18 Jul 2013

Birthday- is it just another day in my life, or is it a day to contemplate and introspect?

Today 18th july, 2013, as I celebrate 45years of living a blessed and fulfilled life, I take a few moments to think about a few changes which have happened to my soul, mind and body in the last few months.

I decided on a whim one fine day when I woke up on May 9th, 2013 that I was going to adopt a “plant based diet” for life. During the Everest Base Camp trek last may, I had a short 2 weeks experience of powering myself on plant based simple food of daal bhaat ( lentils and rice), ginger lemon tea and lots of home grown green vegetables and felt energised in body and mind and could trek almost 5 to 6hrs in the Himalayas! I am a lacto-ovo-vegetarian (which means essentially vegetarian but also has milk and eggs) since birth and since reading about the innumerable benefits of plant based food and a book “eat and run” by Scott Jurek ( an ultramarathoner) who powered himself on plant based food and the memoir by Mahatma Gandhi “ The story of my experiments with truth”, I was mentally prepared to dive in and discover the benefits for myself.

 Simultaneously,I am  also training intensely to run my first ever 100kms Ultramarathon this December and as always fundraise to send a few rural kids to school at Isha Vidhya in India. Alongside the changes which adopting a plant based diet did to my physical body which was 1) excellent energy throughout the day 2) faster recovery from hardworkouts 3) reduced muscle soreness 4) better quality of sleep 5) mindful eating with discipline and various other positive health benefits,I also noticed that I was changing inside out to become a better person.

Some of the ways I noticed I am changing for the better are

  •  I became consciously grateful for everything everyday- I started documenting this in a “gratitude journal” which I have been diligently maintaining since the last six months and it has made me a happier person. "Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present".

  • I broadened my horizons by connecting with people on health, nutrition and lifestyle and started taking online courses which will help me understand the relationship of mind, food and body. I am channelizing my learnings towards becoming a “health, wellness and lifestyle” coach as Hippocrates, the father of medicine aptly said “ let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
  • I started having more energy to give others- with all the extra energy that I received by eating wholesome, nutritious, mindfully,reducing processed foods completely, exercising smartly, meditating, I noticed I was having conversations with people around me whenever I was out. I smiled more often and even strangers became friends.
  • I started experiencing true zen “living in the moment” and not worry about the past or the future. I started honing into the present and fully engage myself with whatever I was doing right now.
  • I started meditating daily and noticed amazing benefits in terms of “inner happiness”. There is a new clarity and calmness within. Clarity, an aha moment when everything is crystal clear and it all just makes sense. I find it comes to me when I’m not trying to achieve it, but allowing my mind to relax
  • I started giving back to the community in my own way- visiting local farmers market and buying fresh produce from them and having friendly conversations. Giving up my seat in the bus or train to someone who deserved it more and always looking for small, little ways in which I could make this world a better place. "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." said Gandhiji
  •  I became experimentative and creative in the kitchen always trying to dish out something different and tasty
  • I became more compassionate and accepting of people as if they were me
  • I became more creative and started experiencing childlike playfulness in things. One example of an explosion in my creativity which I would love to share here is putting up the various travel magnets which we started collecting everywhere we travelled, on a white board marker and hanging it on the wall. Everytime we crossed the wall hanging we felt good, a sense of accomplishment and most of all blessed.
  •  I became open to change and more of a person following my heart. Surrender to the experience of what unfolds when you follow your heart. Abundance will flow into your life through many different forms
  • I started giving up my attachment to materialistic things, social network sites in the virtual world and started focusing more on experiences, friendships, reading and being with people and places
  • I started welcoming life lessons. Elbert Hubbard  said “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"

If you think positively, sound becomes music, movement becomes dance, smile becomes laughter, silence becomes meditation, and life becomes a celebration.

"Sometimes the best journeys aren't necessarily from east to west, or from ground to summit, but from heart to head. Between them we find our voice" ~ Jeremy Collins.

Yes life has taken a 360 degrees turn in my soul, mind and body for good and all that I can say for now is it is all for the better. I am celebrating life, are you?

13 Jun 2013

A wake-up call

Some journeys in life will always remain memorable and very close to my heart. These are journeys with peaks and troughs and a wonderful reminder on looking back at life once in a while and worth every bit being grateful for. I fondly remember the days where every step used to be an immense struggle for my aging body and most importantly the mind. Runner Andi Ball once said what running everyday taught him "I have more self-confidence, drive, and compassion for others than I’ve ever known. My life is infinitely better since I started on this journey, and I don’t see it coming to an end anytime soon. I’m proof that the hardest decision to make is the decision to try and to believe in yourself and your own unique abilities."

As I learn to keep going and enjoying my own journey of a healthy lifestyle coupled with running This picture is a snap shot reminder and a beautiful flash back.Some days I look at it and it becomes my “wake-up” call, a tiny dose of inspiration, my Zen. On the left is  December 2009 Singapore half marathon after resuming running again where every step was a struggle and on the right  is  November 2012, first ultramarathon of 50 kms and running for the cause of sending a few rural kids from India to school at Isha Vidhya.http://seeyourimpact.org/members/priyavai/.The mystic and yogi Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev said “Our lives become beautiful not because we are perfect. Our lives become beautiful simply because we put our heart and soul into what we are doing”. These words echo in my ears as I step out the door today for yet another run to take on the day as it comes! Running just like meditation can be a wonderful "life" teacher.

15 Mar 2013

Make up

It was a hot humid day in March, and we were almost nearing the end of our ten day holiday in this beautiful country. Soaking in the architectural splendour of a few 13th century pagodas, I sat down under the shade of a banyan tree exhausted from the long walk. He was busy trying to capture every single corner of the grandeur around us with his tiny box

I saw her as I turned my face away from the scorching sun. A mild hunch on her back from the bamboo basket she was carrying. Was she returning from a long and tiring day at the fields nearby, I pondered?

Her clothes hand woven covering her frail body and a colourful turban draped artistically around her hair. There was something very magical about her only enhanced by the sparkle in her eyes. She smiled at me and I saw those wrinkles like sand dunes across her face. She was a picture of charm and grace.

Something prompted me to walk up to her and request her for a picture with me. Maybe, it was me trying to capture the beauty in her face for posterity.

After a few clicks, I offered her some small money. She declined and started walking away. I insisted and she very reluctantly tucked it in.

As I moved away, she muttered some words in Burmese language. I hesitatingly turn around to ask our guide about the meaning of her words. He replied politely “She is blessing both of you from the bottom of her heart for your generosity”. I was touched and my eyes welled up.

 In a flash, this simple, cheerful, elderly peasant lady taught me a thing or two about life. True beauty was within her soul. And it wore no make up.

5 Feb 2013


 I penned my experience at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon which was held on Jan 20th, 2013 and posted within 48hrs before closure of a contest with the intent that if I ever win something then the whole prize money I will donate for educating rural kids at Isha Vidhya. 145 well wishers liked my story and many more shared the same. I won a prize money of Indian rupees 2000 which can provide 2 sets of school uniforms for 2 children for a year! Heart and Mind very happy. To quote Sir Winston Churchill "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give". Sharing the story on my personal blog. Enjoy and please feel free to comment :-)

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Lao Tzu  
Run enthusiasts have often told me that the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) is the marathon of all marathons in India. Everyone looks forward to participating in this annual event held on the third Sunday of January with enthusiasm. As the New Year unfolds, it brings with it new beginnings, hopes, dreams and resolutions for all. This marathon is also timed nicely so as to become the starting point of many individual running goals.

For me personally, I was eagerly looking forward to running the full marathon in Mumbai, my first one in my former karmabhoomi (work place).  When my registration was accepted in July 2012, I was excited like a small child. I knew in my heart that this was going to be a special journey in more ways than one. I had returned from the Everest Base Camp expedition in May, which I had undertaken to fulfil a “bucket list” wish and, more importantly, to send a few rural kids in India to school at Isha Vidhya through SeeYourImpact.org.   In that strenuous adventure, I had sustained injuries which got aggravated because of over-training and running on cambered concrete roads.  I had to undergo  physiotherapy sessions. I had then wondered whether it would be the end of my dream of running at Mumbai.  A soul sister, also a running mate, had suggested that I should undertake structured training so that I can run injury-free and enjoy my passion for a lifetime. As they say, “When the student is ready, the master arrives.” So came Dan (Zico) and became my running guru.

The SCMM tagline read, “10 years of running and 1 memory to share.” I left it to my guru and god to help me reach the start line of this special 10th anniversary of the Mumbai marathon. My vision was to enjoy the run as a thanks giving to amchi Mumbai for all that it has bestowed on me in life and also to send a few kids from rural India to Isha Vidhya School where they can get a better life. Since Mumbai was where I embarked on running way back in 2005, it was also to be a walk down memory lane.  I was planning to soak it all in.

When I landed in Mumbai on January 17 from Hong Kong, I pinched myself. It was real. I had visualised the run course in my mind, every step that I will take from Chatrapati Shivaji           Terminus (CST), the starting point, via Churchgate, Marine Drive, Peddar Road, Worli, The Sea Link, Dadar, NCPA, Chowpatty, and back to CST. As always, the pre- race night sleep was minimal with tossing and turning and a few butterflies in my stomach! As the race day dawned, I drove with my sole-to-soul sister Natasha to the start line. The mood at Azad Maidan was pumped with adrenaline. I had pinned an Isha Vidhya poster on the back of my T shirt. I met many run buddies face to face for the first time outside of the virtual Facebook world. I was touched by the camaraderie and support when they called out my name and wished me luck.

The cool breeze alongside Marine Drive early morning was invigorating. There were live bands and cheer leaders along the way. When we turned at Babulnath, I heard the temple bells chime. I said a small prayer, sent a ‘thank you” note to the Supreme Being and moved on. Amit and Neepa  Sheth’s  five-hour  “ bus” was alongside me. We exchanged smiles. I thoroughly enjoyed the mantra those running as the “bus” were chanting in unison, “Speed thrills, but kills.” At the mile markers they shouted, “Another one bites the dust.”
 I speeded along and saw the Mahalaxmi temple and the majestic Haji Ali mosque jutting into the Arabian Sea. I also remembered the Haji Ali juice centre where I and my friends had gulped down many glasses of sugarcane and fresh mosambi juice.  It was wonderful to run on a deserted Sea Link (probably the only day in Mumbai when it is closed to snarling traffic). The beautiful Arabian Sea and the glimpse of the orange ball of rising sun added spark to my endeavour. I shouted out to a few fellow runners to watch the sun rise. I felt like a small “pea” in the vastness of the Universe which engulfed me at the light of dawn!  There was Mahim church on my left. While crossing Lilavati and Hinduja hospitals, I saw many patients and hospital staff cheering me on. I thanked them and told them that I am running on their behalf, too. They smiled back and I felt happy. 

The Siddhi Vinayak temple, the abode of the elephant-headed god (remover of all obstacles), passed by.  At this point, the cobwebs of doubts and pessimism were cleared from my mind. Here I also saw a few runners by the side of the road; they had given up, some had cramps and the others were throwing up. I walked up to them and, as a doctor, offered some advice and was relieved to see the immediate medical attention given to them by the organisers and the medical team. Kudos for this. I felt reassured that they were in safe hands.
 I moved on.  Back onto Worli Sea face I high-fived many street kids who were cheering loudly and musically. Many residents were handing out biscuits, water, dry fruits and chocolates. Their children were encouraging and shouting out supportive slogans. Some had water sprays (like the one they use during the Holi festival) and were spraying our tired faces. It was refreshing. I was moved! 

At this stretch, the sun god was out in all his glory, shining above our heads. My legs were beginning to feel heavy. I took a few short-walk breaks. I poured water on my head. I was experiencing the “wall.” I took one step at a time and finally pushed through it. I smiled at a few runners and they smiled back. It was amazing. All of us were in pain, were pushing ourselves and still managed to smile! After all, we were all in this together.

 When we reached Peddar Road flyover, I saw some Japanese women and children cheering. I shouted out to them “arigato gozaimasu,” which means “thank you.” There was more crowd of supporters on the side walk who cheered me by calling out my name loudly, “Priya, veteran runner, you can do it, run strong for Isha Vidhya.”  I realised that the named and numbered bibs on my front and the poster pinned on my back indeed served a purpose.


Suddenly at that moment there was a personal touch and strangers became friends. Another runner smiled at me and said, "I am Priya, too.” I told her that we should run together and we did manage to run for almost one kilometre together before I moved on prodded by her. When I saw the local train whizz past Churni Road and Marine Lines, it brought back memories of my rides long ago in the Virar-Churchgate fast train. I also saw many men in Khaki cheering us. 
The adjunct smaller dream run had started by then. There were loud drum beats and music and a party scene on the other side of the road. I remembered my first dream run of seven kilometres in 2005 which at that time felt like a full marathon for me. Today I was actually running the real full marathon on the same roads! I felt grateful to the Almighty for having brought me a long way. “One step at a time, one smiling child at Isha Vidhya at a time,” I told myself as I crossed the finish line. My heart and soul felt happy although physically I was exhausted.

The Mumbai marathon running course had many temples, a mosque and a church.  The vast Arabian Sea and the rising sun on the Sea Link reminded me of how “small” and insignificant we are in this unfathomable Universe. The crowd support along the route who sat or stood patiently for almost 5-plus hours left me speechless, reminding me again that total strangers could indeed become friends. It has also filled me with memories to cherish for a lifetime. 

Those little kids at Isha Vidhya will be in school for another year, thanks to all those who supported the cause I was running for. Does my heart beat for Mumbai? Yes, it does. Will I come back to run the Mumbai marathon again? Undoubtedly.