Toastmasters Pathways Began my journey again

Pathways

I restarted my journey at Toastmasters under the Pathways Program which is a modernised program. Delivered my P1 speech on Saturday, April 28, 2018. The objectives of P1 are similar as before and it is the icebreaker. Given below is the text of the speech.

The late bloomer

What’s common between Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Akshay Kumar and me? I can’t dance like Madhuri Dixit, I don’t sport the same smile as Juhi Chawla nor do I have the physique of Akshay Kumar. Yet, there is one thread that binds us together. We were all born in 1967.

Toastmaster of the Day, Fellow Toastmasters and guests, Welcome to the discovery of my passions in life.

Born and brought up in Matunga in Mumbai, I never left the place and continue to love it even today. My Father has retired now and my mother is a homemaker. Academically, I am an Electrical Engineer even if I can’t change a light bulb. Professionally, I am an entrepreneur who is into software and hardware solutions for the Enterprise and hospitals. My wife, Pauravi has the herculean task of raising two children, one of who is standing before you and as you can see is slightly overgrown.

Our lives weren’t complete until I was 37 as that is when Kavya entered the world and since then things have been different. She is the best thing that has happened to us and I am the lucky one as I get to be called HER father. She knows how best to get her way be it with her grandparents or parents.

I started BKS Iyengar yoga on May 1, 2008. A friend of mine asked me to start that and honestly being well endowed with fat, I thought it would be an easy way of getting rid of oodles of adipose tissue. How wrong I was! It is almost 10 years since I have been doing that (well whatever I can do). My target is to do shirshasana someday without any help.

Kavya learnt to swim at the age of 5 and one day she mocked at me “You still don’t know swimming?” That made me take up swimming lessons at the young age of 42 and believe me it wasn’t easy. But thanks to her, I atleast can now do breast-stroke. My target is to learn free-style swimming.

In March, 2013 I rekindled an old flame as I restarted cycling which I had left off sometime in 1986 after I began driving. Started with a few kms and happy to say that I have done a single ride of 155 kms once and can do 100 kms very easily. Target is to complete 5000 kms this year. 

Thanks to Suneel Agarwal, I got introduced to Toastmasters again in 2013 and got back to my passion for the English language especially grammar so much so that people call me a Grammar Nazi. Enjoy speaking when I can like I am doing today. And it is not just speaking, I had the opportunity to be a VP PR, VP Membership, President and now Area Director. And I would like to continue to learn which made me restart my journey under Pathways.

As a Toastmaster you also attract opportunities for speaking at or hosting events outside of Toastmasters. Suneel once recommended my name as a compere for a musical program. Got to meet some like-minded people there who were equally passionate about R D Burman or Panchamda and we formed Pancham Paagals. I was the default compere for the events and once I sang too. The audience response was good and so I took to singing my versions of Kishore Kumar and R D Burman numbers be it as a part of Pancham Paagals or at my club.

In hindsight, I find that the things that you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling. I discovered a few of mine and continue to discover more at this age of 50. What is your passion? What is your calling? Don’t let it stifle inside you. Let it show up and enjoy life.

And I was the best speaker for the day too 🙂

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Imagination and what it can do for you……

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I have borrowed this title from my dear friend, Parin’s Diploma speech at Nazareth Speakers’ Academy way back in 1989.

On Wednesday evening, I went through this video by Bob Proctor which spoke on imagination and how it could help everyone.

Set my mind thinking. What was my mental block? I for one always felt I was a slow cyclist who took too many breaks when cycling. I imagined what it would look like if I did 40 kms the next day within the same time that I did 30 kms. It called for an increased cadence, something that I wasn’t much used to.

The next day, I woke up late and left only at 0645. But I had a clear picture in my mind of throwing my hands up in the air as I would complete 40 kms. I planned to take off to Airoli Circle and back but the traffic on the return leg scared me. So I decided to go back to my tried and tested route of BPT Mahul Toll Road. I normally do 3 loops of the toll road and return via Bhakti Park and Sion. The distance is about 31 kms which I complete in just under 2 hours. On Wednesday, I started on the road, riding non-stop. I lowered the gear a bit just so that I could continue riding with a good cadence. I also started counting the number of times my left leg would go down. That way my mind was occupied. I completed 4 loops against the normal 3 and then returned as per the normal route. When I got near home, I realised that I was 3 kms short (thanks to my sister for the Apple Watch) so went around to complete the planned distance. Came home having completed 40.7 kms in 2 hours and 9 minutes at an average of 18.9 kmph. Not bad considering my average speed is 16 kmph.

I was glad and so bragged about it to all 🙂

Next steps? Tomorrow being a Sunday, I plan to undertake a dream ride for me atleast. From home to Airoli Circle to Belapur Railway Station via Palm Beach Road and back the same way. It would be a distance of about 88 kms return. Let us see how it pans out. I have company for the first 22 kms to Airoli Circle after which I am on my own. But well that experience is for another blog post.

Till then, keep imagining and achieve your goals. Keep riding, stay fit.

Mind games during the city ride on the day of Holi

Yesterday was Holi and hence I could plan my ride in advance. No one was around to accompany me but I was determined to go solo if needed so I set off at 0600 and went without a break all the way to Mulund toll naka. Took the customary pee break and then continued all along on the Eastern Express Highway. Too a U-turn from Ghodbunder Road junction and messaged my family and friends where I was. Of course, it is now a given that I share my location on Google maps with them so they can actually see where I am thus not needing to call to check about my well-being.

The mind is funny and it begins playing games. Around the u-turn, I was thinking of going to the McDonald’s for breakfast and I knew that post breakfast, it would be difficult to ride for long. Without thinking much I took the u-turn and continued for a kilometer or so just so that I would not go back.

The weather so far wasn’t all that bad. Continued the journey back and around Ghatkopar, the mind games started. “Maybe I should continue straight and head home. It is getting hot.” Somehow I overruled my brains and turned left from Priyadarshini Circle and moved on towards Bhakti Park. Went in for a good 2 or 3 kms before halting to message. Informed all that I was heading to town.

Continued pushing myself and went through the BPT road all the way to Colaba. Ended up at Regal and so Cafe Mondegar it was. Had a yummy omelet with a toast. By then had done 71 kms so was feeling good. The next challenge was to get home. As I left Mondegar, it was 11 am and the sun was in its full glory.

Went to Nariman Point and turned at NCPA to continue down to Wilson College where I turned in and went to see my Father in law. Carried the bicycle up and right into his living room which surprised a lot of people but I wouldn’t risk my bicycle for anything. Was there for around 20 minutes and then rode back home.

Ended up doing 89 kms. But lesson learnt, that the mind does play a lot of games. We need to overcome the chattering that the mind produces.

I regret not having completed 100 kms but I guess it is OK now. I will have to work on the route to ensure that I do it next time.

Yes I am a diabetic!!!

Diabetes

My close friends and family know I am a Type 2 diabetic but I am now coming out in the open with the admission.

Last Tuesday, I went for my blood test after 18 months. I was in for a rude shock as the values were the worst ever in my diabetic life of over 15 years. Fasting of 188, Post lunch of 184 and A1c of 8.4. I was ashamed of myself. And these results were despite all the exercising, walking and yoga I do!!

Many calls with my sister, a dietician, who had always lectured me on controlling portions. She said, “It is 20% Exercise and 80% food and portion related”.

What am I doing now?

  • Early days so far but I have started having an omelet every morning with a slice of bread. I use 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk. And I add a lot of vegetables, not just the routine onions and tomatoes.
  • I have stopped sweets completely since December 2017. By sweets, I mean the external sugars. What comes in the food/fruits naturally can’t be avoided.
  • Cut down on chappatis from 3 to 2.
  • Stopped rice (though I have been advised that there is no need to omit it completely)
  • My toughest time is when I get home in the evening as I pig out on whatever I can lay my hands on. Trying to curb that habit. So far I have been having generous helpings of soup (without any milk, cream etc.) followed by dinner.
  • So far so good but need to change things drastically around my eating.
  • Exercise wise, my earlier schedule was Waking about 9 km each on Mondays and Thursdays, Cycling about 30 km each on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Yoga for 90 minutes each on Wednesday and Saturday and finally cycling anything from 50 to 100 km on Sundays. I have changed that a tad bit (not that I liked it). I have stopped cycling on Fridays and instead am walking. I hope to get the sugars down and then get back to cycling on Fridays soon.
  • I am an early riser with the alarm going off at 0444 every single day. Now have changed it to 0530. I sleep by 2230.
  • Also, I had this dirty habit of keeping the phone right next to my bed on the side table. Would check emails in the middle of the night. Now I keep it a good 8 feet or so away from me in the bedroom just so that I can switch off the alarm.
  • I now climb stairs to get into the office though I don’t do that at home. About time I started that too.
  • Another admission I am mortally scared of the injection. So much so that I have to shut my eyes to avoid looking at the needle or the syringe. That is the reason why I don’t go for blood tests. This time I have taken my Doctor’s appointment for next month and also noted down in my calendar, the date for blood tests.
  • Stress – The real killer. Trying to calm down so I listen to music/audiobooks on my way in the car. Earlier, I used to talk on the phone thanks to the Bluetooth feature in the car (not that I don’t now but sparingly).

Trying to change my lifestyle gradually for the better just so that I can bring down my weight and my sugar.

Decided to take diabetes head on and counting on the support of each one of you to help me get through it.

The Pagoda ride and then coastal ride

I was longing to go to the Global Vipassana Pagoda near Gorai. Had missed a ride earlier when friends had gone there. Finally, we decided to go there on February 4, 2018.

As is typical of me, I announced it to my friends and family and of course my accountability partners just so that I had no means to chicken out. And it worked. The previous night I slept past midnight and when the alarm went off at 0444, I was two minds whether to go or skip. But I jumped out of bed rather than listen to my silly sleepy mind and left home at 0600.

Reached the meeting point at Dadar TT and met Rony. He had got my tail light so he fixed that. We finally took off at 0615 just the two of us for what was to be a superb ride. The weather was pleasant so no complaining.

We rode over all the bridges starting from Andheri as the Metro construction work has made the roads below a living hell. Turned left at Kashimira and went in towards Mira Road and Bhayandar and other spots. The road does get a little uphill but it wasn’t so bad.

We reached Gorai beach around 0930 and clicked photos to preserve the memory of my first ride to Gorai beach on the bicycle.

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After the photo session, we left from there and found a simple restaurant which served us some lovely egg bhurji with paav. It was filling and kept us going through the sunny ride.

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We started around 10 am and rode to the Pagoda. The grandeur of the Pagoda is breathtaking indeed. They have a nice, clean restaurant which serves pure vegetarian food. Since we had already finished our breakfast, we had delicious buttermilk there and boy was it delicious!! Had another round as well. We decided that the next time we ride here, we would have our breakfast at this restaurant. They have a swing opposite the Buddha statue and I have a fetish for swings so enjoyed that as well.

Left from there and rode to Manori jetty. It is a short ride of about 9 kms. On the way, we spotted this house with bougainvilleas in full bloom. It was an amazing sight.

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We then took the ferry from Manori Jetty to Marve which is a short ride across so it would hardly take 10 minutes.

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From Marve we cycled again this time to Madh jetty via The Resort and The Retreat hotels as also Aksa Beach. This was another 9 kms but it was fun. You suddenly felt the traffic of the city though not as much as the normal Mumbai traffic.

We took a short trip on the ferry across the waters to reach Versova. Honestly, it was shouting distance so to say as the ferry took us to the other side in less than 5 minutes. It was tough manoeuvring the bicycle through the sand. No, I wasn’t even riding but just dragging it in itself was tough. Don’t expect any pristine beach or such as we landed on to the fishing village and it WAS DIRTY. What followed was an ordeal as the road leading out was extremely narrow and two trucks came face to face. Even a cyclist couldn’t get through. Finally, they managed to move from there and so we could move. We hit Yari Road and we spotted a Subway so had a filling meal there.

We took off from there and then continued the journey back home trying to avoid traffic as much as possible. We took the road via Juhu beach just so that we could be near the coast as much as possible. After all, we wanted to do the coastal ride.

Took the usual route thereafter and we returned home. There was less than usual traffic honestly. Maybe it was a Sunday so people were enjoying their siesta. I made it home at 3.26 pm having done 94.7 kms. All in all, it was an exhilarating ride and the view of the Pagoda was breathtaking.

A big thank you to Rony who always motivates me to complete the ride (especially during the uphill climbs). Without him, I would be the king of DNFs. (Did not finish). The two of us will definitely be riding there once again and maybe after reading this, we will have more cyclists joining us.

Here is the map of my ride from Strava.

Mumbai Cyclists – the most vulnerable species on the road.

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I know it is hard hitting but this morning I realised that we cyclists are the unwanted people on the roads.

Cars and trucks don’t care about us. They ride on as if we don’t exist and zoom by / stop without warning. Just this morning, I was coming downhill on the bridge so, as expected I was at a good speed. The cab which was riding to my right suddenly swerved in and braked to a dead halt. No, it is not that I wasn’t visible (with a reflective white T shirt and lights) and my gargantuan body sure can’t be missed. But well, he decided to do what he had to do. I had to hit the brakes and swerve to my right just to avoid ramming into him. Luckily for me, there was no car coming from behind else I would have been hit by that. So far so good.

On the way back, I was approaching the signal just before the one at Sion Hospital on the way from Sion to Matunga. It was just about 0830 so it was bright and sunny. The lights were green and so I continued to pedal ahead with my bell chiming. This rotund lady in her red dress was crossing the road without giving a damn about the traffic in her own sweet world (Headphones? I am not sure). I had no choice but to shout out loud and slam the brakes. Since the front brakes were applied hard, the wheel was locked and I flipped over the cycle and landed on my face and elbows. Thank God for the helmet that there were no head injuries and I got away with bruises and some bleeding from the elbows. The lady said sorry twice or thrice and walked away without any qualms. I had to get up and get my cycle back in action. Thanks to my friend who helped me through this. The whole intention was to avoid blocking the traffic. We walked a little ahead, fixed the bicycle and then proceeded further.

My question to the pedestrians is if, God forbid, I had hit the lady I am sure a crowd would have “gheraoed” me and hit me / pounced on me for sure. However, in this case, people walked away and the lady just said sorry. Thank God for my friend who helped me through it. What if it were something serious?

To the motorists out there, would you have done this (swerved in and braked) to another vehicle? Please understand that cycles are manually driven and braking is not machine controlled. Please leave some room for us to brake especially downhill.

To my fellow cyclists – please wear a helmet at all times. Please protect your head. After all, God has given you just one and there are no genuine spare parts available for replacement. Make sure you are visible to the motorists as well as the pedestrians. Reflective clothing is a must in the dark or then consider using reflective straps. Slow down at the signals even if green. Else, like me, you will end up wounded. And when you approach a populated area (where o where in Mumbai is a square inch of unpopulated space?) slow down to avoid sudden wheel locks.

Happy cycling on the streets of Mumbai.

P9 Speech at Toastmasters – It’s just a hill… get over it.

cycling-uphill-headeaderJust gave my P9 today, September 24, 2016, at Bombay Toastmasters Club. It was after exactly 11 months that I gave a speech in different circumstances but the will to deliver the speech was high and so could do it. The speech objectives were:

  • Persuade listeners to adopt your viewpoint or ideas or to take some action.
  • Appeal to the audience’s interest.
  • Use logic and emotion to support your position.
  • Avoid using notes.
  • Time: 5 to 7 minutes.

How many of you sit in front of the computer all day? Did you know that sitting is more dangerous than smoking and kills more people than even HIV? We are sitting ourselves to death. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of developing serious illnesses like cancer, heart diseases & type 2 diabetes.

Toastmaster of the day, fellow Toastmasters and guests, welcome to the uphill journey

Now that you are all ears, the next thought that comes to your mind is to join a gym. But then far too many people quit going to the gym. WHY?

  • Time constraints – You don’t wake up early in the morning think “Wow! I am going to hit the gym and will enjoy myself sweating it out”, do you?
  • Expenses – A Gym membership costs money and if you, like me, know you are going to be regularly irregular then why waste money?
  • Prolonged results – We expect to become Salman Khan having done 2 weeks of gymming. The mirror doesn’t lie and one look in the mirror is de-motivating enough.

What if you have an outdoor regimen with the cool wind blowing on your face early morning as you explore new places, see the sun rising and hear the birds chirping? And in the midst of all of these, you could actually exercise? I discovered one – Cycling.

Apart from all the fun, cycling has tremendous health benefits.

Cycling is low impact and hence easier on my joints than running – Marathon runners, Hasnain, Omkar and others please note. And it is low impact for the road too. The BMC Commissioner requested me in private not to run in Mumbai saying “We are already drawing a lot of flak for the potholes. God forbid if we have swimming pools or craters, we would be finished. Elections are coming up so please help us.” Jokes aside, in case of cycling, the injuries per 1000 hours is 6 whereas the same count in case of running is 11.

It improves heart health – A study found that cycling 35 kms a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 50%. Much like toning your leg muscles, your heart muscles need to be put to work to stay healthy as well. When I started cycling, 10 kms and I was panting. Now I do 30 kms on weekdays and on weekends I do anything from 70 to 100 kms.

It helps lose weight – I know you are wondering if it has made a difference to my body at all but someday you will see that change in my waistline. My weekly goal is to complete 100 kms on the cycle during the 3 days that I go for it. Don’t give me those dirty looks please!

It helps strengthen muscles – My yoga teacher will confirm that I am now able to lift my leg up 90 degrees on the wall in poses which I could never do before. Your legs definitely end up much stronger as you go on pushing the pedal. And if you are riding on slopes, you will huff and puff on the way up but the ride downhill will make it worth the effort.

Is it all health related only?

Cycling makes so many friends. By participating in group rides, I come home smiling having met new people. And we have a group of our own, The 3 musketeers and our Sunday rides are always centred around a food joint.

It teaches teamwork – When you ride in a group, you have to hasten the slow movers and at the same time slow down the bullet trains. If there is a puncture or any other breakdown, the whole group stops and comes out in support of the person affected.

Goal setting and achievement – When I am on the saddle, my only purpose is to better my previous time. It is always a race against myself to better my average speed. And I did it from 14 kmph in 2013 to over 18 now.

Can I have a show of hands on how many of you are willing to take to cycling? Go to the nearby cycle shop and rent a bicycle. Set a target and work towards it. My target is to go to Lonavala in 2016 for which I am working hard. After that 2017 would be the BRM 200 in which you do 200 kms in 13.5 hours. After all, it is just a mental hill that I can ride and tide over. So why not? Come join me at 6.15 tomorrow morning at Dadar TT.