Into the new world of Open water swimming

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My life has some some past connection with water.  When I was about 7 years old, we went on a family trip to various temples in South India. One such Devipattinam Navagraha stones in waterplace we visited was Devipattinam, a coastal village in Ramanathapuram District in Tamil Nadu. This place is famous for their Navagraha temple which is in a form unique to this place. There is a story that Rama had to calm the sea to build his bridge to Lanka , and he installed nine stones as a representation of the Navagrahas  or the nine planets. You would see nine stones partly submerged in water in the sea close to the beach near to the famous Thilakeshwar temple. So we had to go 9 rounds the nine stones inside a fenced structure in water. At 7 years, I was one of the shortest kid in my age group and definitely the water level was up to my neck when I was walking with my parents and other relatives during the nine rounds inside the fence. But it so happened I slipped and went inside the water. I had no clue of swimming. And as you drown in water you struggle to come out and I tried about 3 times and could not , and started to be going with the tide and just about to cross the fence and get washed into the sea. All my relatives panicked and my uncle who caught me by my hair just a second before I was taken away by water near the fence. I must have gone with water long ago.  But some how saved, and my mother ensured that I learn swimming after this incident. She took me to a local pool in Coimbatore to put me in Swimming class. I drank enough water in the pool too , and even cried I would die if I am left in the pool. My coach forced me to swim. I struggled and learnt a bit of survivor swimming during that course and managed to swim with my head out like a dog pedal. One thing I was comfortable was just float in water with face up, I had enough body fat that time my buoyancy was phenomenal. I could float without doing anything in water. But not much of swimming any happened during the course.  Its been more than 20 years since this incident happened.
Though I did not really continue much on my swimming endeavors till I moved to Mumbai for my first job with TCS. But there was some attraction with water that pulled me into the nearby pool and I started to swim. I hard could complete a lap because I never learnt properly how to breath in water. All I know was to kick the legs and move my arms to move forward. When I moved to a new apartment with my friends in second year with TCS, there was a dedicated club house where I started to go regularly. I used to watch the way kids swim and tried to practice a bit of swimming in laps for the first time. Then later XL life was busy in Jamshedpur and never ventured swimming much till I moved to Hyderabad. I saw the Gachibowli pool in Hyderabad and there was an instant attraction again to jump in water. I had a chance to go on a rotation program in Redmond in 2010. It was only then, my skip level manager Matt , taught me the  basics of swimming and how to breath while in water. I was lucky to get a 3 month of membership in an awesome sports club in Redmond. I did 3 months of continuous  practice to really improved my swimming. I had posted about this in 2010. 
Since then I have been regularly swimming for the past four and half years. May be not every day but this is one of my favorite active sport and regular at it. Have improved my Lake Washington Park to park Swimcomfort level with water tremendously over the years and now I just still feel like jumping into water the moment I see it. So the next level of experience with water I was longing for was open water swimming -  Get in water and break free from swimming pools. I wanted be with that open water again.  2014 was a year for that. First was to experience deep sea diving and I did about 5 deep sea dives  so far and got certified as an open water diver. But loved that experience every bit of it. The most blissful moments when you inside the sea and with the fishes and corals in Hawaii. Amazing time. The next was the real open water swimming. The best attempt I could begin was to do the Park to Park swim in Seattle crossing Lake Washington. I trained for couple of months in Washington lake and Rattle snake ledge to get comfortable with open water.  Finally I completed a cross lake swim of 1.4 miles in 50 min. Though the timing is not super awesome , it was a big win for me in breaking free from pools to swim open water. This opens a new world for me and it is bliss to be in the water and just enjoy every moment of it. Hope to do some more good open water swims and awesome deep sea dives in the coming years!!  My passionate dreams track some of my goals I have in this and you can look for the photos of my recent swim in my Facebook feed.  #Loveforwater

The day I survived 202 miles cycling - STP, 2014

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There are moments in life when you feel you have hit your physical limit, but there is something so strong in your mind pushing you to continue. At that moment, somewhere in your body there is a sudden spurt of energy to help you overcome the odds and continue with what you are doing. I had that particular moment when I biked last month on July 12th for 202 miles from Seattle to Portland.

There were moments of excitement and joy as I cruised at 16-17 miles an hour for the first 100 miles of the ride in just 6.5 hours froclip_image004m the start point at University of Washington to half way point at Centralia. I had big hopes at this moment that I would be finishing the ride in another 7-8 hours and probably driving back to Seattle on day 1. There came a point at 110 miles on the first day where the temperature shot up to 103 Fahrenheit, the hottest day in Washington, when we were passing rolling hills to Winlock and Lexington. This is where I was completely dehydrated, cramping and totally sapped. At 120 mile mark I fell flat on a stop point thinking I am almost done.
But there was somewhere in my mind I kept telling I am riding this event for a cause and not this is just not another ride for me today. I wanted to support Isha Vidhya initiative by Isha foundation for my first STP ride. Isha Vidhya has taken giant strides in the last few years in helping rural kids in India go to school and get best education. The goal was to raise $5 to support for every kilometer of the 328 KM (202 miles) ride, which would fund one year of education for 10 Kids at Isha Vidhya. With the support of my friends and family, we raised about 2300 USD before the event through direct and matching contributions.

clip_image006This definitely played a great role in pushing me to give my best shot on the ride. This mental strength gave me that additional energy to continue the ride. At the 150 mile mark there was a high elevation to bike, where you cross the Lewis & Clark Bridge, which is a 2722 feet long cantilever bridge. But the thought that the other side of the bridge is Oregon State and I am just 54 miles to end point gave me that sudden spurt of enthusiasm to bike harder now. I continue to bike till I reached 176 mile mark to St.Helens at 9 pm when it turned dark I had to stop for the day. Till this point I had biked for about 16 hours with a couple of hours at stop points to eat. My mother and a friend helped me at this point to get to the hotel to rest for the night.

clip_image010I started to ride again the next day on July 13th at 6.45am from St. Helens in the morning, when sitting on the saddle was excruciatingly painful. With just another 30 miles to go I rode for another 2 hours to reach the end point at Portland at 9 am when I was in tears and gratitude. My mother bought me the Isha Vidhya poster as I hugged it with a sense of satisfaction.
I was in the bike riding for about 18 hours in total till the finish line, and in that time span there were moments of excitement, joy, pain. As Sadhguru says, when you do things with absolute involvement not with hesitation and calculation things happen for you, and I felt this during this ride. Thanks to everyone who helped me in supporting Isha Vidhya for this year STP.
Special Thanks to Kaizad, who trained with me for the last 3.5 months riding more than 1000 miles for this ride. He did this STP for the second year and without him I would not have definitely not know what to train and what this ride was all about.  Also should not forget to thank Karishma , my friend and Kaizad’s significant other who was our SAG support along with my mother over the two days. They ensured we get the right food and nutrition all along the two days. 
You can see more photos from the event from my Facebook feed and link to the fundraising page.

Update : The story was published in Isha Foundation blog as well on August 15th. Here is the link to the Page  : A 200-mile Journey for Education - Cycling for Isha Vidhya from Seattle to Portland. 

Basic financial literacy–Ignorantia juris non excusat

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Have been procrastinating a while since finishing STP last month for most of the regular tasks and that includes writing in the blog or reading a book.  But this study by Livemint gave some inspiration to write over the weekend.
imagePretty interesting article posted by Live mint, which has questions from Youth Money Olympiad 2014. Straight forward basic financial awareness questions related to Banking, Credit , investments and basic of economics like Inflation. These are not even getting into deeper areas like stock market trading, option & futures etc. But the % of responses given below the questions is scary. They did this break up with City wise (link), and Chennai was the lowest. Not surprising from the land I come from – where most of our relatives are LIC agents selling some Jeevan-X endowment policy and a lot of misselling . I still remember my mother was sold by one of my relatives, a classic LIC endowment policy on my name, when I was at my 17 years old. At that time she was the bread winner of  the family . Who is to be blamed in this situation - the misselling done by my relative or the lack of financial awareness from my mother at that time.  At this juncture-my Law professor’s statement comes to my mind – “Ignorantia juris non excusat”, Ignorance of law is not an excuse to a mistake.
So we can keep blaming misselling in the industry – I was missold a Ulip , endowment policy , pension plan etc. We can also crib that the regulator is not doing anything about it, but that is not going to change anything for us and until we take personal accountability of our own personal finance. If we take effort to understand the basics of managing our own finance – keep it as simple (and also sensible) as possible without buying any complicated product there is enough we can progress in this. There is enough written about this in books in amazon. Maybe start with a a simple book (but powerful) like Retire rich invest 40 a day. I read this book when I was 24. I wish I had read this book even before. Well have I become an expert at it now, the answer is a definite No. I am still baby crawling to understand this huge world of knowledge. But have got couple of simple lessons, keep your thinking simple, disciplined in taking action, and do not have over confidence on your intelligence and forget that we are very very biased in our decision making. I am not searching for most optimal solution but a satisficing solution and accept the fact that I am bound to make mistakes and keep learning from them. (Bounded Rationality it is!)
Financial literacy is so important and the best place to start is at home with kids. Teaching them to handle money on their own, living within a budget and not blowing that away when they are kids. That makes the learning easier and not preaching them not to have maxed out the credit card when they are in college or on their first job. So why don’t they have basic personal financial education as a course in school, and please don’t force them to grade this so badly that kids start hating this subject like some subjects like Economics. Making personal finance knowledge teaching fun and interesting for kids to learn is probably an area to be explored big and that is one of my interest to get in later maybe !
Update : Pretty interesting quora discussion where Jimmy Wales talk about expectation setting. Read Quote of Jimmy Wales' answer to Jimmy Wales: What advice would Jimmy Wales give to the young generation? on Quora