Around a year back I bought a Fitbit for my wife which unfortunately was not as appealing to her as it was to me. It got left behind in the cupboard more often than I would like to. So, one fine day, I decided to use it for myself. I had been contemplating on going out for daily walks for quite sometime, but hadn’t started it yet. Using the Fitbit as motivation, I decided to get my lazy ass off the bed everyday morning. But, walks to me were a way of connecting to nature than mere physical exercise. So, my eyes fell on the ‘police line’, rife with greenery, right beside my apartment.
Police line was an area where police and CRPF personnel stationed in the vicinity had their living quarters. Only folks working there and their families were allowed inside the area. However, luckily, there was a crack in the wall that cordoned off the area through which people could walk-in and out. So, with Fitbit on my hand, I stepped into the Police Line one day. Every step I took I looked cautiously around, observing from the corner of my eyes as if I’d be caught, as if I was a terrorist with nefarious intent at heart. I think had anyone observed me that day would agree that my behavior was suspicious enough to be stopped and questioned.
As I walked, I could see police personnel training, running, jogging; and families of the personnel getting ready for everyday life. And, anyone who’d seen areas maintained by the Police and Army know how well maintained the area would be. Beauty requires discipline and it showed. Perfectly curated gardens, trees lining both sides of the roads, clean roads with only occasional traffic and sirens disturbing the serene atmosphere. For the first few days, I tried to venture out a little away from the main roads trying to see if I could find a lane away from the main street that did not attract many folks. By-lines, side lines, neglected roads were my roads. In these searches, I chanced upon a stretch of a road that ended up in a small pond. The pond was tucked away from direct view and was a surprise when it came into view. The still waters, to borrow from Mary Oliver, were like a blue comma in the world.
There was so much nature around me, but I never knew.
Kingfishers, ducks, Koels, and birds of bright plumage in red, white, blue colors flew all around me, chirping as I walked everyday towards the pond. I’d be hard-pressed to name those birds. Pigeons, Crows, Sparrows, Koels, Cranes, ducks, peacocks, are the extent to which I can go. Any attempt to name beyond that would only be sad and embarrassing. But, for an ear that is so used to listening to the din of vehicles, the different sounds of the birds chirping can be so welcome. I would stand near the pond taking in the scenery and walk back slowly.
Watching my breath turn into fog; the soft thud of leaves and flowers falling to the ground; bright green and reddish brown leaves sprouting up on branches, sunlight hitting those leaves and turning them into bright green lights, drops of dew on grass glistening like diamonds, nature was so beautiful that crossing the crack in the wall to reach home at the end of the walk was like crash landing into reality.
Recently two months back, the police decided to crackdown on all outsiders walking in the campus. They setup a sentries at every opening in the wall and gate to ensure the premises were off limit to outsiders. I was intimated by an elderly constable that I could not continue my walk there anymore.
With no place to walk and falling really sick at the same time, I decided to go to the only haven of walkers in the area – KBR park for some exercise and escape; a national park that was a 10 minute drive from my home. I remember visiting it a very long time back and found it lacking. So, my expectations were not high this time. I went-in the first day with an evaluative eye. Would I want to walk here everyday? A popular destination for walkers and joggers, the park attracts a lot of people from all age groups from across the city. Strangely, inspite of the flow of people, after my first walk, I found the experience thrilling. Other than the zoo park I hadn’t seen or walked in midst of so much greenery in my life. I immediately went for another round on the 4KMs stretch around the park.
From that day I continue to visit the park every morning and evening when I can. A steady stream of joggers and walkers greet you anytime you are in the park. Sometimes, it can be very off putting. I wanted all that nature to myself and hated to see someone always either in front of me or behind. Sometimes, I’d stop at a tree, touch the bark or feel the flower or leaf much to the amusing eyes of the walkers passing me by.
Slowly in my daily walks I not only started observing the fauna and flora in the park, but also the walkers. A few days-in, I can tell who are the regulars and who are the one timers. Men walk briskly discussing business, politics or cricket. House wives walk past discussing family matters. Young men and women flaunt their flashy tracks, t-shirts and shoes with iPods and iPhones strapped to their body and headsets firmly in their ears; some listening to music, and some talking to someone. I walk with this stream of humanity – with no phone on me, a book and pen in hand, occasionally stopping to find a bird or a flower – finding myself a little out of place.
Half way in through the park, silence captivates you. You’d forget that you are in the center of the city. As peacocks walk by and squirrels hurry around, there is a peace that settles in you that we seem to have lost in our hurried way of life. It seems as if the peace that we are looking so desperately will find us, if only we stopped to soak in the silence.
This these days is my daffodil moment.