Anywhere But Home: Adventures in Endurance by Anu Vaidyanathan
Publisher: HarperCollins; Price: Rs 350; Pages: 184
At 29, Anu Vaidyanathan became the first Asian to complete the Ultraman Canada triathlon. Her memoir, Anywhere But Home, is a fascinating account of her journey
There are many reasons to envy Anu Vaidyanathan. That at 29, she became the first Asian to complete the Ultraman Canada triathlon (2009) — swam 10 km, rode a bike over 420 and ran 84.4 km over three days to finish sixth — is just one. She trained for this feat while pursuing a PhD in electrical engineering from New Zealand and helming a start-up in Bangalore.
Still, it is not just her multi-tasking skills you’d wish for once you dive into her riveting memoir. Rather, it’s the confidence with which she pursues what makes her happy without caring for what is expected of a “good” Indian girl. As a roomate asks her before her first Ironman triathlon: “…[Y]ou came from India to Canada for a sport? Who does that?”
It’s her independence and self-sufficiency (“alone but not lonely”) as she traverses across America to complete her education, and her deep connect with the natural world.
One gets invested easily in Vaidyanathan’s story. Her dejection on quitting her first PhD programme in US after facing gender bias, her determination to train in Bangalore despite the traffic, work pressure, poor sports facilities; and then over weekends in Chennai to avoid being followed by strange men and dogs on her rides; her sense of liberation on landing a research scholarship in New Zealand where she’s freed of all such woes — You find yourself rooting for her without even trying.
The book is well-written and nowhere does the story drag or read like a brag-fest. The narrative is peppered with references to literary texts, for it not just the birds, trees, lakes and mountains but also the books she loves that motivate the author to keep going despite setbacks. (Herein lies a superb reading list, ranging from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on self- reliance).
Unlike most autobiographies, where people tend to gloss over their lives, Vaidyanathan is quite honest about her failings, insecurities and fears as well. Her memoir is inspiring, refreshing and full of surprises.
From HT Brunch, August 22, 2016
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