Category Archives: Journal

Saturday morning Bike Ride

It was the first Saturday after a 3 week long India vacation (post coming out soon 😊). The temperature for the past few days had dipped significantly. Although pleasant, I dread thinking about the soon to arrive winter. However, one of the best thing being an NJ resident is we get to see all seasons, and winter, though a little longer, is not that harsh as compared to some of the other northeastern states.

I was awake by 5. While lazing around engaging my mind in arbitrary plans, the thought of bike riding came impromptu to my mind. The temperature was 56F (12C), I contemplated, for  the courage I need to muster to face the coldness was heaving over the comfort of my bed, but eventually I gave in.

About a mile away from my house is a gorgeous nature trail called Delaware & Raritan Canal(D&R for short). The D&R Canal was built back in the 1830s to pull the cargo ships into the mainland water canal using mules and later by the river barrages. It is a 77 miles( 124 KM) long trail running between a man-made canal, a river and deep woods. The trail is also part of the nationwide 3000 miles (4800 KM) of eco preservation route that goes up to the Miami.

My initial plan was to go for a quick loop but the moment I hit the belt, dwelling in the morning mist and serene surrounds, I felt like going for long. And soon I was determined to go cross county. My trip took a little over 4 1/2 hours, crossing 7 cities,with 20 minutes halt and 40 miles (64 KM) of bike run. My best run for the season.

My legs are a little sore, but the feeling of achievement is beyond measure.

Saturday Debate Judging Experience

The English Speaking Union of New Jersey has two debate league for middle school, Garden State Debate, and Jersey Shore. Participating schools across NJ each year debates over 5 times from November to April.

My son is part of the Garden state league and has been attending this league for the last three years. I have nothing but great things to say about the debate league. It is such a joy to see young kids debating on some serious topic with depth and suave. Politics, science, technology, current affairs, socio-economic problems to world issues, the teams debate on all such topics with such astute enthusiasm.

The topics are usually announced 4 weeks ahead. There are 4 topics and teams need to prepare for both proposition and opposition. The teams are the size of three, first speaker, second speaker, and a rebuttal person. All teams debate for all topics.

20 minutes before each debate the topic is announced and the debaters at that moment know whether they are proposition or opposition. In those 20 minutes, they are allowed to write their assertions and notes on a single white sheet, before they go in the room. The debate is 30 minutes long with each speaker getting 5 minutes to make their points or, refute and rebuttal their opponent’s point.

Over these years I have seen how it has benefited my son. He is better organized, can do great research, play in a team, distill information, act on feet and above all speak in public forums without any stage fear.

Last year I was trained to be a judge. I will be honest, judging is not easy. One needs to keep track of time, take notes, give time signals, make sure rules are followed and above all keep the biases away. The judge’s opinion doesn’t count, it is always how the debate takes the course. Simple to state but hard to follow.

Every year end there is a state level contest where every school sends their best teams. My son’s team was one of the selected team to go this time.

The final tournament was yesterday. My plan was to drop my son at school. The school arranged a bus to take the debaters to the venue. If you know NJ, it was in Rumson. Home to Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. So, around 7 in the morning I dropped him and was about to leave when the principal of the school requested for my help to Judge. Well, I had my day planned and was not in any frame of mind to judge. Besides, I was in my pajamas.

Every school needs to bring two judges( you don’t judge your own school teams) to support the league and one of the appointed judges fell sick. I had to help. I ran home, took a shower and drove for an hour to reach the debate venue.

This was my first time to Rumson. And I could see the affluent neighborhood gracing the streets. Most of the houses looked like castles, with a trimmed lawn and contemporary designs. I reached on time and judged two debates. Despite my early reluctance, I was glad to be there. It was such a pleasure to see young kids doing so well. My son’s team won 2 encounters and I also got to see him debate. Here were the topics the teams debated on

  1. Eliminate Farm Subsidize
  2. President term should be one term of 6 years
  3. The US should not interfere in Venezuela affair
  4. The first amendment shouldn’t protect lying during an election campaign

Overall my son’s school got the most wins and the top team award.

How was your weekend?

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shantanu Baruah,, and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

A Saturday To Remember

I had a packed day yesterday. A Saturday well spent. I woke at leisure and the first thing I did was switching the television on. I got glued to the box watching the England-Sweden quarterfinals. England dominated the game. They ruled the field, completely outplayed Sweden.

Right after the match, I hit the gym. I was done with my weight training and about to ride the treadmill when my son texted me about his plan to go to Duke’s farm for biking. I had been biking for a while and had taken many trails that the beautiful state of NJ offers, but never rode my bike in the Duke’s farm.

The farm is located in Hillsborough, NJ, about 6 miles away from my home. It is a beautiful estate with 2700 acres of wild reserve. The farm is a noted landmark in the area and one of the oldest parks opened for public. Though the place existed for a long time, it was open for public in the year 1912.

I was keen to ditch the bike ride for another time influenced by my desire to watch the much anticipated last quarterfinals between Russia and Croatia. But my love for exploring new place happily won the battle.

I drove directly to the farm(another time, I would have ridden my bike instead) and rented a bike at the park. The bike trail at Duke’s farm was one of the best trails I had ever seen. With lush green forest, dirt road, wild deer, wing expanding herons, flowing stream, picturesque sight, wildflowers and serenity, the trail was one serene ride. The trail stretches about 18 miles crisscrossing the park in no particular order.

My ride trail. The number indicates the miles

After the first 3 miles, the mother and son decided to rest at the barn restaurant, and I went on to explore the wild. I missed my bike as the rental bike had its limitations. I rode for an hour covering about 10.5 miles. Below are some of the capture.

With the promise to come back again, I retired for the day. When I reached home the match was still on(into the extra times) and I enjoyed a great game of soccer. Croatia won in a nail-biting penalty shootout. My day was not over yet, for I had an eventful evening to attend.

if you love Bollywood this might interest you. Salman Khan was in town with many of his co-stars to rock NJ. 💥🌟

I had never seen a live show before. I was skeptical about the whole thing, but man, what a show it was. It was 3 hours of nonstop fun in complete Bollywood style. My wife took the best seats. 😊 We were only 6 rows from the stage and what a spectacular show it was.

By the time I signed off, it was 3 in the morning. 💫✨A Saturday so well spent. How was yours?

Copyright © Shantanu Baruah

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Shantanu Baruah and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.