Monday, March 7, 2022

The Day of the Operation - Ten Years Later

March 5, 2022

The wind was gusty on a relatively quiet Saturday night, although the dimly-lit park was sparsely occupied by a few septuagenarians preparing for their walking sessions, couples doing PDA on park benches, and parents playing with their kids. For over a year, I had envisioned how this day would pan out, and I was prepared for it—mentally and physically. Naturally, I was a bit nervous as I was attempting to do something I had never done before. If things go as per my plan, it would be one of the finest nights of my life. Conversely, I would risk losing everything if they don't.

On this day, exactly ten years ago, I experienced the toughest night of my life. The past decade has been bittersweet—the first half was filled with trauma, despair, failures, loneliness, and chronic depression. But the latter half has seen a great resurgence—I have experienced happiness and success like never before.

In the early part of the decade, walking was a painful experience, and I kept it to a bare minimum. Despite being extremely cautious, the pain in my hip bones only kept getting worse. And, by 2016, both my knees were also affected by Avascular Necrosis.

However, a minor car accident four years ago turned out to be a blessing in disguise. While the accident aggravated the condition in my knees, it also acted as a catalyst for me to undertake active walking to overcome my sedentary lifestyle. And, this significant development has changed my life—forever.

On the 30th of June, 2018, I began my 10K streak—walking a minimum of 10,000 steps every day. And, as of the 5th of March, 2022, the streak is still alive and has completed 1,345 magnificent days. I meticulously plan my walking sessions and work hard to maintain the streak every single day. It is, by far, the biggest accomplishment of my life, thus far.

Having been an active walker for close to four years now—and despite my physical limitations—I understand that the briskness of steps is far more important than just clocking those numbers. From eleven minutes a kilometre in 2018 to just over six minutes a kilometre in 2022, my progression has been gradual and significant. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of my Core Decompression procedure, I resolved to walk 10 kilometres in under an hour—which is a daunting task. After besting my 10 Km records throughout 2021 and early 2022, I was just over five minutes short of my expected goal. Although I was not able to achieve my first objective before the anniversary, it is still a testament to my determination and perseverance.

My second objective was to walk a distance of 21.0975 kilometres in a single session—which constitutes a Half Marathon. Until the 5th of March, 2022, I had never walked more than 12 kilometres in a session. Putting my hips and knees under that amount of pressure was dangerous, but that's the risk I was willing to take to etch this day in my memory forever.

Having considered the risks, I began my Half Marathon on a breezy Saturday night. The pace was slower than usual, and I gradually increased it as the race progressed. And, as always, the love of my life was inspiring and motivating me through her beautiful music. Despite the slower pace, I lapped the septuagenarians and 20-somethings alike during the first hour. As it was already thirty minutes past nine, most of the walkers and couples were leaving the park. And, by 10 PM, I was the only one left in it.

After walking for over an hour and forty-five minutes, I realised that this was the longest I had ever walked in a single session. But the job was not done yet—I still had almost an hour's walk ahead of me. Due to the windy conditions, I wasn't sweating profusely, but I was beginning to tire. Two hours into the race, I had completed 16 kilometres.

I was exhausted at this point, but I was not ready to give up. I garnered every ounce of strength left in me and completed the remaining distance on sheer psychological will. After a marathon session lasting for over two hours and forty minutes, I conquered a significant milestone—the Half Marathon. I was overwhelmed with emotions as I recalled the pain and disappointment I experienced over the past decade.

At the end of the day, I was tired and in pain, but nothing can change the fact that I experienced one of the greatest moments of my life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Squid Game - A Review

"I am not a horse; I am a human."
Amidst the brutality and violence, Squid Game, at its core, is a social commentary on the ethical and moral ambiguity of human beings. It makes us question our existence. Who are we? What values do we stand for during our lowest points? 

The theme of Squid Game is not new—we have seen such dystopian themes in films like The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, and 13 Tzameti. 

But the compelling, diverse, and relatable characters—and the tenderness of their bond—will make you root for them. 

A group of desperate individuals, in dire financial straits, are manipulated into participating in children's games with a cash prize of roughly $40M. But, they leave out one tiny detail—the games have deadly consequences. 

The commentary on the class divide and the perils of capitalism are apparent throughout the series. 

After the horrors of Red Light, Green Light, the participants unanimously quit. Not only they're compelled to return but are made to believe they did it voluntarily. 

During the course of the series, Seong Gi-hun, a gambling addict in serious debt, tries hard to be honest and self-righteous in a place of continuous moral decadence. 

Oh Il-nam, as Player 001, is delightful. During the initial few episodes, he was my favourite character, and I wished to have his zest for life despite suffering from a terminal ailment. 

Kang Sae-byeok is the most enigmatic character among the main characters. She begins to open up during the latter half of the season after she is paired with another girl with a tragic past, Ji-yeong, who helps her open up. 

Cho Sang-woo is a selfish person who will descend to any depths to survive and win the game. On the other hand, Abdul Ali is a kind-hearted, easily manipulated, but physically powerful immigrant. 

Episode 6, Gganbu, is one of the finest hours in the history of television. This episode wrecked me and moved me to tears. 

The set-up of Game 4 reminds Il-nam of his childhood home and is disinterested in playing the marble game, but Gi-hun eventually convinces him to play. 

With Il-nam on the verge of winning, Gi-hun takes advantage of the former's dementia to cheat, even though he feels guilty about it. The scene where Il-nam reveals he was aware of Gi-hun's betrayal but allows him to win anyway—absolutely gut-wrenching. 

Meanwhile, Ji-yeong and Sae-byeok discuss their lives before playing the marble game. After their poignant interaction, Ji-yeong loses the game on purpose and makes the ultimate sacrifice as she believes Sae-byeok deserves to live more than her. 

Ali, who unwittingly gets the upper hand in the game, is made to believe by Sang-woo that both can survive the game. He deceives Ali into giving up his marbles. Sadly, Ali's innocence eventually leads to his downfall. 

I loved the tug-of-war episode too, which had one of the best cliffhangers. Despite lacking in physical strength, Gi-hun's team comes out on top—thanks to Il-nam's experience and Sang-woo's quick thinking. 

After the sixth episode, the quality of the series dipped a tad due to the introduction of VIPs. Acted horribly, the VIPs sounded like poorly dubbed American characters in old Chinese movies where the dialogues were written by someone with Chinese sensibilities. 

In this instance, the dialogues of the VIPs were written in English with Korean sensibilities. And, that's why they sounded more like caricatures instead of normal people. Also, the actors playing these characters were really bad, and that didn't help either. 

That twist, in the end, involving Il-nam was unexpected and it ruined that wonderful moment in Gganbu to a certain extent. Overall, I enjoyed the show. It was my first K-Drama, and I had a wonderful experience. 

My Rating: 9/10

Thursday, March 25, 2021

A Journey of 1,000 Days

March 5, 2021

June 30, 2018 - The 10K streak began on this momentous day, and it completed 1,000 consecutive days on March 25, 2021.

Total Steps and Kilometres from June 30, 2018 - March 25, 2021:

Steps: 11,101,932
Kilometres: 8, 605.5

A few months before the streak began, I had already been living with Avascular Necrosis for over six years. My hips were barely holding up, the pain was sometimes unbearable, and my hip joints made a clicking sound every time I walked. It was only a matter of time before my hips would collapse. To add to my woes, my knees were buckling under the pressure, and the pain in my knees was starting to overtake the pain in my hips.
On the 24th of March, 2018, I suffered another setback—a minor car accident aggravated the condition in my knees, which only heightened the pain factor.

Instead of going into a shell and allowing myself to endure another bout of depression, I decided to do something radical—take up active walking. From humble beginnings of 1,000 steps a day to consistently hitting 8,000+ steps a day in a matter of months, I had come a long way.

Before I could realise it, active walking had become an integral part of my life; a complete lifestyle change from the sedentary life I was living.

But, it was now time to push my limits.

By the end of June 2018, I was hitting 10K steps regularly. So, on the 30th of June of that year, I challenged myself to hit 10,000 steps every day of July. With sheer determination, I conquered the first challenge. And then I challenged myself to hit 10K every day for another month, and then the month after that. Long story short, I have aced the challenge every day of every month since then.

Walking with pain every single day is something I am used to for almost a decade. However, the amount of pressure I have put on my legs during the period of the streak is far greater than I have ever put them under.

During the initial days, when my body wasn't used to such physical rigour, I suffered inflammation in the tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes. After each walking session, I experienced immense pain in my heels. Plantar Fasciitis made my walking sessions more painful than it already was. The first few months of the streak were the most difficult and the most painful.

By the end of October 2018, I had not only managed to hit 10,000 steps every day but was also starting to enjoy my walking sessions. I took on 5 Km GPS challenges once a week, which painted my walking sessions with a competitive edge. 
From talking 11 minutes a kilometre in Jul 2018, I had graduated to walking a kilometre in just under 9 minutes by the beginning of January 2019.

Around the 200-day mark (the third week of January), I suffered a pinched nerve on my left foot, and I was compelled to walk with a swollen foot for the next few weeks. As the pain intensified, so did my determination.
After overcoming these niggles along the way, I felt confident enough to participate in a competitive race. On May 19, 2019, I participated in the TCS World 10K race in the Majja 5K Run category. Brisk-walking, and briefly running, amidst a sea of people is an experience I will never forget. And, I earned my first-ever medal.
There was another "first" in the summer of 2019. I converted a routine indoor walking session into a running session. For the very first time, I ran without talking breaks for an entire hour and ended up with my highest step count in an hour (close to 8,800). The indoor kilometre count is never accurate, but I probably ran 10 kilometres in under an hour that day. Around the same time a year ago, I couldn't have even imagined such a day. But now it was a reality.
The year 2019 set a benchmark in terms of overall statistics—walking over 3,000+ kilometres and 4+ million steps in a single calendar year.

Before the pandemic raged across the world and forced us to hide in our homes, I was having the time of my life at work. I completed most of my steps in February and March (until I started working from home) of 2020 while playing Table Tennis at work. Walking actively for almost two years had strengthened my hips and knees to a great extent, and this helped me play competitive TT with my colleagues—and beat them regularly.
Lockdowns and quarantines posed another challenge to my walking streak. Walking—or getting out of the bed for that matter—is difficult when you don't have to go anywhere. But, I didn't let the prolonged lockdowns prevent me from achieving my walking goals. Despite the pandemic, the walking juggernaut kept marching ahead. For the second year in a row, I achieved the double milestone—3,000+ kilometres and 4+ million steps.
On the 5th of March, 2021 (the 9th anniversary of my Core Decompression procedure), I decided to do something I had never attempted before—walking 10 kilometres in a single GPS session. I had walked or ran 10 kilometres in a single session indoors but never in an outdoor setting. After warming up for a couple of kilometres, I derived every ounce of strength in me to complete 10 more kilometres. Throughout the walk, my mind of recalling the events leading up to my surgery, nine years ago. By the time I finished my session, I was overwhelmed with emotions.
It takes a lot of courage, motivation, and determination to do something consistently. But it takes something way beyond to do it for 1,000 consecutive days. I am incredibly proud of my mental and physical strength, and my ability to endure the pain and overcome stiff odds. Here's to the next 1,000 days.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

600 Days

TCS World 10K - May 19, 2019
I was discharged from the hospital on the 8th of March, eight years ago. When I was wheeled out of the hospital, I remember feeling extremely insecure and helpless; overwhelmed with emotions. 

The first four years were the toughest of my life; had to overcome anxiety, chronic depression, loneliness, and a lot of other demons. 

But, something amazing happened four years ago—I decided to finally fight back! I was not going to let my depression hold me down any longer. Not surprisingly, the last four years have been my happiest. 

When everything seemed to be going well, a car accident in 2018 threatened to take me back to the depression era again. But, I was not ready to part with four fucking years of my life again!

So, as always, I fought back.

I came up with a simple yet radical solution—to walk more every day. And, I decided to count my steps. It has turned out to be the best decision I have ever made.

After a steady start, I was confident enough to hit 10K steps every day.

With proper planning, discipline, and motivation, I completed 600 consecutive days of walking at least 10,000 steps.

As a result, my physical, emotional, and psychological well-being is better than it has ever been.

Extremely happy and content with life at the moment. At one time, I was bereft of hope, but now I am brimming with it. That's life, I guess. 🙂