To me, walking is a very personal affair. I prefer to do this daily ritual alone, whenever I feel like it and at my own pace. It gives me an opportunity to forget the complex world around me and be myself amidst nature and the elements. I go on a walk without any lofty aims or goals to be achieved. I walk for the heck of it. It is extremely therapeutic. One can indulge in mindless day dreaming – build a beautiful house on my first round, advice Modi on ‘Swatch Bharat’ during the second round, cook a delicious chicken dish on the third and so on. When I return home, I am refreshed, exhilarated and full of cheer to take life head on.
It is not always possible to walk alone in a gated community. There are hordes of people indulging in the same activity and occupying the same ‘time and space’ continuum. It is but natural to come face to face with these people forcing each other to exchange pleasantries. How are you or good evening, hello or a wave of your hand or even a smile or a nod should normally suffice to acknowledge each other’s existence and acquaintance. Most of the time, these simple exchanges are adequate to ward off the ordinary – unfortunately there are a few seasoned walkers who insist on invading your privacy by design or deceit. In a close loop walk in any gated colony, it’s pretty nigh impossible to avoid these abominable creatures. They pounce on you with ominous intentions to kill your freedom.
God please help me – I want to walk alone.
If that is not possible give me a dog to walk with.
Only the other day I was walking alone peacefully to be accosted by Mr Bhondopadya a school teacher and an ardent admirer of Rabindra Sangeet. He is normally accompanied by a ferocious looking pie dog to prevent any of his prey from getting away. Once in his clutches and constantly under the surveillance of the watchful dog, you find no way out but to listen as he starts spouting many a poem from the collection of the great Tagore; all this in chaste Bengali. With great courage and presence of mind, I am able to extricate myself in a record time of 39 minutes.
I once met a fitness freak on my walk who wanted to know what my goal is. When I told her I had no goals, she was so astonished, she returned the next day with a pile of instructions. She thundered; buy a pedometer to keep track of the distance covered, time taken, pace and many other things – set a goal. She wanted to know if I had measured my BP before commencement of my walk and that on completion – said that it would give you an indication of your metabolic rate. ‘How come you are not listening to any music while you walk – I could give you any number of songs to keep your mind calm and collected,’ she roared. When I did not respond, she felt very disappointed and said my walking was aimless. She left the colony a short while ago.
You are walking alone and this man pounces from behind and says ‘Do you mind if I join you?’ Oh God! How do I tell him I mind – please leave me alone. He immediately starts imposing his will on you – ‘you should walk briskly not like the way you amble’ – asks if I have any issues with my leg and so on. I long to tell him that I do have issues, but not with my leg; however, I have been told it may not be politically correct.
There is this fellow who makes a call to find out where I am and pins me down with deadly accuracy, shaming even the swooping of a Golden Eagle. This man is full of jokes – so he thinks - and he will invariably start the conversation by saying ‘listen to this joke’ – these little yarns neither have a beginning or an end nor for that matter any punch line. When he is finished with his loud laughter, you gather that the joke is over and has gone over your silly head. A nonstop joke session for an hour can exterminate any species.
The most dangerous predator in the colony is the ‘Boring Babu’. He hides behind electric poles, tree trunks and parked cars waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Without any prompting he will enthrall you with his achievements, victories and conquests. He will set forth and proudly narrate an incident when he told the foreman some thirty years back, that the 34 size nut is what is needed to hold the ‘L’ joint in place. In the same breath he will recount how a wooden plug with a 3cm dia leather washer saved a boat from sinking and so on. Even if you try to interrupt him and draw him away from his discourse, by changing the subject – you know… ‘Babu, the cat population in the colony has gone up’. He will say ‘I know it’s gone up but listen to this’ and continue from where he stopped.
A very senior citizen stops you to enquire about your health and thereafter holds forth and lists out all his innumerable pains and aches in excruciating detail. –By the end of his narration you are bound to hear your own bones screeching and rumbling. This encounter once in a way is fine (we are all getting there) but certainly not on a daily basis.
The ones I have a massive problem with are those who walk past you at an impossible pace, leaving you with the feeling that you have been demoted to the kindergarten level for not maintaining a healthy stride. Once is bad enough, they overtake you twice, completely demoralizing you in the process. Of course, the fact that they are probably ten years younger doesn’t help.
Mobile phone with those blue tooth devices add a lot of fun to your daily dawdle. There you are walking peacefully, when the guy coming from the opposite direction suddenly says, ‘No, you can’t do that!’ He’s looking at you, he’s walking towards you and just when you feel you should ask him what on earth he means, you see the ear plug attached to his dratted ear!
This is what makes walking very interesting – if you can walk alone without any form of interruption – you have won the battle