Madhouse and marathon dreams

Two things happened to me in the last two months that changed the course of my life. (I had a birthday, but that didn’t change the course of my life – we go relentlessly on, birthday after birthday until we run out of them, so birthdays don’t count as life changers in that sense. Even a 47th.)


So: First, I was co-opted to edit a book of memoirs of a bunch of guys from Hostel4 in IIT Bombay. I don’t really know if co-opted is the right word – this is something that happened so organically as to seem natural. I am surrounded by IITians, and have always been. Two fathers and husband, his friends who became mine over the years, and me thinking one day when he read out some his hostel stories from emails his mates wrote to each other, that they were universally hilarious or poignant, and would make a great book. As it turned out, they wanted it to be a book. And before long, and I really mean before long, we were headlong into a process that involved a publisher (Westland/Tranquebar), a contract, and a whole lot of work. I thought it impossible, but they wanted the book released by December 26th, which is their annual alumni day, and the publisher said, yes, if you give us a completed manuscript by July 5th. Yeow! Bring it on!

Why this looks like it will happen, and happen well, is that the writers of this book are amazing. The stories are pouring in, they are more often than not well written accounts of hostel life, of fellow students, professors, hikes, relationships, but most of all, and this is to me what really makes them worth reading, they are honest and straightforward.

My job is in a way hard, because there are all kinds of stories from all kinds of people and viewpoints and angles. I have to put them all together in a way that gives the book flow and form. But in a way, because of the content and the quality of the memoirs, if I do nothing more than clean up typos and put a title on it, this will be a book worth reading.

So for the last two months and the next two, I have put aside my next novel and a book of short stories which is due to my publisher in August to edit Madhouse – True Stories of the Inmates of Hostel4.

The second thing that happened to me is that my friend Jane, someone who I always thought a bit mad because she goes on very long runs at all times of day or night, gave me a book for my birthday. It’s called Born To Run. As strange coincidence would have it, or maybe it’s synchronicity, my walking partner Joanna had slowly started making our long walks together more run than walk. By the end of the book, I had this thought: I want to be a long distance runner. This is particularly odd for me – I have always hated running. Hated. And I know that at 47 I may never run more than five miles non-stop. But the idea sits in my brain like a little slow release endorphin capsule. My Vibrams (five finger shoes – they prohibit linking to their website)  make it possible to run without the dreaded “running” shoes – I was always afraid of them, thinking my foot would twist and then my leg would break off at the ankle if I ever ran. Nor are my lungs yet rid of all the nicotine I have enjoyed over the years (and boy, have I enjoyed every drag). But, who knows – the horizon is all the way there, and I haven’t run out of birthdays yet, and my legs work, and, till gravity has its way with me, I can keep trying. Better to try to run and not succeed than sit on a couch and fail for sure.

Happy Birthday all!

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