule, and feel guilt over calories consumed from drinking wine and that particular German erdinger beer.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BIz0_65h_5I/?taken-by=arunabh010

The lazarus effect?

28 June 2016

1515 hrs

He woke up two hours earlier than usual nine o’clock, and after hanging around in a bed for a while, thought he should submit that travel insurance claim for broken and water logged camera. The claim form asked for original receipt, which meant getting that black box of Fujifilm out and dusting it off only to find unfilled warranty card, and no sight of bill. That would be bad, he haplessly hovered with on-off button of now defunct camera body.

It had served him well, when he bought it right before his trip to Ladakh , three years back. It caught glorious landscapes, impossible clouds and pink flushed cheeks of Buddhist monk kids. He started to get hang of its function, came back to Singapore to be charade by his friends – photography gurus- of having shot everything with  exceedingly high ISO. Only then he realized that mirror less camera have behemoth ISO of 25,600.

Next he got to Paris,France on an official trip , he was able to snuck in his faithful camera among corporate luggage and snuck out for Church of Notre Dame , Shakespeare and company , reflections of Eiffel tower in water puddles and one and half winged sculpture in Louvre. The zoom lens became his favourite, sending him to places inaccessible, top of Louvre, or zooming in to unaware streets buskers.

 

Next he got amazing pictures of his cousins marriage and tried it out in his hometown, most ancient city of world , to catch the glory of sun rising over ganga. Soon he would take it around absolute corners of world, getting roman colosseum, or capturing couple reading at Roma Termini, and the gigantic Bruneschelli architecture marvel of Florence cathedral, an Italian wedding in Cortona, Tuscany.

And then he got chance to mend his ISO mistakes, with yet another version of Ladakh, only this time it was Scottish Highlands. The verdant green , and its lochs and other worldly landscapes promised him ample photographic adventure. He started off to Isle of Skye from Glasgow, and after twelve hours of bus journey, followed by 30 minutes’ walk , and 20 minutes hitchhike from generous Scottish young couple from Inverness in old red model of Audi two door automobile. He reached Kingsburg, some 15kms from central village of Portree. And beautiful it was, with a loch at the end of horizon, sheep pens and a small stream and 4-5 cottages. Just what he had hoped from Skye. Long endless blue skies, marked by greens and azure blues of Lochs.

 

Next day he embarked on a 8 hours round trip of Skye, since doing it solo on foot or bike looked impossible in one day. He staggered and resisted the urge of climbing Old man of Storr , and just being fulfilled with a view from down next to mini bus. What else can one expect from tours like these ?

The kilt falls were just okayish , rather the bagpiper was more enthralling to his camera eyes and bagpiper’s bagpipe to his ears. They continued down and up, and finally to Quairaig , it was misty, and rain hung in heavens above waiting to come down, the chill of winds was agonizing yet beautiful, and the mountains above and below and his levels added to dreamy escape , and unadulterated panoramic view all the way to horizon.

Then came fairy glens, followed by Neist Point and then came Fairy Pools – one that have caused this whole write-up. He walked down the hill through fields with girl from Los Angels and dentist from Australia , explaining pros and cons of being in Singapore to the American. The fairy pools ensued, and he marvelled at transparent water which hung over rocks like ether, and bunch of Scottish kids plunging in chilly water. His tour guide had given him small water bottle, do taste the water, you will live for hundred years !!

 

He found a miniature waterfall enough to get his bottle filled, he bent down, about to place his right leg firmly. That was the moment he remembered , him bending down with water bottle, with Beth – American next to him , and dentist bit far behind, cold of the air.

Next moment he was in that freezing cold water. He slipped over precarious and slippery algae, his right foot and hiking boots never found the grip they wanted. Neck deep and paddling vigorously he realized what a disaster it had been, he managed to took off his promised waterproof jacket , Beth gave her a hand, but he calmly handed her jacket first, and then tried to rise up. But the rocks around were high , and there was no grip to be found, for a moment he remembered his rock climbing lessons, and tried to get a firm footing on a rock ledge, underwater, but its slippery even underwater !

A good Samaritan finally gave him his hand , and he emerged from the fairy pool, not a single drop of fairy water on his taste buds, and yet neck deep in the pool. Those fairies were naughty for sure, or just snatched his century opportunity ?

He stood there, shivering in windy eight degrees, with his three layers already lying on rocks, his camera gave away, with a strong crack on its lens. iPhone flickered for a while and then slept off, and he …he just stood there saddened at loss of picture and camera. Dentist came back and assured him he could still get travel insurance and promised him a ginger ale , “since you don’t drink beer anymore” when they were back at Portree.

 

Fast forward 28 days, and today morning, he was haplessly trying out on-off button. He thought of giving it a try with a battery pack, and lo and behold it switched on. He could not contain his happiness, it was “the promised waking up of Lazarus, as if jesus had healed it”….and with tunes of Oasis “you and me are gonna live forever”, he started his day , knowing his camera was back.

PS : for those who are unaware of the story of Lazarus, it comes from John 11:1-44,New Living Translation (NLT).

http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/a/JZ-Lazarus.htm

DSCF6571 (1).jpg

 

On running …

https://www.instagram.com/p/4El1SiFnkw/

 

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, he woke up early and there was a missed call from his old founder’s institute friend, he asked him to come over for a hike across MacRithchie reservoir . Well, he was up for anything that involved hiking and running.
His nike running app had said 999.1 Km, he was 900 mts away from completing his 1000 kilometres.

One thousand kilometres is a lot , isn’t it ? Exactly thats what he thought too.Even he did not remembered when he started liking running, he started off as a mere 1-2 km jog around in NUS(National University Of Singapore) – his postgraduate university, and then before he knew he was clocking 5kms, 10 kms. And then he started pushing for 15kms, that was like one round of the pet macritchie grounds to and from from his house. One round of macritchie was 11.5kms. And like that suddenly he started running more frequently like twice or thrice a week , and then adding a long run over the weekend. He bought a north face hydration bag , and as an ode promised himself to get 13 miles under his shoes, and so he finished 21.5 kilometres. The fabled half marathon distance.
Seeing his data he started running in January 2013 , it was 3 years of running now.

2013 = 167.9 kms
2014 = 174.9 kms
2015 = 618.2 kms

As one can see Year 2015 was a real deal breaker, he clocked 5 half marathons and a marathon.Initially around February , it was preparing to climb kota kinabalu, and then trying to get 42kms in a week, for Kilimanjaro trek preparation .

Running gave him wings, when he was sprinting he could hear wind gushing across his ears, on his face, his feets in air, his mind focussed. It was his moksha from all things worldly, his 9 to 5 job laziness, that was when he raced ahead his old demons of breakup and complacence and mediocrity.  And when he was not sprinting, it was slow rhythm, the pleasant pace , slow right then left, easy breathing , mind numb, it was like getting in the zone. Probably that was the point when someone gets a runner’s high. Those endorphins start kicking in and you have this elation, this sense of wonder and wander too.

He soon realised that running on tracks gave best PB (personal best) timings. So he started getting crazy with 5k-10k sprints, and although it was not close to world record or something, it was better than his old self.

Around november last year he got inspired by his brother in law coming to run half marathon from Philippines, he signed up for his first marathon running. It was like butterflies in stomach again, that anxiety, that nervousness. Why the fuck did I signed up for this ? Forty two kilometres is a lot if you think about it, and that too within 8 hours.

Only way to face your fear , is may be prepare for it. So in went from hundred bucks for those compression socks, Garmin GPS watch, some more lighter runs. long excel sheets of logging in runs based on weeks and months. Sleeping early so as to get in waking before five rhythm.

And race day came and he conquered it.

And today after two months, he was sitting on couch, netflixing and thinking this is the good time to get this running blog up, for the sake of that 1000kms.

May be now that he had written, he would not be googling things like “why run ” or “why run marathon ” or “top 10 reasons to run “.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 3.06.08 pm

Since he now moved to data and his engineering faculties have kicked in and overpowered the writer, Garmin has a quite impressive data crunching in its small watch.

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Dear Bangkok, although it was just three night stand with you , yet I fell in love with you. Until I am back to you…

Day 0 : Sinagapore to Bangkok

The best fridays are the ones when you know you are flying of to a another country. Despite the usual immense workload, we all managed to get through the last weekday, and with FTW  in bold , the backpackers at Changi.  It was 2200 flight, I was looking for distraction, it was still too early to take “India Unbound” out. Changi never fails me, the new distraction was  – a symphony of tropical raindrops.

http://m.changiairport.com/terminal1/

Well after long 3 hrs Bangkok greeted us. We hovered above the city for like 20 minutes, and man it looked amazing from ‘such great heights‘.  It looked like a metropolitan anatomy laid bare. There were veins glowing with yellow and white lights, with intermittent patches of darkness. Tourist-anatomist in me was delighted to know that he would be trudging these arterial roads and street soon.

Day 1

One simply does not skip the breakfast buffet at any tourist trip. It was sumptuous, aligning with the old saying  ‘…eat like a king’.

Being a group of seven, we hired the big mercedes mini van, and launched our journey to outskirts of Bangkok. To – Damnoen Saduak floating market. Riding around the bit dirty canals in a boat,  with hot humid weather did not deter our excitement. The hustle and bustle, the traffic, the shop owners haggling for their goods, it was a modern art of canvas with rainbow of colors.

While other were in tourist/photographer mode, seeing the Bangkok cuisine unfolding in front of  my pallet , I inadvertently went into foodie mode. (and still managed sans bangkok-belly 😉

Anticlockwise, Fruit seller,Sticky rice with mango,sweet coconut,Psidium guajava, best Guava I ever had,Making of som-tam,Som tam (green papaya salad).

And since I lost appetite for words so let the pics do the writing. 🙂

Bangkok

At tiger temple

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View from Bridge over river Kwai

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Day 2 :

Royal Palace, Bangkok

Image

I continued the rendezvous with Bangkok’s street food. It was a utter delight to both eyes and taste buds.

Here chicken pad thai (thai noodles), various fruit juices , bbq banana and cha-yen (thai iced tea)
Downloads

And last but not the least, , leaving Thailand sans thai massage would have been crie. consequently a bone crushing ‘wat-pho’ massage.

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