I have been walking for the last several years. I like walking. At one time, when I was younger, I used to jog, especially long distances. But then, the doctor told me that jogging on metalled roads harms the knee-joints. So, I walk without any fear of undue wear and tear of knees.
Running or walking on the tread-mill in a gym never fascinated me. I am an outdoor person and I hate being cooped up in an office the whole day. Whatever little time I have to keep me fit cannot be spent inside a gym looking at cold machines and weights and other gadgets or to look at myself in large mirrors. I am not talking about the physical benefits of being in a gym. All I am saying is that mentally and temperamentally I don’t relish being in a cage.
I walk very fast; almost close to running. However, I still have time to breathe in air and perceive its changes in seasons, times of day and night, and in the proximity. There are these crepuscular birds flying silently in jagged arrowheads. Sometimes I see them against the sun, changing shades of red until they mingle with blackness of the approaching night.
Walking in the rains is an art by itself. One has to wait until the rain stops to a slow drizzle and then you go out like Gene Kelly Dancing in the Rain. There are times when the fog engulfs you and you are surprised to see people coming out of thick fog as if by magic. Then you observe them dexterously moving around with their umbrellas.
In Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, where I have a house in the Jal Vayu Defence Enclave, just across from the Kharghar Golf Course, you see the twin Pandavakada Falls with a beeline of people going towards the falls to see them from close distance and get sprayed by its raging waters.
Walks enable you to observe people’s behaviour closely. For example, I notice that I have hardly come across a two wheeler driver looking straight ahead. He or she is either busy talking to the person on the pilion seat by tilting head backwards or observing the scenery. I also notice that vehicles in Mumbai, especially two wheelers, go straight to the point of destination from where they are and don’t worry too much about being on the wrong side of median.
I also observe people taking their pet dogs for walk. I see that there are very few who take the pets; in majority of the cases, it is the pets that take them for walk. Sometimes, I feel envious of the pets.
Sometimes when you go for walks early mornings, you find that the moon hasn’t set yet and sun hasn’t risen and you get the illusion of having moon looking like sun.
By the way, that brings me to the point that you never walk alone; the sun, the moon, the stars, they all walk with you.
Then, once in a while, during the rains, you come across a rainbow and you marvel at the fact that not only God made colours but He presented them in the most alluring manner to all of us. Your heart wants to swing on the rainbow.
Then, early mornings, you also see devotees walking by singing hymns. The Sikhs have a Gurudwara on the other end of the Central Park and they go, together with women and children, one week in a year, on what is called Prabhat Pheri (Early Morning Walk-around). We also have an ISKCON temple (under construction) close-by. It is such a tranquil sight to see a small group going past singing hymns of Lord Krishna.
And, it is not just the people and the birds that I come across. I come across dogs either playfully sprinting in a pack or pups feeding on their mother. In all cases, like children, there is so much of excitement about them.
And then, there is walking in the evenings. The sun sets over the hill. An occasional flight goes past since on the other side of the hill is the Santa Cruz airport. There is a lot of noise but slowly colours and noise fades, the lights come on slowly and everything starts becoming serene like the waters of this small lake in the Central Park.
Come the morning, you again want to be out, walking, walking, walking. You look at the sun and you see it reflected in the lake and you learn about life itself. There is no such teaching in a gym: you sweat, you add muscles and off you go.
And then the hustle and bustle of the new day starts again. The milk-man going on his bicycle with two milk drums perched on either side of his bicycle rear carrier, and some skaters skating on the roads for want of a skating rink anywhere close by.
I walk very fast; a little less than seven minutes a kilometre. However, I always have time to see, observe and click pictures; including this of mine at the end of the walk, breathless but full of joy and satisfaction:
Yellow flowers are my favourite. These were clicked by me during a walk on the road side:
As you were reading this article and looking at the pictures, it must have occurred to you that I am blessed and living in exquisite surroundings; the hills, the falls, the lake etc. I would like you to consider that such beauty would be anywhere. This is not in the hills; this is in Mumbai itself. Such beauty lies close to where you too live. All that you have to remember is to see as you walk past. And also remember what Rabindranath Tagore had said:
“Eyes can see only dust and earth,
But feel it with your heart, it is pure joy.
The flowers of delight blossom on all sides, in every form,
But where is your heart’s thread to weave them in a garland?”
I can never walk in a gym. I have to be in the open where the water-falls, the grass, the sky, the birds, the people, the sun and the moon beckon me.
I hope, with this, I have encouraged you enough to walk in the open rather than in a gymnasium. In the latter you seek physical fitness only. Walking in the open is for your total well-being.
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