Of the gladdest moments, methinks in human life, is the departing upon a distant journey into unknown lands…
-- Richard F. Burton

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07 December 2010

Last weekend in Pune!!

After the past two weekends spent flattening my butt on the hard hostel bed/desk/zone of intense typing, I was ready to enjoy my last weekend in Pune. My final presentation of my research paper happens to be scheduled for the second to last slot on Thursday, so I am not feeling too much pressure to do work! I am reading Holy Cow. an entertaining travelogue by an Australian writer who describes India very similarly to the ways I’ve experienced. I’ve also begun to sort things for packing—and realizing how much I’m brining back (and not just my physical samosa love handles and the zillions of trinkets I’ve picked up, but the life lessons too).

some kids in second grade :D
Friday, I spent the morning teaching English to second graders (see my previous post). Coming off that great mood, I used the program center internet to send some emails as my USB stick has run of out net time. Miraculously, I timed my bike ride home to intersect with a bus unloading the Kenyans! For those of you who do not know, Pune held its 25 International Pune Marathon this weekend. Having been signed up for weeks and only seeing billboards and signs sprout up Thursday, I couldn’t believe my luck to meet fellow runners. They spoke to me in English, as I sat stuck in the traffic on my purple Ladybird bicycle, explaining I too was competing. I can’t imagine arriving on a Friday evening and adjusting to jet lag in time for a 7 am race on Sunday. But these Kenyans and Ethiopians are something else when it comes to racing in adverse conditions.

the scene at "Scream"
Contented, I sped home to change before taking a rickshaw to my friend Carolyn from Northwestern’s beautiful host house for dinner, dancing, and a sleepover. Her wonderfully warm family prepared Goan food like fish curry and onion paratha. Once Carolyn’s host brother, a working mechanical engineer arrived home around 10, we left for the LOUDEST nightclub I’ve ever been too, aptly named “Scream”. Many of the students from our program met there and danced away to our favorite Bollywood tunes, with sprinklings of Lady Gaga and T Pain for zest. At two am, the club closed, but we stayed for coffee (I had decaf—cannot keep up with these Indians!) at Le Meridian hotel. Going to bed at 3:30, I finally slept past 8:30 for the first time this semester. Waking up to a delicious breakfast, I read the Times of India and recipe exchanged with Carolyn. Her wonderful host mom offered to drive me to Nehru stadium to pick up my race registration. Thank goodness she helped with the Marathi! I ended up running into one of the Teach for India fellows running the marathon and felt very small-world-despite-this-insane-crowd. 
I'll miss my internship and meeting the slum residents

Strange pleather-ish shirt bib and free travel duffel in tow, I met Sarah at E-Square to at last see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. We ate tons of candy, not exactly ideal pre-race nourishment, but I figured I’ve screwed my pasta and salad plan long ago. Watching a movie in India is great for three reasons:
1) it’s only about $2.50
2) Indians are a great audience who hoot, clap, and gasp at synchronized times
3) there’s an intermission, perfect for those of us with tiny bladders.
I enjoyed the film and for a moment, forgot I was in India. Until a lone cell phone went off, playing BSB’s “Show me the meaning (of being lonely)” upon hearing which Sarah and I died laughing. There is a mild resurgence of Backstreet Boys, at least in our Indian circles.
Using the Wi-fi at our favorite lounge, K-Lounge, we sipped fresh lime sodas and caught up with friends back home. I returned to the hostel with enough time for a stretch, huge dinner of rice, dal, and chapatti (YAY CARBS FOR RUNNING) and immediately slept by 10 pm.

Food that I'm going to miss!!!

My wake up call at 6:05 from my lovely program directors, Uttaaraa and Prashant meant they were outside to take me to the race, aimed to step off at 6:45 am. Finding our way through the mass of people, Uttaaraa and I eventually found group 4—the women’s half marathon. I have several comments about the race.
1)   Who knew it was for government officials to sit on throne like stages and give speeches while the athletes wait?

2)   Cultural performances can postpone a race by 1 hour

3)   Of 40,000 runners, only 24 were female half marathoners, 7 were female full marathoners, and 19 were female 10K-ers. 50 women. That’s it. Besides a Canadian, I was the only western woman.

4)   Sponges are handed out at water stations. Curious.

5)   I high-fived about 1000 schoolchildren throughout the 21 K

6)   Men were either

a.     Pissed I was passing them and would sprint ahead, walk, let me pass, sprint again….etc.

b.     Take cell phone pics (at least I was sort of doing something interesting)

c.      Actually be nice to me from the sidelines and call me ‘Didi’ (sister)

7)   One woman I met was training for the Bombay marathon with her husband, who patiently waited for her because men and women are kept separate
8)   There were absolutely no toilets available at the start or along the course. !!!!!
9)   There were no chip timers; I kept my own time, but the start was sort of like running through pudding; there were so many people trampling through the thick mass of bodies

10)                  Men got tee-shirts with the race logo and we got ones with Unicor (an Indian cell phone company).

11)                   What was at the finish for refreshment? Parle G’s of course. And chai and coffee. And the always-welcomed nimbo pani. Oh India.
Although I came in 7th for women in the half, obviously the field was really small. Sure, I was the first non-African, but after conversations with my fellow female competitors, it seemed like most Indian women competing were inexperienced runners. They were shocked I run outside, saying things like “how do you deal with the comments?” and “why not join a gym?” I also learned that this was the first year they even ran a women’s full marathon. The sexism bothered me beyond belief. I hate all these double standards.
Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day, a flat course, and a great workout.
Aditi's dad, a cooking machine
After a wonderful shower, I hopped on the back of Aditi’s two-wheeler for a cooking lesson with her wonderful South Indian dad. Carolyn and I were force fed uttaapa and an incredible lunch. Aditi and I lazed around and played with her pet turtles before I had to return home to start homework. Soon enough, Swapna came down and took us out to dinner at a restaurant famous for pav bhaji, a buttered roll served with pureed vegetables that you garnish with onion and lime. Then I decided to have papaya and mango pulp with ice cream. Last week, right?
Lots to do before leaving Pune, including presenting my epic 45 page research paper but that recaps my busy and fun weekend!

Also, from our group photo: the only true stop light in India:



  1. Bravo for overcoming sexism, making it into 7th place, and writing a 45 page research paper! Boy do you shine!

  2. I love the stoplight picture.


  3. Another chapter of Deven- The amazing girl from Cowtown, USA!