Don't worry, I've not begun liking my bike any less! Your first bike always feels like your first love. Better, actually! The understanding between you always grows & there are a whole lot more people involved in your 'kodak' moments! But coming back, when was the last time you actually took a long walk by yourself? No cellphone, no ipod, no conversations, no camera, no destination. Just you...
I'd quite forgotten how a nice walk feels, until I had an opportunity recently to bury my worries for some time. And I'm not talking about a exercise kind of walk, nor a gruelling trek, but just a simple leisurely stroll on the streets. An aimless wander really.
You'd be amazed at the million things you miss when you zoom by on an automobile, things which can be noticed when you have no other thoughts in your head, no agenda for the journey. There is a strange joy in getting lost without knowing where you were headed in the first place!
Leaving your phone, watch & cash behind before you set off not only means you cant be mugged, but also that you will learn to appreciate these things more when you have them! Maybe you could carry some cash for a cup of tea on the way somewhere, that would be royal!
The footpaths & lanes in our country are about as colourful as they come. The wares, hoardings, signs, wild flowers all create a riot of colours along your way.
And noisy too! Hawkers peddlings their goods, mehanics busy with their racket, carpenters sawing away at huge logs of wood, marble and granite slabs being polished.
Old Hindi songs waft on the cool breeze to my ears. I can picture Dev Anand crooning "Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya...". I hum the eeriely melodious tune as I skip onto the cobbled path from the tarred road.
That is the other constant for someone walking here. Change. You cant keep walking on the same surface always. The footpath you were walking on gets blocked by some poor soul trying to sell something to make a living or some drunkard who is lying in your way after drowning his sorrow in too much alcohol, if you were on the road then you either come up against vehicles parked right under "no parking" signs or the oncoming traffic which forces you onto the cobbled path, which is invariably dug up by the municipality a few feet ahead!
Best part is you get to overhear people conversing! A constable standing outside the fire station scaring a kid with his old rifle, a driver complaining to another about his mother-in-law, a child pestering his mother for a soda, two little girls sharing an ice cream & their lovely smiles!
You may also get some company along the way as a stray dog or two decide to get some exercise & join you in your excursion, atleast till the end of their territory, where another stray greets them with a growl! They are good company, neither judging nor demanding. Sometimes they try wooing other dogs being walked by their owners, and if you are lucky you get to flash a helpless grin at the pretty girl walking her dog!
You cant expect to take a walk without coming across any cows. They come in all sizes and colours, with their shiny black noses glistening in the sun. They'll be sleeping, standing, chewing cud, flapping their ears & whipping their tails to keep the irritating flies away or just harassing the local vegetable vendor for their maamool. The more domesticated ones smell like dry hay in a warm summer.
If you happen to come across them lying down after a long time into your walk, their large, soft, fuzzy belly begins to resemble a nice cushion to curl up on, even if it is the road you are on!
I suddenly realize that I'm not a kid anymore and neither do I weigh what I used to! Any attempt to catch a few winks on a cow's tummy would only invite a kick or head butt now, unlike my childhood days. Its the little calves that hold my attention. With drooping eyelids from a drowsy late afternoon siesta disturbed by a curious onlooker or bounding behind their mothers, their innocent expressions make me feel like squeezing them hard in an embrace till their mothers give me a stern glance maybe! Then I could run for my life!
The gentle breeze makes the old leaves come tumbling out of the big trees along the roadside as I continue my walk. As there is no place I'm headed to, I stop ever so often to admire the bloom in someone's garden, to see the water leaking from pipelines, kids playing cricket in the lanes, some foreigners who had found a home in this mellee, the orange tint on the west face of the clouds.
Along the way, you will know when to turn back. There will always be a sign, you just need to notice it. As the orange of the clouds turned to red, I knew it was time to head back as light would fade soon & walking in the dark was not very appealing...
I offer a silent prayer as I pass a small temple, for the ability to be able to roam freely and enjoy my journey. The idol of God within the sanctum sanctorum looks resplendent just with the flowers that have been offered. The priest offers an aarti culminating the evening prayers. The smell of camphor drifts onto the road. The beauty of the moment touches that pure part of my soul which we seldom realize we have.
I reach my room just as the last of the birds heading home wish each other goodbye. I am tired, but in a good way. It is an exhaustion that cannot be brought on by any kind of work, an exhaustion which gives rise to sound sleep filled with dreams of the wonders I've just witnessed.
There is a joy in walking which cannot be matched by anything...