Pursuit of Happiness

Taming the beast

For Ajai Jhala, CEO, BBDO India, running provides a cathartic release

As the summer sunlight plays peek-a-boo among the misty receding clouds, the flickering bright rays light up the pavement at Siri Road, Malabar Hill in Mumbai and greet joggers. As the bells clang at the Hanuman temple, which is situated on the top of the mound, Ajai Jhala, CEO, BBDO India arrives for his morning dose of dopamine. Running, according to him is a legal dopamine, and he claims to be addicted to it.

The top executive at the ad agency follows a unique routine in pursuit of his hobby that involves distinct locations. And he’s even formed an acronym for his high-intensive interval training regime – BEAST. This includes a run along the freshly trimmed grass at over 75,000 square yards,  Brabourne Stadium (B); or working out on an elliptical (E) machine; racing up a flight of stairs in apartments (A); gliding down Siri road (S) or sprinting along Toys Hill (T) at Kent in England. He elaborates on the logic behind such a vastly unique routine, “I switched from long distance running to interval training since I realised the importance of working out at an intense pace. The pain and the amount of exertion that one has to put on oneself makes push myself harder. The idea is to become a tamed beast from a pain beast”.

It is only after having participated in a marathon in Barcelona in 2008 that he decided to quit playing squash and start running. Nature and solitude are two things that are very necessary for Jhala to run. He says that it is very important for one to find time for oneself, and he finds solitude when he goes running. “I feel like I have reached a zone where I can introspect and it is amazing the way thoughts flow. It helps you build resilience,” says Jhala as he goes for his next round of jog up the mound.

Running is not only a way of being fit, but is a way of life, believes Jhala. “Jogging helps me relieve myself of stress and gives me a positive outlook. It also helps form an open-minded approach towards things. It impacts my daily life. It has helped me cross barriers, run through the pain and yet stand strong in terms of adversity. It not only helps you to be fit, but impacts on your longevity in the long run,” he adds. He runs four days a week, and manages to do yoga twice a week to keep himself active in other training forms. “I prefer stairs to elevators. Sometimes, I play squash. But now running is like a microcosm of my life,” says Jhala.

Has he applied any of his learnings on the track back at work? “The biggest lesson that I have learnt is to have a goal and work towards achieving it. You can break down your targets if it is too high to accomplish at one go. But it is important to reach it. As the famous Chinese philosopher said, ‘A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step’,” he signs off.