I see a dirt track. There are song birds around and I sense the smell of fresh blossoms. I have that familiar calm rush that one feels in the midst of a long run. The trees speak, their conversations make me want to pause and reach out for them, but the strong, steady stride through the woods keeps me glued to every word, every page – I am deep in the valley of memories, reading Anywhere But Home – a memoir by one of India’s celebrated Triathletes and the first Asian to compete in Ultraman Canada – Anu Vaidyanathan.
What’s It About
This is a travel book all the way. And the best way to do it too – on a bike and on your feet – walking, running through the forests, meadows and streets of some of the most gorgeous landscapes including New Zealand, Seattle, Northern Carolina, Brazil, Philippines and India. On every page Anu gives a glimpse into her travels. Right from her childhood hometown in Karnataka, an India full of open spaces, fresh lakes to swim around in and long safe roads to ride on; to the vast landscapes from east coast to west coast of the United States of America. While studying for her PHD, I experience the best of New Zealand – the land where triathletes are born. Rarely does she talk about her training plan. Rarely does she elaborate on her super tough training regime or nutrition. Rarely does she deliberate on her gear. It is all about mile after mile of gorgeous countryside.
This is a book about relationships. Athletes are often looked at singularly; with their support system – their reason for being where they is often left out. Anu spells out her origins, where she inherited her gumption from – her Dad – her bestest friend, her Mom – a power-woman and her rock and a medley of all her sporting friends she meets and greets along the way. Athletes, well most of us, cannot be lone rangers, while the pace at which we live our lives can take us miles away from our loved ones, we come back. We always do and they love us either way. Anu also touches upon gendermyths – Strong single women need no man. While she elegantly leaves out details of romantic relationships through her journey, she candidly expresses her thoughts on the real meaning to settle down for women, the importance of waiting for the right man, whilst chasing those miles!
This is also a book about doing. Launching a startup whilst pursuing a PHD whilst training as a triathlete; staying committed to set goals and not once ever losing focus on what’s important.
This is a book about sticking out. That odd twig, that nerd in the sea of perfectly geared athletes, that square peg in a round mold – with that constant dilemma of wanting to fit in – but then not wanting it at the same time. At a time when colleagues and friends were settling in, getting married, having babies – she was pursuing a PHD along with travelling across the globe to simply run and swim and cycle. This is when the trees played a super role. During such dilemmas this is where conversations with the trees ensued. She says, “The trees did not judge, forewarn or worry about the weather. They just stood there breathing magic air.”
This book is about a strong connection with nature, a bond with greens, a sisterhood with the mighty Beas, a likeness to a Water buffalo. “There are plenty of birds in the forest, owls, kingfishers, woodpeckers, thrushers, chickadees, nuthatches and bluebirds. I found it easier to talk to the trees and the birds.
Her persistent self-doubt was consistently shrugged away by endearments from the trees like, “Just shut up and run.”
Sports Beyond Science
Maybe that’s the thing – we get into the technicalities of a sport – the form, cadence, mileage, average speed. These are important micro factors that when individually focused upon give a desired boost; but maybe we are looking at the canvas too closely. Maybe we need to step back, listen – to our body, nature around us, tune in to the two and take off.
This sure is a book about the great human spirit – that will to strive, move against the tide, fight odds. Anu says, “like in triathlons so in life you meet all sorts of athletes. Competitive, outright selfish, some with a lot of angst, some who are open-hearted about their aspirations with a child-like belief that humbles the hardest of skeptics – those are the gems you hold on to for life.”
A Book of Quotes
This is a book of quotes, From the deep ones to the simple ones to the most obvious ones that want to smack you in the face and say Daahha! Some from The Lord of The Rings, Donkey from Shrek, one I particularly like, “Traveller, there are no paths. Paths are made by walking,” – an Australian Aboriginal saying, brilliant thoughts by Viktor Frankl, “to strive, to seek to find and not to yield,” – Ulysses, a few by Tennyson and what is probably most important for our want-it-easy generation, “Entitlement will get you nowhere.”
Well, I am a fan girl all the way. Go ahead, walk into your nearest book store to get your hands on this treasure trove. For me, reading Anu’s book is like going on a walk about; experiencing a range of cultural, emotional, inspirational, and stupidly simple ways of living life. You will experience the magic of travel, the rush of multi-tasking, and in the midst of all this, you migh forget you are reading about back to back epic human physical accomplishments by a seemingly ordinary Indian woman. Kudos, Anu, shine on.
Anywhere But Home is Anu Vaidyanathan’s first book about her professional, personal and sporting journey thus far. To know more about her tri journey you can connect with her via her website http://www.anuvaidyanathan.com/ or tweet to her at @anuvaidyanathan