Friday, August 28, 2009

IIMA Scoop: Watch Your Step

The whole batch of IIMA 2006-08, or at least the ones who know Harshal Mehra are repeatedly delighted by his marathon tragedy. Harshal is constantly goaded to repeat this story to fresh audiences. The irony of it kills us every single time. It would be a shame if you didn't hear the tale in your lifetime.

It took some effort to persuade Harshal to allow me to write this article. Harshal is a straightforward person who speaks his mind. He laughs heartily when he feels like it and abuses ideas he hates with equal ferocity. Fearing a backlash like had happened with my previous blog subjects, I had prepared a pitch for why this story had to be told to the world.

'Harshal, I am planning to write about your marathon tragedy on my blog.'
'Nooo! Iyer! I don't want to a celebrity!'
That settled it. Any person, who has dreamt of celebrity status from such a measly blog would surely be delighted even by a nugget of online attention. Any consequent embarrassment or character malignment would be just mild collateral damage. So his subsequent faux complaints were conveniently ignored.


The story takes place between the months of June'06 and Feb'07 while Harshal was in Year1 at IIMA. Something motivated him in June to prepare for the Mumbai Marathon in February. And he conveniently aimed for the full 42km length. Finding even a continuous hour for academic projects is a tough task at IIM. And marathon practice required over three. So Harshal found a curious solution for it.

Have you ever pondered while sleeping about the plight of those pitious people who are plying on the roads at night, while you are plushly plonked on your bed asleep pondering? Yes. Harshal was one of those guys. Alone, wandering on the silent roads of Ahmedabad from 2am to 5am. That's right. 2am to 5am. While other IIMA mortals would drink, be merry, prepare for their internship summers, waste time idolizing Barney Stinson, or worse - study, Harshal utilized his nocturnal hours jogging. How he survived the ensuing day is anybody's guess.

He picked Fun Republic Cinemas as a landmark for his jogging track, around 4km from the campus. He'd make three rounds back and forth to clock 24km. At first the other nocturnal beings, the owls and the autowaalas, ignored him. But soon they began to take some interest in his pursuits. In the latter months of practice, the autowaalas cheered and encouraged him, complimenting his continuous improvement in stamina and timing.

As would be obvious by now, Harshal is a fitness enthusiast. Please don't draw stereotypes of a man eating half a dozen bananas a day, or gulping a litre of milk in the morning like a mushtanda swinging a mudgar. Though I admit as his flatmate now that quite a bit of that is true. Harshal also managed to take care of his health over the period of his jogging routine - eating the right kind of protein, vitamin and that other thing. He sought guidance from his seniors who were also planning to run the same marathon. What should I eat? How should I measure my heart rate? Why is it so dark at night?

You see, Harshal by nature also has a burning curiority for everything around him. If we were to draw a symbol capturing the sheer essence of Harshal Mehra, it would be a question mark. And since you have read so much about him, I urge you to think like him too. Question the basics. What really motivated Harshal to consider running the Mumbai Marathon?

There is conspiracy theory of a jogging angel from his senior batch who was a constant source of inspiration for him. But because this is unverified and vehemently denied by Harshal, I will not delve more into that aspect. Every man has an independent right to have a fetish for jogging women and this should not be arbitrarily mentioned in an article. Such slanderous remarks are completely uncalled for. Hence I shall not talk about the jogging lady. You are free of course to contact Harshal on this.

So after 8 months of jogging, befriending the auto-waalas, investing in his health, Harshal caught a train to Mumbai a day before the marathon. Yes, the train arrived on time. Please don't belittle the article by assuming such a lame twist to it. Let me say that again. There is a bigger twist to the story.

On the big day, Harshal woke up and prepared himself for the run. He wore his brand new wristband, new headband, new socks and old underwear. I am assuming all this because it just adds a cruel twist to the story. Harshal caught the local train to VT. As he got off the train, he stepped incorrectly and sprained his right ankle.

Harshal never ran the marathon.
Writer sheds two tears before resuming.

His seniors impatiently waited for him at the marathon venue. His batchmates impatiently waited back in the campus wanting to hear about his marathon feat. Of course when Harshal returned to IIMA with a crepe' bandage on his right foot, they figured he had a different tale to tell. I wouldn't blame you if you cringe and find nothing amusing about this tragedy. But if you imagine the copious effort Harshal put into his dream, the stuff he sacrificed on campus for it, the pain he suffered after every 24km run and the poorly twisted ankle on the day of the marathon; and the sheer irony of it brings a wry smile to your face, do spread the story. It would be a shame if your friends didn't hear the tale in their lifetime.

Edit: When Harshal first read this article, he showed no signs of being offended. In fact he provided more masala mentioning that he was called 'Langda Tyagi' for a while (Omkara fame), thanks to the sprained leg.

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If you liked this, you might also like to read:
A Case of 27 Oranges
I Knew Something Was Wrong

9 comments:

  1. Whoa - this is actually tragic!
    Also, alliteration acknowledged! :)

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  2. Finally, Harshal's story get's a mention. Kudos (to both)!

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  3. Yaar Iyer! Climax disappointing kar diya tune... The punch was lacking :( The kind of celebrity status that Bheem will attain now will get tainted now!! Damn it !!

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  4. And that was just the beginning of the agonies of the foot... there could be a sequel to this story :)

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  5. Is THIS the story he gave you? Saala fraud! The real story is nothing as romantic. Bastard sliiped in the IIM dorm bathroom while doing something which might be censored. In that sense it WAS romantic... but not THIS romatic.

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  6. sadist Iyer!!!

    :D

    awesome read...

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  7. poor chap and awesome read :D

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  8. Knowing the story already did not take away even an iota from the godlevelastic narration.. 3 cheers to Iyer, awesome post Macha!

    Langda tyagi Bahu Bali Bahu Bali!!!

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