Name: Matthias Van den Neste
EY: Audit – Antwerp
Temporary stay: Chennai – South India
‘I am always in for a sporty challenge. I had nothing on the horizon for 2020 but now I do!’
I’m solo in Chennai, South India for 6 weeks (till 06/03), to support our GDS teams during the busy audit season. The summer has only just begun
I’m solo in Chennai, South India for 6 weeks (till 06/03), to support our GDS teams during the busy audit season. The summer has only just begun here, but it’s already unbearably hot (30+ ºC at 9 o’clock in the morning).
In combination with the unhealthy air quality, that means the conditions here are not exactly ideal for training. For that reason, I do most of my training on the treadmill in the hotel gym, but even there it’s actually too hot. I like to train outside, so I will try to do some training outside during the weekends. In India, though, it isn’t possible to just step outside the hotel and go running like we would in Belgium. There are no facilities for pedestrians, and the traffic is one big chaos (from tuk-tuks to cows) – it’s just not safe.
I asked around at the office, and they advised me to go running at 6 in the morning at the coast, along Marina Beach. Since a good night’s sleep is just as important after a heavy work week (and I thought it would be OK in the morning), I only started training at 9 o’clock. It was an intensive block training, 14 km with faster blocks of 5x1500m, and due to the heat I didn’t recuperate enough between the last blocks.
Fortunately, I was equipped with a CamelBak and I had ORS powder (oral rehydration salts) with me as well for training in these conditions. Obviously quite a lot of people run there early in the morning, but I was pretty much the only one at that time. Given the heat & the fact that I’m European, I got a lot of attention. I understand now, too, why people avoid the heat rather than running in it. On the one hand, it was unique to see how the day got going at the beach, with locals opening up their street food bar or stand. But it was hard seeing how much rubbish there was lying everywhere and the conditions in which a lot of people there sleep along the side of the road, often in the full sun.
Amongst these sometimes harsh conditions, I am lucky to experience the warm hospitality and genuine kindness of local colleagues and Indian people. They live by the saying ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, which means ‘treat your guests as they are Gods’, and indeed, they leave no stone unturned for me to feel welcomed here. These weeks in Chennai will surely remain a memorable business stay!