Beating the Bug Blues

Shalom, Namaste and Hello!

This week was hectic in many ways with my apartment complex being declared as a ‘Covid Hotspot’ although restrictions haven’t been applied as yet. My cycling trips have been drastically cut down with regular 100 km. runs now being limited to 50 km. or so. The general advise here is to hunker down and closet oneself to beat the bug.

My new hobby is checking the trail of ancient languages and their evolution, with the focus being on Hebrew and Koine Greek. It was my dream to learn the original languages of the Tanakh ( the Jewish Bible ) and the New Testament (NT) and *cough* thanks to Covid, I am on the cusp of achieving it. I would like to emphasize that it will take years of hard learning to become an expert. At this point I am a novice.

The Book of Psalms or Tehillim in Hebrew, is my all time favorite. There are several online resources available to get one started and running on the ancient languages trail and I am not going to elaborate on these. Tip :- A good way to kick off is to access an online Interlinear Bible. The Tanakh ( Hebrew acronym for Torah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim ) is almost the same as the Old Testament with the order of the books being different.

Koine Greek has a ton of resources online and I had been dabbling in it for several years now, but decided to get serious only in the Covid era. The original NT was written in an unbroken flow style, with ancient manuscripts using both majuscule and minuscule Greek text. Again, studying Koine Greek is quite technical with a lot of grammar and associated stuff involved. The Gospel of John is my favorite book in the NT and am thrilled with the ancient Greek reading. [Greek — ΤΟ ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ ΑΓΙΟΝ ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ, the Gospel according to Saint John.]

Sanskrit is another ancient language that I have in my sights but learning Sanskrit is like fish taking to the water for me as I had studied it till the 8th standard in school. My scores were almost cent percent in the Sanskrit school tests. Also my mother tongue is Hindi and it is interwoven with Sanskrit. So, I am going easy on Sanskrit right now with the focus being on Hebrew and Koine Greek.

That is it from me then, hope we all beat this era and emerge victorious on the other side. Ciao!

Extended lockdown with some easing

This is a quick update on some of my experiences during the COVID19 pandemic.

My cycling is about to kick off, albeit in a very limited fashion, maybe just in and around my city locality. But, I can’t live without it. So, I will take whatever is on the plate.

We had a close shave after being indirectly exposed to a seriously ill COVID19 patient in a hospital nearby. A family member got very sick and we admitted them to the hospital when a severely ill patient in their Intensive Care Unit on another floor, developed COVID19 symptoms. The young man was immediately shifted to another COVID19 specialty hospital where he, unfortunately, passed away. Thereafter, we went into medical quarantine for 14 days. We are out of it and are OK.

The lockdown here in my city has been extended but they have divided the city into ‘Green, Orange, and Red’ zones. The red zones are under complete lockdown, orange ones have a partial lockdown while green zones are fully open. In any case, people are NOT permitted to loaf or loiter on the streets in any zone. The police stations here are becoming the biggest COVID19 casualties with police people serving in red zones regularly getting infected. This may pose a law and order issue in the future.

The good news is that people here are learning to cope and live with this infection. Is there any other way? Life goes on even in the worst of circumstances. Hoping for the best but preparing for the worst should be the motto.

 

PS:- Dated 9 May 2020

Post-COVID19 Era

This ‘thing’ — the global virus wave, struck my town out of the blue and it came in when I was planning and preparing to take off for a long bike tour. I am sure this is what most of us feel around the globe, like being punched in the belly. It helps little being cooped up in a 21-day lockdown, which may extend up to 90 days. Today is Day 4 of the 21-day lockdown here in my city of Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India.

I can still tinker with my bikes and make small rounds in our housing complex campus. But, that is about it. Going out is risky and I intend to stay put unless it is absolutely necessary.

To tell you the truth most experts think that this virus is here to stay and will keep hitting us in waves. I feel it’s going to change our lifestyle in many ways, some for the good. The noise, air, and water pollution levels are almost normal here, down from the very unhealthy peaks. Nature is also reclaiming spaces slowly but surely. I truly think we had botched up this planet in a bad way with our selfish materialistic pollution-spewing lifestyle. It all came back to us with a vengeance. Do we deserve this? Hard to say.

About this virus ….. Its highly infectious, even more than the flu. Some claim that the infection rate is explosive. It has a name — SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it spawns is called as COVID-19. It started off in a city in China called Wuhan. It is NOT the flu. The virus belongs to a different family. Symptoms are flu-like, but they can be quite severe. There are no clear patterns as to whom it strikes the hardest, but people in the 70+ age group seem to be the worst off. Fatality rates are highest in the elderly having multiple underlying issues. It’s likely to infect a lot of people around the globe, the virus vaccine will take about 18 months to be in the market, could be earlier. Till then, it’s going to be like being in the middle of a hurricane.

For cyclists like me, it’s hard. But, I have so many fond memories of my previous bike tours that I think I can bank on these through the tough times. It was the best time of my life, those tours. To tell you the truth many of those around me thought I was a bit cranky and off-world. ‘Why bike when you can drive?’  ‘This is a “foreigner” thing to do, why are you doing it?’ ‘It’s a waste unless you are getting some money for it.’ These were the usual remarks and queries. They didn’t think that soaking in the beauty of forests/villages, mountain streams and talking to people in far off remote places was worth it. I hope people change their minds if we make it out through this.

I will write a lot while trying to cope with this lockdown here. I do think that when we do emerge out of this maelstrom our planet will be more beautiful and lovely than the trash can that we had turned it into.

Yoga — No Pretzels Here

Yoga is an ancient Indian form of physical practice. The common man’s definition — yoga involves physical postures and poses that help relax the body, stretch rigid muscles and improve blood circulation. Worse come to worst you end up being a pretzel with limbs winding around your torso. Ok, that was a joke.

To aspiring sports enthusiasts like me yoga is a tremendous exercise to loosen up those taut rigid muscles and improve breathing techniques. I remember starting off yoga in a rush and ending up with discomfort. Yoga is not meant to be played around with. This was a few years back. Down the tunnel of time, I have learned a few things about yoga. Just wanted to share this with the reader. By the way, this article is not going to be a compendium on yoga as I am no yoga instructor or expert. It’s just a few tips on how to go about yoga in a better fashion.

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                     Yoga is all about getting your breathing and your posture right.*

That’s lesson number one. Yoga is not meant to be an activity where you do your split leg stance at the first go or happen to have your legs snaking up your torso and the feet jutting out next to your head. Start off with the easiest yogic postures and be relaxed while going about it. It’s more like giving your body a break that it desires. The man in the pic up there has the right cross legged sitting posture, including the arms and fingers. That is a pranayama posture and is a good way to start off on your yoga trail.

The first thing your body needs is slow relaxed breathing and the pranayama posture helps you attain this. Breathe in slowly using your expanding belly to fill in air and then give out a slow relaxed exhale, while contracting your belly. Several variations of pranayama exist. But, your focus should be on easy relaxed breathing. This is important. People start off by breathing fast or holding their breath too long and this can result in complications for some people, like those having high blood pressure.

Lesson number two; if your body is groaning while going into a yogic posture, you are overdoing it and should stop it. Don’t do it even if a yoga instructor is trying to make you take up that posture, have seen this resulting in injury. People with a prior history of joint or spinal injuries are particularly susceptible. Even if you were injury free, it takes years of practice and diet control to get to the point of being a pretzel. Yes, you heard it right, diet control leading to a slimmer physique helps with yogic flexibility.

Which brings me to lesson number three; yoga and simple living are closely tied. Simple living and yoga complement each other tremendously. The simple living principle entails good food and sleep habits. It means checking back with your body almost continuously. Am I sitting at the computer too long ? Maybe that is why my neck is complaining ? Time to take a break and some neck, arm flexibility exercises. There is no gain if you are abusing your body several hours a day, gorge on fatty and sugary stuff, have poor sleep patterns and then hope that yoga would sort all that out.

That wraps up this article on how to go about yoga. You don’t even have to be formal about yoga, just do it where ever you can. Follow this up with more exercises, slowly increasing the tempo and listening to your body all the while. There is a wealth of information on the internet. In addition I will be starting off a video series on ‘simple yoga’ shortly. If you do have pre-existing medical conditions or a history of serious injury, then, you would require a certified yoga instructor and would also need to consult a qualified physician from time to time.

Do keep checking back for more on this !

*Photo by Ruslan Alekso from Pexels

A Vegan Streak

I don’t know how to put this in words, but for the best part of my life I was a prolific meat eater. Meat to me was a wholesome diet and going to vegetarian food invites was something to be avoided. However, I couldn’t help noticing that my digestion took a hit with all that meaty protein intake and my body felt ‘heavy’ after ingesting such stuff. There were some other effects too, like the formation of phlegm and feeling of rigidity in my joints. To add insult to injury body weight was off the charts and my belly …. well, .. it was so bad that I couldn’t see my feet looking down. 

I was also becoming asthmatic and had trouble walking up staircases. All that weight lumbered down on my knee joints and soon they were creaking too. In desperation, I searched for answers in modern medicine. There were none. One of my cousins who is a qualified medical doctor advised me to try Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a system of herbal medicine in my country. It is actually a lifestyle oriented system, with particular emphasis on diet. I started off into Ayurveda and after a month or so, noticed that my weight was trimming down and my digestion had improved dramatically.

Ayurveda had helped me cut down weight drastically. However, my belly and hips still carried a lot of flab. Ayurvedic doctors advised me to cut down on sugar and on … MEAT ! That was like a punch to my solar plexus. Oooof ! They also told me that I had to avoid dairy milk that was coming off the departmental stores. According to them it was too thick and had chemicals in it. The native aka indigenous cow variety milk was supposed to be the best thing for me.

Needless to say I did not follow the advise for quite some time. This went on till I started taking part in duathlons and half marathons. In case you didn’t know duathlons are races which involve both running and cycling. On the race track I was too flabby compared to most athletes, who were lean and muscular. Most of the top performers had almost no belly flab. Compared to my friends and acquaintances I  appeared quite fit, but this turned out to be a mirage when it came to the athletic track. This was the same story in scuba and free diving. The instructors and regular divers were like chiselled up to the last shred, with almost no body fat, excluding the odd exceptions. Which meant that yours truly had no option but to take the plunge into the seemingly drab and dreary world of vegetarians or worse — the vegan world.

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Greens and the wonders of a light feeling !!

However, once I tested the vegetarian waters, things turned out to be a breeze. Cutting down on my sugar intake and chopping out meat transformed my rigid and heavy body feel to a fluid and light one. The change was noticeable once I took to long distance bike touring. 100 kilometres a day on my bike was like no sweat. Meanwhile dairy products continued to bug me. I noticed that my body was not comfortable with commercial dairy products and there were no other options available to me regarding native cow milk. That meant that dairy was off my menu too. This didn’t hurt me in any way and my athletic activity continued unabated.

Once I went down the vegan oriented trail, other things came to my notice too i.e. animal abuse in the meat and dairy industry. Thanks mostly to information from my social accounts like Twitter, I have come across articles on unimaginable cruelty being inflicted on animals to sustain the ever burgeoning demand for meat and dairy products. Now, am not going to start a full blown venting on this issue here, but it does rankle me. 

To be honest I am not very strict about my vegan streak. This has to do with the fact that there are hundreds of people groups in my country, each following their own culture and dialect. In some tribal groups it is customary to serve the guests with meat dishes ( the menu can be downright weird ) and it is considered a great dishonour to turn down the menu. Since my bike and adventure journeys often take me to the remote regions of my Indian peninsula, I do not have the luxury of following the vegan lifestyle to it’s full extent. 

This article is in no way an evangelical effort to convert meat and dairy consuming people to a vegan lifestyle. It’s just a description of how things worked out for me. I would however like people to switch from a meat and dairy hogging lifestyle to one where the intake of such is lessened to a great degree. As far as athletics is concerned there is no data to confirm that a vegan lifestyle is superior when it comes to performance. Changing one’s dietary habits is also governed by so many other factors which includes pre-existing medical conditions. In such cases, professional advise from medical practitioners should be sought.  

P.S.: Edited article replacing biathlon with duathlon, duathlon is the correct terminology.