A friend had posted about a 6 kms run in Chembur, supported by his buddies from the future sports foundation. Chembur was my residence for 15 years from the late 70s to the early 90s, so could’nt say no to this opportunity to visit my past home town. Chembur is quite a popular suburb in Mumbai though it is also known as Gas Chamber due to the presence of refineries there. But the place had its own allure, its own little alleys, little hang out places, shops from which we regularly bought something or shops through which we regularly browsed without buying anything.
This event was to take place on 15th August, which was the Independence day for India, so a public holiday for people except those working in call centres, BPOs and retail malls besides of course the emergency and conservancy staff. But for all others it was a chance to sleep a little longer. But for runners a holiday, any holiday is an excuse to go for running, sometimes planning long runs or hill workouts or sometimes without planning races like the one which was called Freedom Race, an apt title for whatever it meant.
The race had about 500 people crammed in a little alley near the chembur gymkhana, where i had once attended a wedding of a college friend, the last of the college friends whom i remember. Chembur had road names which were numerical like 11th road, 14th road etc. which thankfully so far no politician or his brethren has tried to change to their forefathers’ names or perhaps tried and not succeeded. Just behind these number roads was an old middle class colony called Subhash Nagar, typically three floor buildings with a small ground in the front for playing and socialising activities. A spate of redevelopment in Bombay has changed the entire facade of these middle class colonies prime example being in Tilak Nagar in Chembur West which was where i had started my running way back in those days in college, i think.
Anyway coming back to the race itself, it started i think somewhere around 7.10 a.m. and winded down one alley after another in Chembur some of which i failed to recognise due to my absence from the area for close to two decades and also due to lot of infrastructure work being carried out there like flyovers etc. The aforesaid subhash nagar was unrecognisable. I think somewhere the route touched govandi, a neighbour suburb of bombay though i am not entirely sure of that.
To cut to the chase, the race was just an excuse to go back to one’s roots so to speak, revisit old places, revive old memories and also to meet lot of friends from the running community. Lots of enthusiastic young kids and their equally enthusiastic parents. 5.5 kms race finished in 29.05 minutes.
How i wish each suburb of Bombay has its own race.