Space For Rent
Monday, May 16, 2016, Jaistha 2, 1423 BS, Shaban 8, 1437 Hijri

A resilient run wearing a coronary stent-II
Tapan Chakrabarty
Published :Monday, 16 May, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 181
Victoria, named after her highness the Queen Victoria, still retains her history as a coveted British colony. Along the highway to the city, a bill board for Times Colonist, the oldest newspaper in Western Canada, attested to that. Another attestation was the Empress Hotel by the harbour, built in 1908 and haunted by sightings of ghostly characters: an old woman wearing pajamas knocking on doors and leading unsuspecting guests to an elevator, which was built through guest rooms, in one of which the woman was believed to have breathed her last; the hotel's architect walking around holding a cane; and a maid still busy cleaning the sixth floor. Anything that old, anything that British had to have at least one sighting of a ghost, I mused.
A city of flowers and gardens, Victoria is also the capital of the province of supernatural British Columbia, known for its moderate weather and natural beauty, accentuated by lakes, rivers, glaciers, waterfalls, mountains, and the Pacific Ocean.
We parked our car in front of the 12-story condo to see Patricia, the concierge of the building since its opening in 2008. Beautiful in appearance and congenial in her dealings with others, she stood up and kept talking to us, standing all the time. When I asked her to sit down, she said she was showing her respect. Originally from Britain, she was following the same tradition I used to follow when I was at BUET, and I still see some of my Asian colleagues in Calgary doing. There is some praise-worthy gentility in that tradition. The western culture mandates many senior discounts, but is wanting in respect for the elderly, thereby losing out on their wisdom.
Our tenant was out of town. We had to make an appointment with his parents to see the unit we own. The unit we were renting for the trip was in another building, and won't be ready until 15:30. Patricia came to our rescue by giving us a parking pass for the day. She gave us access to the lounge room that had a TV and to the fitness centre for me to do some light exercise and stretching. Inside the fitness centre, the sun found its way through a window to light up a small section of the floor in the south-east corner. I found that section tempting. I was the only one in the centre. There, lying on my back on a padded exercise mat, with my head resting on a foam roller and the sun caressing and warming my face and arms, I looked north-west. My senses started dancing in joy. The roof top of the majestic Empress Hotel against the azure sky was in my view. The green foliage and spring flowers outside the building soothed my eyes. I was at peace with myself. I was in an island of peace and tranquillity and beauty.
After an hour of blissful indulgence and partial sunbathing inside the fitness centre, the Victoria attractions outside drew us out. We walked by the parliament building to the left and the yacht-dotted harbour on the right. I saw two horses pulling an empty carriage. The horses looked happy, but the driver was edgy, looking for paid riders. The air was clean; the flowers were fresh and lovely; the sun was warm and friendly; and the mood was jubilant and leisurely. We walked through the Empress Hotel. It was too early to expect any sighting of the ghostly characters. They might have gone outdoors for sight-seeing or sunbathing or lunching. I noticed a queue forming to enter the Bengal Lounge for lunch. I had eaten there before. The food and the décor, with the skin of a Royal Bengal tiger decorating the fireplace face, were to give patrons a taste of British India, when Calcutta was its capital.
After buying groceries and marathon nourishments for three days, we checked into our rented condo unit on the 16th floor. The view of Victoria, spread around three sides of the living room and the kitchen, was splendid. A seagull flew by having the same view as we were having without flying. It was looking for food; our food was in fridge.
The morning after, Butchart Gardens, one of the main attractions in Victoria, were pulling us to enjoy its vernal beauty, after many years. Tulips were in bloom everywhere. The sunken garden looked like it was designed to give us a taste of heaven on earth. From the floor of the garden, a stair snaked up to an elevated view point, emulating a feeling of being up there in a far-away galaxy.
The Galaxy S7 was busy capturing all the eye-catching gardens, including close-ups of the flowers and the leaves. A fountain was dancing in a flowing white gown. After two hours of strolling through the gardens, my spirit was up, but the legs were sore and the lower back was stiff. I would have to have those in good shape for the big event, three days later. 'I need to see a physiotherapist soon,' I decided then.
That evening, we went to see our own condo unit, where we had not spent more than three to four days after we had bought it eight years ago. Our tenant's dad, Terry, was showing us around. A resident of the north wing of the building, he seemed to know more about our unit than we did, as the absent owner. The view from the ninth floor kitchen, living room, and balcony was as stunning as it was in 2008, when we bought it brand new. If there were a list of impulse purchases, ours would be near the top in that. The Royal British Columbia Museum to the left was looking ravishing in a rose gown. The domes of the parliament buildings were glowing with yellow ornaments, against the bluish twilight sky, and the harbour ripples were looking golden, with borrowed lights from the yachts. The dimly-lit Empress Hotel was proud to show only her renovated side; keeping the unsightly scaffolding shrouded with a blue cloak. After an hour or so, we left our own unit for the rented unit. On our way back, I was shocked to learn that Terry was a victim of a massive heart failure; he was comatose for three days. He looked younger than me. I felt ill-at-ease thinking of my stent and the big event.
The day after, I went for a physiotherapy session in Victoria. These days, I seem to get better treatment when the therapist finds out, during patient background check, that I ran marathons in seven continents. The lower back and the left shoulder were very stiff and could be of concern during the marathon, Vicki (not her real name) intimated with a concerned look. She showed me two yoga exercises to mitigate the stiffness.
On 30 April, we were in Vancouver Convention Centre to pick up my marathon package. On our way, we saw the marathon finish area being prepared for the big event. We were dwarfed by the sky scrapers all around us. I was happy that I could now put something concrete in my finish line visualization. Outside, by the Burrard Inlet, there stood the massive cauldron I had seen on TV during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Inside, I had a picture taken with the runner-turned-entrepreneur, John Stanton, who founded Running Room, a store selling running-related products, with locations all over Canada. His success is an example of making money, while running and being healthy.
'What a memorable day ahead of you as well as of the whole BUETIAN community! Would there be any telecast on any TV channel? All the best to you,' an email from my BUET batch mate and hall mate, Sumiya, came when I needed it most. His young face, whistling a Tagore tune, on the third floor hallway of Ahsanullah Hall North, was still with me, after close to 45 years. His uplifting note inspired me. It also put pressure on me and made me nervous, because I did not want to disappoint him.
Ear plugs in a hotel? That's what we saw on the night stands of the third floor bedrooms of the Times Square Suites apartment hotel on 1821 Robson Street. I thought we could be under flying jets at night. I was busy making a list of and spreading running gears on a sofa chair to wear or carry during the marathon. An ominous email I received that day was causing some grief from time to time. I went to bed early, but at around 11 pm, I woke up and heard Saturday-night-party noise emanating from another building. I realized the reason for the earplugs. I put them on and gulped a sleeping pill, hoping that it would not affect my running in the morning. I needed rest to run with a stent.
(To be continued)
Tapan Chakrabarty, a BUET chemical engineer with a PhD from the University of Waterloo, a seven-continent marathon finisher, an inventor and innovator, and a columnist, writes from Calgary, Canada

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