The Morning Bean

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The aroma of fresh ground coffee revives faint memories of friends from the south. Their homes exuding the warmth of filter coffee. Those familiar with Deccan, Pune will remember walking by the captivating aroma from the roasters next door to the Good Luck restaurant. Coffee adds it’s own magic to my breakfast. It helps bind every social experience, helping you remember them thanks to the number it does on your olfactory senses.

Bishop’s 1994, our 25th Year Reunion

Earlier this year, the Bishop’s School Camp Principal Mr. Joel Edwin reached out to me to meet. Little did I know then that it would set in motion a truly special sequence of events. It was a unique opportunity to reawaken the school spirit that was dormant all these years.

Rahul Kocchar, Mr. Joel Edwin Principal The Bishop’s School Camp and me.

A sunny May-morning Rahul Kocchar and I visited the school in response to Mr. Edwin’s email. The school was on holiday and we met up with & Mr. Dawson & Mr. Edwin at his office. He wanted our support to get the class of 1994 together. Our class was to be guests of honor at the Junior School Sports Day on 11th December. Although their email had gone out earlier, the response was tepid. Rahul and I reached out to our classmates that same day to begin organizing an outreach.

Mr. Joel Edwin brings with a fresh perspective with him to alumni relations. I remember our first meeting at the 150-year anniversary organization team meetings. Mr. Edwin and I’d never met but he spoke to me like a headmaster might speak to any student. He welcomed me back to the fold with scolding. Why had I stayed away from school for so long? It’s this level of familiarity and sense of family he maintains that is the driving force behind renewed school-alumni relations.

When Satish, Vikram, Kishore, Rahul, Vishal, Janak, and the other boys met up for the first couple of meetings, the extent of their ambition was astonishing. In the first couple of meetings our key goals were set. We were to throw a dinner for our former teachers, many of whom had retired. Teachers were to be driven to and from all the events. The class of 1994 would pay a fitting tribute to our beloved former Principal Mr. B.W. Roberts by creating a bust in his honor. Would the school approve of the bust? Would the alumni contribute to achieving our goals and attend enthusiastically?

The core team backed up their intentions with strong efforts and co-ordination. Answers to all questions had to be sought out. Satish brought together the class of X-A reviving old connects. Confirmations and donations began pouring in from alumni all over the world. As the big day got closer, the tempo of the core team began to step up. More joined the core team to help manage music, connect with teachers. Speeches were written, the core team met with each teacher to invite them and to take pictures for secret mementos. The school support staff was also to be recognized, especially the long-serving members.

X-A 1994 together again.

The big day had arrived and we met at Harding Hall for breakfast and to put on our school ties and belts. Once again we were to be schoolboys. We walked over to the Jeejeebhoy Ground as guests of honor along with the wonderful and former Junior School Principal Mrs. Roberts to flag off the Sports day. Altogether 55 old boys had made it from all corners of the world.

As the day progressed, one by one our former teachers began to arrive. Former Bishops headmaster, Mr. Guzder, Mr. Dupratt, Mr. Fernandes, Mr. Chavan, Mrs. Jolly, Mrs. Postwala, Mrs. Singh, Mr. J. Bhaskaran, Mr. Varghese, Mr. Dolas, Mrs. Randhawa, Mrs. Daniels, Mrs. Oliver, and many other teachers were in attendance. Colonel Simant Upadhyay of ’94 gave a moving address encouraging all to step up and live up to every challenge.

Mansfield House takes the Salute.

That afternoon, we assembled outside The B.W. Roberts Building to pay tribute to Mr. Roberts, to our former teachers who were no longer with us and for the unveiling of the bust. Those who spoke about Mr. Roberts shared a glimpse of the kind of person that he was, the love that he had for the school and the people behind it. He was a General in every sense of the word said Mr. Guzder, and galvanized those around him to action. A special moment was a moving rendition of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ol’ Oak Tree” by two present students. A fitting tribute to the man who led us in every regard.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold”

The night’s Dinner was our tribute to our teachers, to be with them and to enjoy their company once more. Several more moving and sentimental speeches were made by teachers and students as the drinks flowed and the night wore down. Our teachers thanked us for their mementos, a personalized picture of them with words students would often use to describe them.

Class of 1-A with Mrs. Oliver our class teacher.

25 years on we still enjoyed a sense of belonging and warmth that we had in school. To watch the spark of recognition flare in our teachers’ eyes for each and every one of us was priceless. To echo Mr. Dolas’ words, we all went away from that day with our glasses full of emotions. I know that the love and respect we extended to our teachers that day would go a long way. Even as I write, some of the boys continue to help teachers out with the funds that were gathered. If anything, what the class has done is only a reflection of their sincere efforts to shape us through those 11 years, to smoothen out our rough edges and perhaps to show us a glimpse of who we now are.

We will always remember our roots.
The class of 1994 with their teachers, Headmaster and Principal.
The class of 1994 together again.

Crossroads

It still strikes everyone as odd when a company makes a bold claim to it’s prospective investors that it ‘might never make money’. I know a bit now about traveling this path and I’ve begun to believe in why something like that should even exist in the first place. On finding a fit with market, the company sinks it’s teeth deep into it and burns through fuel faster than anyone else in an attempt at land-grab. Before long the company has grown to a massive size, it’s survival depends on large tranches of resources to continue to touch millions of customers. Few stories can make it this far. At this point even a tiny weakness in the complex thread that binds the company together can be their undoing.

A Quick 5 km

The night before I had an unusual thought cross my mind. My body was recovered and ready for the upcoming morning jog. This tiny event gave this mornings jog an excited and eerie feel.

A little background first. I’m a terribly slow runner. A lot of that has to probably do with how I breath, or how hard my heart is beating when I’m running. Whatever it is, I’m working on it and it’s been gradually getting better.

I returned to jogging after a bumpy 2018 that ended in a sketchy right knee, fewer jogs and lost gains. Since then, I’ve been gradually building up the distance I run (3, 3, 3.5, 3.5, 4) and the pace. All this and a lot more led up to the elation of today.

This morning I felt stronger and way more ready to push myself. I completed the 5 km at a personal best of 7 mins 42 seconds per km with an average HR of 154 bpm.

Over the next month or so, the focus is to adapt more to greater distances and a decent pace. I’ll run longer and perhaps shave 10 seconds off. I’m also interested in strengthening myself so I might run better. There’s a good chance that I might top out at this pace and focusing on strength might help break out of that ceiling.

Stay hydrated!

Living in a Blue Zone

Not too long ago Kiran visited Pune from Bangalore. He spent his day in Pune and ended it in Koregaon Park. Instead of taking a cab to the airport he decided to walk. The 1+ hour-long route for sure took him through pedestrian-friendly & unfriendly spots, but that didn’t matter at all to him. He made it and tweeted out his accomplishment to his many followers.

The prevalent assessment of living in a city like Pune or Bangalore are that they are pedestrian and cyclist-unfriendly. Some of the replies to Kiran’s tweets echo this sentiment. Sure, these cities are far from the idea of Blue Zones that encourage denizens to walk, cycle to work and getting around differently. Picture your self coasting on LA’s Venice Beach, or in Amsterdam with dedicated cyclist lanes, safely segregated from the surrounding traffic. We’re a long way from that.

In Pune’s commuting history there have been attempts to improve the cycling infrastructure and ridership. At one point segregated cycling lanes were built. Some still exist today with intact road skirts but neglected riding surfaces. Last year several bike-leasing startups such as Yulu have deployed several thousand bicycles across the city. Students continue to prefer to cycle to school. What I think deters ridership are the increasing distances, the growing population of 4-wheelers and large vehicles. Pune’s hot summers and monsoons push commuters to give up on two-wheels and take cars to work thus increasing traffic snarls and parking unavailability.

Having cycled to work and for errands over the last 3 weeks, I humbly submit that it’s fun to get around Pune on a bicycle and a tad tricky. The dangers include aggressive drivers that’ll cut across your riding lane, gravel on the street, inclined crossovers that your tires won’t grip, two-wheelers taking shallow rights, four-wheeler occupants who’ll flip doors open at you, bus drivers, impatient auto-wallahs and so on. Once I can get over the psychological hump of riding with them, learn to navigate them, I’ll be more open to the pure satisfaction emerging from long and short rides. Soon, I imagine I won’t think twice before getting on my saddle.

It goes without saying that if you haven’t already figured it out, err on the side of safety. Wear a helmet and maybe even protection for elbows, knees. If you’re riding early mornings or after dark, purchase an inexpensive high-visibility vest, add reflectors, or spend a little more on a USB-charged light that straps to your bicycle. Sundays and National Holidays the traffic is way more forgiving and long rides more enjoyable.

I guess it’s alright to want more. Mehuls’ bike ride to work is over 10 km. If city riding is not your thing you can head out or find trails inside the city. Bicycles are incredibly fun and should be the future of inner-city transport. If you’re not convinced, that’s ok too – just be cool with the riders on pedal-powered machines you’ll meet at your next traffic light.

PS. if you’re part of Pune’s growing cycling enthusiast groups and are open to riding together, tweet me.