Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Medical tourism in India

Time has a photo essay.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What's your excuse?

Linda Down
Linda Down is a girl born with cerebral palsy. She completed the 26.2 mile 1982 New York Marathon on crutches, because of her lack of motor coordination as well as muscle spasticity. President Reagan invited her to the White House. She completed her first marathon in under 11 hours. Since that time she has done many more marathons.

Daniella Zahner
World class skier who was hoping to represent Switzerland in the Olympics. She had a car accident that left her legs seriously injured. She then began to run with crutches, and with the aid of them completed the 1991 NY city marathon in 4:13.

Jeffrey Dutton

Jeffrey Dutton, '86, '91, chief psychiatry resident at UW Medical Ctr, died Dec. 24, 1994. He was 39. Dutton was profiled in the December 1991 Columns in an article titled "Marathon Man." At age 19, he suffered from a chronic obstruction in his digestive system that halted his body's ability to absorb food. He had 20 feet of his intestines removed surgically. He never ate food for nutrition again. Instead, he obtained all his nutrition from fluid that was pumped into his body through a shunt—an "artificial gut" that was invented elsewhere but refined at the UW for home use. Despite his condition, Dutton ran in the 1985 New York Marathon and later in races in Poland and Russia. He said "If I can run the NY city marathon, I can get through medical school". He applied to medical school and in June 1991 completed his medical studies.

Michael Keohane
He was born with a congenital disability; he has no left forearm or hand. Nevertheless, he says "I played any sport I could ifnd," and he took up golf after meeting a one-armed golfer. He played soccer for nine years and in high school began running. Keohane ran his first marathon at age 22, recording a time of 2:30. Three years later, he ran 2:16:20.

Source: "The New York Runners Club:The Complete Guide to Running, Fred Lebow, Gloria Averbuch, and friends."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

First ultra run coming up

I'll be running a 50 km (31.5 miles) race on Saturday. My friends informed me that the trail ultras are quite different from marathons, especially if you do not "race". My friends are I plan to walk all the hills and run the flat/rolling portions. This is quite a tough course, with plenty of elevation. It will be an experience to eat potatoes during a run. I have eaten dried mangoes, pineapples, ginger and peaches during long runs before. This is quite a tough course, with plenty of elevation.

Usually, older folks run ultras; often people in 30-70 age group.

I am quite excited! I am running with a couple of friends who are planning to run the 50 mile race that day. One of these friends ran a 100K race last Saturday and the Big Sur marathon the week before. He is training for the Western States 100 mile race later this year, if he gets selected in the lottery.

Update: It was tough. The course was hilly throughout. It took me 8 hours and 30 minutes. I twisted my ankle at mile 12, kept running, but twisted it again at mile 14. I walked (and ran a bit) from mile 14 to 26 and then ran to mile 29. I hit the wall at mile 29, it was 85F by then. But I kept going. I knew that if I stopped for rest, I would not be able to move again. I slipped twice on steep descents, cramped both legs and walked the last mile in sheer agony. Glad to see my wife and child at the finish line! I've never quit a race or a long run ever and didn't want to start now. I'm not bragging, but I felt really proud of myself for finishing.

Thanks to iPod for sustaining me throughout the eight and a half hours. I began by listening to the Beethoven symphonies that were made available by the BBC, moved to rock, some hindi film stuff and so on. When I was feeling really down, the playlist had by a strange quirk, moved to Joni Mitchell's California, an apposite ending to the long journey.

California I'm coming home
I'm going to see the folks I dig
I'll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I'm coming home

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Manufactured fame and its aftermath

Kaavya Vishwanathan is in trouble. The hype was not caused by the media. It was the result of a campaign by Little, Brown and co to make the magnitude of the deal public. 'Opal Mehta' was very famous due to that reason alone. We are given to correlate quality with cost and most of us naively presumed that the surprisingly large advance for her work was indicative of the quality of her writing.

Valuing an artistic output

There are any number of genuinely good writers out there. The blog world has given a spotlight to literati to broadcast their talent. Unfortunately, it takes much more than talent to be successful. V. S. Naipaul has spoken rather eloquently on this subject.
But books are not created just in the mind. Books are physical objects. To write them, you need a certain kind of sensibility; you need a language, and a certain gift of language; and you need to possess a particular literary form. To get your name on the spine of the created physical object, you need a vast apparatus outside yourself. You need publishers, editors, designers, printers, binder; booksellers, critics, newspapers and magazines and television where the critics can say what they think of the book; and, of course, buyers and readers.

I want to stress this mundane side of things, because it is easy to take it for granted; it is easy to think of writing only in its personal, romantic aspect. Writing is a private act; but the published book, when it starts to live, speaks of the cooperation of a particular kind of society. The society has a certain degree of commercial organization. It also has certain cultural or imaginative needs. It doesn't believe that all poetry has already been written. It needs new stimuli, new writing; and it has the means of judging the new things that are offered.

In other words, it is the commercial value that publishers attach to a work of art, that determines the market that it will find. Ergo, if the very same people do not attach a value to it, it may not find a market. Thus, commercial considerations alone dictate the exposure given to an individual.

Why should critics pillory Kaavya?

Is this commercialization that I spoke about, bad? Not at all. In a free world, checks and balances are provided by critics and laymen. People who evaluate published works (or films, music) and give an opinion, however biased, about that work. Purchasers evaluate such critiques and then make up their mind whether to open their wallets or not. Consequently, critics have a great responsibility on their shoulders. They must speak up.

On why it matters

For a while now, it has not been easy for talent to succeed on its own merit. Mediocrity and crassness have been rewarded far too often. Kaavya did not so much write the book, as it was packaged by a bevy of professionals. The same ones who package boy/girl bands who cannot sing/play instruments, write lyrics or compose music, and materialise them into multi-million dollar successes.

Mediocrity should not be rewarded. Mediocrity that is backed by felony should be actively punished. Mediocrity & felony that is backed by nepotism and raw money power should be sought out and shamed.

Don't the folks who express sympathy with Kaavya worry about the double standards that send small time hungry thieves to jail while not doing a thing to touch white collar criminals? A well-healed private schooled, Harvard going child of wealthy doctors cannot plead ignorance about not knowing the difference between right and wrong. One should treat her the same way as one treats a inner city kid who steals change from a soda machine.

At least the kids of the friends of Kaavya's parents will be glad. Till this scandal came to light, they must've had their parents breathing down their collective necks with "Yennadi? Why can't you be more like Vishu maama's daughter?" Now these kids must be grinning from ear to ear.

Jhumpa Lahiri's short story

She writes a short story in the New Yorker. God. How can she make such wonderful, difficult writing, so accessible? What talent!