Have you ever met me? No? You should.
Sorry. So what I mean to say is that if you've ever met me you know that I am the kind of person Punjabi parents say "is from a very prosperous family" and also "can we find a slightly slimmer boy for our daughter?" So I am slightly fleshy in some regions but remarkably taut in others.
But overall the effect is one of jollity and butter nan.
So in January this year I wondered what it would take me to lose a little weight and get a little exercise. Some time in late 2011 I'd started talking to a Twitter friend who studies in the US and is one of those bizarre people who run marathons "for the fun of it" and look natural in hot pants. This friend suggested that I try running for some 20 minutes at a time, three or four times a week till I began to enjoy it. And so I started, very slowly, in fits and starts. It was very hard in the beginning. I would routinely collapse after 500m or 5 minutes whichever came first.
And then one day Pastrami's missus, the posh Soubhagyavathi, sent me an email about running in the British 10K in July 2012. She had recently started working for Pratham UK and wanted to know if I was prepared to run to raise money for a good cause. I immediately did some research. (Due to a previous life as a management consultant I am somewhat aware of charities that raise tremendous amount of money only to spend most of in ways that would make Rajat Gupta blush.) But Pratham UK is the 100% authentic real deal.
Pratham's flagship program, Read India, aims to improve the reading and basic arithmetic skills of the children in the age group of 6-14 years in rural India. At its peak, in 2008-09, the campaign reached 33 million children across 19 states. It covered 305,000 out of the 600,000 villages of India and mobilized 450,000 volunteers. Over 600,000 teachers/ officials/ government workers have been trained in accelerated learning methodologies. Where the government and Pratham have come together, we have seen the learning levels of all children in the state jump at least 20 percentage points. 24 states have taken up learning improvement programs. Read India was a response to the shocking results of the first Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), which showed that 50% of India’s school going children could not read. ASER is a survey of learning levels on the 6-14 age group, facilitated by Pratham, and conducted by 32,000 volunteers sampling 704,000 children. As many as 13 states are using ASER like tools to measure the progress in reading and arithmetic.
You can read more here.
How can you possibly not impressed by those numbers? No you tell me. How can you not? Imagine what could happen if Pratham was supported more broadly and eventually got all the children to read more thereby by eventually becoming potential future buyers of all MY DORK BOOKS BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…
But I was impressed. These guys genuinely seemed like people who cared enough to make not just chota mota difference, but large scale big bang changes. Which is more than what I do with my daily typing. And more than what most of you do with your typing and trading and tweeting and all that. (Also Soubhagyavahthi is the most upright, honest person I know. She would never work with anything but a white-dove-pure NGO.)
But now there was only one problem with running the British 10K. Running the British 10K. So after much googling I started on a plan called the Couch to 5K program that gets you from nowhere, to running 5 kilometres comfortably three or four times a week. I've never enjoyed physical activity more in my entire life. Not only did I blast through the 9-week program, but last weekend I managed this:
Those are in kilometres boss.
I know won't be participating in any Olympics with these timings, but hey I am trying. (And who knows what political intrigue will happen to the Indian Athletic squad for the London 2012 Olympics?)
So now if everything goes according to plan I will be running in the British 10K on the 8th of July. It will be long, hard and I will most probably stop many times in between when I run out of horsepower. But I. Will. Finish it.
Are you prepared to do yours soldier?
I humbly request you, my dear readers, to donate generously to the Pratham cause. In return I promise to somehow, someway complete the 10K circuit.
But there is more. Besides the fact that £10 (Around Rs880) can keep a child in school in India for a whole year, which is reward in itself, I am prepared to sweeten things even further. Spare a little change for a good cause and I'll do what little I can to incentivise you. As follows:
For every £10: I will send you a signed copy of one of my books with intensely personalised, borderline pornographic messages.
For every £25: I will send you a signed copy of both of my books PLUS put you on the list to get a signed copy of the third book the very moment it comes off the press. Not to mention a a printed copy of the original, pre-edited Dork 3 manuscript signed and in a proper yellow envelope.
For every £100: I will make you, an individual, a character in my third book. You give me your name. And I decide how I put you in there. In a nice way of course. (What an excellent gift for a friend or lover!)
For every £200: I will put your company in my third book. And tweet about this fact on my Twitter handle. Thereby giving you temporary and permanent fame. WHAT MADNESS OF A GREAT OFFER IS THIS??? (However please check with me before you donate. Just in case you are a business school with free-laptop-tendencies or your company name rhymes with 'Dovernment of Dreece'. Contact form link above.)
Any combination of these offers are also possible. So you can donate £200 and ask for two Dork characters. GASP! Also they are valid anywhere in the world.
But if you'd rather just do this from the goodness of your heart, that is also ok. Donate as much or as little as you can to help a charity organisation that actually works. And I will make sure to run my ass off to make it worthwhile for you. Remember six months ago I couldn't run 500m. And today I am running 10 kilometres. Only for you and the children.
Just go here to donate. Please? All of you fellows are so well off no? Some of you have family businesses also. Then? Click below urgently.
P.S. After donating just make sure to choose the "share email address with Sidin" option. This should appear after the option to leave a message on the message board. And I will be in touch with you for the formalities.