Everyone knows walking is good exercise – you can’t help knowing it. You’ve read it in every magazine you’ve ever come across in your life; even children’s magazine. Your doctor tells you how to walk (briskly or at normal speed – depending on the individual doctor), when to walk (early morning is the best, but if that’s not possible, walk whenever you can – depending on your work schedule), for how long (one and a half hours would be ideal, but if you can’t manage that, at least an hour – depending on your time and stamina), so on and so forth. Your friends tell you how they walk three times (even four!) in an hour’s time around the sprung walkway in the park nearby while you’re secretly – and enviously – wondering if they’ve ever been fined for speeding.
Keeping the well-being of its stressed out residents in mind, the Dubai government has generously provided us with lovely, picture-perfect ‘pond parks’ with walkways, separate cycle-ways, and even gym equipment fitted. With meters marked out clearly, it doesn’t take much to know that my generously proportioned friends are talking upwards of four – even five – kilometres an hour; no mean feat for people like me whose physical activities extend to pottering about at lightning speed around the 5 x 10 kitchen, and at slightly-less-than-lightning speed from class to class as the bell rings.
I’m not like common folk – I don’t wait for New Year to make resolutions – I make them every so often. How long those last is anybody’s guess, but I never hesitate to make them. Every other day, I make at least one new resolution – from today, I’m going to be disciplined in doing housework; from today, my corrections are going to be up-to-date; from today, I’ll pray regularly….it goes on and on; and every three or four months, I resolve to walk regularly. I start with all good intentions, and they last all of three days. The fourth day I make up some excuse (I’m so good at making excuses that I can convince myself!) and postpone it for the fifth day, by when I’m too tired. And of course, whoever exercises on weekends! By the time Sunday arrives…well, maybe some other time?
The latest resolution happened just two weeks back. My next-door neighbour motivated me, in fact. We decided to go for a walk every evening at seven. The day we decided to, I had a guest and couldn’t go. The next day, she was a guest at a party, so we couldn’t. On the third day, both of us were tired. On the fourth we actually walked. She wanted to go around the park three times, I could manage only one as I had a question paper to make. The fifth was a weekend, and…oh well! By Sunday, both of us were reluctant to tell each other we weren’t going today, so we just stayed put. On Monday, I happened to see a photo of myself and it reminded me of the urgency with which I needed to address the tyres that have piled up at odd corners of myself. So I resolved yet again to walk.
On Tuesday, I started out with a vengeance. Wrapped up ambitiously in layers that can easily combat an errant freeze and armed with desi music plugged to my ears, I set out – alone. I started out at a speed that would have taken me around the park at least five times an hour, but by the time I actually reached the park, I found myself moving to the tune of Kishore Kumar’s ‘woh shaam kuch ajeeb thi’ – which would barely take me around twice. But it felt great! The next song was ‘yeh kahan aa gaye hum’, and then some Tamil songs by Ilayaraja.
I breathed in the heady scent of tulsi plants that formed a part of the hedge, which was at times defeated by a passing Arabian perfume. In the background were subdued noises of children playing, and snatches of conversations from adults passing me by. There were the lovely orange and white park lights reflected on the surface of the pond, alongside the yellow half-moon; there were women in abayas and women in capris out-walking each other. Young men jogged and older men walked past me. A group of people were doing yoga on one side, and on the other were parents and maids running alongside children who were cycling. Elsewhere, an elderly walker kicked a football back to a few boys who were playing.
I walked slowly, savouring the sights, sounds, scents – and the occasional drop of rain that fell. Everything else melted away; just for that hour, I had no house to clean, no food to cook, no papers to correct – not a care in the world. When I reached the spot that marked the end of the walkway, I did not feel any sense of achievement – what I felt was a sense of loss. An hour was almost up, and I had to head back home.
Realistically speaking, that walk couldn’t have helped me much – at less than two kilometres an hour, you don’t burn rubber. Why then did I feel so exhilarated afterward? Walking home, I felt a lot less heavy, and a lot more oriented. I don’t think that walk burned up a single calorie – but it did shed a lot of weight from my mind. My sanity walk.
Once again, I resolved to walk – this time, alone, slowly, listening to old melodies. I resolved to do it every working day evening. So I walked on Wednesday, and I walked on Thursday. Friday and Saturday were weekend, so… On Sunday, my leg was hurting. Today, though, I’m going to walk my sanity walk.