My wife thought that my developing pot belly would soon out-belly her pregnant body. So, everyday, the alarm would be set to go off at 5am. You can press the snooze button on the alarm but you cannot stop a nagging wife. So out I had to go, walking towards a healthy lifestyle. But soon when the rain set in the walking burned out long before the belly ever did. But there was no getting away from a wife defeated. She went and brought a treadmill. I thought I was done for. A year later, it lies forgotten in a corner, now more a cloth hanger than an exercise equipment.
However, the wake-up call came soon. A routine health check-up and the doctor was reinforcing the better half’s concerns. And did I see an I-told-you-so look on her face! A busy life is the easiest of excuses to proffer to escape any exercise. And after the initial enthusiasm wears down, one no longer enjoys the walk for itself. We do the customary 10 rounds of the garden as if counting the beads on a rosary—ears plugged with our pods and eyes shut to everything, except the path ahead.
Work up a sweat, come back and freshen up, gulp a quick breakfast and off to work. We are so busy walking that we fail to see the flowers by the walkway or the other walkers out on a similar mission or the elderly men and women doubling up to work up a laugh. Keep walking, as one ad line goes.
No time to see the old men we overtake in our laps; who are out together in the morning, having a leisurely walk and then sitting on the garden benches talking about how times have changed. They have no laps to complete, no train to catch. We hope we will be never like them as we rush to catch our train or bus. Walking for exercising’s sake was soon becoming a burden. And then, it struck me that I could start walking for the sake of walking.
So, I started walking a kilometre or so to the bus stop daily on my way to and back from work. While the rest of the world was zipping past on two- and four-wheelers, I was footing it to the bus stop, and soon enjoying it. Gandhiji, in his Experiments with truth talks about his days when he would walk to the courts to save money and make a virtue out of necessity. I was in no dire straits like the Mahatma.
Walking could be fun as long as it was not exercise. And one need not be lonely when walking alone—Ekla Chalo as our Nobel Laureate Tagore once sang. Far better than walking on a treadmill listening to music or the early morning 10 rounds of the garden path, my walk was no physical exercise. I realised that leaving five minutes early and a steady walk without hurrying set my mind free.
Like Henry David Thoreau wrote, we must walk like the camel, which ruminates when walking. Or like he mentions in his essay, “Walking”, it was said of Wordsworth, “here is his library, but his study is out of doors.”