Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Running a Marathon

On one morning lurking around in the hall at 5:30 AM, I was trying to find my pair of jogging shoes in the shoe rack. I had stopped wearing them for at least six months or so. I was very noisy. My wife was very annoyed and upset with me for having disturbed her sleep. It being a Sunday she wanted to sleep for a longer time. 

Finally, when I found them they looked to be in the last stage of decomposition. This meant that I had to buy a new pair of shoes as I had used them for more than two years practicing running for the marathons. However, that day to start with I had to wear the same pair of shoes for jogging.

The summer had disappeared and the initial spells of rains had just passed by making the weather cooler. It seemed to be the perfect time to start preparing for the Standard Chartered Mumbai marathon, which is held in the month of January every year. 

Though I am not a skilled runner I have somehow managed to complete the marathons possibly because I ran them for a cause. My quest to complete the races remained with me, as I ran them for The Samaritans. It is an organization, which works for the prevention of suicide. All these miles that I ran, thinking if I could change at least one person’s attitude towards life I think I must have done justice to my miserable running. Moreover, not to mention the least it has always taken me around five hours to finish the race in full marathons. Since its inception, this would be my sixth Standard Chartered marathon in a row and only the last marathon that I did was a half marathon.

WARNING- 

RUNNING A MARATHON CAN CAUSE A SERIOUS INJURY OR A LOSS OF LIFE

How it all started 

In the year 400 BC a Greek messenger from a town called Marathon ran to Athens a distance of 26.2 miles or roughly 40 kilometers to report the victory of the Athenians over Persia, he arrived in Athens and cried, "We have won!" ,and collapsed and died on the spot. 

So all you visually impaired friends out there do not let this story frighten you. Remember if you think you can, you can. It is a mental game and if you are strong, enough mentally you will manage to cross over the line.

I am a novice to give tips on long distance running but my effort has always been there to improve every time I participated in the marathons. There are many books, which can guide you to take proper training for a marathon. Nevertheless, a layman can always consider my little piece of write-up as an introduction.

Visually impaired or not, you will find many runners taking part in any marathon for the first time without any proper training. If one goes through a scheduled program one can surely improve his/her performance. When you start your training, do not over do it. You might end up injuring yourself. The idea to keep pushing when you are feeling good, ignoring the training schedule is a bad way of dealing with things. Rather practicing running slowly at once comfortable pace makes more sense. Also, try to follow a schedule and increase your running distance by only 10 % per week. While running the actual race initially one should go very slowly. It helps you settle down with a pace rather than tiring you later. 

Wearing good footwear and clothing is very important for a marathon. Wear good running shoes. Always replace them before they are worn out. This will help avoid injuries and blisters. Also, wear comfortable clothing.

A proper diet and regular intake of water is crucial for training. Also, on your training runs and during the marathon, be sure to occasionally eat something. In addition, drink water regularly.

The Golden Rule of three “Ss”

Always remember the Golden Rule of three “Ss” while you prepare for the marathon- Stamina, Strength and Stretching. One has to increase ones stamina by running long distances while practicing, which should be done at least once a week, but one should always run regularly even if one can run only short distances. This will help improve your stamina. As you need stamina, you also need to have strength to complete the marathon, which one can acquire by cardiovascular exercises in the Jim. Lastly but not the least one must do lot of stretching exercises preferably Yoga to keep oneself fit.

Some Tips for a blind runner

A blind runner must always practice running with a partner. Do not venture out all by yourself practicing running on the road even if you have some vision. It could turn out to be risky and fatal. While practicing alone on the road you might get hit by a truck or something, or might have a fall and injure yourself. Try to find a partner who could be your friend, family member, coach, a volunteer, or an escort. Moreover, it is necessary to have the same running partner for the marathon as well, because one has a better understanding having practiced running with the same person.

Straping a string or an elastic rubber band to you and your partners hand is necessary as holding hands and running is difficult. It should be neither too long nor too short, as it might turn out to be uncomfortable while running.

The other safer option one could think of, for practicing running could be using a treadmill or going to a stadium where one could use running tracks.

Lastly but very importantly a blind runner can try and use multiple running partners for the marathon, as it would not tire out your runner while you try to complete the marathon. All the running partners must have practiced running with you, should know each other well, and must have a clear idea of what distance they are running and from which point they have to escort you.

Caution 

Marathon is a tough and a grueling event. While running, I being a slow runner not only have come across runners getting injured and pulling out of the race but also being carried away in the ambulance having meet with an accident. Moreover, I know of an athlete dying after he had collapsed while running. My intro to running a marathon does not guarantee of any success nor am I responsible in anyway for an untoward incident-taking place during the run. Therefore, my sincere advice especially to an amateur blind runner is to give up running if he/she is having a feeling that he/she has hit a wall and cannot go any further. Remember you can always try it the next year and will live to fight another day.

Happy Running...

Shivanand

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Useful Tips on Trekking

INTRODUCTION

I always have a liking for trekking, may be for the reason that my father loved trekking and always took me with him on every occasion when he went for trekking even when I was a small kid. 

I being a visually impaired did create some hassle to the person escorting me and it was a hassle for me as well. Nevertheless, over the years, I saw to it that as a person I took care of myself so that I grew to be a less hindrance to others. As a person, I loved challenges whilst trekking and owing to my partial vision, my desire to see mountains closely made me always try that extra mile though I used to be tired and exhausted.

Yes, friends you have guessed it right; I am here to relate to you about how to take trekking as a hobby. The doe’s, the don’ts, and the prudence one should take to be a successful trekker are many.

There are many places where one can go for trekking like the regions of Himalayas as also the routes in the Western Ghats that is the Sahyadris and the Nilgeries in the down south and many more. A visually challenged can take to trekking as a hobby and my small piece will be of help to all lovers of outdoor life; be it a Visually Challenged who wants to be a trekker, a climber, or simply a nature lover.

The mountains with their rugged topography, rockey hills and pinnacles, huge lakes, extensive forests regions and historic hill forts, are virtual paradise for trekking and climbing.

In addition, go camping. So enjoy the beauty of the mountains and hills, sunshine, snow and rains, lakes and rivers, greenery etc.

Compared with our usual life, trekking is a different cup of tea. In trekking lot of uncertainties, have to be faced with audacity and guts.

To face all these uncertain things some important tips for a trekker on these bold yet challenging terrains are described below:

IMPORTANT

A visually challenged person should ensure that he/she is carrying his/her cane when he/she is on a trek and a spare elastic band, which is used for the cane in case the cane breaks. As on most occasions there is a lot of traveling involved to reach the base camp of the trek or vice versa. 

In addition, the other important thing the visually challenged person should remember is to carry eye drops or medicines with him/her if indispensable in addition to the other medicines one carries in ones medical kit.

PREPARATION & SAFETY MEASURES

A total medical health check before starting a trek is very necessary and one should strictly adhere to doctor’s advice. Before the trek, regular exercise of the body and acclimatization should be strictly observed. Patients suffering from asthma and 

Diabetics should restrict their climbing roughly up to a height of 5000 meters above sea level. In case of any severe illness, immediate arrangements are made to bring the patient to lower areas and to the hospital if required. The body should also be sheltered from changing weathers.
Personal Medical Kit -

One should have ones own personal medical kit containing all the medicines one frequently requires and medicines that one might need whilst one is trekking; like medicines for injury, blisters, stomachache, headache, body ache, dehydration, dysentery, cough or soar throat, sprain, muscle pain, vomiting, allergy etc. One should carry the medicines only after consulting your doctor as per your requirements. Also, carry Odomos for mosquitoes and insects.

Rucksack- 

Rucksack or a sag bag is the bag one would carry for the trek to carry ones belongings. It should be arranged in such a way that all the gear is easily accessible. For e.g. water bottle can be kept in the side pocket so that it is easily available when one wants to drink water. It will contain approximately 10 to 12 kg personal belongings, which will be carried by you or your porter on the back. It is advisable to protect the inside of the kit bag with a plastic bag as a precautionary measure to protect the gear from getting wet due to rain. 

Shoes-

Use good sports shoes or hunter shoes. Generally, hunter shoes are preferred but some trekkers prefer to use good sports shoes, as they are more comfortable. It depends on every individual what one prefers and after a few treks, having got the hang of it one decides what one should prefer.

Torch- 

A frontal lamp or an electric torch should always be carried. It is advisable for a partially sighted trekker to carry a good frontal torch with powerful light so that he can manage to see things with his/her partial vision at night.

Sleeping Bag-

A good sleeping bag with inner is necessary. For smaller treks, one can also carry a shawl or a blanket with a foam mattress.

A walking stick-

As it is, a blind person needs an escort while trekking. He/she also should always prefer to carry a walking stick on a trek as it provides good support while trekking especially when one is walking through rugged mountains.

Apart from these few major items one should also carry a lot of other necessary equipments that are quiet important for a trekker to carry with him or her

Equipment Checklist -

Cap, Water bottle, Lunch box, Mug, Plate, Spoon, Toothbrush /Paste, Chappals, Lighter, Candles, Gas Stove, Soap, Rainwear, Pullover, Woolen headgear, Gloves, Sunglasses, Sun cream etc.

Keep all the equipment and foodstuff in order. You have to prepare a list of clothes and small personal articles you will need during the trek.

Information of the Region-

One should collect maximum information about the region in which one is trekking. This information can be of great help, especially when things go wrong or accidents occur 

Campsite-

Campsite should be preferably near the source of drinking water as a lot of trouble is saved in fetching water.

Do not camp under trees as the trees throw out carbon dioxide during the nights and in the rainy season a tree may be struck by the lightning.

Pitch the tent on an inclined surface and dig a small trench around to keep the water away.

After finishing cooking or washing, keep the surroundings clean.

Ethics-

Have respect for local traditions, customs, values, and sentiments. Moreover, one should protect local culture and maintain local pride. 

Respect privacy while taking photographs as it might annoy the villagers.

Respect holy places and the sentiments of the locals as you may accidentally hurt their feelings.

Refrain from giving money to children as it encourages begging. It leads to them to follow you throughout the trek, which may become irritating.

Respecting the local etiquettes earns you respect in turn. 

Nature-

As a nature lover, protect the environment as much as you can. Leave the campsite cleaner than you found it.

Limiting deforestation will help. Try to avoid making open fires. Plants may be left to flourish in their natural environment. 

Try to burn dry papers, packets and other waste material in a safe place. Try to avoid unnecessary damage to the environment. Keep local sources of water clean. Avoid using pollutants like detergents or soaps.

Intoxicants-

Use of alcohol or drugs should be strictly avoided. It could lead to a fatal accident or a loss of life.

Careless attitude-

Careless attitude also could lead to a fatal accident or a loss of life.

Lastly, a trekker with some cautiousness can make trekking an interesting hobby. If he/she follows the doe’s and the don’ts properly, this adventurous yet demanding hobby can be enjoyed to its fullest.

I wish you happy trekking.


Shivanand

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Shree Swami Samartha of Akkalkot


As I was walking down the steps of the Akkalkot Durgah, I heard the Azan. I looked at my watch, it was around 7 pm. For some, it was time to pray, but for me a hectic day in Akkalkot had come to an end. My bus was at 8:30 pm from Akkalkot bus stand, it was time I reached there.

Akkalkot is on my way to my native place, but for some or the other reason; I had not been able to visit the sacred place. This time I decided to take a break in the journey and visit Akkalkot.

Akkalkot is famous for the spiritual master, popularly called Shree Swami Samarth. He is also known for his famous quote “Bhiu nako, me tujhya paathishi ahe” i.e. don’t be afraid, I am with you. He lived in Akkalkot for 22 years, left this world in the year 1878.

In the morning, I visited his Samadhi and Shrine, then the Vatavruksha Mandir. Also had Mahaprasad at the Annachhatra.

I was told by my father that he lived in very close proximity of the shrine, and visited the Samadhi and shrine quiet regularly as a child.

Akkalkot is bordered by South Sholapur to the west and other districts. The district covers an area of 1,407 km. and contains 138 villages, apart from the town. The total population of the district is approximately 290,000 (2001 census), giving a population density of 209 per km. The soil is classified as 'medium to deep black' and is of rich quality. Jowar, bajra and pulses are the main crops grown in the district. Akkalkot is in a routinely drought hit area as it is in a rain shadow in geographical terms, and no major river passes through this taluka.

Akkalkot is widely known for its association with Shri Swami Samartha Maharaj held by some to be a reincarnation of Lord Dattatreya. Swami Maharaj lived for over two decades at Akkalkot, mainly at the residence of his disciple Cholappa, where his samadhi and shrine are now located. The shrine complex, the Vatavruksh Mandir, which also encloses the banyan tree beneath which the swami would preach his messages, is the hub of devotions for his followers. Free accommodation and meals are provided to pilgrims by the Shri Swami Samarth Annachhatra Mandal. The other local shrine is the samadhi of Akkalkot Swami located some distance from the main shrine, but still within the city limits. (Source - Wikipedia)

After having Mahaprasad, which also turned out be a very good lunch for me, it was time to see some princely Akkalkot. There are two forts in Akkalkot that are privately owned by the Bhonsles. This time around, I managed to take a few pictures of the forts, as it was permitted, unlike in the shrines. This picture is of the main gate of the old fort. As you enter in the fort, through a small door of the giant gate, on the right side, in a corner, there is an office. One is welcome there, can get all the information about the Bhosales, the other new fort and also about the Armory Museum that is there in the new fort.

On my way to the new fort, I shot this picture of the old fort from the street and also of an old building that has now been turned into a government school.

It is believed that the Armory Museum owned by the Bhosale’s is
one of the best in Asia. Cpt. Fatehsinhrao III Raje Bhonsle, who was in the British army, had a great desire of collecting the armories. At this new fort Armory Museum, one can buy a few artifacts, if one likes collecting them.

Though, I was not allowed to take pictures inside the museum, I was more than happy to shoot the new fort from outside.

During the British Raj, Akkalkot was the seat of a princely state of the same name. The non-salute state came under the Deccan States Agency and was bordered by Hyderabad State and the presidency of Bombay Presidency. The area of the state was 498 sq. miles; its population in 1901 was 82,047, while the population of the town itself was 8,348 in that year. In 1911, the state enjoyed a revenue estimated at Rs.26,586/- and paid a tribute to the British Raj of Rs.1,000/-.


The ruling dynasty descended from Ranoji Lokhande, who was adopted by Chhattrapati Sambhaji, grandson of Shivaji, around the year 1708. Upon his adoption, Ranoji assumed the name 'Fatehsinh Bhonsle' and received in appendage the town of Akkalkoth and surrounding areas. These estates remained a fief within the state of Satara until 1848, when the rulers of Satara (Chhatrapati Sambhaji designated successors) were deposed by the British. Akkalkot then became one of several vassals of Satara that were recognized as separate princely states by the British Raj. The political history of the state is remarkable in having been altogether free of major incidents; however, given their stability and association with the dynasty of Shivaji, the family came to be linked by marriage to nearly every major Great Maratha ruling family in India. The ruling chiefs of Akkalkot were:


1707-1760 Fatehsinh I Raje Bhonsle (born Ranoji Lokhande)

1760-1789 Shahaji I (Bala Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1789-1822 Fatehsinh II (Appa Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1822-1823 Maloji I (Baba Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1823-1857 Shahaji II (Appa Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1857-1870 Maloji II (Buwa Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1870-1896 Shahaji III (Baba Sahib) Raje Bhonsle

1896-1923 Cpt. Fatehsinhrao III Raje Bhonsle

1923-1952 Vijayasinhrao Fatehsinhrao Raje Bhonsle

1952-1965 Jayasinhrao Vijayasinhrao Raje Bhonsle

Upon the withdrawal of the British from India in 1947, Akkalkot state acceded unto the Dominion of India, and was later merged with the province of Bombay. Mrs Srimant Nirmala raje Bhosale, wife of Jayasinghrao Bhosale was Minister for states in Bombay Province government. Their two daughters namely Shrimant Sunita Raje & Shrimant Sanyukta Raje are looking after the property. In 2006 Shrimant Sanyukta Raje Bhosale adopted a child from Kolahapur Maratha family and named him as Shrimant Fattesingh Raje ( Baba raje). (Source - Wikipedia)

Akkalkot, a trip to remember!


Shivanand


Shree Swami Samartha's photo source - Internet

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sex-a taboo!

Why sex is a taboo? As a visually challenged couple, we have gone through this, a lot. Many times, walking with my wife on the streets, holding hands, has not been appreciated by the passer byes or the people on the street. They look at us strangely, pass some mindless dirty remarks, as though we have committed some heinous crime, by holding hands and they are there for the society, appointed by the society, for moral policing. But, their supervisory ideas turn into sympathy, not even empathy, only when they realize that we are visually challenged. It happens only with some, there are many who still have a comment or two to pass, or, they keep staring at us, till we have gone far away, as though we are animals from the zoo.

To deal with this problem, my wife has found a noble idea of carrying her folding white cane in her hand, in such a way that people notice it and realize that she is blind and I am helping her while walking.

I feel, sex a taboo, has always been a problem world over. What differs is the way the societies look at it.

This reminds me of a couple of incidences which happened with me in the past. In the first case, I was with a group of American friends, who had come to India, to take part in the Himalayan run. While in Delhi, site seeing, I happen to escort a blind colleague of mine to see the Kutub Minar. While I took my blind colleague around, I realized that one of my American friend looked strangely at me and kept distance from me. It was only when we returned to our bus that we had hired for site seeing, he spoke to me and said “People in India are very liberal” I could not understand as to what he was trying to say. So, I asked him what exactly he meant by his statement. And there came the explanation “In US, guys do not hold hands and walk. Homosexuality is looked down upon and it is not freely accepted. People are free to have their own sexual preferences, but I always try to stay away from a few gay people, whom I know, back in the US. Hearing this, I was stunned. I could not believe that he was thinking on those lines. I tried to explain to him that in India, people do not care or even think about it. Though it is prevalent in the society, people just prefer to hide it. But now the trend is changing slowly and surely. Now people might think the way my American friend was thinking.

In the second case, I come across an Australian blind person, who had come to India to play cricket for the blind. While chatting with me in the bus he told me that he always makes sure to keep his folding white cane open, when he is being escorted by a male person and does not bother to do so, when he is with a female.

I understand that homosexuality is not freely accepted in developed countries, as sex in any form in India. Now, since the Indian government has legalized homosexuality, one needs to see what the religious sects have to say about it. I am sure the religious groups will not have anything pleasant to say about this decision by the government.

Personally, I am very happy for the homosexual community, as they have been fighting for there rights for so long.

When we have respect for our own sexuality, why can’t we respect other people’s sexualities? And why sex has to be a taboo, in any form?


Shivanand


Picture courtesy –

http://www.thirdeyehealth.com/images/taboo-2.jpg

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Way I See It

Recently, I have joined a course with The Hadley School for the Blind. While going through their study material which comes in Braille print, I also happen to read their news letter and came across this poem- “The Way I see it.”

I liked this beautiful poem very much, so I decided to share it with you all. The poem goes like this-


The Way I See It


To the world around me,

The grass is green.

But the way I see it,

It’s cool and clean.


A mountain is awesome,

Created by time.

But the way I see it,

It’s a long, hard climb.


An airplane is scary,

To some folks inside.

But the way I see it,

It’s a carnival ride!


The ocean is awesome,

A beautiful sight!

But the way I see it,

It’s power and might!


Life gives us challenges,

That we all must meet.

But the way I see it,

There’s no room for defeat!


A world without sight,

Is the only one I know.

But the way I see it,

It’s a wonderful show!


By Duane and Lisa Hawk


Lisa and Duane Hawk are long-time Hadley School students studying poetry. The poem actually began as a joke. During the couple’s choir practice, the director forgot that people with visual impairments cannot simply read sheet music on demand. On the way home, Duane and Lisa, both a little put-off, grumbled that, at times, they “see” things very differently than others. Duane exclaimed, “As a blind person, the way I see it, an airplane trip is not scary, it’s a carnival ride!” When Lisa received her assignment, they remembered the joke and decided to turn it into a poem.


Fatema

Pandavkada


On a rainy day my nephew and I decided to go to Pandavkada which is near to our house. It is a waterfall at Kharghar Navi Mumbai. From Kharghar railway station one can take a bus and reach the spot.

Pandavkada in rainy season is a picnic spot for some and for others it’s a hike for an hour that gets you to the base of the waterfall. Many people love to spend their time sitting next to the waterfall enjoying tea / coffee and snacks. On the way you find many vendors selling different things. Our favorite was bhutta.

Kids love the hike too as it is a very simple one with no exertion at all. And if one does not want to take the trouble of walking till the base of the waterfall one can always use ones bikes and try to reach as near to the base as possible. For that the only trouble one has to go through is to negotiate a few water channels that are there in the way.

My nephew and I enjoyed the hike very much. We were completely drenched while coming back from the base of the waterfall. 

A cup of tea made us feel a lot better.


Shivanand

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Trustworthy Cane

On one morning, Shivanand had to leave for work earlier than his usual time since he had an urgent appointment. Generally, we both travel to work together as our offices are in the same area. But that day I had to travel all by myself, because he was not there to escort me. (Those days I had some slight vision but now I am totally blind.)

I could have engaged an auto rickshaw to the railway station but foolishly, I decided to walk instead. I was finding it difficult to walk alone as I always needed an escort. In addition, I never used a cane while walking, because I felt shy and had a complex as to what people would think about me. I always tried to conceal my handicap as much as I could. There was no one on the road that could help me or I could ask help from. As a result, I continued to struggle. I decided to walk on the footpath along the road, trying to hear noises of the traffic passing by. I was also worried about the street dogs sleeping on the footpath as earlier once I had accidentally stepped on the dog.

I walked until I reached a point from where I had to cross over to the other side of the road. At this stage, I needed an escort badly and there was no one around. I decided to wait there for a while thinking someone might come for help. Ten minutes passed but no one arrived for help and I was getting late for work. Suddenly I saw a small moving figure next to me. I wondered as to what it is until I figured out that it is a street dog, which was standing there possibly to cross the road. Without thinking much, I decided to cross the road with the dog, since I was getting late to work and there was no one around to help me.

As the noise of the traffic subsided, the dog slowly started to move and with the dog, I moved too. We were almost in the middle of the road when suddenly I heard the noise of a vehicle approaching; the dog ran away. I was stunned, and was left high and dry in the middle of the road. I did not know what to do. I was terrified. All of a sudden, I heard the screeching of the breaks and could feel an auto rickshaw, which had just brushed me slightly. I heard the driver yelling at me “Dhek Ke Chalne Ko Nahi Atha Hai Kya?” (Can’t you see and walk?) In the meanwhile, someone who knew me helped me cross the road.

Shivanand did not heed a bit to give his piece of mind to me when I narrated the whole incidence to him in the evening.

By this incidence, I realised that because of my inability to accept my handicap I was not only putting my life in danger but also making other people’s lives difficult. A conscious effort to work on ones behavioural abnormality and accepting ones handicap can definitely go a long way in living a better life.

Now it is more than eight years that I have been using a cane, and I am very comfortable and confident using it. It also helps other people to understand my disability and help me accordingly.


Fatema

Thursday, June 5, 2014

About Us

We appreciate your visit to our “About Us” page. So, let us tell you something about us. Though we used to meet, each other quiet regularly on the treks we did in the Sahyadri region near Mumbai, we never new each other well enough until we started meeting each other at The National association for he Blind.

“Fatema is a very cheerful and a fun loving girl. But I always wondered as to how she manages with her visual imperilment. Fatema suffers from RP (Retina Pigmentoa) a hereditary eye disease in which progressive degeneration of the retinal pigments leads to impairment of vision and, ultimately, to blindness. Compared to this my impairment of congenital cataract seemed trouble-free.

Apart from trekking which we both are very much found of Fatema likes listening to music, reading Braille and audio books, playing chess, (blind people play chess on a different chessboard} sometimes dancing and of course quarreling with me. Sometimes she does end up cooking that perfect dinner but hates being ignored and also is very possessive about me.”

“We never talk about religion as Shivanand knows I hate to discuss it. But he has no issues with me following mine. He believes that Humanity is the only religion and does not follow any rituals. He always loves to follow the game of cricket and every time has a few comments to make. He is more of a loner and does not like to be bothered. A straight person he seldom lies.

Both of us have our offices in the same area. And he is rarely not around to escort me to my place of work and vice versa. He is a banker and I work as a telephone operator with The Sales Tax office.

Marrying was a difficult decision but, we have always stayed together for each other.”