Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The 34k Mark

I've learned the most when I've been pushed to the edge, cornered.

I was reminded of this the other day when Arathi (@miffalicious) said on Twitter: "Your true strength is identified when you soldier through immense difficulties despite how vulnerable you feel." 

I don’t quite know why, but that statement immediately reminded me of the first full marathon that I attempted; The Melbourne Marathon. This was several years ago. I had trained intensely for this race. In the lead up, I had read every single online ‘marathon training for beginners’ guide and built my own specialized program. I don’t know what I was trying to prove and to whom. However, I knew I always wanted to run, but couldn't. I would only be able to run 100m before collapsing in a heap due to acute shin splints. Yet, I never lost the desire to run. 

So I learned how to run. I learned to blot out pain. I strengthened my shins. I sought the advice of experts. I visited and started a relationship of utter trust and dependence with Jane, my physiotherapist. And then I started to run long distances. At first, I didn't care about distances. I would run songs. I’d run one song, then two, then three, then four. Soon, I was running 10 songs. I needed to fill my iPod shuffle with more and more songs. The songs had to all be between 80 and 85 beats per minute. I could not run to any other beat. The rhythm was more important than the melody. The songs were as much a drug as the endorphins produced in long distance runners that gave me the 'runner's high'.

A few years later, I was able to run 25 songs and I completed several half marathons.

But that wasn't enough. I wanted to run 50 songs. I wanted to run the Melbourne Marathon. I signed up for it, and devised a training program for myself. I got a colleague, a veteran marathoner, to look at the program I had devised. I commenced my training only after he gave it the seal of approval. I had all my gear ready right at the start: the shoes I’d train in; the shoes I’d ‘wear in’ a few weeks before race day; a new heart-rate monitor; a new watch; 'skins' for recovery; energy gels; magnesium tablets; and more. I was prepared. I then embarked on a substantially rigorous 16-week training program. 

I was meticulous in my training and did everything possible to ensure that I was in the best shape I could be to attempt this goal. I don’t remember missing even a day’s training due to lack of motivation or lethargy. If I missed a day’s training it was only because I was unwell. Even when I traveled inter-state for work in those 16 weeks, I would carry out the training that was scheduled for the day.

It was grueling, but fun. I always undertook my long runs on Sundays with my running buddies. I remember some incredibly tough and unpleasant long runs that I undertook and some of the more pleasant ones too. A week before the race, when we were meant to complete a 38 kilometre run – my longest ever run up until then – we encountered terrible weather. It was windy, gusty and presently it started to rain as well. We were two kilometers into the start of our training when we stood at a traffic light, hopping from one leg to the other in order to keep ourselves warm. We waited to cross the road on to Beach Road in Melbourne. That day, were to run along the Esplanade and then along Beach Road for 12 kilometers before turning back. A cyclist had stopped by our side and asked, “Long way to go?” We had just started our long run for the day. I said, “Yeah, 38 today, 36 left,” to which he asked, “Minutes?” I replied: “No kilometers!” The expression on his face is one I will never forget. He mumbled, “In this weather? You guys are mad,” and cycled off at great speed. But we completed our training that day and tapered off for the rest of the week before the big day.

On race day, I was completely focused and felt I was really well prepared. As we walked up to the start point just outside the MCG and as we were flagged off, I was confident this would be a good day for me. As we ran along Lakeside Drive, where the Melbourne Formula 1 race is conducted every year, I was humming; perhaps even 'motoring' along quite nicely! I remained confident and collected for much of that part of the run. I remembered the simple tips I had picked up in the preceding months: ‘Do not go out too fast’, ‘Hydrate regularly’, 'Expel bad air from the lungs regularly'. I was doing just fine. At the half-marathon mark, I had achieved my personal best time for a half-marathon. At that point, I even had dreams of a sub-four-hour full marathon finish time, which would have been just great.

And then the weather turned nasty as we ran back up Beach Road, after the half way point. The previous weeks’ training run along this road was a walk in the park in comparison. On the day, it was hot, windy and dusty. At one point, I had dust in my mouth and occasionally, a leaf would slap me in the face with a force that simultaneously stung and woke me up.

‘But all that training that I had put in will come good,’ I said to myself as I maintained my pace as we headed along the lovely Beach Road. I had the choppy blue ocean on my left and the lovely, expensive $1m houses of Beach Road lining the road on my right. But I had eyes only for the road ahead. The scenery could wait. The rich folk who stood on their glass-edged balconies and waved the runners along as they sipped their morning coffees could also wait.

Around the 34k mark, just as I had run up Fitzroy Street, I turned left onto St Kilda Road. I remember telling myself ‘All I need to do now is plod along this lovely tree-lined street for a few kilometers, head off right down Birrarung Marr and into the grounds of the MCG before completing the marathon with a lap inside the MCG.’ 

You see, the Melbourne Marathon concludes inside the MCG. It concludes with a lap of The ‘G’. For a cricket tragic like me, there can be no better joy than the completion of a long and exhausting run inside what must rank as the finest sporting Colosseum in the world. The grass had played host to the shoes and the soles of heroes of mine from the cricketing world like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Mark Taylor, Sunil Gavaskar, Alan Border, Steve Waugh, David Gower, Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Saurav Ganguly, The West Indies Team from the 1970s and more. I would have an opportunity to run on that turf too.

In a bit. In a bit.

But that wasn’t on my mind as I trudged up the nasty Fitzroy Street incline, and reached the 34k mark in the race. Mind you, the incline is not really 'nasty'. But after having run nearly 33km in hot, dusty and terribly windy conditions, even a gradual and kind 10-meter gain over the one kilometre that Fitzroy Street represents can be quite an experience.

As I turned right from Beach Road the coffee and breakfast smells of the cafes the lined Fitzroy Street hit me. The chairs that decorated the pavement were filled with people who applauded the marathoners that ran, or walked, or trudged or labored up the gentle incline. Some of the morning breakfast-goers clapped. Some of them offered a word of encouragement. All of them sipped coffee or bit into their wholemeal fruit bread toast on this Sunday morning.

I was hurting. I could barely feel my feet. My thighs were burning. I think I had a rash of sorts under my left armpit. My back hurt. My calf muscles twitched. I was in pain and was digging deep to try and blot it all out.

And that is when I told myself for the first time, “Why am I doing this really?”

For me, that was immediately a sign of trouble. All through my training, I had never questioned the goal. I just accepted it, embraced it and did everything I needed to do in order to ensure success. And here I was, laboring up Fitzroy Street, questioning why I was putting myself through what I was doing. It is then that I knew I had to dig deep. The months of training would have to pay off. I had to find that inner strength that would enable me to "soldier through immense difficulties despite how vulnerable" I felt. 

At the top of Fitzroy Street, I remember fondly that I was passed by ‘Digger’. Now, Bruce ‘Digger’ Hargreaves is one of the Spartan Legends of the Melbourne Marathon; an exclusive club of marathoners who have completed over 10 Melbourne Marathons. Digger is also a part of the '100 Marathon Club', a collection of runners who have clocked more than 100 marathons around the world. On that day Digger crossed me as part of the 4 hr 30 min ‘pacing bus’. In fact, he was the pacing bus.

Clearly, my pace had slipped considerably. I was now being crossed by the 4:30 pacing bus. From entertaining thoughts, however briefly, of a sub-four-hour completion, I was now looking at a completion time of at least 4 hours and 30 mins, if not more. I looked up at the sign that Digger carried on his back (to indicate his pacing bus) in a somewhat forlorn manner. I felt myself disintegrating at that point. Perhaps Digger sensed this too, for as he turned into St Kilda Road, he looked back at me and said, “Keep going, mate. I have run several marathons. And these are the very worst conditions I have encountered. You complete it today, all right?” I nodded and touched his extended hand. It was a hand of encouragement; a hand that talked to kindness and empathy. And I had touched and felt a running legend.

I told myself as I looked at the looming 34k marker that I would make it to the finish line. I convinced myself that my questioning of the ‘goal’ was a momentary lapse of reason. I was determined to finish. I convinced myself that I would complete that lap around the MCG. I had to take my shoes off at the finish line and feel the grass that Tendulkar, Dravid, Taylor, Border, Waugh, Gower, Dev, Khan, Viv, Hadlee, Ganguly and others had walked on. I had to savor the feel of that grass under my feet, however bruised they were.

And then I then blanked out.

I remember nothing much of the race along the lovely, tree-lined St Kilda Road. The trees that used to once offer shelter from sun and rain to passers-by, now shed leaves, unable to withstand the force of the winds that morning. The breeze swirled around. Leaves dislodged from branches and flew around. There was much dust in the air. It was a horrible day for walking; but a whole lot of us were running towards the MCG.

Apparently, Girija was there although I do not remember seeing her as I ran. She said later she was concerned at the pain I was going through; pain that marked my face. My face was already white with streaks of dried sweat salt. She told me later that she would see me, jog along with me for a few meters, hop on a tram to the next stop along St Kilda Road and wait for me to catch up. She said she did this till I reached Birrarung Marr, where I was told I was met by a few of my friends who were there to encourage me on to the finish line. Apparently one of them ran along with me from the top of Birrarung Marr to the ‘G’.

I came to my own as I entered The ‘G’ and came to my senses again. I did not know how I got there. Then again, when Girija told me, later, that she was there on St Kilda Road from the 35k mark onwards, I was able to recall it. When my friends told me, later, that they had waited for me at the corner of Birrarung Marr, which marked the 40k mark in the race, I seemed to remember it. Although I have no recollection of nearly 8 kilometres of the run, I was able to piece it all together later on.

Maybe I had hit the ‘wall’ at the 34k mark. And maybe from that point on, in the remaining seven kilometres, I was able to cut out many other thoughts from my mind. The ‘wall’ is something many long-distance runners experience. Dick Beardsley, one of USA’s best marathoners, said this of the ‘wall’ he encountered in the second marathon he ever ran: "It felt like an elephant had jumped out of a tree onto my shoulders and was making me carry it the rest of the way in.” He overcame that, learned from it and went on to run several more marathons. He made history by finishing two seconds behind Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon.

When I hit my own ‘wall’, I was focused merely on my own processes. Left leg. Right leg. Left. Right. It was as though I had blotted everything out of my mind and wanted to train all my mental thought processes just on completing the race.

In that sense, I had always compared my long distance running with a research scholar going through a PhD degree. It is a thoroughly lonely process. You sometimes do ask yourself, “Why am I doing this really?" You need to train really hard and ensure that your background, preparation and methodology are just right. But, your training, background and ability can only take you that far. In the end, when we hit a ‘wall’ (or a dead-end in your work), what one needs is intense focus, will-power and determination. Focus is as much cutting out needless things as it is training your mind on the very thing(s) that needs to be accomplished.

And so I focused hard and completed the race that day. And as I ran through the welcoming corridor and into the 'G', I saw myself on the big screen. I waved. The big screen waved back at me. I was on it for a full eight seconds! And then I ran a lap inside the ‘G’. It was my own lap of honor. After completing the run, and as my legs gave way, I slumped to the turf. I felt and kissed the grass that many of my cricketing heroes had played in.

Today, whenever I hit a difficult phase in my own life I say to myself that as long as the preparation has been good, and as long as the processes in the lead-up have been honest and sound, this is nothing but the 34k mark in a tough race...

-- Mohan (@mohank)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A terrific tragedy

The other day an uncle of mine said to me, "I hear you have no issues." Now I am a fellow that always has plenty of issues. I have issues with anything and everything. I battle issues on a daily basis. So I said, “No uncle. You are wrong,” to which he pressed on “No, I mean you have no issues, no?” I said, “Believe me, I do; lots of them!” He looked a bit distressed and said, “Arre, I mean, you are issueless no? You do not have any issues that have resulted in good newses for your parents right?” Then it struck me.

But ‘good newses’? Really?

By the by. Myself Mohan.

The topic of “Indianisms” like the one above has been the generous subject of many a blog and newspaper column. Indeed from ‘years back’ many ‘kind authors’ have felt the need to ‘discuss about’ Indianisms and have been ‘doing the needful’. Without 'eating their brains' they have all ‘reverted’ and ‘preponed’ their ‘updations’ of these articles. Examples of such articles are here, here and here. (It was a few hours after the current article was published that I was alerted to this rather delightful post too.)

I would often read these and get upset. What is this compelling need to mock Indian English? Why do these authors attempt to ‘nose cut’ us? Are they our ‘uncles or nephews’ to take so much interest in us and our way of communicating? Why make fun of it all the time? 

Speaking of which, I have no idea why people use ‘ish’ when they talk about time in India. It is not "9.45 ish"; it is either 9.30am or 10am. But I suppose because we are famed for our punctuality in India it can mean anytime around 9.45 and it is used a lot. I sometimes feel that IST, the Indian Standard Time should have been renamed ISH.

I once told my friend’s 12 year-old son I would meet him at 11am to go with him to a book store. The poor kid looked stunned. He was expecting an “ish”. He got a precise time instead. He replied, “Give me a call when you leave home, no?” so that he could be ready when I got to his place. I said, “No. I will be at your gate at 11am” and requested him to be ready at that time. He said, “Come downstairs and give me a ‘missed call’ no?” I said, “No. I will be there at 11am.” The poor kid was confused, all because he could not respond to a time that did not contain an ISH in it.

But that is the way we are.

Is it ok for English folk to say “tata” when they actually want to say bye? Do they not know that TATA is a proud Indian company and brand name? Why can’t they say “Chrysler” or “Leyland” when they want to say goodbye. Instead of that they ‘take the name’ of an Indian company. Do we laugh at them? 

Talking of byes, have you noticed that we seldom end phone conversations with a ‘bye’ or a or a ‘ciao’. It is always “humph” or “ok” or “haan”. I never know when a conversation has ended unless I look at my phone which confirms ended conversations with a red ‘Disconnected’ symbol. This rude form of disengagement is particularly harsh when you talk to people who offer you a service that has gone horribly wrong; say a bank officer, an insurance claims officer, or some such. My neighbour told me of one such incident. He said, “These phone agents act too ‘pricey’. The fellow ‘put the phone’ down rudely and ‘cut the call’. He was acting so funny I wanted to give him a ‘tight slap’.”

Talking of phones, why is it that few Indians have voice mail or a message service on their mobile phones? It is just not done, is it? A colleague thinks that it is 'dicey' to have a phone message, so I do not have one either. 

A few weeks ago, I came across one bank manager who had a strange message on his mobile phone: “I am not at my desk. Leave your good name and your number behind and I will revert forthwith.” I do not wish to delve into references to ‘good name’, ‘revert’ and ‘forthwith’. I do, however, worry about the use of ‘behind’ in a message. The use of ‘not at my desk’ on a mobile phone message seemed to go against the very reason for having a mobile phone! 

Now this bank manager is a typical ‘big shot' in the ‘hurry-burry’ that represents the world of banking today. His was a ‘rags to riches’ story. Legend has it that for a long time he was also ‘under the scanner’ of the headquarters for a few ‘underhand dealings’. The Tax department tried hard to ‘hunt him down’ but still, ‘heads did not roll’ because he did not quite ‘run amok’ nor did he ‘run roughshod’ over procedures and processes. But it was common knowledge that he ‘swindled’ lots of money. 

Anyway, after leaving a message on the bank manager’s mobile, I called the deputy manager who informed me that his boss was ‘not at his desk’ because he ‘used his connections’ and ‘greased many palms’ to go ‘out of station’. The manager’s grandfather had ‘kicked the bucket’ recently. So he and his children had to ‘leave in a huff’ by the ‘shortest cut’ to Sholapur, which also happened to be his ‘native place’. The kids were the ‘worst hit’. One of them was ‘mugging’ for his ‘class twelve and IIT Entrance’. Note that if the phrases ‘class twelve’ and ‘IIT Entrance’ are not used in unison, it means your kids are doing some ‘useless’ commerce or arts or worse, home-science course that will do nothing for their careers. Anyway, as the bank manager was unable to ‘join duty’ for another week, I had no option other than ‘leaving my good name and number behind’. I did. I wasn't expecting to hear from the manager for a while.

I was, therefore, surprised when the bank manager returned my call just five minutes after I had left my number behind. “I am on my way to Sholapur sir. I got tickets with a lot of pull. But on my way to the train station, my car was met with an accident,” he said, as I choked on my lunch. The manager did not meet with an accident; his car did not meet with an accident. But the car was met with an accident. How quaint, I thought.

He then said, “You know, everything was going spic and span. Even my son, Sriram’s class-12 exam got over yesterday. As a max person you will be very happy to know that his best subject is max. But he will not get centum. His max paper was out of portions, but that was also ok. At least I am glad he will be passing out as a proper convent educated now. He never bunked school. You know he got into this school without any pull. His IIT entrance, next week. Full pressure. Suddenly grandfather was off. I don’t know what happened. He was always in tip-top condition. But he became suddenly off. So we have to leave immediate to Sholapur. I have enough leaves. So that is ok. But everyone was hither thither. But I was calm. We have large joint-family. The whole jing-bang wanted to go to Sholapur. ‘No fierce’ I said. But everyone said this-that-a­­ll-that. They wanted to go to pay respects. All logistics were in place. I wanted to make a bus, but my family made me take the Sholapur passenger train instead. The car was to ply us to the station. My car was reported at sharp 10am. And then we left. Suddenly, bang. My car was met with an accident. Now everything has gone for a toss. Try and understand my position. I need your kind help. Everything has gone for a six now. But I must ignore this accident hocus-pocus and I must make a move now. Can you send me your vehicle for a few hours? I can send someone to pick it up also. Where are you put up?”

Every line was a gem. The son had got into a good non-government convent school without the need to exploit the father’s networks and connection (commonly referred to as 'pull'). His son would not max ('centum') his maths ('max') paper since some of the questions were out of syllabus ('out of portions’). The son had no need to make the maths paper a portion of a meal, although he may well have 'passed out' had he done that. Quite like the sons’ great grandfather who was recently “off” – or, in other words, had recently passed away. The manager wasn’t a tree that grew shoots and leaves. He was talking there about the number of holidays he had accrued ('leaves'). Nor was the manager also an automobile assembly line production manager to physically 'make a bus'. He implied that he had gathered enough family members to hire a bus. Moreover, the manager’s car wasn’t 'reported' like a petty thief. The car turned up at the appointed time.

But rather than admire and decode his English, I had a more pressing problem. I had to respond immediately to the managers’ request. I muttered, “Sir, I am sorry I 'cannot able to help you' especially when you are facing 'commute-shammute conveyance difficulty'. Also what a 'terrific tragedy' you are facing right now. I am going to 'hill station' myself. The time is 10am already and 'my car hasn’t reported' yet although my driver said he will be here 9.30-ISH.”

-- Mohan (@mohank)

Sunday, October 07, 2012

One has to protest...

I like obsessions; I have a few of my own. Some are even healthy. And most are acceptable. But what is with this polite obsession with the word "one"? I have tried, and then tried again. It all sounds very formal and all but why, exactly?

The other day, this fellow jumped up even as the plane touched down in Mumbai after a long flight. As he jumped up from his seat, he grabbed hold of the overhead locker as though if he didn't, it would fly off on its own. He then pulled his carry-on bag out of the compartment in under 3 seconds and beamed at everyone as though he had achieved a personal best time in "time lapse between touch down and bag recovery". Unfortunately, the plane braked hard as it touched down. The man flew and along with his recently reacquired bag, crashed into me, all arms and legs and bag! I thought to myself, "What an utter pillock" but smiled at him. I don't do anger at these things. I am now used to utter pillocks. 

He recovered, turned to me and said: "One is very sorry."

That's it. I lost my temper like anything.

"Arre! Are you sorry or are you not? Why hide behind the proud number one? Be a man. Say I am sorry, no? What is this ONE is sorry?"

So, I wasn't upset that he had acquired a PB that no one cared about other than he. I wasn't upset that he had flown across three rows of seats to crash into me. I wasn't upset that I was, by then, bleeding profusely from a gash in my eye; he had eye-gouged me in a manner a professional Rugby player would have been proud. I wasn't upset that my newly procured shirt shirt was now torn; the bag handle had made that contribution. But I was upset by his use of the word ONE. What was wrong with, "I am sorry"?

I am angry these days because we have acquired an unhealthy obsession for an inappropriate overuse of the word 'one'. This abuse is because of what I call political politeness. I think social scientists should start writing scholarly papers on political politeness (PP) as they did on that other insidious monster, political correctness (PC). PP is a deadly evil, I tell you. PP will make PC look like how a dictionary makes Shahid Kapoor's spelling look.

This use of 'one' enables us to escape from personal responsibility for things that we may have done wrongly. Like this "bags and arms and legs" fellow. He wasn't sorry; one was!

The other day I attended a wedding in Chennai. A board outside declared, "Welcome to one and all". What does that even mean? See what we Indians did? We took some usage of 'one' from the British and, much like democracy and the Westminster style of governance itself, we have mangled it, abused it and invented our own inappropriate use cases for that word.

The other day, a fellow said to me: “What time is one expected to be present?” I was stunned. And yes. Again, I got angry. I started shouting at that fellow like anything: "What is this? If you want to ask what time you have to be there then just ask that right? And why pick on the number one? It is a solitary fellow. A singular number. Not plural. It signifies one person, usually you. Also, why hide behind a number? It is a simple number. The Indians did not invent it. Indians only invented zero. Why abuse other numbers? If you want to abuse a number, abuse zero. It is yours!"

As a mathematician, I protest at this inappropriate abuse of a number. I have a right to protect the number from constant torture. 

It is not as if there are no other pronouns available to us. There is a very convenient I, a perfectly polite you and a wonderful we. Use those no?

What time is one expected to be present it seems. What if you and your friend wanted to present yourselves? Will you then ask, “So, what time will two have to be present?” No, no? That would be rather silly. So, use the direct pronoun next time. Please. 

Do not make me angry again. See what I did there. Did I say "Do not make one angry again?" No. Everyone needs to learn like that only: to use pronouns properly.

There are some uses that are correct. One can be used in non-specific, general, and non-direct advice. For example, the use of one in, "I don't believe one should disrespect elders" is appropriate. Try saying that as, "I don't believe I should disrespect elders". That doesn't sound right, does it? Firstly, the general advice is lost. Secondly, the statement, as altered, gives the impression that I am currently disrespectful of elders. 

Can you ever imagine Krishnamachari Srikkanth indulge in this political politeness nonsense? I mean, can you imagine the same guy who said “Boss, you just shut up ok?” saying “Ok tell me, what time should one be there to shut you up”? I greatly doubt it and if you can imagine it, you have a far more forgiving and fertile imagination than I do.  

Speaking of strange fellows, another strange fellow who is part of a volunteer team I run asked me the other day: “What does one have to do now on this project?” How was I supposed to reply to that? I knew, for instance, 10 people were supposed to be working on that project. The first thing that popped into my head was to ask him, “Oh, suddenly only one person is working on the project?” I also found myself wondering why this strange fellow was selfishly concerned only about one member from that group of ten. What will the rest do? 'Which one of the ten people was actually working?' I thought. See? The kinds of doubts that arise from this terribly inappropriate usage of the number one.

I am all for people who are self deprecating in their language. I cannot stand pompous people (and yes, I do not look at the mirror often either). I like people who do not sound self-obsessed and self-centred in their communication, but this is taking a bit too far, no? 

It is a little more acceptable if you are talking on behalf of a whole bunch of people. The ‘one’ in your sentence could actually stand for many and this could well be a plural pronoun. But my question is simple. Why? Can you not just say, “What time should we get to the show” instead of “What time should one get to the show”? What do people have against direct speech? It is the least of very big evils, certainly lesser than the atrocity inflicted on us by Himesh Reshamiyya's music.

The other day I was talking to one fellow... See? This is correct usage of the word one. Not the others. Yes, you can thank me later. Anyway, this fellow went on and on about how he kept failing in life. He then asked if I could mentor him. Till that point in the conversation, I was bored. But then, suddenly, I was bursting with unbounded joy. I had finally found a person to mentor. Earlier that year, I was beginning to beg people if I could mentor them. And true to my dislike of polite politeness, I did not go around asking, “Can one be your mentor”. I asked, "Can I please be your mentor? Please?" Till that point, everyone had said, “get lost”. One is used to getting snubbed routinely. (Got you there, didn’t I?) Okay, okay, I meant I am used to getting snubbed routinely.

Anyhow, that evening, I was ecstatic at being asked to be this boring fellow's mentor. Before he had an opportunity to rethink, I cheerfully and shamelessly said, “Of course, I can mentor you”. I immediately grabbed his hand and said, “Yes. When can I start? How much should I pay you?” I had almost signed him up as a ‘person to be mentored’ when he got on yet another soapbox and waxed eloquent about King Bruce and his Sisyphus-ian spider. I listened to it wondering, “Am I the mentor or is he”. In other words, “Is one the mentor or is the other one”. Then he presented me with the deal breaker. He said, “The moral of the story is that if one fails, then one must try harder next time.” 

I left him with a comment and a couple of questions, as is a mentor’s wont. “Who failed? I am sorry about being harsh but you failed. ONE did not fail. The number one, if you haven't noticed, has been a success all it’s life and it is about time you realized that.” 

-- Mohan

Ps: The 'person to be mentored' ran away at that point. It has been a few years since that conversation with my potential 'person to be mentored'. Do you think I am wasting my time refreshing my email waiting to hear from him?

Ps (10-Oct-2012): 
Subsequent to writing the piece, @yaavanoObba sent me the following (quite relevant) YouTube link.