On Walking

    During my university days, I had the privilege of riding a bike whenever I needed one, of not one but two of my good friends. At home, we have two, one motorcycle used by my father and one scooter used by my sister. So it’s easy to understand how used to I was to ride a motorcycle and if not more I was equally used to the fact that I had undoubted access to one any time I needed.

    Being contended with this fact gave me a definite pleasure about having discretion or option to choose for myself if I wanted not to take a ride and instead preferred walking, just for a change. That is exactly why I found walking immensely enjoyable, keeping aside the logic of health considerations and its allied advantages just for the sake of a discussion.

    However, that was not the case with my friend who did not subscribe to my feelings about walking. He did not enjoy walking as I did, he did not have access to a motorcycle. Obviously, if it is a part of his compulsory task he is not going to find any charm out of it. He does not have a choice but to walk to every one of his destinations which are not as far to either economically make use of public transport or at times not at all connected by one. 

    Obviously hiring a taxi or an auto rickshaw or having a personal cab is not always affordable and is mostly an extravagant indulgence.

    In such a condition when walking is a forced and compulsory task, one is normally not expected or is force-supposed to enjoy it. One has to endure it. Oh, how much he loved a hitch ride on my bike whenever I paid him a visit!

    Let’s now take another viewpoint on it. Why really do most people who walk do that? Most of them belong to the above-mentioned category which simply has no other choice. If not more I believe an equal number of them walk because they want to stay fit and healthy, this either they believe is a precaution against diseases such as laziness and obesity or they have been prescribed by some counselor.

    I would suggest they help their family members in every possible domestic work. This will be a more constructive way to keep both their health and their partner in perfect tune. Similarly at work carrying files collecting a page from the printer or pulling the strings oneself will earn better rapport with colleagues. 

    Older folks who have more time to spend take a brisk walk along the friendly streets and in engaging parks together with others like themselves.  The young walk when they have to do window shopping or bird-watching in crowded streets and glamorous marketplaces. 

    There is always a group of people who do walk but mostly keep it reserved for more specific purposes. They walk to protest. Gandhi walked the Dandi and consequently, the British imperialists had to walk out of India. Today the khadi-clad politicians walk to the Parliament or the Assembly when they have to topple a government.

    Everybody walks because one needs to. How many of us just walk out of liking? Today this is a topic of discussion because it has become a phenomenon in our life’s daily schedule. ‘I walk because I love to walk’ has come to be termed a syndrome or a symptom of a disorder or an abnormality. Nevertheless, we still do a bit of walking in our lives for certain purposes. It can serve as a good exercise to nurture our public relations in the neighborhood.

    I shall strongly recommend a dose of walking for everyone who wants to show his or her loving dear ones, wife, husband, sister, son, and father that one still cares for him or her. It’s no irony why I should write on a topic like this, least of anything, it might prompt me to do it in my own life, lest I find a reason or no reason to do it.

    Now let’s put this idea to the recent scenario of lockdowns and shutdowns prompted by mankind’s epidemics, pandemics, and endemics, like setting stuff on a frame. In those one and half years and more, a lot has been written on the values of walking as a healthy practice, as a physical exercise, as a stress buster, as an antidepressant, as creative catalysis, and very interestingly, even as an idle time pass.

    The last point, less spoken of but vital nevertheless, is actually the most comprehensive combination of all the previously mentioned points, provided one does it to the spirit of the term. But I do propound here that almost none do it. Walking idle or strolling or loitering or walking for pleasure or to ramble or to amble or to saunter or to meander or to mooch is limited or restrictively associated categorically to few like aged, unemployed, unrequited, unsolicited, physically and or mentally challenged, damned, underprivileged and a poet that even all said and done in a derogatory manner.

    To walk slowly, leisurely, without anywhere to go, without any reason to go, without any hurry, without any purpose, without any compulsion and to wander around just like that for the sake of nothing more than just pleasure is quite an improbable concept to comprehend. We live in a fast and furious world these days, what idiot will do these things now?

    If I amble along for miles quietly in the company of no one else, in solitude, in peace with myself I will sound poetic, romantic, unrealistic, and extraterrestrial to many. If I saunter around the park or I stroll on the beach wander through the countryside or ramble the foothills or I mooch about desks and stores or I meander around happily either I will be condemned as a madman or be branded as a god-man.

    Worst of all now is to loiter around. In any way, the very word ‘loiter’ generally is conceived as a negative word. It evokes an opposition, an objection, repulsion, repudiation and a spontaneous denial. These are times, these are days if I am seen loitering around I immediately become a suspect, I could be a thief, I could be a pickpocket, I could be a drug addict, I could be a drug peddler, I could be a pimp, I could be a gigolo, I could be a spy, I could be a terrorist.

    And see the tragedy; above all, I am a man in a mask. These are the best of times, these are the worst of times. Keep walking.

    Bharadwaj Mishra
    Bharadwaj Mishra
    Bharadwaj Mishra, 1975 Odisha born, a Delhi University Post Graduate in Social Sciences, with a professional career in banking for around two decades, is engaged in creative writing and with film society. As on date he has two English poetry collections published, “Farewell To Kalpana Saikia” (Author’s Press, New Delhi) and “Bathing Ghat At Kotipalli” (Athena Books, Bhubaneswar). He has published English Essays, Poetry and Short Stories with English language magazine of Kendriya Sahitya Academy, Indian Literature and few others. He also does English subtitling for Odia language films. He is single and lives with his parents in Bhubaneswar.
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