S PARTHASARATHY was an avid morning cross-country runner in Mussoorie hills when I joined the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration as deputy director in 1986. It was a sea change from the police job in the district. Parthasarathy was joint director, a senior IAS officer of the 1965 batch, presently settled in Hyderabad. One was instantly attracted by his informal, shirt-sleeved style of leadership.
A Tamilian who did his college education from Delhi University, he combined the best of the South and the North — gift of the gab, dash and panache, quick wit and a big heart.
One morning, bleary-eyed, I went to the door when the bell rang and saw him standing in jogging kit. ‘Hey, how about joining me for the morning run?’ ‘No way, sir, not like this,’ I shrugged my shoulders. ‘I’ll keep waking you up every morning till you change your mind,’ he laughed and dashed off.
He was at it again, when I met him in his office. ‘Have you read this quotation by Christopher McDougall?’ he asked, handing me a paper. ‘Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up, you’d better be running. And when the sun rises in Mussoorie, we’d better be running,’ he quipped as both of us laughed.
‘I’ll go for horse riding in the morning,’ I attempted to dodge him. ‘In that case, only the horses will lose weight,’ he retorted with a glint in his eyes. ‘It’s a 5 km half cross-country run, as I call it, from here to Company Garden, up onto Waverley school road, to the famous Library point and back to the academy. And thereafter, I’ll treat you to a cup of hot South Indian coffee, specially prepared by my wife; you probably don’t know what good South Indian coffee tastes like,’ he went on… ‘and once you pick up stamina, I’ll take you on a 9 km run, around the Guru Nanak centenary school hill.’
‘Okay sir, let me practice for a while, then I’ll join you,’ I yielded. And he had extracted the promise out of me, using the charm of his trademark gift of the gab.
‘And as the big batch of freshly selected entrants join next month, we’ll take them out for run every morning. It’ll flatten their pampered egos. One hour of morning run in the Himalayas can teach more than the books they have mugged up,’ tossing back the strands of his characteristic quiff, he summed it up airily.
‘Why not, a young field officer must have an aptitude for the outdoors and extensively tour to see things first-hand, rather than remain holed up in office or home,’ I chimed in.
He was smiling from ear to ear. He had won me over.
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