The fourth pillar of our democracy is crumbling (crumbled)

India’s 2014 general election was epochal in more than one sense. It defied the media pundits by bringing in a first non-congress majority government at the center. The long and eventful campaign before the election also brought out the fact that the main stream media of India couldn’t be relied on for providing accurate and unbiased facts – the fundamental role expected from the fourth pillar of our democracy.

Indeed the General Election was epochal because Narendra Modi led campaign almost completely bypassed the main stream media by using social media, volunteer teams, and direct campaigns. It won because it did so.

The main stream media continues to manufacture facts rather than reporting them. I received a small such sample from a friend.  Here it is:

List of false and misleading reports by media

See for yourself how much you should be trusting the fourth pillar of our democracy -free media.

My opinion: we don’t have any easy substitute and our habits of trusting the printed word and TV visuals without questioning anything also are going to be hindrance. We just can’t form correct opinions by ‘consuming’ media.


Running without a Garmin

I have been running since late 2011 with a Garmin Forerunner 305 on my wrist and a heart rate monitor strapped around my chest.  My Garmin proved to be trusty accessory come rain or a blazing sun. Barring some hiccups with the heart rate readings, which I solved by cleaning the sensor areas on the strap and also tightening the strap by a few knots. Why the ‘elastic’ of the strap should become useless, is another matter.

My Garmin told me how much I ran and how fast I did that. It showed my average and maximum heart rates. During races I could consult it to find how much more distance I had to cover. I could also compile some trivia like my running kilometers far exceeded my tweets and brag about it, all thanks to my Garmin.

Then, it happened. Since October 2014, the Garmin battery started showing signs of old age. By November, it could barely last for a Half Marathon run of almost 3 hours (Boy, I am slow) . My running too had hit plateau, which the Garmin would unflatteringly show run after run.  I started avoiding the jaded Garmin because it couldn’t last for even an hour now. I did a few practice runs without any straps. I was constantly guessing my heart rate and distance covered and speed.  I could manage distance and speed through known landmarks on the route and time taken. I gave up bothering about heart rate and just observed my breathing and effort level. It was still a lot a guesswork.

Then came the race day of December 21. This was the first HM I would do without a Garmin. Me and my fellow runner took 38 Min for first 5 Km and after that we didn’t realize much but we knew were running faster, much faster. At around 12 KM we saw a pacer flag waving, I thought it must be a 2:45 pacer. But  we soon overtook it and found that it was a 2:30 pacer! I couldn’t believe this because my best HM time until the was 2:41. I ended the HM in 2:31, my personal best! (The 2:30 pacer finished behind me)

My Garmin is still under ‘repairs’. So my practice runs are without it. I think not having Garmin eliminated distraction of looking at it -mentally calculating required speed and distance, and thinking about heart rate. This is a seemingly minor distraction. But it out of the way, I am now more aware of my muscles, breathing, effort and even things along the route. This helped me to relax and it seems that body takes over in deciding how fast it should go and whether it needs to use different muscles.  If the idea behind running is just to run and nothing else, a Garmin is superfluous.

In the meanwhile my tweets have surged ahead of my kilometers. My first attempt to replace its battery (needs surgical skills)  has failed. But who cares, when I am running, I am just running. I shall deal with a repaired Garmin when it is.