Will Allen – Planting the Seeds of the Future


A humanitarian can be described as a person who seeks to promote human welfare. When thinking of people who fit this definition maybe Mother Teresa or Gandhi come to mind because of their legends. Some people might argue that a profession so simple as a farmer would not meet the humanitarian definition. Will Allen, however, is someone who can change the perspectives of everyone, and has positively affected the well being of many through urban agriculture.

Will Allen grew up on a small vegetable farm with his family in Maryland, and had a promising basketball career due to his 6’ 7” body frame. Fifteen years ago he made a drastic career change however, and became a farmer in a low-income area of Milwaukee, creating a place called Growing Power. The farm is located in an area that has little access to high quality and varieties of food, because of the poverty and unstable neighborhoods. The mission of Growing Power is a national organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities. The farm strives to build sustainable food systems that create a just world, one community at a time.

Ana Joanes, the producer of a recent agriculture film called Fresh says, “Will Allen is now one of the most influential leaders of the food security & urban farming movement. This man and his organization go beyond growing food. They provide a platform for people to share knowledge and form relationships in order to develop alternatives to the industrial food system.” A perfect area to form these relationships in is an urban area, like Milwaukee, which has diversity all the way down to poverty. Will Allen has been extremely influential indeed, and has been named to several awards:

At Growing Power there is a Market Basket Program where families can pick of baskets full of food and produce from the farm. By turning 3,000 square feet into 4,500 square feet through vertical growing, more of the necessary food can be distributed through the community. Also, more people can be educated and get a job, or volunteer to learn Will Allen’s farming secrets. They do this by attending the farm, which is the largest year round food producer in the Midwest. This is one of the many strengths of Growing Power, the profound ability to be educated.

By producing one million pounds of food and ten thousand fish on only three acres, Will Allen has changed the lives of others. He has made delicious, organic food more accessible to many people, especially people who need it most. While doing this he is teaching his philosophy through an education program. He is teaching the nation by being a positive example, and promoting his ideas to government by recently visiting the White House to promote a large-scale version of one of his gardens for Michelle Obama. Will Allen has set an example of how farming can unite communities and the nation, and together we have the growing power to create a better, healthier world.

Zindagi na milegi dobara!

This is a complete fun and time pass movie.

A movie on three close friends, shot mostly in Spain, this is not a movie about the friendship bond, but how the 3 heroes try to overcome their fears by indulging in the adventure sports!

Though I liked the movie, and was good fun, while i was thinking what the movie was about, i felt it lacked depth on the central subject, and missed the punch.

Coming on the acting, to me, Abhay Deol was the best in this multi-starrer movie. Farhan Akhtar also did very well in his fun guy and prankster role. Katrina Kaif and Kalki Koechlin played their parts well. Now you would think, what about Hrithik Roshan!! He he … well I felt he got a little overshadowed by better efforts from the rest of the cast.

All in all, this is a definite watch movie. You can go with the family too (only one small kissing scene 😉 )

I would give this movie 3.5 stars out of 5.

The ultra marathon man

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For most runners, a marathon marks the very pinnacle of fitness, achieved after months of hard training and blister plasters. For Arun Bhardwaj, it’s a light warm-up.

Bhardwaj, who runs when he’s not working as an upper division clerk in the Planning Commission, loves notching up the milestones. Just 41, he has already taken part in 17 ultra marathons. An ultra marathon (also called ultra distance) is defined as anything over the traditional marathon distance of 42. 195 km but can go up to over 500 km, run over a number of days.
Ultra marathons aren’t for the fainthearted. They are an ultimate test of human endurance (or, some would say, stupidity). Bhardwaj thinks nothing of running 210 km – roughly the distance between Agra and Delhi – in 31 hours and 20 minutes without a break. Most runners would spread that distance over a few days. “When you break a race over four days, you’re not pushing yourself. I like my tears the most during my ultras. In fact, I love them, ” he says.

How can a man, who was a puny 26 kilos when he was 14, run a 567-km sixday race (George Archer race in South Africa) and finish first? “The power of the mind is limitless. You can control everything you do and feel, ” says Bhardwaj, who recently turned down an offer of support and citizenship from Australia.

Running a marathon is no easy feat and most athletes take days to recover. But Bhardwaj pooh-poohs the notion of rest. “If marathoners need days to recover from running, they are not harnessing their mind properly. ”

Bhardwaj, the first Indian to win an ultra, wasn’t always superhuman. One of eight children, he was born in Baoli, a small village in Uttar Pradesh. He wasn’t an exceptional child and never participated in any sport at any level. At the age of 14, diagnosed with parotid tumours, he underwent four major surgeries – scars of which are still visible on his neck. By 17, he was up to about 35 kg.

The need for employment brought the soft-spoken man to the Capital where he joined the ranks of government servants at 23. Life was routine. At least till his daughter, Zola – named after the famous South African runner Zola Budd – was born in 1998. “I wanted to set an example for my child, ” he says simply. Most parents would point to a Mahatma Gandhi or even modern-day entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, but the five-foot-eight-inch Bhardwaj wanted to be a role model. “In India, people don’t like to lead by example, ” he says.

So in 2000 he decided to run the same distance that kanwariyas cross each year – 180 km. While these kanwariyas carry their pots of water, and walk barefoot in the hot sun for a few hours every day, Bhardwaj, with no special fitness preparation apart from running barefoot and without woollens in winter, completed the distance in 24 hours.

It may be difficult to believe but Bhardwaj is incredibly serious. “I had Zola written on my t-shirt and I was determined to show my daughter that whatever you put your mind to, you can do. ”

Interestingly, Bhardwaj was reading Budd’s biography just weeks before his daughter was born in 1998 and chose the name Zola for its uniqueness. He also wrote to Budd, applauding her tenacity and determination and promised to avenge her loss at the 1984 Olympics.

“She wrote back to me. I still have that hand-written letter and when I went to South Africa I met her and showed her the gold medal I’d won for the 567-km race. I’d won it for Zola, ” says the athlete, who has just bagged a sponsorship from Adidas.
After his debut run in 2000, which was from Hardiwar to Pura Mahadev in Baghpat, the races have gotten more arduous and more unbelievable. In 2003, he flew to New York to participate in the Self-Transcendence 6-Day Race, which covers 516 km. Arriving in NYC just 14 hours before the race, he had little time to prepare. “I didn’t have much time to acclimatise and hadn’t been eating properly because my participation was in doubt. While running, I experienced pain and went to the doctor. He measured my leg and found that one was 1 1/2 inches shorter than the other. My muscles in the back bunched up and the pelvis moved forward. I was advised not to run but I did and finished seventh. ”

Father of three, Bhardwaj, sleeps for just four hours daily and goes without sleep once a week to prepare for races that stretch across several days and nights. He needs no fancy protein drinks and sticks to the vegetarian fare that his wife Sangeeta serves him. During a race, he survives on bananas, honey and juices.

Unlike other runners, Bhardwaj runs without support handlers or ‘angels’ as they are called. “When you’re running, you’re like a baby. You need to get everything done for you. Your handlers will give you water, food, change your shoes. But I don’t have the money to take along handlers. So every minute that I use to drink water or change my shoes distracts me from the pain that I feel, ” he explains.

It’s the memory of his daughter not crying after having been in an accident that keeps Bhardwaj from being overcome by the dark shadows of pain. “She was little and her leg came in the spokes of the bicycle. She didn’t cry or scream. She just looked at me and said, ‘Quickly take me to the hospital. I’m trying to be brave, just like you taught me. ‘ That memory keeps me going every time I feel like I can’t go on. ”

After having run across the Thar Desert and in sub-zero temperatures in Moscow, among many other equally dangerous places, Bhardwaj has his eyes set on the Badwater Ultra Marathon from July 11-13. Tagged the challenge of the champions, Badwater is called the toughest foot race in the world and the field is by invitation only.

A 217-km course starting at 282 feet below sea level in the Badwater Basin, in California’s Death Valley, and ending at an elevation of 8, 360 feet, the Badwater takes place in mid-July, when the weather conditions are most extreme and temperatures hover around 49?C, even in the shade. Consequently, very few people – even among ultra marathoners – are capable of finishing this gruelling race.

Bhardwaj simply recites his favourite quote: ‘When you believe then you can do it’. With a spirit that is as steely as his legs, Bhardwaj believes he can do anything, especially inspire you to run. 


Do not make any drastic changes in your diet as that can unsettle your mind and body. Eat what you want, drink what you want. Homecooked food is always easier to digest. Have lots of water during and after the run. Stay away from refined sugar. Eat chocolates or organic jaggery because your body needs energy.


Put in your running in terms of minutes. Start with 10 minutes, 3-4 times a weeks. Running weakens the muscles so exercises like push-ups are essential. Once you finish running, stretch your legs as much as you can. Give yourself 2-3 years to run a marathon because that’s how long it takes for the body to settle.


Listen to your body. If you don’t feel running, don’t run. Don’t stretch it too much. Keep a steady pace while running.


Buy a great pair of shoes. They can save you from injury. Trainers should be worn-in for at least a month before a long-distance event to soften them slightly. A good pair of socks can prevent blisters and women should never run without a maximum support sports bra. 


The Biggest: 
COMRADES MARATHON World’s oldest ultra marathon since 1921 

The Coldest: 
ANTARCTIC 100K – ULTRA RACE Run in the Antarctic Circle at -20 degrees C 

The Hardest: 
BARKLEY MARATHON – 100 MILE RUN Five loops of 20 km each;limited to just 35 runners every year 

The Highest: 
EVEREST ULTRA From glaciers and forests to riverbeds, runners have to tackle them all 

The Hottest: 
BADWATER ULTRAMARATHON Running 217 km in 49 degrees C is not a joke 

The Longest: 
LOS ANGELES TO NEW YORK FOOTRACE It follows Route 66 and covers 5, 182 km 

The Wettest: 
JUNGLE MARATHON Carry your own water, food and mosquito net for this 220-km run through the Amazon

The marathon couple

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Imagine running on an ice floor with carefully marked tracks from which the slightest deviation could land you deep into a crevice of frozen sea – the Arctic Ocean to be precise. Imagine running at minus 34 degrees Celsius, with icicles forming frozen spider webs on your eyelashes and hair, all the while exposing yourself to the risk of frostbite even on the smallest patch of unprotected skin. Imagine, now, the possibility of blindness if you so much as remove your ski goggles for a few seconds. The blazing sun which never sets at the North Pole in April is unforgiving.

These were only a few of the dangers that Uma and Krishna Prasad Chigurupati faced while running at the northernmost corner of the world early this month. “On April 5th, We flew from Oslo to Svalbard, the tip of Norway, where all 26 co-marathoners stayed at a local hotel, awaiting the green signal to fly to the North Pole. But our wait extended to four days as the weather played truant. On one of those days, in fact, we got to hear from our organisers that the Bameo Polar strip, commonly used for landing on the North Pole, got a crack about a metre wide, leaving Prince Harry, who was hiking at the North Pole with a group of wounded soldiers for charity, stranded too, ” says Krishna.

But the exhilaration the husband-and-wife team finally felt while hoisting the Indian tri-colour on April 9 at the North Pole compensated for all the anxiety and the agony. “The Indianness we felt from within was further accentuated by one of our co-marathoners, an Australian, playing Jai Ho (from the film Slumdog Millionaire) to celebrate our victory. It was pure bliss, ” says Uma.

The couple got their first taste of marathon running way back in 2003 when Krishna was approached for corporate sponsorships by organisers of the Hyderabad 10 km-run. It was being held for the first time then. “I sponsored 100 staffers from my office and, thinking this was an excellent opportunity at teambuilding, joined them. Believe me, until then my fitness regime had been restricted to a walk around KBR park, and that too in fits and starts. So when I completed the 10 km-run in about an hour-and-a-half, I was quite thrilled, ” says Krishna, who is managing director of pharma company Granules India. Uma, meanwhile, is the MD of Krsma Vineyards.

The next big moment came in 2005 when Krishna’s NRI brother-in-law invited them to join him on a marathon in Reykjavik, Iceland. “My initial response was ‘No’, as I thought only crazy people ran in strange places. Uma was busy with the children and their studies, and ruled herself out. On second thoughts, though, I decided to go, thinking Iceland would anyway be a good tourist destination. I remember practicing real hard as I didn’t want to fail in my first attempt at marathon running, ” laughs Krishna.

Running on the streets of Reykjavik was a high. “The atmosphere was very different from that of the Hyderabad 10-km. This was the big league, after all. There were so many participants from so many countries, and the spectators were encouraging and cheering us on. That adrenaline rush which I felt on completing a full marathon was amazing and I was kind of hooked. ”
There was no looking back from there. After doing a few 10-km runs in Hyderabad and a couple of full marathons in cities like Maddoc (France) and Prague, the couple was prepared mentally and physically to attempt the Grand Slam by early 2010.
So it was Los Angeles in March 2010, followed by Kenya (Lewa National Park) in June, the Ayers Rock in the Australian outback in July, the Gobi desert (Mongolia) in September, Buenos Aires in October, Porto (Portugal) in November and, finally, Antarctica in December.

While the couple credits Antarctica for readying them for the icy weather conditions at the North Pole run, one of the more memorable runs was at Maddoc, which is in the wine-growing Bordeaux district of France. “Instead of being offered water for sipping as we ran along, there was wine all through. This was quite an educative trip for me, as I have recently ventured into the wine business. We also had fun at Porto, which is where port wine originated from. Running at the Lewa National Park with giraffes for company was also immensely gratifying, ” says Uma.

And who between the husband and wife is the more motivated? “Oh, Krishna, most certainly. I don’t think I could have ever run a single marathon abroad without him being present, ” laughs Uma. After making it to the rather exclusive 50-member Grand Slam club of marathoners (the only Indians to do so), the couple is now planning to bring out a book on their running adventures. As they say, for those who want to do, there’s always something to be done.

Don’t grow up fast, Ronny!


New-age grandma Arvinder Kaur doesn’t believe in old ‘grandma recipe’ but simply wants her little grandson to celebrate each nuance of life!

Life always springs pleasant and unpleasant surprises on us. Recently, my life was flooded with an onrush of love that is innocent. It happened when the doctor placed you, Ronny, my grandson in my arms.

Yes, I want you to know that you have brought immense joy and freshness to a life that had almost settled into a drab routine. Your granny finds you an amazing bundle of joy. Welcome, dear little man to the world of my heart!
Perhaps you may find me a little different from the image of a traditional grandmother. My friends have named me the new-age grandma who has switched from knitting in an armchair to sweating it out on a cross trainer.

Yes, I’m attractive and hit the treadmill, everyday. I may not have the proverbial ‘grandma recipes’ but believe me, the image makeover does not mean a change of heart. You’ve taught me to look at life anew, once again.
My work takes me away from home often. The last time I went you were still learning how to balance. I was ecstatic when on my return you came towards the gate walking all by yourself. I love it when you sit on my desk and try to reach out for the mouse. As you grow up you will find a companion in me. You are my chance to relive my childhood, to try skydiving and bungee jumping, almost everything that I missed out on. Your arrival has added a fascinating dimension to life.

I must confess, I agree with Lois Wyse, famous author when she said that “a mother becomes a grandmother the day she stops noticing the terrible things her children do because she is so enchanted with the wonderful things her grandchildren do”.

This is so true, Ronny. You have me enchanted. Since the time you have arrived I have lived through a gamut of feelings. There is this dichotomy. On one hand, I can’t wait to see you grow and on the other I want you to remain my little Ronny. Growing up is going to involve so many issues in your life that there would be no time for your grandma. This does not mean that I would not be happy for you. Rather, I wish to see you explore and live your life to the fullest.

But meanwhile, it is so satisfying to know how much you love me I can feel it in your little hugs. You’re teaching me how to be gentle. I love the expression on your face when we watch ‘Old MacDonald had a farm …..’ on You Tube. And when you do your little bhangra jigg and how you enjoy being my ballroom dance partner. You so perfectly imitate your grandpa while he is doing his morning exercise.You teach us a lesson in innocence.
That is why I tell you Ronny, I wish you would not grow up fast. Celebrate each nuance of a feeling to the full. I wish you many a hearty laughs but don’t shy away from tears. The tiny little drops impart a healing touch to the soul. So shed them whenever you have to. Ronny, you have come into a world that is full of noise. But do not forget to lend an ear to silence. If words express, silence heals.

It is said that a grandmother’s love comes straight from the heart, I was amused when I came across a saying, “Your grandma and your dog will always love you no matter what you do.” Don’t waste so much time on Facebook as your granny does. Sometimes, when you’ve grown up, recall the good times that we had together — for life is going to be tough but I know, you, my boy, shall be tougher!

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