We are on our way back from Pondicherry to Pune. My brother bid adieu to his life as a bachelor and we are returning now three days after his wedding. I had been running steadily for a few months now alternating with trainings in a gym. Emulating Murukami in my mind, I have been racking up my humbler set of kilometers daily. The rains in Chennai, one of the worst in a hundred years had flooded the city and after a night divided between lying on the airport floor, in a hotel lobby and on the floor of a hotel room I secretly paid a bribe for, we arrived at Pondicherry after a eight and a half hour drive braving floods that swept across the roads.
In Pondicherry, I kept my running promise to myself and every morning no matter how hard the rains, I was on the beach, with and against the winds, often soaked under my thin raincoat. Willpower is an interesting thing. The more you want it, the more it slips away like sand gripped too tight in a fist. And yet, the very effort of trying and trying and trying, day after day after day, even when you do not want to, weaves around you and inside of you a cloak. And on mornings of heavy rain, me and a few others like me, proved to our selves the meaning of our lives on the isolated beach front. Some ran, some walked and some like me did both. A brilliant ocean wild in the colors and moods of the monsoons danced next to me. The wind hard against my body bent my resolve many a time. Not just the resolve to run but the resolve to try.
Many years ago I was in a car accident that laid me up in bed for six months. When I once almost lost the joy of inhabiting my body, I vowed never to take for granted again the dignity of being able to carry your own bags, the flight of a body that can bend over a bicycle. But the wind that pushed against my body in this small southern town this last week brought my darkest doubts about myself to my face. Returning to your childhood home is a hard feat on it’s own. Growing up in a small and tightly knit town, marked out as an odd duck, I must bear the burden of my past in these visits. “Why do you run now when you did not when you were younger? Why are you so thin? Why do you not eat more? Why run in the rain? Are you trying to lose more weight?” Since the purpose of my running ran too deep and too close to my heart for casual discussion, I had to live with the scrutiny.
The odd duck is still odd, though now in a new and different way. One can never go back home. And so, I faced the wind on the beach- side road and felt still the weakness of my childbirths in my core, felt still the ferocity of my doubts about myself and my abilities. The aim? To run a marathon one day. The way? Rack up the miles one by one by one. I ran against that wind, my feet slowed, my body bent, those doubts buzzing irritably in my ears like mosquitos.
In long walks with a childhood friend, in solitary musings on the rocks facing the sea; I discussed, mulled, rebelled. My brother is now married happily, so I will hope. I have left behind again the city of my childhood and significantly in a week we return to America. The Indian sejour is over. When we left Chennai, the rains had eased, the waters receded and yet thousands in the city were still stranded; their homes and belongings seeped and still soaked in waters from the sky, the roads, the drains. Everything in this world is conjoined in a fantastical dream. I have no time to keep, no race I wish to win, just that distance. And the hope that this exertion, this very self-doubt and the act of pushing on and against, shall keep me alive to myself and the life I must lead.