How I Became a Long-Distance Runner: Conversations with Nandini – Part One

In for the long haul

Nandini was born in 1989 in a village in Coorg. For her graduation, she came to Bangalore where she now lives with her husband and one and a half year old son. This first part of our conversation with Nandini explores her views on life, relationships and running. She works as a Senior Product Engineer for Harman Connected Services.

Nandini: The runner

About his running mate, Vishwas Raj has this to say “My friend Nandini is an ace runner and works with a gaming company. We are morning running buddies with most of our conversations happening during runs. She shuttles her time between Bangalore and Kushal Nagar (near Coorg) with her family which includes Vivaan, who is an active 1 1/2 year-old. She enjoys taking videos of her son’s day-to-day activities and his interactions and experiments with the world. She is athletic, competitive and upfront, and she has intense views on life that border on being construed as rude. She draws her strength from her love for running and is very clear with her opinions and asserts them every time she has an opportunity. She likes bringing her son in ways that resonate with her memories of rural life in Coorg, close to nature and with freedom to explore.”

Vishwas Raj needs to be acknowledged for introducing me to Nandini and assistance with the transcript. It is with his recommendation that this feature appears on Masala Chai.

This list was used as a guide to direct our conversation:

  1. You speak of memories influence how you bring up your child, tell me what you mean by that?
  2. What are the ways in which you feel that your background has influenced your views on life experiences? Give me examples in terms of values and practices?
  3. How have these values influenced your ideas as a parent? Are all your ideas borrowed from how you were brought up? What are some of the differences you feel you have made?
  4. Do you think these practices with your son will influence his identity, personality? What are you working towards?
  5. How do you think your child is different from other children you meet?
  6. What are your expectations from a school for the future of your son?

About her childhood and youth

“I am not a city girl. I am from a village; I can proudly say that. Till my graduation, I was in a village in Coorg. Only for my graduation I shifted to Bangalore. “By the way, I am more connected to animals than people, I’m being frank. Literally, I am telling you, if I see a person lying down in need of help and a dog, I will first help the dog, I’m telling you a fact. This is how I am. I don’t know how I get this feeling, people say I am rude. Yes, I am rude. And when there are humans and animals, I will help animals because there are multiple people to help humans. In Coorg, we don’t have many people. Of course now you have all this tourism and all, but before that we never did meet more people. Locals lived in close harmony with nature. There are few people near my house who are from a different community, who’s kids are mostly always covered and protected from the elements. We used to roam around in just shorts! These things made me realise that my kid should not be covered and protected all the time.”

About being a long-distance runner:

“In my college and school days, I was a sprinter. After coming to Bangalore, I never really used to run. Days used to start early, and days used to end early. Somehow, I managed one run in Bangalore in 2014, before I got married. We decided to run with friends, raising funds for the Army, Coorg has a good connection with the Army. First 2 kms, I was exhausted but the army men, they supported me and luckily I came second in the 5km run. It was run/walk/run/walk. My podium finish in the event got me completely hooked to running. So I am like that…….if I have come second, then I have to come first also. That got into me. That was my baby steps to running. And then it became an addiction. I felt that [if by] just by run/walk I can come second then I can run and come first also. Somewhere, it struck my mind. Slowly I started long distance, and after having my son, I restarted again. Now I run long distance, having done an ultra (50Km) recently.”

A winner

“I think after child birth, I made a mistake, I started walking and running within just one and a half months. But my body was not strong enough to hold up. And then, ‘for 5 days, I could not walk, my glutes were hurting. I googled so much, I did all the stuff, all exercises. I didn’t have access to internet, so my husband used to google and send screenshots of leg raises, etc. I needed to walk to the rest room, at least, but it used to hurt. After one and a half months, then I started walking, slowly. My kid was three months old then. I started with half an hour, one, one and half hours in the evening. After 8 months, I started running in the mornings. My son was with my mom. I was still in Coorg with my mom and my husband was in Bangalore. I had lot of time, five months I spent each and every moment with my son. From 20 days I started taking him out. People said that after delivery, babies are not taken out for 3 months. But my in-laws wouldn’t stop me, and they helped. I know some of our relatives would ask my in-laws “why she is going out so early?” They said only one thing, “Who will do for her?” She has to do [everything] all alone”, because if I can’t go out, who will be doing? This is how my in-laws defended me. Since they are well travelled, and broad-minded. I was so carefree, my mom was here. Then the lockdown happened. Thanks to corona, we got this opportunity. This is the best time for me. People say stay at home [is difficult]. We villagers, during rainy season, months we would be at home. I took it positively. My husband, my mom, my in-laws. I have been married four years, we have been together like never before, its been four months and we are together.”

About the lockdown…

“For my husband it [the lockdown] was a huge loss. I explained to him, that we have enough and it’s okay if we won’t be earning as much, but at least we will all be together. I took the lockdown positively. We never had this time in my life. Earlier, only Sundays we used to be at home. Now we were together because of lockdown. Till our death, we have enough, only we won’t be earning more. [I told my husband]…”You will not get this time again, if you are safe today, next year you can earn. If we have a loss of 20 lakhs we will recover, at least we have the capacity to earn again”. He [my husband] is into overseas higher education consultancy, so there is a huge slowdown. The point is that we have to learn to survive. If we survive this year, then we can earn again. We are blessed, at least we have a house, most don’t even have that. We don’t have to pay rent. This is how I interpret things. Before coming to Bangalore, I know how we were living before. This is nothing now, amidst beautiful nature, for months we used to have continuous rain…. landslide and floods…..for three months and we used to just stay home, it was lockdown for us. The sky used to burst and it poured…….”

About the environment:

“I hate tourism, some recovery has happened. I feel so bad cutting trees, building roads, we are paying for it. We demolished our old house, we now have a new construction. It is still very green. We never had privilege to take pictures, we have pictures in our eyes. My father is a planter, he is still doing it. We used to grow paddy. Situation changed so much. Now we grow pepper and coffee and still have trees and all. Maize, ginger, paddy, now nothing, because people buy coffee. They converted land into resorts and changed everything. We never had boundaries over there between the paddy fields. And nobody would encroach. Now, this is my land; that is my land, is all that people talk about. Even in villages people have become more money minded. When we were young, we used to go with everyone. We used to be bored at home, so if someone in the neighbourhood was going to town we would just accompany them. I have a brother who is two years older to me. We used to go with any one, though. We never had any restrictions when we were young. This has changed, and we can’t trust our own closer circle now. To some extent village life is better than cities.”

The family

“Relationships are ‘part of life’, but not my life”:

“What I said to my husband when I got married….I got married to an unknown family my marriage happened in 15 days. People were literally shouting at me. “What will happen to you?” I said, “Nothing will happen to me because I live for myself”. I made it clear to him also, you are part of my life, you are not my life. See, I said to my in laws also, you are family and I will give priority, but I give priority to my husband, my in-laws and then my mom. That’s how it is. They are older and I care for them. For festivals, I make sure that I am there. My husband, he is part of my life, but he is not my life. Four years ago, I was without him, right? If something happens to my husband…….or if something happens to me, he will stay, right? Time will heal everything. My son is also part of my life, he is not my life.” [Emphasis original]

About marriage

“First thing is that I was not interested to get married, because marriage is like a compromise and people will change and I have seen people become like the other side of the coin. I have seen that. I have seen one young woman, her husband died, and I was in my early teens, I saw, in our culture after your husband dies the woman stops putting bangles, flowers in the hair, no kum kum. So this lady, put flowers in her hair once, and people started gossiping. Why is she putting flowers. Even then, I thought about it, and I started also wearing flowers and bangles. During Makar Sankranti, flowers, kum kum, bangles are distributed to ladies and we used to dress up like goddesses, during the local puja. But when her husband died, she was hesitant. But when my mom started talking about her, I think to myself why not? Why should she not wear flowers in her hair, although she is a widow? We should give it to everyone and go around to the houses. I really didn’t know her then, yet I remember thinking about it. If now, I am in a similar situation, I would have done the same, now I will talk. At that time, I couldn’t understand.”

“Anything might happen, you should be ready for any situation. You see, my husband might cry for one month, two, one year..two years, beyond that he will forget, right? You may remember for an instant, like on a birthday or marriage anniversary. But eventually people will forget.”

“I know I inspire others”:

“I tell you, people will ask me why you think like this. I say, I really don’t know, and I know I inspire others. To some extent I will tell people, but after some time, I will back out, it’s their life. Everyone is intelligent. For that moment they may not know, but eventually they will understand, so I pull out. They will be knowing what they are doing, we should give them time.”

Looking closely

About her body:

“I love my body, I tell you. And I take care of it.”

About friendships:

“About friendships, also I feel I don’t believe in everyday calling friends or meeting. I don’t believe in all these things. So whenever you meet, whenever you call, however you are, be the same. I don’t call my friends often, but I will be the same person. Like Vishwas, he is my running partner, but I don’t carry that friendship home. I might call him occasionally for a get together or a function. I don’t like that pressure. I call when I feel like and if any body says that to me right now, I am so adamant and I have such a bad attitude that if someone says “You are too busy”, I make sure that I am so busy that I will never call them back for a lifetime. I am like that. Literally. If someone has concluded that I am busy, right? So fine, I will remain busy, and I won’t call you. This has happened to me. I didn’t call a friend for one month and I didn’t realise. That person called and said you have been busy you haven’t called. Well, if I am not calling there is some reason right? We can’t take each other for granted, people can be busy. It isn’t like “Oh, this girl is showing attitude”…so, I say “Yes, I have attitude; anyway, you have already concluded that, so Yes, I have an attitude!”

“I had this friend who is a hockey player, it’s been three years. He got married, I got married, but a few months ago, he messaged me, I messaged him, and we spoke and we were like, “Oh it’s been three years”. It was so good you know, we were talking after three years, four years…..I have my different life and he has a different life. You feel that you want to talk to people, it doesn’t happen, so that’s how it is. I don’t believe in meeting people regularly. I go with the flow, this is the way I am. If you want to be with me, be with me. But don’t expect anything. I own my life and not anyone else.”

“I owe that to my Dad. My dad one day he said……  you know what, we feed animals, cows, some food. In village we call it [xxxx unclear] like prasad with paddy etc… its specially made for animals. My Dad one day told me, I think I was around five. He said that I got you as a gift because I used to feed the cows. Some time later, one day when he asked me to do something, “I said why should I? You are not my father, if that is how you got me” [Referring to the cow-ritual]. Everyone was stunned, and my father realised that he shouldn’t say things like that to me. I didn’t say it with any intention, it came out of my mouth. Now also I say the same thing. People say give respect to your Dad. I always say it is from the heart not in the world. Even with my father, I talk to him, I scold him, I fight with him, I yell at him…..I do everything. My husband sometimes says “Why do you talk to him like that, he is your father?” I say, I talk to you like that, my mom, my dad they never restricted me. When I came to Bangalore everyone said, let her get married before going to Bangalore, because Bangalore is a spoilt place, a big city. But my mother said “Why? Let her go. Whatever she wants to do let her do it. Whatever has to happen is written in her life.” My Dad also supported me. Many relatives disapproved, including my mom’s sister who was scolding my mom. But my mother and brother supported me. Who else do we require to enter this world? I always tell this to my husband and whomever I meet. First thing your family and your family. I always think about myself, I love myself. Sometimes it is bad also.”

“Unless you are happy with yourself……you can’t keep anyone happy. I have seen many people, till ten years twenty years of marriage, they don’t care of themselves, just focusing on family. I am not like that.”

To be continued…….. Part Two: “I want him to be a Rambo-baby”: Conversations with Nandini

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 13729adf-8092-4598-b538-67b6ca44f06b.jpg
Nandini and Rambo Baby

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