Friday, September 02, 2016

Anywhere but Home-Anu Vaidyanathan's Athletic inspirations and experiences

I got Anu Vaidhyanathan’s book “Anywhere but home- Adventures in Endurance” for review and this post is an outcome of me reading this very athletic memoir. I first thought the book is an auto biography, but it doesn't seem to be positioned as one. “Anywhere but home” narrates Anu’s life and times, explaining her childhood, studies in US, interest in sports, practice sessions in Bengaluru and other parts of the world, cycling experience in new Zealand, experience starting and growing a patent related startup, experience participating in some of the toughest marathons and triathlons and more. It is not a fiction and it doesn’t qualify as an entertainer, but is very insightful and inspirational for anyone keen to pursue sports/athletics seriously.

You will like this book if
  1. You have known Anu Vaidyanathan and are keen to know more about her life story
  2. Are interested in sports/athletics/triathlons and wish to know the inside details of someone who has participated in several marathons, triathlons etc all around the world, including some of the toughest ones
  3. Are wondering why India doesn’t win much medals at the Olympics or what challenges Indians (particularly women) face when they try to pursue sports seriously
  4. Like reading biographies
  5. Would like to read some life stories about studying in USA, troubles of running small company, participating in various world sporting events and so on

If you are looking for a pure play fiction to entertain you then this book may not be for you.

I found the book fairly interesting, except a few occasional pages that I felt like skipping as the extreme detailing there wasn’t exciting to me. I didn’t finish in one sitting- read in installments over a period of one week. It covers her life events, countries traveled, challenges faced, sporting events participated, how she trained for it, how she ran a business and so on. Gives you lots of information, perspective and mini world tour.

IIT-Madras security breach: Author has explained how she obtained entry into prestigious IIT Madras in Chennai and Various luxury apartment complexes in Bengaluru, by lying to security staff about her intentions. Author says she would pretend to meet a non-existent friend/relative and sneak in, so as to practice cycling/swimming etc inside the campus. I don’t find it funny or cool. This is major breach of trust and ground for even criminal prosecution. IIT Madras is not guarded by some local security guards- it is manned by police officers, who are entrusted with the job of keeping the campus and its occupants secure. If visitors make false declarations about their intentions and boast that they have outsmarted the police officers, it is totally wrong. Of course author meant no damage or harm and just wanted to cycle in the campus, which is understandable. But I believe this should have been done in a correct way- either declaring one’s true intentions and taking permission or by making a real friend inside IIT campus and go there to meet him/her (that way even if some cycling is done, you will have a known contact inside the campus who knows your identity and intentions). Lot of things are done on trust and breaching the same is no good thing. Try doing the same in front of an immigration officer at international border- if caught you risk having your visa cancelled and deported back home on next available flight. If half of Chennai were to descend on IITM campus for their jogging/cycling/swimming needs, what would happen to the ecosystem of the campus? I strongly condemn author’s security breach admissions in the book.

Few more comments
I understand Anu is an Indian passport holder and went to US, Canada, New Zealand and many other countries for sports and other purposes, often at short notices. A few notes about Visa processing experience/complexities involved could have been helpful (like is tourist visa good enough to participate in sports events or do we need separate category visa? Is carrying cycle across the world is cheaper than renting/buying a new bike at the destination?

Key Details
Title: Anywhere but Home- Adventures in Endurance
Author: Anu Vaidyanathan
Publisher:Harper Sport
Genre: Biography/Sports
MRP: 350 (Around Rs 250 on Amazon right now)
ISBN13: 978-93-5177-5249

I have run the Hyderabad Half Marathon in 2006, that Anu has mentioned in the book.[Details here]. So some remote connection there.

If you know nothing about Anu, I feel reading about her first on wikipedia first will help you set context and appreciate the details shared by the author. Overall reading this book was a relatively different experience. First person narration makes it lot personal. I wish Anu Vaidhyanathan all the success.


Destination Infinity said...

I used to read -- and still read -- biographies. The issue is, they don't detail the parts that we want to know. Sometimes it's written for boasting whereas readers want to learn something from it. That's the issue. There are some very good and well researched biographies, of course.

Destination Infinity

Vidya Gawas said...

Nice article.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Rajesh- Noted yes, it takes lots of courage to admit mistakes and failures (in which most of the learnings are hidden)

@Vidya- Thanks.