“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.”
My morning walk is never insipid as I always enjoy every moment of it – absorbing the scenery, the beauty of flowers, birds and animals on the way. I also appreciate meeting multi-coloured and multi-natured street dogs, as well as those on leashes, whose owners always look away when they see me coming – for their dogs, most of them, predictably engage themselves in an earthy act causing some degree of embarrassment to their masters. Besides, I also like watching those various people of different sizes, builds and idiosyncrasies who either walk along the same path on which I tread or those whom I meet at crossroads.
Very few people find morning walks pleasant, most people abhor it – the thought of bidding farewell to sleep early in the morning is repulsive and seems a retrograde measure for progressive creatures like us humans. I also belonged to that class till twenty years ago and then my life changed – for the better. How it started is an interesting tale which you will soon learn.
Year 2001, I was at the Academy of Administration, Hyderabad attending a compulsory training programme that the central government wants us to suffer every year. After a Spartan opening ceremony, the presenter of the first lecture embarked on a topic that I had detested till that day – it was about ‘Walking’. As I often do when caught in a boring lecture, I pulled out my notebook and began drawing cartoons, but I couldn’t do that for long as the presenter, with his earnestness, struck a chord within me – he began talking about the human body, what happens to the food we eat and why sedentary white collared people soon succumb to diseases like diabetes, hypertension, clogging of arteries with obnoxious cholesterol which finally puts the heart to eternal sleep.
He went on to tell us how walking briskly for twenty minutes a day could keep one’s heart, circulatory system and pancreas healthy and fit for life, and how after a good walk the ‘well-being hormones – endorphins’ are produced that make you feel calm and relaxed and helps your body repair the damaged tissues and manufacture good cholesterol. I was impressed but not enough to begin walking the next morning … yet, it did happen.
Also undergoing this training, was my dear friend Ramakant Ojha from Tamil Nadu cadre. Next morning around seven, when I was coming out of my room only half awake, I saw Ojha ji (whom we lovingly called Baba) entering the hostel, I was surprised and amused for I knew Baba to be a carefree person who loved his sleep. I asked him what made him go out so early in the morning; I got a laconic reply – “morning walk”. A little nudge from me elicited a brief background as he went on to explain that this was his doctor’s prescription to keep his blood sugar in check that he had developed six months ago. I had no such ailment then but I always worried about the extra fat that gave my tall frame the shape of a champagne bottle. The talk on walking the previous day and Baba’s morning walk were two potent motivations to ask him to take me along on his walk the next morning. He began to laugh for he knew I too was a late riser. But when I insisted on it, he agreed. I assured him that I would be up and ready at five thirty sharp and if I didn’t, he should feel free to kick me out of my bed.
Next day I began my maiden walk and from that day till today it is a ritual, a hobby and a habit that I cannot miss. I have trained myself to go for a walk anywhere – be it the tar road in Char Imli or the platform of Bhopal junction (whenever the train got delayed), the old bridge at Mandla or the gardens or by lanes in greater Kailash and Lodi estate, the cow dung and bull infested market of Hazrat Nizammudin or the verdant campus of Pusa where flocks of glossy ibis trumpet from tree tops or the jungle trails in Pench, Kanha, Panna, and Satpura – where I walk gingerly on the tracks of tigers and leopards, or Van Vihar in Bhopal where my walk soon turns into chasing butterflies and dragon flies and counting countless cormorants on tall eucalyptus trees, or the heavily potholed road in front of Tala rest house in Bandhavgarh. And if it is raining, I open all the inner doors of my house and begin walking on the tiles barefoot. If for some reason I miss the morning walk I make sure to find time for one in the evening.
I always remember the gentleman who talked me into walking as a healthy hobby but after twenty years of walking I have found another dimension to it – which he didn’t mention then – the life enriching character of the walk – it not only tones up your body but invigorate your mind making you a perfect healthy whole. As David Thoreau said –‘An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”
Get ready to walk; there is no time to lose.
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