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Why Runners go to Hell...

It was the best of times... and it was the worst of times! Denizens of the middle world (earth) were marathoning in the millions but when they reached past the gates of heaven or hell , as per their fate, they were unable to run as no suitable course was available.

All complaints and petitions to God fell on deaf ears until the voices reached Asha, the dusky mini-skirted assistant of God himself! Asha, a leisure runner lent a sympathetic ear. She caught God by his suspenders just before he was to leave for North Korea to diffuse the missile launch crisis that was just taking place there. God listened patiently to Asha and summoned the Celestial Engineer and ordered him to set up a marathon course - one in heaven with all the frills and one in hell with all the drills - and gave him just one day to set up everything!

That should have been the end of the story, except the next day thousands of complaints piled up on God's desk. When Asha pointed this out to God on his return from Korea, he said"What's new? Everyone complains!" and he rushed off to Syria to defuse the crisis there. What actually perplexed Asha was that all the complaints were from Heaven and not a single one from Hell! Since she had taken the initiative, Asha decided to investigate - she had an open pass for both heaven and hell (only earth was out of bounds as it was considered too dangerous).

Asha landed at Heaven's marathon grounds. She was shocked to see very few runners and none after 10k. Her investigation indicated that there was a single, straight as an arrow, flat 50 km marathon road with astro-turf. Every one km there was a hydration point with a contract given to Ganapati. Wherever there was a hill, an escalator took runners up. The temperature was set at a steady 21 celsius. However, the few runners there were all beginners while the rest were picnickers and kids goofing away. She talked to to a runner as he crossed his third Ganapati point and this is what he had to say:"Running? Hic? I have just been laid off... I worked at Heaven's gates in immigration but lately the flow has subsided - they say because of all the scams in India - I am just working out my anger!" Another runner offered,"I have not been able to go beyond the tenth hydration point, I don't know why!"

Asha saw a very different picture at Hell's marathon grounds. There were hundreds and thousands of runners jostling for space with cars and trucks over a long winding, narrow and broken road. There were no hydration stations as none were permitted. However, the runners had made car pools which served as hydration stations as well as ambulances. The temperature was never below 45 celsius and 90%humidity. However, all the runners wore Chinamen hats with small water tanks on top - pulling a string released a shower! Some of the runners carried 'kebobs' on their backs which they quickly roasted over the rocks along the road. Asha, who was by now sweating even in a mini-skirt, pulled aside one of the runners and asked what all the enthusiasm was about? He non-chalantly replied, 'sure beats the hell out of hell... we are even ready to challenge heaven!'

Asha returned to God's HQ very disappointed and wondering what to do. She had a near altercation with God as he scrambled back from Syria. This is how it went:

Asha: God, sir! You have to do do something...the marathon program is not working in Heaven.

God: I have no time, I have to get back to Iran... they are getting ready to test an atomic bomb

...oh why did I give the puny naked apes so much brains? Asha: You have to do something about the marathon course in heaven, the real runners are not using it!

At this God was so furious that a sumani formed off Indonesia. He screamed: We gave them a 100 star marathon course... if that is not good enough for them, let them go to hell! And he left for Iran.

And since God's word is law, automatically, the immigration authorities at the Gates of Heaven started diverting all runners to Hell!!!

As Asha entered God's office next morning, she sighed, walked over to the universal computer and changed her listing from 'Runner' to 'Also Ran'!

- V.Kaul

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