I'm a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.


Kiruba Shankar

Why I Still Like Lance Armstrong

(Pic courtesy: Gawker)
When I was in my 3rd standard, my Tamil teacher taught me about a bird called ‘Annam’ ( or Annapparavai), a beautiful, white colored, swan-like bird. The specialty of this bird is that even if it was given diluted milk, it had the ability to extract pure milk and drink it.

My teacher would often say that the people who we meet in real life are like diluted milk. Every person has both good and bad qualities. Like the Annam bird, we need to extract just the good qualities.

For a long time, I thought that bird was real. Even after realizing that its a mythical character much later, that lesson got entrenched in my mind.

That early lesson comes to my mind again as I think of Lance Armstrong.

There’s no doubt that he made mistakes…grave ones. He cheated, he lied, he bullied. Yet, I can’t get myself to hate the guy.

You must give it to a guy who can raise over $500 Million for a foundation. Try raising even a small amount of money for a charity and you will know how tough that is.

He has given hope to many cancer patients. Just ask Yuvraj Singh. Ask his mother. Ask the mother’s of all the patients who were inspired. Now, lets talk again.

I have done a bit of cycling.. a tiny fraction but that’s good enough to appreciate anyone who rides the Tour de France. 3500+ kms at an average speed of 40kms. That’s frickin’ insane. With or without drugs, that’s just plain astounding. I tried attempting 40 kms speed and after 2 kms, my lungs were ready to explode.

I have read every book of his. I liked them all. Authoring a book is not easy. I’ve done four and I’m fairly confident that they suck. So, when I find a book with lucid narrative, I can’t help but appreciate it.

Cycling is not a popular sport. Not by a long shot as compared to Soccer, Cricket or even Golf. Yet, Armstrong made a fantastic name for himself and almost single-handedly made the sport popular for my generation.

I’m not for one bit defending what Lance Armstrong did. What he did was plain wrong. He deserves the punishment he got.

What I’m really hoping is that he gets a window of opportunity to get back to sports…be it cycling, marathons or triathlons. I strongly feel he deserves a chance, even if its not for himself but for the sake of so many people like me who have made mistakes in our lives.

I hated Mohd Azzaruddin and Ajay Jadeja for what they did. While I still arbor animosity, I admire their resilience for how strongly they have come back. With so much hatred, its easy for people to buckle down and disappear. These people chose to claw their way back.

I sure do hope Lance gets his chance. I would love to see him come back clean. You can be sure I will be rooting for him… even more than I did before.

Why This Photo is Special to Me !

This is one of my favorite photos from the ‘Tour of Tamilnadu’, the 7 days, 900 kms cycling trip. The tour was split into 7 stages and the toughest one was on Day 3. We had to cycle 188 kms from Rameswaram to Tuticorin and had to do it within 12 hours. Not only was it the longest distance of the tour, it was also the harshest. The sun was beating down hard and the heat amplified by salt pans that spread across thousands of acres. As if that wasn’t enough, the route was through a boring stretch of National Highways. Our legs were weary from having pedaled 94 and 127 kms the previous two days.

It was tough day. Both physically and mentally taxing. They say that the race is divided into two parts. The first part is 150 kms and the second part is 38 kms. It may not make mathematical sense but they are right. The last stretch is the hardest. Each kilometer starts getting longer. The pain in the legs grows with each push of the pedal. The sun saps your energy no matter how much Enerzol you drink.

That’s when I teamed up with Ramesh, fellow rider and NLP trainer. We stuck together and gave each other company. We chatted strange subjects to fight boredom. We also had to fight the sweeper van which threathed to pick us up off the road in case we didn’t finish before dusk. That’s an ignominy we didn’t want to face. Now, in addition to fatigue and pain, we also had to fight the clock.

We finally reached the destination, GRT Regency Hotel at Tuticorin, exactly at 6:01 PM. The first thing I did after parking my cycle was reach out to Ramesh for a bear hug. That hug showed the power of human mind to overcome physical hurdles. It showed the power of team work.

Kudos to KrishnaKumar, fellow rider and a photo enthusiast for seizing the exact moment. To me, this photo will be special. Very special.

The Friday ECR Cycling Experience

When I heard of the 100 Kilometers ride that a few Bike-Hashers were doing, I enthusiastically signed up. It was also a ride I was looking forward in trepidation. The last time I did the Chennai-Pondicherry ride, it was a day of excruciating pain (predominantly in the area where the sun doesn’t shine! :).

I have an old BSA road bike. No gears. No gel seats. No cushioned bike shorts. Result: A very sore and very painful arse.

Would I want to go through the agony again? The spirit of riding over-ruled the fear of pain. What follows is a quick short account of the ride this morning.

I woke up at 3:30 AM, packed my bag with Snickers bars, bananas and a water bottle. My Dad helped transport me and the bike to Srinath Rajam’s home at Boat Club area. Srinath is the MD and CEO of TVS’ Automotive group.

On the way, we saw something terrible. Two men lying dead in the middle of the road near Kodambakkam. The accident must have happened just a few minutes before we were there. One of them was a motor-cyclist who must’ve crashed into the cyclist. With no traffic in early mornings, people generally over speed. A crowd had already gathered and calls were made to the police and the ambulance.

My Dad kept his feelings to himself. A cyclist lays dead on the road and he is on his way to drop his son for a cycling trip!

With nothing much to help excepting to add to the growing crowd, we moved on.

I had a lump in my throat. For me, it was a rude reminder of how dangerous cycling can be. The only thing that made me carry on with the trip was that a vehicle had been arranged to follow us to offer protection.

At 4:20 am, we reached Srinath’s home where we piled up our cycles onto a special holder at the back of his SUV. Being at the Boat Club area reminded me of the many years of training at the Madras Boat Club. Those fond memories over-rode the ghastly incident of the morning.

We prefer to start the ride from outside the city to avoid traffic. So, the idea is to drive the city section and start off from the ‘Dollar Store’ in the outskirts.

On the way, we picked up Ian May, an expat and an absolute power horse of a rider. He’ll kick the arse of kids half his age.

At exactly 5:00 AM, we started our trip. It was then that I realized that I hadn’t done my bit of warm up and stretches. Managed a minute’s stretch but clearly not enough.

The idea was to ride till Mahabalipuram (around 40 kms), then proceed beyond Kalpakkam (30 kms) and ride back to Ideal Beach Resort (30 kms). So, overall, the target was to finish 100 kms. We had fixed the speed at 25 KM per hour. Cycling at that speed for long distance can be quite an effort, especially if one isn’t used to it. I was able to keep up with the gang for the first 26 kms before the pain on my arse started to slow me down.

The other two took off while I laboured for another 20 kms. Both Ian and Srinath went by the usual plan and I joined them up on their return loop. Srinath wanted to complete the full 100 but both of us had meetings and we had to be back in the city before 10 AM. So, he cut short his trip at the 85th km. He has broken his previous record of 80kms and wants to finish the full 100 during the next few rides. Have to admire his persistence and endurance.

We then piled up our cycles on the back of his SUV and before starting our journey back, took a snap together for memory’s sake.

Personally for me, its been a disappointment having only completed 46 kms. While part of the blame would be on my non-geared cycle, the real reason would be my fitness. I’m getting back to the grind after a lengthy period of dormancy and clearly got quite a bit of catching up to do.

Both Srinath and Ian didn’t mince words asking me to dump my cycle and get a good bike. That’s on my next ‘must-buy’ list. So are the bike shorts with cushion and a good gel seat. I’m on a clear mission to save my arse.

Signed up for the 43 kilometer BSA Cycle Ride

Photo: Jersey Cameraman

This Saturday, I’m joining a small team of 20 riders on a ride from Chennai to Mahabalipuram as part of the ‘Fun, Freedom, Fitness’ ride organized by TI Cycles.

I got the news from the Bike Hash group which is fast turning out to be a very interesting sports group. I sent an email to TI cycles and within minutes, a member of their HR & Cusotmer Service team, Mani, called me to welcome to the race and ask for any special arrangements that I’d need. Impressive.

One of the reasons why I’m game for such rides is because a lot of important logistical arrangements are taken care of. A pilot car to lead the cyclists (ensures safety from oncoming traffic), doctor on call, Refreshments pit-stops and breakfast on arrival. They even arrange to transport the cycle back to our homes.

And not to mention meeting up with like-minded cycling enthusiasts.

This ride is actually an internal employee team ride (“Eat your own dog food!”)which they are partially opening up to others. Their email said, yesterday was the last day to register but if you are interested, you may want to try your luck just like I did. Send an email to SubramaniamA [@] tii.murugappa.com. Cheers!