A morning walk has become an integral part of my life so much so that if I miss walking even for a day I feel miserable – as miserable as when I don't get my mandatory morning coffee or am unable to get rid of the garbage of the previous day from my belly!
The morning walks are all the more pleasurable as I get to see the rising sun every morning (except when the Sun God decides to hide behind clouds) and breathe in fresh sea air as I walk on the beautiful Elliots Beach Road, which is just a 10-minute walk from my house. Oh, yes, I go for a walk in my car! Don't mistake me, I take the car up to the beach road, park it at an allotted space and then go for a walk! The thirty-minute walk is a daily invigorating experience.
An interesting aspect of the morning walks is the very sight of the hundreds of people who walk on the Beach Road. They come from all strata and age groups, a melting pot of religions, regions, castes and communities. There are single men and women or groups of them taking a brisk walk, many of them listening to music on their I-pods. Some of them carry their mobiles, speaking in a loud voice with their spouses, children, friends or business contacts, letting the whole world listen to their problems. A few of them appear to be talking loudly to themselves while walking – you think they are crazy but then you realise that they are operating a hands-free mobile and are actually talking to someone!
There are a few who believe that they must stop and not only say 'Hi' to their friends but also discuss the day's politics or weather, thus defeating the very purpose of having a brisk 30 minutes' walk every day! I know of a friend who has learnt to tackle such unwanted intruders. If any one stops him on the way to say 'Hi', he continues to jump or jog on the spot until the conversation is over and then continues to walk!
Another acquaintance walks with his palms together forming a 'namaste' behind his back. According to him it is a healthy practice which he has perfected over the years; I tried it and failed. Beyond taking my hands behind my back, I just could not bring the palms together to the 'namaste' position! There is a man who has a habit of walking with his left arm firmly in place on the side and the right arm swinging up and down during his really brisk walk. There are a few who specialise in walking backwards, and others who practise yoga, meditation, pranayamam and Surya Namaskar while sitting on the parapet wall bordering the walker's footpath.
During the walks you cannot miss the group of senior citizens, both male and female, sitting on the same parapet wall having heated discussions. The women are invariably talking about the problems with their daughters-in-law or maid servants and the men talk only about politics or cricket.
What is very funny is the sight of some women in outlandish or ill-fitting clothes! Like the other day, my wife and I came across an old lady – she must be over 80 years old – who was wearing loose fitting jeans, a T-shirt, a 'red' pottu on her forehead and hair in plaits like a typical South Indian woman. Obviously she is the mother of an NRI who has converted her from nine-yard sarees to jeans and T-shirts! Equally funny is a fat old man walking with a quarter (not half) pant (proper shorts, if I may say so) with a T-shirt of some US University, probably gifted by his NRI son, and wearing a splash of vibhoothi and a pottu on his forehead!
The most beautiful thing about these morning walks is that nobody really bothers about your clothes or your peculiar walking habits. Most people walk totally lost in their thoughts, like I do most of the time; sometimes I don't even notice friends who pass by wishing me.
Then there are the vendors selling fresh vegetables, flowers, tender coconuts, and a variety of herbal juices targeting the fitness freaks. Not to mention the organisations which offer a guaranteed programme to reduce weight and a group of people of all shapes and sizes and ages waiting to get advice from these experts. Over the weekends, you cannot miss the many sales representatives of companies trying to promote products, ranging from a loan to a four-wheeler for a largely upper middle class target audience.
I do feel sorry for those fitness freaks from Adyar who are content with having their daily dose of exercise on the treadmills at homes or in nearby gyms. They are missing the real fun and joy of an energising walk on beautiful Elliot's Beach Road, especially in the morning when the air is not yet polluted by exhaust from four-wheelers which line up both sides of the road in the evening.